Sneckdowns in Logan Square

The term “sneckdown” has begun creeping into public conversations about traffic calming. It is a variation on the term neckdown, also known as a curb expansion, which shrinks a street’s width, thereby giving pedestrians a safer, shorter path across. Logan Square has a prominently placed neckdown at Wrightwood Ave, just south of the Logan Square Blue Line station, which helps make Wrightwood one of the safest streets to cross around the Logan Square circle.

Sneckdowns (snow + neckdown = sneckdown) occur naturally when snow builds up, creating inadvertent neckdowns all over our city streets. The phenomenon has been hailed as a valuable (and very inexpensive) way to assess what part of a street is being used and where it is unnecessarily wide.

Bike Walk Logan Square took a few photos of sneckdowns in and around the Logan Square circle, which, despite being at the core of our neighborhood, is quite unfriendly to pedestrians. Take a look at the photos below, and imagine how much safer these streets would feel if their snowy encroachments were permanently curbed and filled with plants and decorative paving.

Northwest- Looking Northwest

Facing northwest, approaching the Logan Square Blue Line, two pedestrians cross the lane for vehicles turning off Kedzie Ave onto Milwaukee Ave.

Northwest- Looking Northwest- With Green Lines

West- Looking South

Facing south, traffic moves through the circle toward Wrightwood Ave.

West- Looking South- With Green Lines

Southeast- Looking Northwest

Facing northwest, where Milwaukee Ave meets the southeast portion of the circle.

Southeast- Looking Northwest- With Green Lines

Southwest- Looking Northeast toward Logan Blvd

Facing northeast, where traffic crosses Milwaukee Ave and leaves the circle onto Logan Blvd.

Southwest- Looking Northeast toward Logan Blvd- With Green Lines

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Logan Square Blue Line Placemaking Audit

BWLS, Community Members, and MPC

On May 28 Bike Walk Logan Square and the Metropolitan Planning Council conducted a Placemaking Audit at the Logan Square Blue Line Station.  What’s a placemaking audit? It’s a survey of the existing conditions of a place.  The survey is comprised of a series of questions about:

The People

The People

Are there people around?

Are they in groups?

What are they doing?

Are they smiling, making eye contact, do they know each other?

How old are they?

Is there evidence of volunteerism?

The Place

A-20130528_170953

Is it clear what to do there?

Is it easy to get to?

Is it accessible to those with disabilities?

Is there seating?

Is it clean, does it feel safe?

Weather protection?

Ideas for Improvement

What’s good about the place now?

What would you add or change in the short, mid, and long term?

And the winner is . . .

So the members of BikeWalk Logan Square, MPC, and the volunteers in attendance discussed these questions, problems they saw, and potential lying there the whole time.

A-20130528_181139

Short term ideas to make the space:

Improve the planting

Allow food trucks to use the 2nd bus lane

Invite people to bring their own chairs for meals, knitting, or a drum circle

Try pop up retail

Chalk drawings / Wayfinding

Mid Term:

Improve wayfinding (which way is north, which street is Milwaukee, and which is Kedzie)

Program a performance series, farmers’ market, craft fair, business incubator

Improve pedestrian experience and safety through crosswalk striping, signage and signal timing

Install a Chamber of Commerce merchant map, include contact information for those organizing the space so future ideas may be coordinated including art, sidewalk chaulking, planting

Increase bike rack capacity, install bike lockers, add Divvy

Partner with Chase to shovel snow from alley

Long Term: 

Increase green space through better design. This could include utilizing the bus lane for seating, installing a water feature, using planting to muffle road noise

Reduce speed limit on Milwaukee and Kedzie

Alter the curb radius to slow cars turning from Milwaukee to Kedzie

The group was able to gather some great ideas and is looking for your help. What do you want the Blue Line Station to be? Let us know below!

Thanks to the Metropolitan Planning Council for leading the audit and providing pictures from the event.


Crosswalks Around the Logan Square Circle

Navigating the Logan Square circle as a pedestrian can be treacherous. There are a number of dangerous intersections wherein drivers often fail yield the right of way to pedestrians. While it may be appropriate to blame drivers for making dangerous decisions, poor street design often contributes to, if not causes, pedestrian hazards. Below is a comparison of the three signal-less crosswalks that surround the Logan Square circle. Comparing the characteristics of these crosswalks offers a lesson in street design as it pertains to pedestrian safety.

First, here is the crosswalk on Logan Boulevard:

Logan Crosswalk- Logan Circle

The photograph faces southwest. Ahead, there is a stoplight where Milwaukee Ave. begins to cut through the circle. Eastbound drivers in the circle wait for the signal to change and then accelerate across Milwaukee, around the curve, through the crosswalk, and onto the center section of four-lane Logan Boulevard.

Almost nobody stops for pedestrians here. Notice the diagonal angle of the crosswalk, requiring pedestrians to cover more distance than would be necessary if it were perpendicular to the curb. Also problematic is its placement immediately after a corner.

Now look at this crosswalk on Kedzie Boulevard:

Kedzie Crosswalk- Logan Circle

The photograph faces north. Drivers heading south out of the circle navigate a confusing curve before heading through this crosswalk and onto four-lane Kedzie Boulevard. Traffic moves pretty quickly through this narrow two-lane stretch, so pedestrians usually wait for a gap.

This crosswalk has some positive characteristics. The large median (partially visible on the right) allows pedestrians to cross southbound and northbound lanes separately. Also, drivers seem to be a little short on space. There does not seem to be quite enough space for two lanes of traffic, and that can have a calming effect. Still, drivers rarely yield to pedestrians here.

Lastly, here is the crosswalk across Wrightwood Avenue, on the west side of the circle:

Wrightwood Crosswalk- Logan Circle

The photograph faces southeast. Drivers leaving the circle turn west on to Wrightwood (from left to right in the photograph above). Eastbound vehicles have a stop sign to obey before entering the circle (from right to left in the photograph above). Notice the curb extensions that shorten the distance across the street for pedestrians, and also shrink the space vehicles can travel through. Another difference here is that Wrightwood is a two-lane street, whereas Kedzie and Logan have four lanes.

Drivers consistently yield to pedestrians at this crosswalk. Pedestrians confidently cross with little hesitation.

Why do so many drivers yield at Wrightwood, but so few at Kedzie and Logan? What is the most important characteristic of the Wrightwood intersection? Perhaps it is the curb extensions. Curb extensions have been shown to have a calming effect on traffic. Perhaps it is the larger number of pedestrians who use this crosswalk, many of whom are coming from the nearby train station. Or maybe the stop sign for eastbound traffic leads people to believe the right-of-way belongs to pedestrians, when in fact state law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks. Or it could be Wrightwood’s two lanes compared to four-lane Kedzie and Logan.

Most likely, a combination of these characteristics and others accounts for a more friendly pedestrian intersection at Wrightwood. Fortunately, plans are being developed for a major overhaul to the Logan Square Circle. We are excited and quite optimistic that the designs will include significant considerations for pedestrian safety.