OLD IRVING PARK — The city plans to install three speed cameras on the Northwest Side before the end of the year after neighbors pushed for more safety measures at dangerous intersections.
The cameras are coming to Austin and Foster avenues near the park in Jefferson Park, Addison Street and Sayre Avenue near Shabbona Park in Dunning and along Milwaukee Avenue near Schurz High School Old Irving Park, close to where drivers hit and killed two cyclists, said Erica Schroeder, spokesperson for the city’s department of transportation.
The exact location and installation time is still being worked out, but the cameras will be added before the end of the year, Schroeder said. More could be coming as the department examines crash trends, data and input from the community and officials, she said.
Schroeder could not say whether the Old Irving Park camera will be added to the Addison Street and Milwaukee Avenue side of the school or closer to Kilbourn and Milwaukee avenues, where the cyclists were killed and where Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) has repeatedly said one is needed.
“We are currently assessing other locations for viability of speed cameras and remain in communication with aldermen and stakeholders citywide regarding potential changes,” Schroeder said.
The camera by Schurz High School falls within the city’s Children’s Safety Zone Program, meaning it will be on 7 a.m.-4 p.m. school days and for school events, and on occasion until 7 p.m. It would not be activated on weekends.
Like other speed cameras, it will observe drivers going in both directions. Signs will be posted to inform drivers, and there will be a warning period within the first month of installation, Schroeder said.
‘It’s All Headed In The Right Direction’
Neighbors who live along Milwaukee Avenue in Old Irving Park have long urged the alderman and the city for a speed camera to slow down drivers, especially in an area with a high school, a day care, families and other businesses.
“It’s exciting that [the camera] is finally on a list somewhere. Before it was speculation,” said resident Amanda Marien, who has documented crashes near Milwaukee and Kostner avenues for four years.
At that meeting, multiple alderpeople asked for cameras at busy and often dangerous intersections in their wards.
“I’ve been asking for cameras at Austin and Foster and where two were killed at Milwaukee and Kilbourn and have received nothing, no feedback,” Gardiner said at the meeting last month. “It’s extremely frustrating. I can understand the concern and the anger from the residents demanding speed cameras be put in there.”
Shortly after the meeting, the alderman received two texts from Department of Transportation representatives, letting him know that cameras would be coming to the ward, according to screenshots and documents received through a Freedom of Information Act request and shared with Block Club.
Gardiner did not respond to requests for comment.
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Nick Parlingayan was killed May 4 while riding his bike at Kilbourn and Milwaukee avenues. His death, which occurred across from where a driver fatally hit 37-year-old cyclist Carla Aiello in 2019, inspired neighbors to once again demand better safety measures along what’s known as the “bike highway.”
The intersection has since seen safety upgrades, including new stop signs, more visible cones to separate the bike lane, bike flex posts by the high school and pedestrian bump-outs that are nearly complete. Improved bike lanes are also on the way.
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 stop signs or a speed camera at Milwaukee and Kostner avenues received more than 600 signatures.
Marien said the stop signs have helped a lot since being installed in the middle of May, and the speed camera will slow drivers down.
“It’s all headed in the right direction, and once we get the bike lanes” the area will be safer, she said.
Gardiner previously said protected concrete bike lanes on Milwaukee between Addison Street and Irving Park Road near Six Corners would be installed this month, but the project has been delayed. The city plans to add concrete curbs to 25 miles of protected bike lanes citywide by the end of 2023
The Old Irving Park stretch should still get the barriers before the year is over, Schroeder said.
Claire Blakemore, who lives near Kilbourn and Milwaukee avenues, is waiting for the concrete bike curbs that will make Milwaukee safer for cyclists. Construction on the Grayland Metra station, 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.
“I am excited to see the news about the concrete barriers and then the orange” cones, Blakemore said. “But I feel lost on exactly what are we going to do now [as] a temporary solution.”
Blakemore suggested the city re-install plastic flexi posts along the stretch until the concrete barriers are installed, saying the bollards helped with visibility. Some were added after Parlingayan’s death, but few remain.
“It takes a really tragic incident for any sort of preventative measures to be put into place,” she said. “I have started to become more hyper-vigilant about the intersection … and with the bridge construction, I don’t ride bikes anymore” there.
While Blakemore is hopeful the speed camera will increase safety and slow down speeders, she wants to make sure the city follows through with the installation and the project’s timeline.
Other cameras on the city’s list for installation include one Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) has requested for years, he said.
A speed camera at West Addison Street and North Sayre Avenue in Dunning near Bridge Elementary School, 3800 N. New England Ave., will help slow down drivers near the school and catch people being “careless and irresponsible,” he said.
Sposato is still waiting on a date for the camera to be installed, he said.
“Hopefully, it will be by the end of the year. … If we get it by December, I’ll be happy,” Sposato said.
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