Let’s make Glenwood from Devon to Pratt one-way to make room for bike lanes

People riding bikes on Glenwood north of Devon. Photo: John Greenfield
People riding bikes on Glenwood north of Devon. Photo: John Greenfield

The Glenwood Avenue Greenway (north of Pratt Street the route jogs west on Farwell Avenue to Greenview Avenue) is a useful, relatively low-stress alternative for cycling between Uptown and Evanston, compared to busier corridors like Clark Street and Broadway, two blocks west and east, respectively. (Last week plans for new protected bike lanes on Clark in Edgewater were announced.)

However, some drivers inappropriately use Glenwood, a quiet residential street, as a cut-through route, in an effort to get around traffic jams created by their fellow motorists on the arterials. Therefore some people who bike find the greenway to be stressful at times, especially during rush hours, particularly on the half-mile stretch between Devon and Pratt Avenue in Rogers Park, where the street narrows and there are no marked bike lanes, only bike symbols with chevrons painted on the road, called “shared-lane markings.”

Matters get worse when there are traffic issues on Sheridan, and many of the drivers re-route down Glenwood, which can’t safely handle the extra vehicles, and the street gets backed up for blocks. Worst of all is when some of these motorists attempt to go as fast as they were on Sheridan, and then get frustrated and angry because the street is too narrow to accommodate speedy driving. Their aggressive driving is a threat to people walking, and they also endanger people on bikes by tailgating or passing too closely. Many times this is accompanied by honking and/or yelling.

Some people who park on Glenwood say they’ve had their cars sideswiped multiple times or had their side-view mirrors broken more than once. And according to neighbors, on one occasion a driver seriously injured a Fed Ex delivery person on the corridor.

Tuesday's meeting. Photo: Jonathan Roth.
Tuesday’s meeting. Photo: Jonathan Roth.

To address these concerns on Glenwood between Pratt and Devon, yesterday evening Rogers Park alderwoman Maria Hadden and Chicago Department of Transportation staffers hosted a brainstorming session on ways to improve safety and comfort for all road users and local residents. The community meeting, held in a parking lot at Glenwood and Arthur avenues, drew about 35 attendees.

The event was held at 5 p.m. so that participants could get a sense of what rush-hour traffic on the corridor is like. However, attendees agreed that it was an unusually slow day, and that in general traffic on Glenwood still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, since many Chicagoans are still working from home. Near the end of the meeting, participants slowly walked north on Glenwood to Pratt stopping to look at a few different intersections.

Unlike many community meetings related to transportation, which can get contentious, the discussion was very cordial, perhaps since attendees were generally in agreement that something needs to be done to improve safety on the corridor. Hadden acted as moderator, and she made it clear that this was the beginning of a conversation, that there would be no quick fixes.

Residents noted that at Glenwood and Devon, where Glenwood takes a jog, there are sight-line issues because the prohibition against parking close the the corners isn’t enforced. One attendee suggested adjusting the stoplight timing to give people walking and biking a head start. There used to be green bike boxes, places for cyclists to stand while waiting for the light, painted on Glenwood on both sides of Devon, but one of these was never repainted after road work, and a participant asked for it to be restored.

The Devon/Glenwood intersection as it appeared in July 2019. Image: Google Maps
The Devon/Glenwood intersection as it appeared in July 2019. At the time there were bike boxes on both sides of Devon. Image: Google Maps

The Glenwood Greenway route also jogs at Pratt, where there’s a contraflow northbound bike lane. The situation is further complicated by a Red Line viaduct just east, and two sets of all-way stop signs on either side of the tracks. Many drivers heading west on Pratt don’t notice the second sign at the bike route crossing. They just stop at the first one east of the Red Line and then keep going.

Residents say westbound drivers at Pratt/Glenwood often stop for the first set of all-way stop signs east of the tracks, but miss the second set. Image: Google Maps
Residents say westbound drivers at Pratt/Glenwood often stop for the first set of all-way stop signs east of the tracks, but miss the second set. Image: Google Maps

Another issue along Glenwood is that while many or most of the stops along the corridor are all-way, the intersection with Albion Avenue, a one-way eastbound street two blocks north of Devon, only has stop signs for eastbound traffic, but many drivers on Albion assume it’s an all-way stop. A simple fix would be to install a “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” sign there.

Albion/Glenwood, looking east. Image: Google Maps
Albion/Glenwood, looking east. Image: Google Maps

The essential problem with Glenwood between Devon and Pratt is that it’s too narrow for parking on both sides, two bike lanes, and two lanes of car traffic. As such, the proposal that seemed to have the most support among the neighbors (even drivers) is to make this stretch of Glenwood one-way going northbound, retain parking on both sides, and stripe bike lanes in each direction (the southbound bike lane would be contraflow.) Neighbors said they’d repeatedly brought up this idea with previous alderman Joe Moore but were told that the street has to remain two-way for emergency vehicles, despite the fact that other stretches of Glenwood further south are one-way northbound. The CDOT reps present said they’d look into that possibility.

An attendee asked whether making this stretch one-way would worsen traffic on Clark and Sheridan Road. (Broadway becomes Sheridan north of Devon.) However, those streets are obviously built for heavier traffic flow than Glenwood.

Another idea raised was to keep this stretch of Glenwood two-way, but strip parking from one side of the street, perhaps replacing the spaces by implementing diagonal parking on the other side, or on cross streets. However, most neighbors seemed more open to banning southbound car traffic than changing the parking situation.

Another suggestion was to turn Glenwood into a Slow Street (the city of Chicago calls these “Shared Streets,” where through traffic is banned and traffic is calmed with barricades and traffic barrels. And one participant jokingly suggested, “Just turn over Glenwood to the cyclists…let them have it.” But that’s actually an idea that Streetsblog Chicago co-editor Courtney Cobbs has floated in the past.

Attendees were encouraged to email Alderwoman Hadden with any concerns (fading bike lane paint was a specific one brought up.)

A surprising aspect of the meeting was hearing how much some people hate biking down Glenwood. “I avoid it at all costs!” said one participant. But converting Glenwood to a one-way between Devon and Pratt is a promising idea to make the street more bikeable for all.

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Rendering of the contraflow bike lane on the southbound stretch of Glenwood north of Pratt. Image: CDOT

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