LOGAN SQUARE — The notoriously dangerous intersection of Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue, which claimed the lives of at least two cyclists in the past 15 years, now has bike lanes — and more safety fixes are coming.
Crews this week narrowed traffic lanes on Logan Boulevard to make room for the painted bike lanes and will install posts and other road markings this month to further separate cyclists from drivers, city spokesman Mike Claffey said.
For years, residents and local leaders have complained the intersection is uniquely dangerous for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, in part because it feeds into Kennedy Expressway on- and off-ramps.
About four months ago, a driver hit and killed “School of Rock” actor and drummer Kevin Clark as he rode his bike through the intersection. Thirteen years ago, a driver killed 22-year-old cyclist Tyler Fabeck there.
The intersection has been the site of many crashes and near crashes over the years. Active Transportation Alliance leaders in 2018 identified the intersection as a “high-crash area” and urged the city to install protected bike lanes and other safety measures, but the city didn’t act on that recommendation.
The bike lanes are a relief for community leaders and neighbors who have long called for safety improvements.
A resident of Logan Square for about 20 years, Gin Kilgore frequently rides her bike through the intersection, as it’s a main artery between Logan Square and neighborhoods to the east, she said.
Kilgore said the intersection is especially challenging for cyclists because it lacks a crosswalk for those traveling east and a curb cut for those traveling west, among other concerns. She said one time she and her child, who was 10, were riding through the intersection when a driver “squeezed” them out, which caused her child to fall.
Kilgore said her kid managed to escape injury, but many aren’t so lucky. Protected bike lanes could prevent that kind of situation — and others like it — from happening, she said.
“I’m assuming there was another driver in the outer lane, which is why this driver didn’t move over. But they should have slowed down instead of forcing us to the side. Protected bike lanes remove that option to squeeze,” she said.
Corson Barnard, a resident of Logan Square for about five years, said she was “thrilled” to see the bike lanes, even though she’s not a cyclist. Barnard said she regularly drives through the intersection and she’s always struck by the number of drivers who “gun it” to get past her, endangering themselves, other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
The bike lanes will hopefully force drivers to slow down, Barnard said.
“I really see it as a way to demonstrate compassion for your neighbors and be reminded that everybody is passing through the world a little differently,” she said.
But not everyone is a fan of the bike lanes. Other neighbors said they’re worried the “road diet,” or reduction in traffic lanes, will lead to more congestion and confusion. The city narrowed Logan Boulevard leading up to Western Avenue to carve out space for the bike lanes.
Frank Manzella, who has lived in Logan Square for 50 years, said there used to be less traffic in the intersection because it was laid out differently. The skate park used to be part of Logan Boulevard, and the dog park was a road that allowed for turns onto the Expressway, he said.
Manzella said the city should revert the intersection back to its original layout if it wants to improve safety.
“There will be so much traffic there now,” he said. “Watch.”
The handling of the project has also been a point of contention among neighbors. Some have said Alds. Daniel La Spata (1st) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) should’ve held a community meeting before giving the city the green light to install the bike lanes.
La Spata has defended the bike lanes, saying they’re a step in the right direction because they will “set clearer expectations of who should be where.” The alderman said the posts and markings can be adjusted if the lanes cause unforeseen problems.
One thing many neighbors agree on is the bike lanes are only a small improvement, when what the intersection needs is a total rework.
“As a relatively short scenic boulevard, it just makes no sense that Logan Boulevard is so wide,” neighbor Jeremy Glover said. “It’s not a crosstown arterial like Fullerton or Irving Park. Even with the bike lanes, the car traffic will continue to pose a threat until it’s slowed. And the only way to do that is by reconfiguring the street.”
The city last month said it will also “refresh” crosswalks as part of the infrastructure project. Claffey didn’t answer a question about when this work would be completed.
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