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City Tones Down Criticism of Car-free Streets Proposal

By Darryl Holliday | February 14, 2014 7:54am
 "Tell them he smirked when he heard the plan," one man said — though others support the car ban plan.
A Car-free Chicago? Residents Range Wildly in Support
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LOGAN SQUARE — A plan to spark conversation on car-free spaces in Chicago has done exactly that as everyone from the mayor's office, a local transportation advocacy group and city residents have weighed in on the issue this week.

On Wednesday, the Active Transportation Alliance released a proposal suggesting 20 locations across the city that could make use of car-free initiatives. Since then, David Spielfogel, a top aide to Mayor Rahm Emanuel has commented on the issue, saying the proposal is a "drastic change" that "doesn't make sense," according to the Sun-Times.

On Thursday, the city took a more conciliatory course, telling DNAinfo that the plan hasn't been considered in its entirety.

"We haven't evaluated any of the ideas put forth by the Alliance, and this is just a starting point for a conversation," city spokesman Peter Scales said. "We do agree with the idea that streets are for everyone. That's why we adopted our Complete Streets policy and construction guidelines to ensure that we design, construct, maintain and operate streets considering the needs of all users — including pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and autos and trucks."

"Under Mayor Emanuel, we have more than 200 miles of on-street bikeways in place, 50 of which are protected bike lanes," Scales added. "We've also produced the city's first pedestrian plan and the Make Way for People program, which creates car-free public spaces for enjoyment in streets, plazas and alleys."

In an effort to continue the conversation on walkable, car-free streets, Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said the public needs to weigh in.

"Our proposal is to evaluate a variety of alternatives, only one of which is going completely car-free. So let's talk about other ideas too," he said.

The plan for car-free streets in Chicago received a wide range of opinions from residents Wednesday — from a "disapproving smirk" to support for the bike and pedestrian friendly proposal.

According to Burke, public spaces, including Michigan Avenue Downtown, are too-packed with cars and need to become more walkable, more "complete" streets.

"Cars move a small percentage of the people in the Mag Mile — and slowly at that — but take up most of the space. There are better designs for this iconic corridor that recognize it's everyone's public right of away. Not just people in cars," he said

The plan calls for up to 20 car-free spaces in Chicago, including main drives in Logan Square, Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Bronzeville among others — a full list can be found here.

However, both the city and Active Trans have made it clear that the prosposed drawing board plans are conversation starters for the time being.