Jefferson Park Residents Don't Want To Give Car Lanes To Bikes
By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 24, 2014 7:00PM
Photo credit: Mike Travis
As the Chicago Department of Transportation works to install more bike lanes across the city the growing pains resulting from that are not graceful. Milwaukee Avenue, from the Kinzie Street protected bike lane through Wicker Park and Bucktown, has earned the nickname “The Hipster Highway” for the prevalence of bicycles sharing the road with motor vehicles along that stretch. Talks of buffering the bike lanes in Wicker Park, Bucktown and Logan Square have resulted in loud blowback from motorists and business owners who argue the street is already too small and congested from the traffic it can barely accommodate currently.
If the debate is this vehement along a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue where bicycles are tolerated (if not encouraged), imagine how it would be further northwest in neighborhoods like Portage Park, Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park, where motorists consider driving a birthright, use long stretches of Milwaukee to put the pedal to the floor, lean like a gangster in the front seat and cruise the street with abandon. Residents in Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park are not happy with bike lane proposals on Milwaukee Avenue.
DNAInfo Chicago’s Heather Cherone reports two of three proposals by the city to make Milwaukee Avenue safer in those neighborhoods involve removing a lane of traffic in each direction in favor of protected bike lanes along a two-mile stretch of Milwaukee between Lawrence and Elston Avenues. The goal with the plans is to improve the flow of traffic, make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street along that stretch, and reduce car crashes.
Numbers from the city seem to justify moving forward with improving that area. City officials announced at a January community meeting there were 970 crashes on Milwaukee Avenue between Lawrence and Elston, including one fatality and 17 resulting in serious injury. The proposals also call for reducing the speed along that stretch of Milwaukee Avenue to 30 mph. But the meeting devolved into a massive NIMBY chorus, with residents and business owners complaining they don’t need bike lanes in their hoods and removing a lane for traffic in each direction would hurt area businesses.
Cherone notes the project, funded mostly by federal and state money, will become an issue in the race for 45th Ward alderman next year. Incumbent John Arena endorses having more transportation options in the area, although he hasn’t publicly favored a specific plan from the city. His expected opponent in next year’s election, Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido, has set up an online petition opposing reducing the number of traffic lanes on Milwaukee Avenue that has exceeded its goal of 750 signatures. The Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce is also opposed to reducing the number of lanes on Milwaukee.
Another petition arguing for adding bike lanes on Milwaukee has garnered 594 signatures.