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Consensus reached on plan to make Glenwood in Rogers Park safer by converting it to one-way

10:48 PM CDT on March 15, 2022

People riding bikes on Glenwood Avenue north of Devon Street in Rogers Park. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s not often that motorists and cyclists can find common ground when it comes to cycling infrastructure. However, the proposal to turn a portion of Glenwood Avenue (1400 W.), between Devon Avenue (6400 N.) and Pratt Boulevard (6800 N.) in Rogers Park from a two-way street into a one-way northbound roadway seems likely to be approved by 49th Ward residents. The plan to convert this half-mile stretch, part of the Glenwood-Greenview Greenway bike route connecting Uptown and Evanston, already had the blessing of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

In July 2021 Hadden and CDOT hosted a brainstorming session on ways to improve safety and comfort for all road users and local residents that drew about 35 attendees. 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. I would also like to think that an email campaign I created regarding this issue helped move it up the alderwoman's priority list.

The community meeting last July. Photo: Jonathan Roth
The community meeting last July. Photo: Jonathan Roth

Last Wednesday 49th ward alderwoman Maria Haddon held an online community meeting on the proposal. She shared that her office has received a lot of feedback on Glenwood Avenue, particularly the stretch between Devon and Pratt. “This is the street we get the most requests for improvements. It’s surprising, the amount of requests we get.”

While most attendees were in agreement with the plan, there were a few people who complained because adding another one-way street to the grid would require them to modify their commuting routes a bit.

The street grid near Glenwood Avenue between Devon and Pratt. Image: Google Maps
The street grid near Glenwood Avenue between Devon and Pratt. Click to enlarge. Image: Google Maps

However, most attendees, even those who mostly get around by car, agreed that turning the street into a one-way would make things safer. Residents shared stories of their vehicles being sideswiped, and of nearly being struck by drivers while crossing the street on foot. Some folks on the call questioned whether making the street a one-way would be enough to solve some of the issues, such as package delivery truck drivers who double park and cause congestion. There were also concerns that more traffic would be diverted to smaller parallel side streets.

Due to these concerns, the 49th Ward office is conducting a community survey on the proposal and fielding suggestions and ideas around increasing pedestrian safety. The survey will be available until Sunday, March 20th. Hadden said funding for the project would also include traffic calming on adjacent streets.

Glenwood Avenue from Devon to Pratt is pretty narrow. It's not uncommon for drivers to have close-calls. Cyclists are forced closer to parked cars when large vehicles are moving in the opposite direction.Photo: Courtney Cobbs
Glenwood Avenue from Devon to Pratt is relatively narrow. It's not uncommon for drivers to have nearly sideswipe each other's vehicles or parked cars. People on bikes are forced to ride closer to parked cars when drivers large vehicles are approaching in the opposite direction. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

Residents are correct that turning Glenwood into a one-way won’t necessarily solve the problem of drivers using side streets to avoid congestion on parallel arterials like Sheridan Road or Clark Street. However, the change to a one-way will improve safety for everyone, no matter what their mode.

Currently there aren't even painted bike lanes on this stretch, just "sharrows," bike-and-chevron pavement markings. Since the street will be one-way northbound, I hope that CDOT creates a contra-flow bike lane for southbound cyclists on this stretch, similar to the other one-way sections of the Glenwood-Greenview Greenway.

A contraflow bike lane on a one-way stretch of the Glenwood Greenway. Photo: John Greenfield
A contraflow bike lane on a one-way stretch of the Glenwood-Greenview Greenway. Photo: John Greenfield

My ideal layout for the street would involve converting one of the parking lanes to a two-way protected bike lane. Of course, we shouldn't just stop at creating a mere half mile of protected bikeway, but rather it should be part of an uninterrupted protected route for several miles.

In the big picture, in order to make driving less – or not at all – a safe and appealing option for Chicagoans across the city, we need a large-scale expansion our safe cycling infrastructure and public transportation system. Making a few blocks of roadway safer for cycling, or installing a few miles of part-time bus lanes with no enforcement, is not going to significantly move the needle on transportation cycling or transit ridership. We need vision and leadership to systematically drive down vehicular miles driven and ownership through improvements to sustainable transportation options, land use reform, and more.

In the short term, the proposed changes to Glenwood sound promising, but they're still not a done deal, and there's no set timeline for when the change would occur. Alderwoman Hadden said funding for the project would need to be secured, and the final design will need to be approved by 49th residents.

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