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Eyes on the street: Rogers Park’s new “Black Lives Matter” Slow Street

7:12 PM CDT on July 8, 2021

Paulina St looking northbound. Traffic barrels outline a path for drivers. Signs on the barrels either read “Slow Down: 5 MPH” or “Slow Down: Shared Street: Yield to Pedestrians”
Photo: Courtney Cobbs

I recently checked out the new Slow Street (the city calls them "Shared Streets") on Paulina venue between Howard Street and Jonquil Terrace in Rogers Park, the block north of the Howard Red Line station that's home to the Recyclery Collective community bike shop. It’s more like a shared block since it’s only a block long. Paulina, which is usually a two-way street, is still open to northbound drivers, but the southbound lane, which is next to the bike education center, is blocked off by moveable barricades. A “Black Lives Matter” street mural was recently painted on the block.

There was no one walking or biking on the street when I stopped by, but in fairness, it was on a day with high temperatures and lots of sun. The shared street is, again, only a block long, but it offers a space where youth from Recyclery programs can spend time, and bike shop customers can take short test rides.

Aerial views of the Black Lives Matter Slow Street. Photo: 49th Ward
Aerial views of the Black Lives Matter Slow Street. Photo: 49th Ward

I haven't spent much time in this part of Rogers Park, but the few times I’ve traveled to this stretch of Paulina, I’ve thought it would benefit from traffic calming, such as curb extensions and speed humps installed to narrow the street and calm traffic. When Alderwoman Maria Hadden (49th) announced the Slow Street, she stated that this block was chosen due to frequent speeding. I asked her office if permanent traffic calming will be coming once the traffic barrels are removed. A ward staffer informed me that speed humps will be installed, although they didn't provide a timeframe.

Given the typically high pedestrian activity in the area, installing street furniture could create a more comfortable environment to aid the high amounts of socializing I see happening already. Willye B. White Park, located a block east of Paulina, and the sidewalks surrounding the park see a lot of pedestrian activity and people socializing. I’d also love to see benches installed in the park and on the sidewalk.

A curb extension with street furniture in New York City. Photo: NACTO
A curb extension with street furniture in New York City. Photo: NACTO

The National Association of City Transportation Officials has discussed how curb extensions can be combined with street furniture. It would be great to try that idea here.

When Hadden announced the shared street, she also mentioned that local community organizations are brainstorming programming to activate the new Slow Street. I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges.

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