Chicago to get first “shared space” street on Argyle in Uptown

July 30, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I’m going to try to obtain more information (and images) on this project before I make an in-depth opinion post on it, but below are my initial thoughts based on this DNAInfo article.

Argyle St between Broadway and Sheridan, 4 blocks long and home to the Red line’s Argyle station, will become the city’s first “Shared Street” where there is no hierarchy between street uses and everyone on the road – drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians – will share the same space.

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Argyle between Broadway and Sheridan. Credit: Google.

I wrote two days ago that Chicago should try a pedestrian street. Lincoln Square is a good example of a street that is already halfway there, and removing cars for its two blocks would be a good boost. Argyle between Broadway and Sheridan is also a good candidate for a pedestrian street.

I’ve also written about how Paris was implementing more shared streets and slowing drivers down and how this is a good idea. However, it isn’t always the best idea, and has to be implemented in the right area (i.e. in areas where traffic is already used to moving slowly) and with careful consideration.

My opinion is that drivers coming off of Broadway, a four-lane, fast-traffic street, may not slow down to 15 mph to get through Argyle, even if CDOT purports the design of the street will force it. The presence of parking (with only minimal loss, according to DNA) will still mark where the road is for cars and where the sidewalk is, even if the curb is gone and pedestrians are supposed to walk in the street.

It is also possible that the area lacks enough business diversity to support a pedestrian street, in which case a shared space concept may be the better idea. If there are not enough diverse businesses to keep the street going from morning until late at night, then the street will suffer from occasional vacancy, making it dangerous (an especially important concept in Uptown).

The city is headed in a good direction by announcing a shared space street. However, removing the street hierarchy is questionable, and I am not a fan of mixed-use streets without signage or a clear hierarchy (although this project would still include signs). Instead of removing the hierarchy, which still exists physically since cars are lethal multi-ton hunks of metal and always “win” a collision, the city should remove the part of the hierarchy that does the most damage and focus on opening the street to pedestrians, cyclists, and those arriving via train or bus.

I will await more specific details on this project and look forward to hearing what else the city has planned for its streets.