While Logan Square has gained a reputation for being a Mecca for biking in Chicago, partly because it’s bisected by the Milwaukee Avenue “Hipster Highway” bike route, this obscures the reality that some parts of the neighborhood aren’t particularly bikeable or walkable.
One location that springs to mind is Logan Boulevard from Rockwell Street to Diversey Parkway by the Lathrop Homes. If you have ever crossed Western Avenue on Logan, below the Kennedy Expressway, you know the many dangers for pedestrians and cyclists at that location. In April 2008 a driver fatally struck Tyler Fabeck, 22, on his bike in the intersection.
If you’ve walked or biked across Logan/Western on your way to do some shopping on the Elston Avenue retail strip, you know that it can be a nerve-wracking experience due to the heavy traffic, skewed layout of the intersection, and poor sight lines. The dangerous junction also discourages people from traveling between Logan Square and other neighborhoods.
The Active Transportation Alliance partnered with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Port Urbanism to collect feedback from stakeholders over ten months to identity and build support for improvements along the stretch of Logan between Rockwell and Diversey. As the city has recently placed more focus on and investment in a continuous Chicago River Trail, this project has become even more important, because in order to be able to take advantage of new amenities like riverfront paths, residents have to be able to safely travel to them.
Some of the goals of the Logan project include increased safety for all road users, increased capacity of Logan Square’s transportation network to serve the neighborhood’s rapidly growing population, and strengthened economic development by improving access to local retail and job opportunities. Active Trans recently released the report Reimagining Logan Boulevard to Lathrop Homes highlighting feedback collected and also offering recommendations for the area.
According to the report, this stretch of Logan is a high-crash area for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. Between 2011 and 2016, the study area saw 48 pedestrian crashes, 70 bike crashes, 1,707 motor vehicle crashes.The report highlights the many issues affecting walking and biking in the area, such as faded crosswalks, pedestrian signals set at the minimum walk time, narrow sidewalks, and bike lanes that end abruptly.
The report makes four recommendations informed by surveys and other community feedback. First, the report notes that most of Logan Boulevard within the project area averages 8,900 motor vehicle trips a day, well below the threshold for implementing a four-to-three conversion road diet. So the study recommends “right-sizing” the street, converting it from the current four travel lanes to two travel lanes plus a turn lane. It also calls for adding traffic calming and pedestrian safety infrastructure, such as speed bumps, sidewalk extensions, and pedestrian islands.
The second recommendation is improving conditions for people biking. It calls for adding protected bike lanes on Logan Boulevard and the Diversey bridge, installing wayfinding signs, and looking into converting the service drives of the boulevard to low-stress bike routes.
The third recommendation is improving streets and intersections for people walking. Recommendations include adding a new crosswalk on the south leg of the Logan/Western intersection, and building a sidewalk at Logan and Campbell Avenue, where people walking have already created a desire line from the service drive at Campbell Avenue across the grassy median to the sidewalk on the south side of Logan.
The final recommendation to enhance Logan Boulevard to make it “a warm and welcoming place.” Strategies include adding “Welcome to Logan Square” artwork on the east side of the Kennedy overpass at Western, visible to people entering the neighborhood from the east. The also recommends looking into adding shade trees, benches, and landscaping, and doing a better job of trash cleanup and graffiti removal.
The report also quotes some of the top priorities identified by residents. Here a few of them.
“I would like to see continuous protected bike lanes on Logan Boulevard that intersect with other major bike hubs (such as Elston Avenue) for the purpose of commuting, shopping and socializing.”
“The underpass at Logan Boulevard and Western. Unsafe for bikers to ride on the street there.”
“Cyclists need space on the road to be separated from cars in this area. Drivers drive way too fast, and it is very scary to ride a bike and have them driving so fast and close to you. A lot of drivers on this stretch do not understand the markings for shared lanes. Also, it is hard to keep a straight line on a bike when cars are turning into the parking lots near Target and on to Elston. Drivers need to change lanes to make these turns, and they are not looking for cyclists.”
The report outlines next steps to bring some of its recommendations to fruition. Some of these include continuing to meet as a project advisory committee, identifying fundraising strategies, and lobbying elected officials to make the safety improvements. Active Trans has launched a petition you can sign to support walking and biking improvements on Logan Boulevard.