Logan Square Preservation tries to block protected lane installation, ATA rallies support
In April 2008, a driver struck and killed videographer Tyler Fabeck, 22, on his bike at Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue in Logan Square. No action was taken by government officials to make the intersection, along an important cycling route, safer.
In 2018, the Active Transportation Alliance released recommendations for safety improvements to the the intersection, such as a road diet, new bike lanes and crosswalks, and better lighting. No action was taken.
In May 2021, driver fatally struck “School of Rock” drummer Kevin Clark, 32, while he was cycling through Logan/Western.
On Tuesday, following a renewed push on the issue by Fabeck’s and Clark’s families, local bike advocates, and ATA, the Chicago Department of Transportation announced that the road diet, protected bike lines and other upgrades will finally be implemented this month. It’s clear we can’t wait any longer for these changes.
But that night Andrew Schneider, a real estate agent who serves as president of the influential community group Logan Square Preservation, launched a new effort to obstruct these hard-won infrastructure improvements that could potentially prevent future deaths.
In a message to LSP members, Schneider framed his objections to the safety project as being about the planning process. He said he was upset because 1st Ward alderman Daniel LaSpata, who asked CDOT to come up with the safety plan, declined to hold a full community input process for approval of the street redesign.
(For the 2018 proposal, which CDOT’s plan closely mirrors, ATA worked with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Port Urbanism to collect feedback from residents and community organizations over ten months to identity and build support for improvements to the corridor.)
“We loudly object to decisions of this magnitude being made behind closed doors and without any consultation with the many stakeholders such as local schools and neighbors who are, instead, being excluded from the discussion. By comparison the redesign of Logan Square and Milwaukee involved a formal project study group composed of stakeholders and at least four public meetings over two years.”
Notably, the nearby traffic circle redesign Schneider refers to is a far more complex project than the Logan/Western plan, involving the pedestrianization of a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, and the realignment of Kedzie Boulevard to create a new plaza. So obviously neighborhood feedback was necessary for that project, as opposed to the relatively simple plan to convert a couple of travel lanes on Logan to protected bike lanes.
Schneider asked LSP members to “email your objection to this rushed, closed-door re-design” to LaSpata and 32nd Ward alderman Scott Waguespack, with whom LaSpata shares jurisdiction of the Logan Boulevard corridor.
Yesterday in the wake of the LSP message, LaSpata released a statement explaining the process for planning the street redesign, and his general approach to community input on infrastructure projects. “I received a huge amount of feedback from 1st Ward residents about what they would like to see at the Logan and Western intersection, and this feedback was overwhelmingly in support of protected bike lanes here,” he said. “Residents demanded quick, decisive action… We can not place a community veto on infrastructure improvements that will save lives.”
I am pleased to announce that the Chicago Department of Transportation will be installing bike lanes on Logan Blvd at Western Ave.
This project will bring much needed improvements to drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in the area. My statement and the plans are below. pic.twitter.com/oYyaSLhL0V
— Alderman Daniel La Spata (@AldermanLaSpata) September 2, 2021
In a Twitter discussion with me on the subject yesterday, Schneider revealed that his motivation for trying to delay or block the project, which could well result in yet another cyclist death, isn’t just unhappiness about the process. Rather, he has a specific personal concern he didn’t discuss in the LSP message.
In 2017 Schneider organized a crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $11,000 to restore the bell at St. John Berchmans Church, located a block west of Western at 2511 West Logan, as a memorial to LSP founding member Gerald Slawin and his wife. Schneider tweeted yesterday that “When Logan has backed up in the past it has been dangerous” for students at the church’s school.
He argued if the road diet causes congestion on the main travel lanes of Logan, drivers will speed down the service drive in front of the church. “I’m concerned about a child being killed or severely injured because of [the road diet and bike lanes],” Schneider said. “Ignoring that potential impact because it slows this [project] or is inconvenient is just that, ignoring a potential impact because you want to.”
So, in effect Schneider is arguing that we should allow the status quo on Logan, which has twice proven to be deadly, to remain for many more months, or perhaps indefinitely, because he’s afraid of what might happen if the layout is changed.
In fairness, if makes total sense to prevent drivers from using the service drives as cut-through routes, which is why CDOT recently implemented a Slow Street treatment on the service drives of Logan and Kedzie boulevards, including traffic diverters at Sacramento and California avenues that block vehicular through traffic. Schneider said he advocated for the treatment, which is slated to be in place for the next two months.
Block Club Chicago reports that the from neighbors to the new Slow Streets and diverted has been mixed. That’s predictable, since many motorists freak out when being asked to make even the slightest changes to their driving habits. But making the traffic diverters permanent would allay the fears of neighbors like Schneider that the Logan road diet will turn the service drives into speedways.
ATA organizes support for the Logan road diet and bike lanes
While Schneider and LSP’s campaign to block the safety upgrades is troubling, fortunately the Active Transportation Alliance is on the case, shoring up support for the project. Yesterday the group launched an online form that 1st and 32nd ward residents can fill out to send words of support to LaSpata, Waguespack, and CDOT. (If you don’t live in the ward, the message will only go to CDOT.)
“Thank you for making long overdue safety upgrades to the area near Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue,” the message to the city officials states. “The project will make the corridor safer for everyone who travels through it and help prevent crashes and save lives… Please follow through with the project and implement the changes as soon as possible. Then work to improve the many more dangerous intersections for people walking and biking in neighborhoods across Chicago.”
In a new blog post, ATA discusses the campaign to win the safety upgrades, including a few suggestions for improving the current plan, including upgrading the planned pain-and-post bike lanes to concrete protection, and installing a new crosswalk at the south leg of Logan/Western.