LINCOLN SQUARE — A long-awaited plan to change the traffic pattern at a busy Lincoln Square intersection to improve access and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians is finally moving forward, local leaders say.
The Chicago Department of Transportation proposed the Leland Avenue Greenway in 2019 as part of the Lincoln Square master plan to create a continuous, low-stress bicycle connection between the North Shore Channel and Lakefront trails.
The plan would change the traffic plan at Western and Leland avenues, incorporate pedestrian median islands, raised crosswalks, contraflow bike lanes and bike-friendly speed humps along Leland Avenue in Lincoln Square between the North Shore Channel, near Rockwell Street on the west, and Clark Street on the east.
The east-west bike route can be a safer alternative to Lawrence and Wilson avenues, said David Smith, a bicycle and pedestrian programs planner at CDOT. Construction could start this summer, city officials said at a community meeting Tuesday hosted by Alds. Andre Vasquez (40th), Matt Martin (47th) and CDOT.
“One thing that we heard from neighbors is really a desire and need for a low-stress bike route that goes east and west that is really appropriate for people of all ages and all abilities,” Smith said. “There are existing bike routes on streets like Lawrence and Wilson, but those aren’t comfortable for everyone so we really want to provide this low-stress alternative.”
During an initial public comment period before the pandemic, neighbors said one of their biggest concerns walking or cycling through the neighborhood are the cars that cut through Leland to avoid congestion on Lawrence Avenue. They also mentioned that it is difficult to cross Western at Leland because of the high volume of car traffic, Smith said.
After doing a traffic analysis, CDOT engineers propose only allowing cars traveling either direction to turn right from Leland to Western, Smith said. The city also plans to install a two-way protected bike lane on the southern half of Leland Avenue between Western and Lincoln, Smith said.
Other changes in the revised proposal include creating counterflow bike lanes along Leland between Rockwell and Western and between Damen and Clark. Forty-one pedestrian curb extensions and seven bike-friendly speed humps would be added along Leland between Virginia and Ashland.
The speed limit along Leland Avenue’s residential streets would also be reduced from 30 to 20 miles per hour in order to help create more comfortable and consistent speeds along the greenway for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to share the road, Smith said.
Some neighbors said they worried about how drivers would be brought up to speed on the new traffic pattern at Western and Leland once it’s rolled out. Smith said city “ambassadors” would reach out to community organizations, schools, neighbors and other people in the community to explain how and why the new traffic pattern works before it is implemented.
Courtney Cobbs, Better Streets Chicago’s co-founder, said she liked the overall proposal but worried plastic bollards separating bike lanes from car traffic wouldn’t offer enough protection for bicyclists.
“We would like to see concrete protection and/or a raised bikeway design for the two-way protected bike lane,” she said. “The Lincoln and Leland intersection could benefit from raised crosswalks to help slow drivers and provide more protection for people walking and biking.”
Neighbors can provide feedback on the plan through Feb. 1 by emailing CDOTBikes@cityofchicago.org.
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