Valerie F.

Leonard
4111 West 21st Place Chicago, IL 60623 773-521-3137 valeriefleonard@msn.com

December 5, 2012 Hon. Michael D. Chandler Alderman, 24th Ward 1158 South Keeler Chicago, IL 60624 Dear Alderman Chandler: Thank you for hosting a meeting with 24th Ward constituents and the Department of Transportation on December 3, 2012. I am writing as a follow up to that meeting. Generally speaking, the Department of Transportation has re-configured lanes along Independence Boulevard such that    Street parking has been moved from the curb side to nearly the center of the street. Bike lanes have been widened and moved from the outer right hand lane to the curb side There is a reduction of driving lanes from 3 to 2 in most areas

In an effort to increase safety and convenience for bikers, the City has created a situation that is very confusing, and could potentially be more dangerous for drivers and bikers alike, not to mention the inconvenience for residents who live along Independence Boulevard. This letter is meant to outline some of the issues with which I have been confronted with personally while driving along Independence Boulevard; to share some of the feedback I heard during the meeting and to make recommendations going forward.

Issues
Lack of Real Community Engagement in the Planning and Implementation Process. The reconfiguration of the bike lanes was planned and implemented with very little input from local residents. People who attended your meeting on December 3rd all raised concerns about lack of notice from the City, and their failure to engage local residents. Members from the Department of Transportation (CDOT) indicated that they held a meeting in Douglas Park a while back to discuss the changes. No one attending the meeting indicated that they’d heard anything about these changes before they were made. You even mentioned that you were not aware of the public meetings, or the changes to Independence Boulevard would be as drastic as they have been. Needs of Bikers Have Been Elevated Above the Needs of the Local Residents and Churches. I have had the opportunity to listen to concerns of the people present for your meeting, and to walk along Independence Boulevard afterwards. As you are aware, Independence Boulevard has a number of multiunit buildings and churches, which may or may not be able to accommodate the parking needs of all residents, church members and their visitors. Street parking has been reduced by an estimated 40%. In some cases, the lane configuration has removed on the street parking from residences such that some residents are no longer able to legally park in front of their own homes. As it is, there is significant double parking along Independence Boulevard on Sundays because the street parking and parking lots do not always accommodate the membership. Residents have also expressed great concerns about the potential dangers of opening their passenger-side car doors in oncoming traffic in the middle of the street when

they alight from parked cars. While there is an approximately 4 foot buffer between the bike lane and lane for parked cars, there is no such buffer between the parking area and right driving lane. While it is important to enhance safety for bikers, it should not be done at the expense of increased danger to motorists. The Lane Configuration is Very Confusing and Difficult to Follow. I am a lifelong North Lawndale resident, and I am very familiar with Independence Boulevard. I use it often on my way to access the Eisenhower Expressway, or to access other parts of the City’s Boulevard system. My first time driving down Independence after these changes were made was quite an adventure, and caused me much angst. I didn’t realize that parking had been moved from the curbside, and didn’t realized the cars parked in the middle of the street were not stalled, or waiting for lights to change, but were actually parked. I also found myself trying to figure out what the diagonal lines meant. They seemed too far apart to be lines that prohibit drivers from driving in an area. They were also too close together to be parking spaces. I wasn’t able to decipher what the rectangular areas were, and I later learned they were for parking. Some cars were parked curb side in the bike lanes, while other cars were parked in the parking lanes in the yBoulevard and Hamlin. I normally make a right turn onto Hamlin, and proceed to 14 th Street, and then turn southbound on Pulaski to get home. The right turning lane was removed, along with the “Right Turn Only” markings and arrow. This lane was replaced with a bike lane. All lanes on southbound Independence at this point veer to the left, onto Douglas Boulevard. The directional signage also indicates left curves. There is no indication that a right turn is still permissible—or unpermissible, for that matter. I made a right turn there as usual, and I was not the only one. Some cars made the right turn from the bike lane. Some cars made the right turn from the buffering area in front of the parking lane. Other cars made the right turn from one of the left lanes, because there were no visible right turn options. The new configuration could lead to potentially dangerous situations. In addition to the situations listed above, there are some areas on Independence Boulevard where drivers may “exit” by making a right hand turn onto side streets. In most instances this involves cars merging into the bike lane and then making a turn. This potentially puts bikers and drivers on a collision course, particularly if the biker happens to be in the driver’s blind spot before he starts merging.

Recommendations Going Forward
1. Host a public meeting. There were about 20 people at Monday’s meeting, most of which expressed extreme concern with the new changes to Independence Boulevard. The primary focus was the vicinity of Harrison and Independence Boulevard. Most people drove to the meeting, and did not appear to be residents of Independence Boulevard, although we drive it quite frequently. It would be interesting to hear their perspectives. Most of us who were there heard about it the night before through text messages or the Garfield Majors Radio Show. Furthermore, many people indicated a level of confusion regarding the changes and indicated that there were inconsistencies in the lane configurations on the Boulevard system throughout the 24th Ward. A public meeting for 24th Ward residents to hear about the City’s bike plan; how to interpret the new street markings; how the changes on Independence Boulevard and other streets in the Boulevard system fit within the context of the plan; hear people’s concerns about the plan and recommendations for corrections that will ensure safety of bikers and drivers.

2. Engage local residents, including people who live on Independence Boulevard, Douglas Boulevard and other impacted boulevards in the 24th Ward. I had a very short conversation with some of the residents along Independence who indicated that the bike traffic is very sparce along the boulevard. They don’t think the City’s significant investment in the changes on Independence is justified by the bike traffic. To the best of my recollection, the bike traffic is heaviest during the occasional Sunday Parkways event, which attracts a disproportionately small number of North Lawndale residents.

3. Do a walk-through of Independence Boulevard and every other impacted Boulevard in North Lawndale to identify problem areas an make corrections. Although I have outlined a number of issues based on my experiences and those of people who attended the meeting, there may be a number of issues of which we are not aware. I respectfully request that you walk through the entire boulevard system within the 24th Ward with representatives from CDOT, with plans in hand to mark off areas that could be potentially problematic. CDOT, in turn, should make the corrections. 4. Restore curbside parking for local residents. On-street parking should be moved back to the curbside, and the bike lane should be the furthest right lane, subject to a safety review by traffic engineers. This will restore the number of street parking spaces; mitigate the chances of accidents and restore convenience to residents who can no longer legally park in front of their own houses. This would also reduce hardship on seniors with disabilities who may have difficulty walking longer distances. 5. Restore the right turning lane at the intersection of southbound Independence Boulevard and Hamlin, and indicate navigation for people who want to make right turns. This would reduce confusion and mitigate chances of accidents. 6. Hold bikers to the same levels of accountability as motorists. A number of meeting participants indicated that some bikers have not behaved as responsibly on the roads as they should. If there is not an ordinance on the books already, there should be an ordinance, that is enforced, that calls for bikers to have noisemakers to alert drivers and pedestrians of their presence as needed. They also suggested, that bikers be licensed and subject to fines, particularly, since the City is investing $150 million to make Chicago the “bike-friendliest” city in the country. In closing, I thank you for your time and consideration. I am also including a link to pictures from the meeting and potentially problematic areas along Independence Boulevard. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151297575468024.498233.587348023&type=3 I look forward to hearing from you soon. Sincerely,

Valerie F. Leonard
Valerie F. Leonard 24th Ward Resident cc: Patrick J. Harney First Deputy Commissioner Chicago Department of Transportation Mr. William Kyle 24th Ward Resident 24th Ward Residents and Stakeholders

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