After 2 cyclist deaths, Logan/Western is finally getting road diet, protected lanes

Treatments to the Logan/Western intersection. Image: CDOT
Treatments to the Logan/Western intersection. Image: CDOT

Update 9/2/21, 2:15 PM: In response to CDOT’s announcement, Kevin’s Coda, an organization formed to honor Kevin Clark and promote safer streets, said in a message to members, “On behalf of Kevin’s family, thank you all so much! To all who called, emailed, tweeted, and showed up at our vigil – this happened because of you and we are so grateful. Hopefully, come October, we can all go back to that intersection and see that it is safer for all who pass through it. And if it’s not, you can be damn sure we’ll all raise hell about it – just like Kevin taught us.”

The Active Transportation Alliance published a blog post today that describes the organizing efforts that helped win the street makeover. The advocacy group generally praised the city’s plan, but noted, “The plan falls short in not creating a crosswalk for people crossing Logan/Western on the south side of the intersection. The city says signal timing and high levels of traffic exiting the expressway are preventing this addition in the short term.”

It took the deaths of two different people biking to make it happen, but the dangerous intersection of Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue in Logan Square is finally getting much-needed safety improvements. The Chicago Department of Transportation announced today that a road diet with protected bike lanes is planned for Logan near Western, with construction slated to start in mid-September.

Logan/Western is on an important bike route between Logan Square and North Lakefront neighborhoods. But as it stands, it’s the junction of two busy, multilane roads, further complicated by Kennedy Expressway access ramps. The Interstate and the adjacent elevated Metra Union Pacific-Northwest line tracks darken the viaduct and obscure sight lines.

Tyler Fabeck and Kevin Clark.
Tyler Fabeck and Kevin Clark.

In 2008, a motorist struck and killed videographer Tyler Fabeck, 22, on his bike there. About 13 years later, on May 26 of this year a 20-year-old driver fatally struck “School of Rock” drummer Kevin Clark, 32, while he was cycling through the intersection.

The Active Transportation Alliance released recommendations for safety improvements to the the intersection in 2018, such as eliminating a travel lane for a short segment, new bike lanes and crosswalks, and better lighting. However, no action was taken until there were renewed calls for fixing the intersection from loved ones of the fallen cyclists and bike advocates in the wake of Clark’s death. 1st Ward alderman Daniel LaSpata promised to hold city, county, and state transportation officials accountable for making immediate upgrades to protect people walking and biking.

Rendering of treatments to the corridor. Click to enlarge. Image: CDOT
Rendering of treatments to the corridor. Click to enlarge. Image: CDOT

A graphic of the new street design provided by CDOT shows that in general two of the four mixed-traffic lanes on Logan will be converted to curbside bike lanes with striped buffers and flexible plastic posts between the bike lanes and moving traffic. The bike lanes will be striped through the Western intersection with green paint.

Right turns from westbound Logan onto Western will be banned. And west of Campbell, the service drives of the boulevard recently got a Slow Street treatment, including traffic diverters at California and Sacramento avenue, so that motorists can’t use the service routes as through routes, which will complement the new protected lanes.

Traffic diverters on Logan Boulevard. Photo: CDOT
Traffic diverters on Logan Boulevard. Photo: CDOT

This set-up should represent a major improvement in safety and comfort for people walking and biking on Logan. However, the paint-and-post “protection” of the bike lanes should be upgraded to concrete curbs as soon as possible, so that there’s a physical barrier to prevent drivers from hitting cyclists.

[Using paint and posts] allows us to get the protection in place fairly quickly,” said CDOT spokesperson Mike Claffey. “We will be studying how it performs and it will be possible to upgrade it in the future.”

The project is being funded by discretionary “menu” money from the 1st and 32nd Wards, which share jurisdiction of the corridor.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to bring safer infrastructure for cyclists, scooter riders, pedestrians, and also motorists to this stretch of the 1st ward,” said Alderman LaSpata in a statement. “None of us will ever forget the deaths of Kevin Clark and Tyler Fabeck, but we will commemorate their losses through changes that will improve all of our lives. For me and so many others, the daily trips of my life (to the gym, Target, Home Depot, and on and on) just got a lot safer.”

Said 32nd Ward alderman Scott Waguespack, “Our community members and organizations appreciate CDOT’s efforts as they make these improvements to the intersection of Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue. The intersection improvements are a good start to improve safety, and we look forward to continuing the work throughout the network.”

The Active Transportation Alliance applauded the news. “It’s a relief to learn this treacherous intersection is finally getting needed safety upgrades,” said spokesperson Kyle Whitehead. “The credit goes to Tyler Fabeck’s and Kevin Clark’s families, and the hundreds of local advocates who fought tirelessly to make the area safer for walking and biking.”

“The protected bike lanes will make the corridor safer for everyone who travels through it and help prevent crashes and save lives,” Whitehead added. “We thank aldermen LaSpata and Waguespack for heeding the concerns of their constituents and working with CDOT to take action.  This should spark investment in dozens of intersections just as dangerous as Logan/Western all across the city, many of which are in majority Black and Brown neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.”

It’s great that these needed improvements are coming to Logan/Western at last, but tragic that they weren’t done before two young men lost their lives. It goes with out saying that we need to push government officials to fix dangerous intersections before people get killed there.

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