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How To Safely Use Chicago’s First Shared Street In Ravenswood: ‘It’s Not A Block Party’

"It's not a block party — it's a public health benefit" say signs along Chicago's first shared street on Leland Avenue.

People walk in the street on Leland Avenue as some streets begin to open in Chicago to let pedestrians and cyclists social distance more easily in the Ravenswood neighborhood on Friday, May 29, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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RAVENSWOOD — The city’s “shared street” pilot program debuted Friday on Leland Avenue in Ravenswood. But with only one of the so-called shared streets in effect this weekend, city officials are warning against crowding on the neighborhood side street.

In a long-awaited push to create more room for social-distancing in neighborhoods, city transit officials confirmed this week that at least six shared streets will be implemented in the city. The shared street designation restricts through traffic along the route while allowing more room for biking and walking.

RELATED: Open Streets Finally Coming To Chicago Friday So People Can Social Distance Outside

The Leland Avenue shared street, from Lincoln Avenue to Clark Street, will be the only pedestrian-friendly zone to open this weekend, according to Ald. Matt Martin’s office. The shared street went into effect at about 10 a.m. Friday, with city crews erecting barriers and signs that announce the pedestrian designation and limits to traffic.

“People love it,” said Josh Mark, director of development and infrastructure for Martin. “The concern is they might love it too much.”

It was previously reported that the Leland shared street would run from Lincoln to Sheridan Road, where the street dead ends near the lakefront. But construction planned for Leland in Uptown has made that route unfeasible, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said in a note to constituents.

Martin’s office has been out on Leland Friday placing signs that seek to remind neighbors of best practices on the new shared street. The main rule of the shared street is no congregating, Mark said.

“It’s not a block party — it’s a public health benefit,” reads the signs put up along Leland by Martin’s office. “If the street is crowded, please use another street.”

Here are the other requirements:

  • Wear a mask or face covering at all times
  • Keep moving — it’s not a park, it’s a street
  • Be aware of vehicles — local residents are still using these streets
  • Respect social distancing
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Children play on Leland Avenue as some streets begin to open in Chicago to let pedestrians and cyclists social distance more easily in the Ravenswood neighborhood on Friday, May 29, 2020. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

The idea is to give residents more room to safely conduct activities they were already doing, like walking and biking. Shared streets are not meant to attract bikers and runners from throughout the city or supplant closed public amenities like the 606 and Lakefront Trail.

The model works better if there are shared streets throughout the city, Mark said. But that will not be the case this weekend.

“Leland is not a destination, it’s a route,” Mark said.

Those using Leland should practice social distancing and wear masks, according to Martin’s office. Volunteers with the ward office will be out on the route this weekend, handing out fliers and a limited amount of masks, Mark said.

So far Friday, neighbors have been pleased, Mark said. A family was seen allowing their daughters to race their scooters down the street.

City officials are expected to announce more about the shared streets program Friday. Other streets being considered for the plan are Glenwood Avenue in Edgewater, Palmer Street in Logan Square and Wood Street in Bucktown.

“We’re looking for options to open streets in a healthy and safe way,” Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said at a town hall this week.

Signs along Leland Avenue explain the best practices for using the shared street. [Courtesy 47th Ward Office]

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