Lincoln Park kvetchers come out for parking on “woonerf”

October 9, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Tonight I took a quick walk on the 2300 block of N Kenmore in Lincoln Park, which will hopefully be a woonerf, the Dutch word for “living street” (not a science fiction thing). That means no parking spaces, but cars can still drive through. Drivers are considered “guests,” while pedestrians and bikes are the principal users. This is like what Paris is trying to do as well, and there’s another project on Argyle in Uptown here in Chicago that will be somewhat similar.

2300 N Kenmore, on DePaul’s campus.

It’s important that this woonerf works, since it would arguably become a model for future woonerfs in Chicago. That’s why I hope the project continues as planned — no parking — instead of accommodating parked private property. The Berteau greenway is an example of a project that started out as a promising way to reduce car traffic and was watered down by community input. Hopefully other greenways can overcome such opposition.

2300 N Kenmore.

Residents at a community meeting last night expressed their opposition to the parking loss — 47 spaces in total. The funny part is, there aren’t even residences on the 2300 N Kenmore block. It’s all DePaul campus buildings. The opposition is seemingly from residents that park on this block. DePaul also stated that they would replace some of the 47 spaces on their own lots.

A sort of woonerf in Binghampton, NY. Image: Dom’s Plan B Blog.

I counted 23 cars parked on the west side of the block and 21 on the east at 6:00 PM on a Wednesday. Students vastly outnumbered cars – parked or driving.

Kenmore and Belden is at 2300 N. Students were frequently crossing diagonally to get between buildings.

I don’t even believe that if there were residences on the block that parking should be maintained. This is Chicago’s shot at creating an example of a street where people come first. Walking down the alleys of nearby homes, I found most had garages or spaces off-street anyway. One sign advertised a space for rent.

Alley with garages and parking spaces a few feet from where the woonerf would go.

Residents should not be able to block such a great project by demanding parking for their private vehicles on the public way. No city sticker, property tax, parking permit entitles one to a (free) parking space on the street. I don’t think this is a harsh stance, I think it’s reflects the reality and purpose of public space, and I wish to see the city overcome the petty opposition in favor of a street for everyone.

More alley space directly adjacent to Kenmore.

Of course, it is important that community matters involve the community, but not to the point that some car owners (many who self-admitted to having off-street garages, according to a Streetsblog commenter) can water down an entire project. Chicagoans deserve a woonerf that functions like a woonerf, and can act as an example for future projects in the city.