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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Improved Crosswalks Coming To North Center As Elementary School Crossing Guards Battle ‘Aggressive’ Drivers

The street improvements have long been planned, but they have taken on renewed urgency after a string of crashes where drivers killed or hurt pedestrians, an alderperson said.

A pedestrian walks on the sidewalk as a car sits parked at the crosswalk on a warm spring day in the Loop on April 21, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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NORTH CENTER — Street upgrades coming to a busy stretch of Montrose Avenue between Irving Park and North Center are aimed at improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Street improvements have been planned for months among North Side alderpeople, but they’ve taken on renewed urgency after a recent string of crashes where drivers killed or hurt people walking and biking, Ald. Matt Martin (47th) said. Just this month, drivers hit and killed toddlers Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas in Lincoln Square and Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook in Uptown.

A driver also killed 11-year-old Jalon James last week in Lawndale on the West Side.

“From day one, we identified a need for the city to modernize its approach to infrastructure and ensure that our roads are safe for everyone, whether it’s a child biking to school or a senior waking to our local businesses,” Martin said in a statement. “Chicago cannot continue to make these improvements in a piecemeal way, ward by ward. Particularly if Chicago wants to create an efficient network of protected bike lanes, we need a centralized plan that is rolled out city-wide.”

Earlier this month, crews began resurfacing Montrose Avenue between California and Western avenues. They will also replace all the ADA ramps along that stretch, said Josh Mark, Martin’s director of Development and Infrastructure.

The project is being done in collaboration with Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) as the section of Montrose between California and the North Branch of the Chicago River is in her ward.

Curb extensions will also be added where Montrose intersects with Campbell, Maplewood and Artesian in the 47th Ward to improve pedestrian safety, Mark said. 

Those intersections along Montrose don’t have street lights or stop signs and are a few blocks from Kindred Hospital Chicago North, 2544 W. Montrose Ave.; an Aldi, 2431 W. Montrose Ave.; and Waters Elementary School, 4540 N. Campbell Ave. 

The curb extensions will help crossing guards “who deal with very aggressive driving traffic” in that area, Mark said.  

Once the resurfacing is done, a dashed bike lane and bike boxes will be added to Montrose east of Damen to Clark and west of Western to connect with existing bike lanes in the 33rd Ward, Mark said. 

Traffic will continue along Montrose during the three-month construction project, and crews will post no parking signs as needed, Mark said.

Martin’s office is also collabroating with Rodriguez-Sanchez on a “speed feedback signal” at the intersection of Wilson and Virginia, a residential street just east of the river, Mark said.

The 47th Ward is also rolling out pedestrian safety upgrades near elementary schools: 

  • Curb extensions on Addison at Oakley near Alexander Graham Bell School, 3730 N. Oakley Ave.
  • Curb extensions on Montrose at Paulina in front of Ravenswood Elementary School, 4332 N. Paulina St.
  • Detached curb extensions and speed humps in front of Coonley Elementary School, 4046 N.
  • Detached curb extensions and a speed hump around Hamilton Elementary School, 1650 W. Cornelia Ave. 
  • A raised crosswalk on Leland at Wolcott that is part of the Leland Greenway project near James B. McPherson Elementary School, 4728 N. Wolcott Ave.

Other bike improvements coming to the 47th Ward include contraflow bike lines on Sunnyside from Lincoln to Western and a protected bike lane on Clark Street between Irving Park and Montrose, Mark said.

Ward residents have also voted to budget money for pedestrian safety upgrades in areas where children and older people spend their time, Mark said. As part of that, the ward is working on adding detached bump-outs at Sunnyside and Oakley in front of the Welles Park Fieldhouse, a curb extension at Damen and Belle Plaine in front of the North Center Town Square and a curb extension at Ashland and Ainslie Bethany Methodist Retirement Home, 4950 N. Ashland Ave.

Martin and Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) are also collaborating on the Leland Greenway, which will cut through their wards. 

The project will change the traffic plan at Western and Leland avenues, creating 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. 

That project is expected to break ground this summer.

Vasquez also recently announced a contraflow bike lane will be created on Berwyn between Damen and the river and introduced legislation this week that would make it easier for the city to tow cars blocking bike lanes.

Vasquez is also critical of the city’s current “ward-by-ward” approach to improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

“These injuries and deaths are heartbreaking and agonizing, and they were preventable. Our city needs comprehensive legislation to implement initiatives that protect Chicago’s cyclists and pedestrians,” Vasquez said in a statement. “It requires leadership from the top to prioritize these issues because attempting to address it on a ward-by-ward basis yields varying results and it fails to create safer streets on a city-wide level.”

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