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A few updates on Slow Streets and other pandemic transportation initiatives

Last weekend Humboldt Park’s ring road was car-free due to a parking ban, giving us a taste of what to expect from Slow Streets. Photo: John Greenfield

It's getting real, folks. Tomorrow, more than two months after Streetsblog and other advocates began pushing for opening streets to make room for socially distanced transportation and recreation during COVID-19, Chicago's first Oakland-style Slow Street is opening on Leland Avenue between Lincoln Avenue and Clark Street in Lincoln Square and Uptown. Through traffic will be prohibited on Slow Streets to enable safe pedestrian activity and biking in the street, drivers will still be allowed to park, make deliveries, and do pickups and drop-offs.

The Chicago Department of Transportation is still working on finalizing the Slow Streets (they're calling them "Shared Streets, which is super-confusing) network, so they haven't actually announced the routes yet. We only found out about it because reader Kevin Zolkiewicz happened to notice a few on the city's permits map website. Since then, Kevin, the Sun-Times (their article starts with the amusing lead sentence, "Some streets in Chicago will soon allow more than just cars"), and Streetsblog have found these planned routes:

    • The Glenwood/Greenview Greenway from Carmen Avenue to Howard Street
    • Leland Avenue from Lincoln Avenue to Sheridan Road
    • Roscoe Street from Narragansett to Milwaukee Avenue
    • Palmer Street between Long Avenue and Kedzie Boulevard
    • Cortland Avenue from Ridgeway Avenue to Rockwell Avenue
    • Rockwell Avenue from Cortland to Wabansia Street
    • Wabansia from Rockwell to Ashland Avenue
    • Wood Street from North Avenue to Cortland

Having trouble visualizing that? Here's a map.

You'll notice that none of these routes are south of North Avenue but, again, CDOT is still working on finalizing the map, and they promise there will be South Side Slow Streets. So it makes sense to hold off on blasting their plan as inequitable until they actually release it, hopefully any day now.

In a statement to Streetsblog today, 35th Ward alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a Democratic Socialist who often speaks about promoting social justice, touched on the need to make sure the plan is rolled out in an equitable manner, with special attention paid to the needs of communities that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. "We're still in the community input stage for Palmer. We want to ensure there's extensive community outreach and consultation, particularly to Spanish-speaking residents in 60639, which is the area on Palmer west of Pulaski, and is one of Illinois' zip codes hardest hit by COVID-19. We're working on community input with CDOT and all impacted wards and will hopefully have more updates soon.

Meanwhile, today the Chicago Department of Transportation launched a new webpage to promote its “Our Streets”  program that allows residents to "request that local roads be converted into corridors for improved, safe travel and healthy activity during the stay-at-home period." (open streets, Slow Streets, Shared Streets, Our Streets -- don't worry, we're a little confused too.)

Map of public input via the COVID Mobility email.
Map of public input via the COVID Mobility email.
Map of public input via the COVID Mobility email.

CDOT says it has already heard from hundreds of Chicagoans who have provided input on coronavirus-related transportation issues via the department's covidmobility@cityofchicago.org email address and other means. The website includes the above map, which shows that, so far, the feedback has mostly come from the North and Northwest side neighborhoods that are currently on deck to get Slow Streets. But the map is being updated regularly, so hopefully we'll soon see more pink and red, denoting more input, on the West, Southwest, and South sides as well. The department has also set up a 4-question survey form to make it very easy to provide feedback.

Image: CDOT
Image: CDOT
Image: CDOT

The page also includes some graphics with commonsense tips on safe walking, biking, and driving during the pandemic. Thankfully, it does not include the dubious advice put out by the Active Transportation Alliance that you should "limit walking and biking trips to solo ventures or with a member of your household." The head of UIC's infectious disease department said it's fine to go for an excursion with a friend or family member you don't live with if you maintain distance from each other and wear masks.

CDOT chief Gia Biagi appeared on WBEZ Radio today to discuss COVID-19 transportation issues, but made no major revelations.

So that should bring you up to speed on recent Slow Streets development. I hope to see some Streetsblog reader (with proper social distance, of course) on the Leland Slow Street tomorrow.

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