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Can Six Corners Become a More Bike-Friendly Intersection? Plan Underway

 The intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Road.
The intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Road.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

PORTAGE PARK — In an effort to make crossing Six Corners less of a hair-raising experience, a neighborhood business association and the Active Transportation Alliance are crafting a plan to help pedestrians and cyclists get around safely.

Named for the intersection of Cicero and Milwaukee avenues at Irving Park Road, Six Corners can be tough to navigate on foot or by bicycle because of long crosswalks and relentless traffic, which often moves at a good clip.

A city-commissioned master plan completed in 2013 found that the district must become more pedestrian friendly to reclaim its status as one of Chicago's premier shopping districts.

The Six Corners intersection "creates a rather unfriendly pedestrian environment," the master plan found.

After a successful online campaign to raise $10,000 for new bicycle parking at Six Corners, Six Corners Association and transportation alliance decided to work together to create a "mini-master plan" to bring new life to the Portage Park shopping district, said Kelli Wefenstette, the interim director of the business association.

"We're putting together a comprehensive plan of what we have, what's planned and what we want," Wefenstette said.

Members of the nonprofit transportation alliance and business owners walked the district in March to get a sense of the area and identify ways to make the area more attractive for pedestrians and bicyclists, said Jim Merrell, campaign director for the alliance.

A meeting will take place at 7 p.m. April 22 to give residents a chance to weigh in on how to make Six Corners a safer place for those on foot and two wheels, Wefenstette said.

"It will be a forum for residents to give feedback on what they want and need," Wefenstette said.

Once complete, the plan will allow the association to prioritize projects — and have the data ready to prove the need for the improvements to developers crafting new projects, Wefenstette said.

A draft of the plan calls for more pedestrian refuge islands to make crossing Cicero Avenue — which is five lanes at Six Corners — safer, as well as stations for the Divvy bike-sharing program, Wefenstette said.

The plan also calls for a pedestrian circulator to be built to allow folks to get around the shopping district without crossing Cicero, Milwaukee and Irving Park Road. In order to be built, a building would have to be torn down, Wefenstette said, acknowledging that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Ald. John Arena (45th) announced plans in February to use $140,000 from the Portage Park Tax Increment Financing District to build two refuge islands at 3832 N. Cicero Ave. near Bernice Avenue and at 3900 N. Cicero Ave. near Byron Avenue in the Six Corners Shopping District.

While many on the Far Northwest Side rely on cars to get around, using a bike as a primary mode of transportation is becoming more common all over Chicago, Merrell said.

"It has turned the corner from being a niche, or marginal, to more mainstream," Merrell said. "It is really exciting."

Later this month, residents of the 45th Ward, which includes Six Corners, will have a chance to vote to spend part of Arena's $1 million discretionary budget to fund a number of pedestrian-friendly projects in the shopping district.

The ballot is expected to include the chance to spend $8,000 on a people spot at Milwaukee and Cuyler avenues at Six Corners. People spots transform parking spots into playful places for people to gather, officials said. 

In addition, projects on the ballot would shorten crosswalks in the shopping district by extending the curbs and earmark $60,000 for a pedestrian refuge island at Cicero Avenue at Pensacola Avenue, officials said.

A proposal to build bicycle lanes from Addison Street to Lawrence Avenue along Milwaukee Avenue through Six Corners would cost $60,000, officials said.

Dozens of new shops and restaurants have opened in the last 18 months, and several major developments are planned that have the potential to reshape the district.

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