Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for positive changes favoring walking and bicycling

We have more positive changes to report for people walking and bicycling in Lincoln Park!
New pedestrian crosswalk at North Avenue and Orchard Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

A new pedestrian crosswalk has been installed on North Avenue at Orchard Street. The crosswalk not only has big zebra stripes, but two pedestrian islands to provide walkers a safe haven when crossing. This is a huge upgrade from two strips of yellow paint inches apart that was the prior "safe haven".

This intersection is between Larrabee Street and Halsted, and it's not a beautiful stretch to walk on, largely due to an unfortunate suburban-style surface parking lot, restaurant, and townhouse development nearby. However, it's nevertheless a busy pedestrian crossing, due to the presence of bus stops, a Resurrection Healthcare facility, and North Orchard Place, which is an affordable housing complex for people with special housing needs. 
North Avenue looking east from Orchard is not a pedestrian's paradise. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The new signs clearly remind drivers that it's state law to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. When we observed a number of pedestrians using the crosswalk, we saw mixed results. 
A pedestrian warily crosses North Avenue, using the new crosswalk. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Car traffic on North Avenue is always very heavy, and the mere presence of a person on or near the crosswalk seemed to have the effect of slowing the drivers (especially when the person had a long-lens camera snapping pictures). That in itself is a good development.

Drivers stopped for this pedestrian, but she waved them on, preferring to wait until there were no cars approaching in either lane. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
When a pedestrian used the crosswalk, many drivers -- not enough, but many -- tried to obey the law and stop to allow the person to cross. The problem with crosswalks traversing two lanes of traffic heading in the same direction is that a pedestrian is understandably hesitant to begin to cross the street before knowing that BOTH lanes of traffic will stop for them. Therefore, the pedestrians sometimes shook their heads and waved the stopped car by in order to wait until there were no cars at all approaching.

So, the main benefit of the new crosswalk is to give the pedestrians a safe place to wait while crossing the next two lanes of North Avenue. And that's also a good development.


For bicyclists, there's a new turn lane northbound from Wells Street onto Lincoln Avenue!

New bicycle symbols and sharrows on Wells Street at around 1700 North. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Before this, the Wells Street bike lane would simply end a block or so south of this intersection, and then start up again on Lincoln in the form of a shared lane marking. To get through the turn onto Lincoln Avenue, bicyclists had to carve out their own space in one of the car lanes. No more! The new markings narrowed the car lanes (YAY!) and created a new space on Wells where bicyclists can wait for the light. 

New symbols and arrows for bicyclists turning northbound from Wells to Lincoln. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
However, that's not all! We now also have arrows going directly through the intersection, guiding us to the shared lane on Lincoln. You may find this mildly insulting (um, thanks, I think I can find my way onto Lincoln...) but the main benefit is actually to remind car drivers that bikes have the right to be there, in the intersection and on the street.

Now we just need some help for the southbound bicyclists trying to turn from Lincoln onto Wells... 

We're thankful for all these positive changes. Each one seems small in a city of nearly three million, but they're a big deal to the people who use them every day. Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. At the new pedestrian island at North and Orchard:
    The pedestrian should wait for the approaching car to come to a stop, then walk out into the crosswalk. You shouldn't have to put your life on the line by stepping out in front of a moving car to assert your right of way. But you should NEVER wave on a car on when you have the right of way: that makes those situations dangerous for the rest of us.