LOGAN SQUARE — Shared streets throughout Chicago have been retired for the winter, and some Logan Square residents are glad to see them go.
All shared streets in the city were dismantled last weekend in anticipation of winter weather, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson Michael Claffey said. The program, wrapping its second year, opens thoroughfares normally reserved for cars to pedestrians, bicyclists and people needing safe, outdoor space during the pandemic.
But several neighbors said the shared streets along Logan and Kedzie boulevards were counterproductive, making the area unsightly, confusing and more dangerous for everyone. Instead of shared streets, residents say now is an opportunity for city leaders to brainstorm infrastructure changes to keep people safe.
Arturo Lopez, who lives on Logan Boulevard, said the program was “a great idea, but poorly implemented.”
“There’s got to be a better way to do this without making the [boulevards] look like a construction zone for three months and confusing both drivers and pedestrians,” Lopez said.
The Logan Square shared streets — delineated by cones, barriers and signs — stretched from Logan Boulevard from the monument to Western Avenue, and from Kedzie Boulevard from the monument to Palmer Street.
Neighbors have long complained of speeding drivers who use the service drives as cut-throughs, endangering other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists in the process.
Rey Vela, who lives on Kedzie Boulevard, said the shared streets created frustrating “choke points” that forced bicyclists and drivers to dangerously swerve around each other.
“I try to encourage respect and safety between cars and bikes on the road. I’m a huge bike advocate. I just think the way it was implemented frustrated a lot of drivers and fostered a little more animosity in some of the neighborhood’s drivers towards us bikers,” Vela said.
Luke Nelis, a lifelong Logan Square resident, said he witnessed more accidents, near-accidents and “WTF moments” along the boulevards when the shared streets were implemented.
Kevin Palmer with the Palmer Square Park Advisory Council called the city program “a mess.”
Beyond safety concerns, many neighbors were displeased with the look of the project. The bright orange bollards and large city signs disrupted the leafy, park-like boulevards, they said.
Over the past three months, some people knocked over the bollards or put them in trees in an apparent sign of disregard for the project.
Still, not everyone took issue with the city program. In fact, some neighbors said the shared streets provided a safe space for their families to ride bikes and play, and that it’s a positive first step toward safer boulevards.
“What a great way to reorient how we use the boulevard. A place to ‘be’ rather than somewhere to ‘get through,'” Josh Worell said. “Let’s make it permanent and prettier.”
Most neighbors agree some things can be improved along the roads.
“I agree it was a great idea but not the way it was handled,” neighbor Donna Bray said. “I think putting speed bumps on those side streets would work much better and it will also look much better.”
Responding to criticism from neighbors, Claffey, the city’s spokesman, said the shared streets “was never intended to be a top-down program,” adding, “It’s always been based on what residents have been asking for.”
Claffey said the city is continuing to collect feedback on the program online. City officials plan to meet with local aldermen to talk through “what worked well and if there are short-term or long-term improvements that are appropriate to work toward,” he said.