Leland Slow Street will be expanded west to the Chicago River tomorrow.

A street marking on Leland west of Western shows where a traffic barrel will be installed tomorrow. Photo: John Greenfield
A street marking on Leland west of Western shows where a traffic barrel will be installed tomorrow. Photo: John Greenfield

The Leland Avenue Slow Street (the city is calling it a “Shared Street”), which currently runs about a mile between Clark Street and Lincoln Avenue in Ravenswood, has been a huge hit with residents. Now it’s about to get even better, as a new, roughly half-mile section of Leland will open as a Slow Street between Western Avenue and the Chicago River on Friday. 47th Ward alderman Matt Martin tweeted out the news this afternoon.

“We’re excited about this,” said 47th Ward director of development and infrastructure Josh Mark. The stretch of Leland west of Western is the border between Martin’s district and that of 40th Ward alderman Andre Vasquez. “We’re collaborating with the 40th Ward on this — they’ve been a great partner.”

The existing Leland Slow Street.
The existing Leland Slow Street.

“I look forward to [the new Slow Street] and future opportunities in the ward to engage with neighbors,” Vasquez said. He added that in the near future he’s planning to host an online town hall on Slow Streets and other interventions to make walking, biking, and outdoor dining safer during the pandemic.

47th Ward staffers have left info fliers on homes on the south side of Leland west of Western.
47th Ward staffers have left info fliers on homes on the south side of Leland west of Western.

Before COVID crisis, Martin and Vasquez had already done extensive outreach about continuing the existing Leland neighborhood Greenway, a traffic-calmed side-street route that currently extends from Clark to the lakefront, west of Clark to the river. Since Leland has one-way eastbound sections between the river and Western, and between Damen Avenue and Clark, the greenway would include contraflow (“wrong-way”) bike lanes on these stretches.

The Leland neighborhood greenway extension plan. Image CDOT
The Leland neighborhood greenway extension plan. Image CDOT

The Leland Slow Street is essentially a dry run for the greenway. While the Chicago Department of Transportation hasn’t provided an answer on whether it’s technically legal to bide contraflow on Slow Streets, the fact is that plenty of people are currently doing that on sections of Leland with and without Slow Street barricades and traffic barrels. So the extension of the Slow Street, and later the greenway, will just make that existing practice safer.

Contraflow biking is already common on the one-way eastbound stretch of Leland west of Western. Photo: John Greenfield
Contraflow biking is already common on the one-way eastbound stretch of Leland west of Western. Photo: John Greenfield

Josh Mark said he’s pleased to extend the Slow Street west of western, because while the existing stretch on Leland is mostly lined with single-family homes with lawns, this part of the ward has higher density, with many six-flats, so there’s less available open space. “I’m glad we’re bringing this to an area that needs that.”

Mark added that Alderman Martin is currently looking into other possible walk/bike interventions in the ward, including on retail streets. “We had to push for the first couple of Slow Streets, so we’re going to keep pushing.”

There have been some complaints about drivers not complying with the no-through-traffic rule on Leland, and when I dropped by today, a CDOT staffer was marking locations for more info signs. There have been similar issues on the new Slow Street route that parallels the (currently closed, but reopening Monday) Bloomingdale Trail in Logan Square and Bucktown, and CDOT confirmed that more signs will be added on that corridor soon as well.

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