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Neighborhood Greenway

Ride like the Dickens! Take a virtual ride on the long-NIMBYed, now completed Dickens Greenway

In a move not previously mentioned by CDOT to Streetsblog, the route features more-or-less the first bike-centric traffic diverter installed in Chicago.

6:41 PM CST on January 4, 2024

More-or-less the city’s first bike-friendly traffic diverter, next to more-or-less the world’s first salad bar restaurant. Looking west at Dickens / Lincoln Park West, near the eastern terminus of the greenway. Photo: John Greenfield

This post is sponsored by Keating Law Offices.

As Hannibal from "The A-Team" used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together." That's the case this week: The Dickens Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (DANG) is fully ready to ride.

Edward C. Fitzpatrick

The Chicago Department of Transportation, local alderpersons, and bike advocates endured some 4.5 years of next-level Not In My Back Yard opposition from some Lincoln Park residents to get this thing built. Read a summary of the whole ridiculous saga here. But in a nutshell, a minority of 43rd Ward constituents argued, perversely, that infrastructure designed to calm traffic and make Dickens (2100 N.) safer for all road users would make it more dangerous by attracting bike riders. City emails Streetsblog obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request suggest that the ringleader was attorney Edward C. Fitzpatrick, who lives near Dickens and apparently had a monomaniacal fixation with blocking the project.

Biking through Oz Park on an existing bike-ped path that is part of the greenway route. Image: John Greenfield

But never mind the NIMBYs, here's the Dickens Greenway! The corridor includes several elements to mandate safer driving and encourage more pedestrian and bike activity on Dickens between Magnolia Avenue [1230 W.] and Stockton Drive [230 W.]

The DANG bike route. Image: CDOT

A contraflow ("wrong-way") bicycle lane makes biking east on the one-way westbound segments of Dickens safer and legalizes it. Sidewalk extensions and raised crosswalks shorten crossing distances, calm motorized traffic, and help keep drivers from turning fast around corners. And the speed limit has been lowered from 30 to 20 mph.

Riding the entire greenway from Magnolia/Clybourn east to Dickens/Stockton. Video: John Greenfield

Moreover, the completed Dickens Greenway features a very nice surprise that CDOT didn't mention is its statement about the project to Streetsblog last October. The short section of Dickens just west of Stockton between the driveway for the Lincoln Park Cultural Center and Lincoln Park West (2300 W.) has been closed to drivers and painted tan and green, creating space for bike riders and pedestrians. Sure, the barriers are just plastic flexi-posts that a reckless motorist could easily drive over without scratching their paint job. But this is more-or-less the first-ever example of a traffic diverter installed in Chicago that explicitly detours drivers in order to create a safer bike route.

If you stop by to check out the diverter, I recommend visiting R.J. Grunts, the 50-plus-year-old R. Crumb-inspired, hippie-themed eatery located kitty-corner from the new infrastructure. They're largely credited with inventing the salad bar.

A few quick takeaways from my 12-minute ride down the greenway:

• Churchgoers and parents of kids who attend schools along the corridor should be thrilled with the bump-outs and raised crosswalks – they seem very effective for improving pedestrian safety.

A new raised crosswalk by Saint James Lutheran School at Fremont Street (900 W.) and Dickens, looking east. Image: John Greenfield

• New paint-and-post curb extensions at Dickens/Stockton make it a lot safer for pedestrians to travel to or from Lincoln Park Zoo.

The bump-outs make it easier for this jogger to cross Stockton at Dickens, looking north. Photo: John Greenfield

• Keep in mind that the greenway is best for leisurely, not hurried, biking – in addition to the traffic calming features, there are stoplights or stop signs at just about every intersection (and as the frequent squeaks in my video suggest, I need to adjust my front bicycle brake!)

A tip of the bike helmet to CDOT; recently elected 43rd Ward alder Timmy Knudsen; organizations like the Active Transportation Alliance and Chicago Family Biking; and countless neighbors and bike advocates for disregarding the naysayers and making this happen.

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