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Eyes on the Street: New Slow Street is in on School and Henderson in Lakeview

4:46 PM CDT on September 30, 2020

Traffic barrels placed on Henderson as part of the Slow Street route. Photo: John Greenfield

Are you bummed about the changing seasons, not to mention the prospect of a winter when many Chicagoans will think twice about hanging out in indoor public spaces for non-essential purposes? Cheer up -- there's still plenty of nice autumn weather left for spending time outdoors. And it just got a little easier for Lakeview residents to do so, thanks to the city's newest bike/pedestrian-priority Slow Street route (the city calls them "Shared Streets") on School and and Henderson Streets. On Slow Streets, through traffic is prohibited to facilitate safe, socially-distanced walking and biking in the street, although parking, deliveries, and pickups and drop-offs are allowed.

Earlier this week the Chicago Department of Transportation installed barricades and traffic barrels on a short network of roads, including School between Damen Avenue and Paulina Street; the 1700 block of West Henderson; and the short stretches of Paulina and Ravenswood connecting School and Henderson. The later street has an unusual wide planted median dubbed Gross Park. According the 47th Ward staffer Josh Mark, the intention of the project, which was originally requested by local second-graders in letters to Alderman Matt Martin last May, was to provide a safe place for kids to get a leg-stretch after a long day of remote learning.

The proposed Slow Street route. Image: Google Maps
The new Slow Street route. Image: Google Maps

I dropped by the new route this afternoon, just as a sudden rain shower arrived, and then exited just as quickly, so there wasn't a lot of bike or pedestrian activity going on. But now that Henderson is fully traffic-calmed, it looks like a great place for kids to do laps on bikes or scooters, of for grown-ups to go for a jog.

The few blocks of Slow Street on School essentially extend the existing Neighborhood Greenway route on the street, which has a western terminus around Lincoln Avenue, west to Damen, so that's a win as well.

School Street. Photo: John Greenfield

It appears that there may have been a bit of literal pushback to the project though. The "Road Closed: Local Traffic Only" sign on the barricade at School/Damen was facing the wrong way so that it wouldn't be visible to motorists heading east on the one-way street. And some of the barrels along the route seem to have been pushed to the curb to make driving more convenient.

The barricade at School and Damen was turned the wrong direction. Photo: John Greenfield
The barricade at School and Damen was turned the wrong direction. Photo: John Greenfield

But the new Slow Street route should be popular with local residents overall, especially youngsters. If you visit, be sure to check out the whimsical folks art on the embankment for Metra's Union Pacific-North line on the west side of Ravenswood, south of Henderson.

Screen Shot 2020-09-30 at 4.33.27 PM
Folk art along the Metra tracks. Photo: John Greenfield

Another notable livable streets project in the area worth checking out is a small pedestrian plaza at the south corner of the Paulina's intersection with Roscoe and Lincoln Avenue, created by the elimination of a channelized right-turn lane, aka a slip lane. The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce recently added some interesting planters that double as seating.

Before and after the slip lane removal at Roscoe/Paulina/Lincoln. Images: John Greenfield, Google Maps
Before and after the slip lane removal at Roscoe/Paulina/Lincoln. Images: John Greenfield, Google Maps

Have you checked out the new Slow Street route yet? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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