OLD IRVING PARK — Stop signs were installed Thursday at a Northwest Side intersection after years of neighbors asking for them — and a week after a 22-year-old bicyclist was killed along the stretch.
The stop signs were put up at Milwaukee and Kostner avenues by the Chicago Department of Transportation, neighbors said. Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) announced the installation in his Thursday newsletter.
Neighbors have long begged for stop signs to slow down drivers and prevent crashes on that part of Milwaukee Avenue, which is near homes, a day care and Carl Schurz High School.
Nick Parlingayan was killed May 4 while riding his bike two blocks north at Kilbourn and Milwaukee avenues. His death, which occurred just across from where a driver fatally hit 37-year-old cyclist Carla Aiello in 2019, pushed neighbors to once again demand better safety measures along what’s known as the “bike highway.”
Residents, including Amanda Marien, have documented crashes near Milwaukee and Kostner avenues over the years.
Marien, who lives near the intersection, said she has seen drivers go off the road and onto the sidewalk, sometimes hitting buildings and fences. A petition she started last year demanding the stop signs or a speed camera at Milwaukee and Kostner avenues received more than 600 signatures.
Last year, Gardiner promised residents a crosswalk, stop signs and bump-outs at Kostner and Milwaukee avenues, and a speed camera in front of Schurz High School, less than a half-mile from where Parlingayan was killed.
“It feels great to finally have a stop sign after five years of begging for one,” Marien said. “But knowing it’s at the expense of losing two lives does not make it feel like a victory. There is still work to be done — next, we need to properly protect bike lanes.”
Neighbors praised the stop signs on social media but said there needs to be more done to protect bicyclists, like installing solid bollards or separated barriers on Milwaukee Avenue.
They’ve also suggested adding a speed camera at Kilbourn and Milwaukee avenues, close to the Metra Grayland construction.
The project, which is expected to finish in 2024, has heightened traffic in the area and added to a perfect storm for disaster between the area’s lack of pedestrian protections and unsafe cycling infrastructure, residents previously said.
Gardiner said in his newsletter that bike lanes along the sidewalk near the bridge will soon be added. Metra’s construction has narrowed the northbound side of Milwaukee, causing drivers to go into the bike lane.
“Another added safety feature will be the installation of bike lanes on the sidewalks under the viaduct at Milwaukee and Kilbourn to help ensure a safe environment,” Gardiner wrote.
Michael Gillis, a Metra spokesperson, said the agency is working with CDOT to add signs advising northbound cyclists they can use the sidewalk to get through the construction area. Southbound cyclists can follow the normal detour route to Addison but can also cross over and use the north side sidewalk, he said.
“We will also put up some no parking signs north of the construction area to create a little more room for the [northbound] bike lane coming out of the construction,” Gillis said in a statement.
No schedule has been set for these improvements, but they will be added as soon as possible, he said.
The speed camera at Addison and Milwaukee avenues was scheduled to be installed in August, according to an email Marien received from Gardiner’s office. But the camera has still not been installed.
CDOT spokesperson Sue Hofer did not reply to a request for comment about the speed camera but previously said the transportation department is reassessing the entirety of Milwaukee Avenue for safety.
This week, Gardiner’s office delivered printed letters to nearby residents notifying them he scheduled a meeting with CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi that will be announced soon.
Gardiner also wrote that pedestrian bump-outs at Milwaukee and Kostner avenues will be added and he has reached out to cycling advocacy groups to “listen and share ideas regarding commuter safety in our city.”
About 20,000 bicyclists use Milwaukee Avenue daily, but it has long lacked infrastructure to keep people safe, advocates said.
The area where Aiello was killed had bike lanes — but they were only painted, and the paint had faded, advocates said.
Reflective bike lanes and plastic flexiposts were added six months after Aiello’s death and after a resident took it upon themself to repaint the faded markings. The lanes were later officially repainted and plastic bollards were installed; but the lanes are again faded and the flexiposts are damaged or gone.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: