EDGEWATER — Looking forward to trying out Chicago’s “shared streets”? The first one opens this week in Ravenswood.
The Chicago Department or Transportation confirmed Wednesday portions of Leland and Glenwood avenues will be designated as “shared streets” closed to traffic as the city seeks to foster ways for residents to get outside while practicing social distancing.
Leland Avenue between Lincoln Avenue and Sheridan Road will serve as the city’s first designated shared street in Ravenswood and Uptown. Glenwood Avenue from Carmen to Devon avenues in Edgewater will also become a shared street, according to the transportation agency.
Leland’s shared street status starts Friday, said Josh Mark, director of development and infrastructure for Ald. Matt Martin (47th).
It is less clear when Glenwood and five other shared streets will open to pedestrians. City transit officials have not said when the shared street designations begin, nor have they said what their designs will be.
But after the shared streets pilot program was first reported Tuesday by Streetsblog Chicago, Martin’s office began sharing as much information as it can with Leland Avenue residents.
The streetscape will likely not change for Leland and Glenwood. Signs and saw horses indicating Leland is closed to through traffic will be put up, Mark said.
Residents of Leland will still be able to park on the street. Delivery vans, moving trucks and emergency vehicles will still have access to the street, Mark said.
As for Glenwood, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said his office and the city are “contemplating” the temporary removal of parking on the west side of the street to allow for more space to walk and bike.
Under the plan being considered, Glenwood residents would be able to use parking lots at Senn High School and Pierce Elementary, Osterman said at a community meeting Wednesday.
“We welcome your feedback on that,” Osterman said. “We’re looking for options to open streets in a healthy and safe way.”
Shared streets have been implemented in other cities, including New York and Oakland, California, as a way to promote outside activities while maintaining social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Efforts to bring such programs to Chicago have been gaining steam, with Martin being one of the leading voices in calling for shared streets.
“We’re incredibly proud to be working with CDOT to be one of the first wards to have a shared street,” Mark said.
The selection of Leland and Glenwood as streets open to pedestrians makes sense, ward officials said. The streets are already designated as “neighborhood greenways,” which brings a revised, bike-friendly street design to certain thoroughfares.
Neighborhood greenways are selected because of their low levels of car traffic and high volumes of bike commuters. Usually, the designation brings marked bike lanes, bike-friendly speed bumps and curbs that protrude at intersections to promote pedestrian visibility.
Leland has not yet received those improvements, Mark said. It was designated as a greenway last year and is scheduled to have that work done in 2021. Glenwood was designated as a greenway in 2017.
Leland’s proximity to Lawrence Avenue keeps car traffic relatively low, making it attractive to runners and bikers. Tressa Feher, chief of staff to Ald. James Cappleman (46th), said she walks Leland daily and has seen it already used in the manner the city is seeking to promote.
“It’s become an understanding that if you want to bike or run, you take Leland,” she said. “It’s already pretty much a shared street.”
It is unclear how long the shared street designation will be in place. More shared streets, including on the South Side, will be announced, according to the city.
Some North Side neighbors are excited about the idea but cautioned it only works for the residents of the shared streets if everyone is wearing masks and social distancing.
“Love the idea of opening up more streets to pedestrians/bikers, but we’re seeing a lot of foot traffic with people oblivious to the idea of physical distancing and who are also not wearing a mask,” a Glenwood Avenue resident said of the idea on Facebook.
The shared streets are meant to accommodate existing pedestrian and bike traffic and not necessarily serve as a destination for additional traffic, Mark said.
“We don’t want people congregating or traveling to Leland,” he said.
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