Another one bites the dust: Seminary Slow Street removed, petition launched to restore it

The Seminary Slow Street. Photo: Jeremy Frisch
The Seminary Slow Street. Photo: Jeremy Frisch

Update 10/8/21, 4:20 PM: According to Streetsblog reader Steven Lucy, the South Shore Drive Slow Street has also been dismantled.

Chicago’s Slow Streets – traffic-calmed side streets where through traffic is banned to allow for safe waking, jogging, and biking in the street – were supposed to be in effect until the end of November. But in early September the Chicago Department of Transportation removed the barricades and traffic barrels on Leland Avenue in Uptown, Ravenswood, and Lincoln Square due to complaints that the layout was too confusing for drivers. That was despite the fact the treatment, called a “Shared Street” by the city, was a quantitative success, with CDOT counts showing cycling increased by 85 percent on the corridor, according to local alderman Matt Martin (47th).

This week Streetsblog reader Jeremy Frisch alerted us that the Seminary Avenue Slow Street, installed on July 14 between Belmont Avenue and Eddy Street in Lakeview, has met a similarly untimely end. His tweet includes a short video montage that contrasts footage of people strolling and cycling on the Slow Street with a driver cruising down the side street now that the traffic calming features are gone.

So why was Seminary taken down early? “These Shared Streets are installed at the request of the community – and in this case, we had a request to remove this from the [44th] ward office,” said CDOT spokesperson Mike Claffey.  “They indicated that they had communications with neighbors in the area and that the consensus was they wanted it to be removed for the season at this time.”

The Seminary Slow Street. Photo: John Greenfield
The Seminary Slow Street. Photo: John Greenfield

Claffey has previously said that the remaining Slow Streets on South Shore Drive, Dante Avenue/77th Street, and the service drives of Logan and Kedzie Boulevards are slated to be in place through the end of November.

44th Ward alderman Tom Tunney’s director of infrastructure Dan Manoli provided more details. “The feedback we received from residents on that block of Seminary post-installation was overwhelmingly against,” he said via email. “Our office received a wide range of complaints: The barricades made it difficult and dangerous to navigate and/or park, barricades were constantly being damaged or moved elsewhere (on the street or to other parts of the neighborhood), the barricades made it more difficult to deliver city services, and they created several issues for the adjacent CPS school as well. We also did not have increased numbers of pedestrians or bicyclists using the street after the slow street installation.” Unlike Alderman Martin, Manoli did not provide actual bike traffic counts.

The Seminary Slow Street. Photo: Jeremy Frisch
The Seminary Slow Street. Photo: Jeremy Frisch

“We agree that slowing down traffic on streets and making roadways safer for all users is and should be a priority,” Manoli added. “Our office will continue to work with the community and the Chicago Department of Transportation to come up with better ways to accomplish those goals.”

Jeremy Frisch isn’t satisfied with that explanation. “Alderman Tunney’s office said they only asked the people living on Seminary for feedback and it was ‘not in favor’ so they took it down,” he wrote. “All the reasons provided related to drivers breaking the law or being inconvenienced: cars double parking during school dropoff/pickup, barrels getting run over, and ‘more of a hazard for cars to get around the barrels’ (a.k.a. the whole point).”

Fisch launched a petition drive to bring back the Seminary Slow Street, and a few dozen residents have sent e-letters to Tunney, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi asking them to restore the safety treatment through November, and then work with the community to come up with a permanent traffic-calming solution on the corridor. “Unless we demonstrate to our leaders that the community values safe streets over driver convenience, this could be the last year of Shared Streets in Chicago,” Fisch wrote.

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