Folks Want to be Able to Bike Safely on Rogers Park Side Street

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

With a new Alderwoman for the 49th Ward, there’s hope biking infrastructure in the 49th Ward can be improved. Maria Hadden was elected to represent the Rogers Park community area over incumbent Joe Moore and started the job on May 20th, along with 11 other new alders. 

Three weeks ago I organized an event called “Imagining Better Bike Boulevards” at the PO BOX Collective in Rogers Park. I wanted to meet others in the neighborhood who wanted to see better bike infrastructure so we could strategize and create the opportunity for improvements in biking infrastructure in the ward. I advertised in local bike shops and libraries, in addition to online and in person advertising. It was lightly attended by seven other people, but we still had a lively conversation about changes we’d like to see in the 49th Ward. 

Most attendees agreed that biking in the 49th Ward leaves much to be desired. One attendee shared that they had been doored twice along Glenwood and another attendee said that had been in a few crashes in the neighborhood. 

Many of the people who came said they would like to see the free parking along Glenwood converted to barrier-protected bike lanes, so more folks would be encouraged to either give up their cars or rent space from the parking lots in the neighborhood. Given the fact that Glenwood in the 49th Ward runs pretty parallel to the Red Line the change isn’t radical. Many people could trade their car trips for transit trips and free up space along Glenwood for protected bike lanes and even some more green space. 

Some attendees wanted to see Glenwood closed to cars between Pratt and Devon. One attendee drives as well and shared that they find the experience of driving down this stretch pretty nerve wracking. Drivers will sometimes drive down Glenwood as if it’s a one way (in the center of the road) and risk a crash for other drivers or a person on bike. There’s also no marking down the center of the road to make it clear when you’re crossing into the opposite lane.

I have had three meetings with Alderwoman Hadden and sent multiple emails. I informed her that Glenwood between Pratt and Devon is the stretch where I’ve experienced the most harassment. It’s a pretty narrow two-way street with free car parking on both sides that benefits a minority of people. Notably, there are two parking lots along this stretch and a multi-level parking garage nearby at Sheridan & Arthur. Owners of these cars could park there instead of for free along a public street that all users pay for. 

Photo: Courtney Cobbs
Some parts of Glenwood through the 49th Ward don’t have any bike infrastructure. Sharrows don’t constitute bike infrastructure because they indicate what is already legal on every street except highways. This is Glenwood looking north between Albion and North Shore. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

 

Some drivers speed past me and other bicyclists I’ve watched, and they pass way too closely as they do so. I’ve had drivers honk at me which is quite startling. Drivers have also followed too close in an apparent attempt to intimidate me. My “choice” to ride on Glenwood is to either ride in the door zone or risk harassment from drivers. I choose to take the full lane, as is the right of any bicyclist in Illinois, because staying outside the door zone is paramount.

Due to advocacy efforts from some in the 49th Ward, a Biking Incident Form has been created to log incidents of harassment people on bike experience in the ward. It was announced at the first Ward Town Hall that CDOT will be analyzing the data. I’ve been letting my fellow folks on bike know about the form during some of my rides since it hasn’t been well publicized. My hope is that this data will convince CDOT and Alderwoman Hadden that the ward needs biking infrastructure, not sharrows. In fairness, traffic calming infrastructure has been installed along some parts of the Glenwood Greenway. Traffic circles can be found along Greenview from Birchwood to Greenleaf. However, one can walk or bike along this Greenway and still observe plenty of drivers speeding. People on bike are still vulnerable to harassment.

If the Alderwoman and CDOT are too afraid to momentarily upset some by removing the limited free parking used by a small fraction of ward residents, then the addition of traffic-calming infrastructure, like chicanes, along Greenview and Glenwood, more raised crosswalks like the one at Glenwood & Columbia, and signage reminding drivers, and bicyclists, that bicyclists have the right to use the full lane is imperative. 

If you’d like to get involved with bike and transit advocacy in the 49th Ward, take advantage of Ward Nights that Alderwoman Hadden holds every Wednesday evening from 6-8 p.m. You can meet with her one-on-one and voice your concerns and ideas. If you can’t make ward night, Alderwoman Hadden has often stated that the ward email address is always open for people to submit articles, suggestions, etc. You can reach the 49th Ward office at office at 49thward.org

If you’d like to build community, the PO Box Collective is hosting a Bike In Night with The Recyclery on Friday August 30th. Saturday September 14th there will be a 49th Ward Bike Ride with Alderwoman Hadden. Attendees will gather for conversation and safety checks at 9am at the 49th Ward Office, located at 1447 W Morse. The ride is scheduled to begin at 10am. A flyer is forthcoming.

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