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Residents, Business Owners Agree: Clark Street Needs 'Road Diet'

By Paul Biasco | August 21, 2013 8:21am
 Community members joined Ald. Michel Smith (43rd), The Active Transportation Alliance and Bike Walk Lincoln Park for a street-level community meeting Tuesday night on Clark Street.
Clark Street
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LINCOLN PARK — The general consensus of the community and business owners around a half-mile stretch of Clark Street is that it needs fixing, badly.

Some residents want protected bike lanes. Others want to slow down traffic. Business owners want their parking and the Green City Market operators want curb side access.

Ideas for fixes include a "road diet" that would slim down Clark between Armitage and North Avenues to two lanes or more basic remedies such as improving pedestrian crossings, but all remain up in the air.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) is pushing to make the four lane roadway, which she likened to a "super highway," a more livable and neighborhood-friendly street.

She is not alone in her effort, as neighborhood group Bike Walk Lincoln Park and the Active Transportation Alliance, teamed up to lead a street-side community tour of the roadway Tuesday night.

About 45 people showed up to walk and take notes needed repairs, obvious flaws and ideas that could help slow down traffic on the roadway and make it easier to cross for pedestrians and ride for cyclists.

Between 2006 and 2011 there have been 24 bike crashes along the stretch of roadway and 14 pedestrian crashes, according to data provided by the Active Transportation.

"Clark goes to two lanes north of here and two lanes south of here for whatever reason this stretch is four lanes," said Michael Reynolds, who manages Performance Bicycle at 2720 N. Halsted St. "It inherently lets [drivers] have that open feel."

The street meeting happened the same day a new Divvy bike sharing dock was installed at the intersection of Clark Street, Lincoln Avenue and Wells.

There is no bike lane along Clark where the station was installed.

"I'm a daily biker, it's my personal convertible," said Tom Graziano, who said he's been biking for about 60 years. "It's great to see more people biking, but it is getting wild — wild in the streets."

Representatives from the Green City Market, Hotel Lincoln, the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Chicago History Museum were all on hand for the discussion Tuesday and shared a similar point of view that the street is more dangerous than it should be.

According to the data provided by Active Transportation Alliance, most pedestrian and bike crashes occurred near the intersections of Clark and North Avenue and Clark and Armitage where the four lane roadway pinches back into a two lane roadway.

Leigh Stevenson, the Chicago History Museum's Director of Accounting said the intersection of LaSalle is a worry to museum staff.

"Anything to fix that. It is just a derailment," she said. "Older citizens who visit the museum are terrified."

Another hazardous area is the intersection of Clark Street, Wells and Lincoln where the Divvy station is located, according to crash data.

Not all businesses in the area were in favor of the protected bike lane plan, including Mark Psilos, associate director of the Green City Market.

Psilos said trucks for the farms and other operators at the market park along the east side of the street from 4:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday and curb access is essential.

"We need to be able to accommodate everyone, bikes and cars," he said.

The goal of Tuesday's meeting was to provide a report of recommendations to the Chicago Department of Transportation with community input ahead of planned improvements scheduled for the roadway next spring or summer, according to Michelle Stenzel of Bike Walk Lincoln Park.