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No Cars on Bryn Mawr? 'It Would Be Ludicrous,' Some Say

 A transportation advocacy group proposed Bryn Mawr Avenue in Edgewater be made car-free, which would include a portion of one of the city's historic districts.
A transportation advocacy group proposed Bryn Mawr Avenue in Edgewater be made car-free, which would include a portion of one of the city's historic districts.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

EDGEWATER — Residents and business owners near West Bryn Mawr Avenue have a definite answer to the proposal to rid the busy thoroughfare of cars: No way.

"It just seems like it would be a traffic nightmare," said Michael Colucci, the founder and artistic director of Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. "We still have room to grow, but I don’t think the mechanism for that growth would be catalyzed by a pedestrian area."

Skepticism toward Active Transportation Alliance's proposal surfaced last month when the advocacy group said 20 streets throughout the city deserve "serious consideration" to be — to varying degrees — vacated of cars.

So far, residents have largely opposed transforming Bryn Mawr between Sheridan Road and North Broadway into a pedestrian oasis.

"I don't think it's the greatest idea," said Andreas Pastos, the manager of Bryn Mawr's Nookies restaurant, who was concerned that losing parking along the street would keep customers away. "It’s going to create more of a hassle on where you would park in order to visit."

A native of Greece, Pastos said he understood how fewer cars and less-crowded streets would make Edgewater "more attractive, to look more like a European city."

But he said any changes to the area — new businesses seem to be flocking to the neighborhood —  could upset a growing business economy.

"It could work, it could work — although i don’t know if it’s going to work for us necessarily," he said. "With the momentum that the area is taking right now, I wouldn't touch it."

Katrina Balog, the executive director of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, said in an email she supports "streets that are engineered with all users in mind."

"Businesses depend on a high volume of traffic — foot, vehicular and bicycle — to bring consumers to their storefront," she said.

She said the chamber would consider all proposals with the health of businesses in mind.

But one local clergy member thought the idea was anything but divine.

"We already don’t have enough parking in the neighborhood," said Rev. Barbara Cathey, pastor of Edgewater Presbyterian Church at Bryn Mawr and Kenmore avenues. "So it would remove some parking, and then there would be no access. Unless this organization wants to build a huge parking garage a block away from Bryn Mawr, it would be ludicrous."

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) has similar thoughts, according to his chief of staff, Dan Luna.

"As far as I know, he does not support that one bit," Luna said. "We’re working really hard to bring business to Bryn Mawr. It’s not in our plan or our vision."

He said an the upcoming renovation of the Bryn Mawr "L" stop would further propel the street's economy.

Luna also said his office was open to the idea of incorporating traffic calming measures along the bustling strip.

It's just that kind of conversation Active Transportation Alliance hoped to spark with its proposal.

"We were thrilled by the enthusiastic response," said Ted Villaire, a spokesman for the group. "People, of course, had a lot of questions about exactly, you know, how this would work — and that’s understandable — but it really accomplished our goal of getting people to think bigger."

The proposal also mentions closing only portions of the streets, or just for certain times of the year, like summer months.

But for Sheli Lulkin, president of a condo-owner coalition along North Sheridan Road, the conversation is already over.

"NO! Bryn Mawr will not be closed to traffic between Broadway and Sheridan," she said in an email to members of the coalition last week.

She said in a phone interview Monday that Bryn Mawr had been built to serve thousands of motorists every day and many more people who travel on buses.

"What are we gonna do," she asked, "throw everything out and start all over again because some bike riders want to widen the street?"