Grid Bits: Street crossings


Queen’s Landing won’t look like this on Friday: there’ll be a crosswalk and signal here. 

As you consider how you’ll walk to the store tomorrow for some gifts from our guide, know that several people are trying to make street crossings safer. This post is a roundup of different news about how street crossings are changing (for the better) in Chicago.

1. Queen’s Landing

I briefly reported on this two Sundays ago in Grid Shots: Pedestrian access edition. The new crosswalk opened today.

2. Crossing Western Avenue in the 47th Ward

In Alderman Pawar’s email newsletter on Wednesday, he mentioned that he requested CDOT to improve pedestrian signal timings at Western and Sunnywide, Western and Irving Park, and Western and Waveland. “Over the summer I learned that families, school children and senior citizens in our ward have experienced trouble crossing [these intersections]”.

All three signals used to guide people crossing Western Avenue at these streets now have extended timing, and Sunnyside and Waveland have moved to a fixed timing system during the day (no need to push the signal activation button).

If there’s a crossing in your neighborhood that you think is too short, you could call 311 but I believe that having your alderman make the request gets results faster. While you’re at it, though, find all the fast crossings in your neighborhood and request that all be improved simultaneously.

3. Lawrence Avenue Streetscape

In a previous newsletter from Alderman Pawar he described the progress of the Lawrence Avenue Streetscape (and road diet) from the Chicago River (2900 W Lawrence) to Clark Street ( 1500 W Lawrence). The segment between Western Avenue and Ashland Avenue will be narrowed from two travel lanes in each direction (with bike sharrows) to one travel lane in each direction and a bike lane in each direction (with a center turn lane). This road geometry better matches the street west of Western Avenue and east of Ashland Avenue.


Photo of Lawrence Avenue at Rockwell Street, within the project area for the streetscape by Eric Rogers. 

Also in the project are wider sidewalks and shorter crossing distances because of pedestrian refuge islands in the median and bumpouts with bioswales. Read more about the project in CDOT’s presentation to the Ravenswood Community Council on August 30, 2011.

The progress mentioned is that the TIF Task Force* approved it. The project resides within two TIF districts: Clark/Montrose (no. 70), and Western Avenue North (no. 84). So far, $310,000 from these two districts has been spent on design and engineering. Alderman Pawar said, “I am hoping for construction to start by fall 2012”.

4. Columbus and Illinois

Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) on November 7, 2011, asked that CDOT make improvements to the intersection of Columbus Drive and Illinois Street (by the Dominick’s grocery store and AMC River East movie theater).


A view of Columbus Drive and Illinois Street, by Ian Freimuth.

From the Illinois crash data, there were 12 crashes between automobile drivers and people walking or biking in 2006-2009. They’re asking for:

  • raised median with planters to slow traffic down [a pedestrian refuge island]
  • changing the double left turn lanes on southbound Columbus to a single left turn lane
  • modification of the signaling to include an “all walk” phase at the intersection, eliminating the difficulty that occurs when pedestrians and vehicles occupy the same space at the same time [also called a Barnes dance or pedestrian scrambled; some have proposed this for Milwaukee/North/Damen]
  • clearly marked and strictly enforced speed limits, along with red-light cameras
  • additional training, regulation and oversight of taxi drivers and services

You can read their full letter to Commissioner Gabe Klein and Deputy Commissioner of Project Development Luann Hamilton. View the accessible version. We commend SOAR for their actions on transportation safety issues.

*I’m still trying to figure out what this is. The Department of Housing and Economic Development and City Council approve TIF funding expenditures.