Eyes on the street: Logan and Kedzie boulevards Slow Streets treatment

Family crossing California Avenue on Logan Boulevard, where traffic diverters have been set up. Photo: Sharon Hoyer
Family crossing California Avenue on Logan Boulevard, where traffic diverters have been set up. Photo: Sharon Hoyer

Editor’s note: The Logan and Kedzie Slow Street treatment will complement the recently-announced protected bike lanes planned for Logan Boulevard near Western Avenue, a dangerous intersection that has seen two cyclist deaths in the last 13 years. Recently, someone posing as the community group Logan Square Preservation sent out emails arguing that the Slow Streets treatment is dangerous and exhorting residents to ask local alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd) to get it removed. However, LSP, which advocated for the Slow Streets treatment (but is opposing the protected lanes), has disavowed the messages. -JG

Last week, the service drives on Kedzie and Logan boulevards in Logan Square got a temporary Slow Street treatment (the Chicago Department of Transportation calls them “Shared Streets”), with orange barrels and barricades with signs instructing drivers to keep speeds at 5 mph or below and yield to pedestrians and bikes. The treatment discourages motorists from using the service drives as cut-through routes, and at Sacramento and California avenues the barricades are set as traffic diverters that fully prohibit motorized through traffic. I took a bike ride through the new Slow Streets Thursday afternoon during rush hour.

Barricades at Logan and California. Photo: Sharon Hoyer
Barricades at Logan and California. Photo: Sharon Hoyer

The outer drives on the boulevards, already protected from faster moving traffic, are natural and relatively simple roadways to semi-pedestrianize. As a Logan Square resident, I’m happy to see the city taking this logical step on my primary northeast bike route. Large orange barrels with the now-familiar Shared Street sign depicting a large pedestrian icon, a smaller bike icon and a tiny car icon—in right-of-way order—are placed at major intersections and occasionally mid-block, along with smaller barrels displaying the 5 mph speed limit.

A well-placed barrel on Logan Boulevard. Photo: Sharon Hoyer
A well-placed barrel on Logan Boulevard. Photo: Sharon Hoyer

On Logan Boulevard prominent traffic calming measures have been taken at major intersections: Rows of orange barrels run down the center of California and Sacramento, along with striped barricades blocking through traffic on the service drive except, as signs mounted to the barricades indicated, bicycles. (As always, cruising quietly between the barricades on two wheels provided a distinct rush of pleasure.) This arrangement also blocks cars from turning left off the service drive—all motor vehicles are forced to turn right—something that will no doubt cause a bit of frustration for drivers, but is a far more powerful incentive to keep to the center roadway for through traffic than the orange barrels scattered down the service drive alone.

Barrels placed down the center of California at Logan. Photo: Sharon Hoyer
Barrels placed down the center of California at Logan. Photo: Sharon Hoyer

From what I observed, this treatment was tremendously effective at raising driver awareness of people walking and biking. Traffic on the service drive of Logan Boulevard was significantly calmer; runners, skateboarders and cyclists – several with small children riding in cargo bikes or alongside with training wheels – peacefully enjoyed a quiet journey on the pavement between the median and row of parked cars along the curb.

Slow Street + bike + hammock = a relaxing situation on Logan Boulevard. Photo: Sharon Hoyer
Slow Street + bike + hammock = a relaxing situation on Logan Boulevard. Photo: Sharon Hoyer

As I passed Mozart Street westbound, a driver turning right yielded to me, then rolled slowly behind until she found a parking spot on the same block. On the eastbound leg of my journey another driver, turning off the center drive of Logan onto Francisco Avenue, yielded once they were in line with the median, allowing me to pass before they continued down the side street, even though they technically had the right of way – a rare show of courtesy I imagine was encouraged by the Slow Street signs. I even saw drivers in the center, fast moving lanes of the boulevard honor a crosswalk, yielding to pedestrians even without a traffic light or stop sign. During rush hour in Logan Square, that kind of thing is about as common as a Yeti spotting.

Pedestrians and cyclists on Logan. Photo: Sharon Hoyer
Pedestrians and cyclists on Logan. Photo: Sharon Hoyer

Unfortunately, the situation on Kedzie Boulevard was quite different. The barrels were pushed as close to the curb as possible, instead of being placed to the driver side of parked cars as they were on Logan Boulevard, making them visually less noticeable and physically no impediment to speeding. I observed several drivers using the service drive on Kedzie as a cut through and felt very much compelled to keep to the right to allow them to pass. Pedestrians and joggers wisely kept to the sidewalk.

On the northwest corner of Kedzie and Fullerton, the Shared Street barrel had been moved off the street and onto the parkway (most likely by the valet service at the Stan Mansion events space) nullifying any traffic-calming effect it might have had. Across Fullerton the message was starker: a barrel had been struck, toppled and lay partially crushed, sign-down to the pavement, making just who truly had the right-of-way abundantly clear.

Barrel down at Fullerton and Kedzie. Photo: Sharon Hoyer
Barrel down at Fullerton and Kedzie. Photo: Sharon Hoyer

While the cross-street barricades seen on Logan Boulevard at California and Sacramento might be impractical at Fullerton and Kedzie, more traffic calming measures are needed to turn the Kedzie service drive into a true Shared Street. Even just doubling or tripling the number of barrels along the route could make a dent in driver behavior and prioritize pedestrian and bike activity and safety.

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