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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Lincoln Square Could Soon Open Streets To Pedestrians To Help With Social Distancing

Opening streets to pedestrians and cyclists does not mean closing a street to all vehicles, Ald. Matt Martin said. Delivery drivers and emergency vehicles would be permitted.

Ald. Matt Martin's (47th) office launched an interactive map May 18 where neighbors can flag streets where they are seeing crowding on sidewalks.
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Ald. Matt Martin (47th) is flirting with the idea of opening Lincoln Square streets to pedestrian traffic and wants neighborhood input to provide feedback on how they’re using sidewalks and streets during the pandemic. 

Social distancing urges people to stay at least six feet away from another person. But that can be tricky when walking past someone on a crowded Chicago sidewalk. 

So Martin’s office is exploring how to open streets to more safely handle pedestrians, an idea that’s gained popularity but has yet to take hold in Chicago. 

“You can’t stay six feet away from someone while walking if the sidewalk is only five feet wide,” said Josh Mark, Martin’s director of development and infrastructure. “And we know social distancing will be necessary even after we start opening up again.”

“We’re still in the planning phase and continuing to talk with CDOT and people in the community in how they’re using these streets,” Martin said. 

There’s no timeline yet on changes to the streets yet but Martin’s office launched an interactive map Monday where neighbors can flag streets where they are seeing crowding on sidewalks. 

Intersections already highlighted by neighbors as of Tuesday include West Leland Avenue and North Rockwell Street, Wilson Avenue at Waters Elementary School, and West Montrose Avenue and North Damen Avenue.

The map is best viewed using a computer and anyone having trouble adding a street should email feedback to info@aldermanmartin.com so office staff can add it. 

“There’s a delicate balance where we’re talking with advocates, the mayor, neighbors and other stakeholders like chambers of commerce in what they think would work,” Martin said. “And we really want to solicit all this input as guidance in how this could work.”

Mark and Martin said opening streets does not mean closing a street entirely to vehicles. Residents, delivery drivers, emergency vehicles and garbage trucks still would be able to access individual blocks.

“We’re looking at how to slow down a street,” Mark said. “We just want to make sure we can guarantee the safety of people who are walking on the street when they try to follow the guidelines the mayor and governor has asked them to.”

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