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33rd Ward Ideas Include New Stripes for Bike Lane, No. 52 Bus Extension

By Patty Wetli | January 31, 2014 10:26am | Updated on January 31, 2014 10:28am
 The 33rd Ward's new Transporation Advisory Council could help bring protected bike lanes to the neighborhood.
The 33rd Ward's new Transporation Advisory Council could help bring protected bike lanes to the neighborhood.
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IRVING PARK — Installing new stripes on the Lawrence Avenue bike lane, extending the No. 52 California bus farther north, holding fun runs in the neighborhood — all were ideas generated during the first meeting of the 33rd Ward's new Transportation Advisory Council.

More than 20 residents gathered at Horner Park's field house Thursday night, answering Ald. Deb Mell's call to form a council that will address the ward's lack of accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

"I don't want to see people just drive through the 33rd Ward," she said.

Dana Fritz, Mell's chief of staff, outlined areas in which the council could affect policy in the ward, starting with infrastructure like bike lanes, Divvy stations or car-sharing spaces.

"It's really what you guys make of it," he said.

Members of the Active Transportation Alliance were there to describe ways in which similar councils have worked in other wards.

The 25th Ward's council is identifying opportunities for protected bike lanes and looking at ways to slow down traffic on 18th Street, while a similar group in Humboldt Park scored a "big win" in securing a road diet for the street that runs through the park, said Andres Alvear of Active Trans.

"You guys have an opportunity to gain access to how decisions are made," he said. "We can support you by bringing people in to talk to you and inform you how limited resources get brought to your community."

While much of the initial meeting focused on issues affecting pedestrians and bicyclists, other modes of getting around the ward were not forgotten.

Public transportation represents another key piece of the puzzle. Several attendees called for bringing the California bus north of Addison Street in order to give residents of Albany Park and Irving Park access to Logan Square.

"Transportation is all about connectivity between communities," said Alvear. "Bus routes are very much a part of the conversation."

And though Mell has indicated a desire for a less auto-centric approach to transportation, making life easier for drivers was part of the discussion, too.

Gretchen Helmreich, president of the Horner Park West Neighborhood Association, proposed that the council develop transportation plans surrounding major neighborhood events, such as parades, in order to more thoughtfully re-route cars.

Smarter timing of traffic signals was suggested by Carol Maher, representing the People of East Albany Park block club.

As the meeting came to a close, Alvear offered a word of advice to the council as it moves forward: A long-term vision that incorporates projects like protected bike lanes and roundabouts is all well and good, but "is really hard to get done" and can become discouraging, he said.

"The stuff that builds community, that builds culture, is the fun stuff you can do together," said Alvear. "Make sure your plan has the fun stuff."