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Ordinance would require walk/bike/transit upgrades whenever streets are repaved

A road diet with bike lanes and pedestrian and bus-boarding islands was recently implemented on Jackson Boulevard in Columbus Park. Martin’s ordinance would require CDOT to consider similar accommodations whenever streets are repaved. Photo: John Greenfield

The 47th Ward, which includes parts of Lincoln Square, North Center, and Ravenswood, saw more than its fair share of tragic traffic violence last month. On June 2, an SUV driver fatally struck Rafi Cardenas, 2, as he rode a scooter into the intersection of Eastwood Avenue and Leavitt Street in Lincoln Square. Then on June 12, a few hours a the Safe Streets for All rally drew hundreds of people to Rafi's crash site, a distracted driver struck and killed longtime 47th Ward volunteer Peter Paquette, 75, at Irving Park Road and Hoyne Avenue in North Center.

Local alderperson Matt Martin, who was already one of Chicago's most proactive City Council members when it comes to safe street design, said both of these killings deeply affected him. He lives a few blocks from where Rafi was struck, he attended the rally, and he shook hands with Paquette at the ward event the senior was walking home from when he was killed. "My office will continue working to ensure that future improvements to pedestrian, bike, and public transportation infrastructure —not just throughout our Ward but throughout all of Chicago—are holistic, systemic, and better designed to ensure safe streets for all," he promised in a thread following the North Center crash.

47th Ward traffic violence victims Rafi Cardenas and Peter Paquette.
47th Ward traffic violence victims Rafi Cardenas and Peter Paquette.
47th Ward traffic violence victims Rafi Cardenas and Peter Paquette.

At last month's City Council meeting, Martin took action on this front, introducing a new Complete Streets ordinance. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that every time the Chicago Department of Transportation repaves a street, rather than simply restriping it the same car-centric way as before, it prioritizes the needs of people walking, biking, and riding transit. The ordinance would require CDOT to include safe streets upgrades, collaborating with the CTA on all of these projects.

The legislation states that accommodations for all users “shall be included in the planning, design, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, maintenance, and operation” of any transportation facility under the jurisdiction of CDOT. The department is directed to use “the latest and best design standards," including the following resources:

"Chicago needs to rapidly and comprehensively improve our bike and pedestrian safety infrastructure citywide, as well as prioritize transit ridership in a big way, Martin said in a statement. "This ordinance calls on CDOT to take advantage of its Arterial Resurfacing projects with the regular addition of ambitious infrastructure including protected bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bus bulbs, and raised crosswalks. It will ensure that CDOT prioritizes alternatives to cars."

In reading over the ordinance, I was happy to see that documentation on any exemption must be made publicly available and shared with the City Council's Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety.

A sidewalk bike lane in Cambridge. Photo: John Greenfield
A sidewalk bike lane in Cambridge. Photo: John Greenfield
A sidewalk bike lane in Cambridge. Photo: John Greenfield

The ordinance is similar to the legislation in Cambridge, Massachusetts that requires city streets to be upgraded to include the safest bikeways possible whenever a roadway is reconstructed. It requires the city to provide protected or raised bike lanes on all streets that are included in its bike master plan except in "rare" circumstances, which city officials are required to justify.

If Martin’s proposal is approved by the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety the legislation would need to be approved by the full City Council. If your alderperson in one of the 16 alders on the committee, consider reaching out to them to let them know you support the ordinance.

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