Healing A Broken Intersection

Streets are undervalued public spaces that if programmed with creativity, can transform dangerous intersections into lively plazas. In Uptown, not everyone lives near a park, but everyone lives on a street.
Can you imagine reclaiming the intersection of Broadway, Montrose, and Sheridan (the intersection with the highest crash rate in the 46th Ward) to be a space with greenery, coffee stands, and hula hooping?

Bike Uptown has developed a draft rendering of the intersection that re-enlivens it to make way for people by improving safety and harnessing its potential as a gateway to Uptown. Our advisory group has been working with Alderman Cappleman, the Chicago Department of Transportation and other interested parties to make the space calmer, less confusing and as hazard-free as possible for all users.

The design presented below is not final, but a suggestion to activate the discussion and get positive changes to the intersection of Broadway, Montrose, and Sheridan moving forward. We would like to get feedback from our fellow neighbors to see what they like and dislike about the redesign. What do you think?

The proposed redesign aims to drastically reduce the confusion that motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists alike experience when attempting to cross or pass through the numerous conflict points that make up this intersection.

Possible vehicular turns are reduced overall by one third. Several soft turning movements, which are more difficult for oncoming drivers to anticipate, are eliminated altogether, allowing oncoming traffic to proceed with confidence and lowering last minute lane changes. Tighter turning radii slow vehicles down through turns and force drivers to check for pedestrians entering cross walks.

Taken together, these changes make for a clearer, more intuitive experience for roadway users, and provide needed protection for pedestrians frequenting local businesses, transit stops, and the activated greenspace.

posted by Arline Welty and Eric Hanss

About bikeuptown46

I am currently the Communications Director for the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters which represents 33,000 union men and women in three states who swing a hammer for a living. I publsih a magazine, a couple of email newsletters and two websites. I also do videos, webinars, advertisng and public relations. As an avid cyclist I ride a three-wheeled trike 5 to 6 days per week 52 weeks per year which adds up to between 5,000 and 6,000 miles year-round, including daily commutes along Chicago's lakefront ... polar vortexes included. I have never missed a day of work because of Chicago's weather. I am an activist who serves humanitarian and political causes: To advocate for the Sudanese in Illinois who have fled Southern Sudan and Darfur is one of my most rewarding experiences. I work with my son Sean on Sudan presentations at churches and community groups with my Sudanese friends on the problems facing them in Darfur, South Sudan and the United States. My son Sean and I work together on the Abolition Institute which seeks to end slavery in the west African nation of Mauritania. My photography chronicles Chicago's lakefront through my daily rides. My photo website is http://genetenner.com/ I just self-published my first photo-book on the history of my Chicago neighborhood: Sweet Home Buena Park. I live about one-half mile north of Wrigley Field in the Buena Park neighborhood.

45 comments

  1. Joseph Musco

    This is an awesome idea. I think CTA and CDOT usually have a range of options when doing design changes (no change, good, better, best) but I think at a minimum closing that one stretch of Sheridan and putting some leading intervals for pedestrians at the other crossings would be a great improvement.

    There could be some issues with closing Sheridan AND shrinking Broadway and Montrose. There is a lot of auto traffic and bus traffic (36,151,78) that flows though there at peak times and I’m not sure you could get all the bus routes and east-west rush hour traffic through there without some issues.

  2. Matt Monroe

    Very good point Joseph. I also really like the idea of closing a section of existing street and adding green space, but it might work better to close the Broadway side instead of Sheridan. This would keep the flow free for the 151 (which has the longer articulated buses) and make for a softer turn for the 36.

    • We have gotten a few suggestions to this effect. We’d love to know what other people think. What would be more enjoyable from a pedestrian’s standpoint? Cyclist’s? Driver’s?

  3. Mark

    I’m all in favor of this plan as long as Broadway gets a Road Diet north of Montrose that includes adding bike lanes. I currently use Sheridan through this intersection to avoid riding on Broadway.

    • Mark, we like what you’re thinking. Our understanding is that since Broadway was resurfaced when Target arrived, CDOT doesn’t want to resurface or re-stripe it anytime soon. But we are convinced that the speeding and safety issues on Broadway are worth fixing. This spring, we collaborated with Alderman Cappleman to request a separated bike lane on Broadway north of Montrose, which would have a traffic-calming effect and allow cyclists to feel more secure.

      • Mark

        I’d like to see a Broadway Road Diet from Montrose all the way up to Bryn Mawr. I hope the 46th Ward is looking into this as well as the 48th Ward.

      • We would, too- and Alderman Osterman (312-806-4345) and Alderman Cappleman (773-878-4646) are keen on making the Entertainment District a walkable place that attracts people to our neighborhood by bus, train, and bike. A call to both Aldermen on this topic would be helpful.

  4. ElBarto

    The shortened, perpendicular walks are an improvement, but otherwise…..ummm…..no. Just no.

    OK, I lied – I will elaborate. First, if the concern is safety, the concern is safety. This was drawn with the intention of adding a maximum green space, with possibly no regard to traffic.

    • ElBarto, we hear you. Safety is the #1 reason we’re doing this. We want to reduce crashes at this intersection and make it easier for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians to navigate it. Adding green space is one way to make the whole neighborhood more pleasant. Fun fact: New York shut down Broadway and turned it over to pedestrians to increase safety and reduce crashes. This would be sort of a page from that playbook.

  5. Cool! I don’t bike anymore, but I’d support this for a host of other reasons—mainly, to make it safer to drive (whatever the vehicle).

  6. A wonderful conversation starter. However, this proposal does not go far enough, in that it completely ignores one of the underlying problems of the intersection, which is the enormous Jewel parking lot in the southeast quadrant. The asphalt void contributes to the no-man’s-land effect of the area and contributes to the hazardous traffic in the same way that too-wide streets promote speeding. Any proposal to redesign the intersection should include a discussion of working with the private property owner to improve, reconfigure, or even redevelop the parking lot into something that is truly a community asset.

    • Anthony–we agree that the intersection and any associated greenspace and streetscaping should complement the future land-use context of the area. It’s clear that the current land use is antithetical to vibrant, walkable community life. The intersection could be a gateway to Uptown, not the dangerous asphalt void that you’ve so accurately described. The Jewel lot is an opportunity to change that. We encourage everyone to think broadly about how transportation decisions could work in tandem to transform the livability and economic and cultural vitality of Uptown.

  7. Uptowner

    Interesting concept. A few thoughts:

    1) This doesn’t solve the bizarre two-car-length-only stoplight in no man’s land between broadway and sheridan; not sure if there is a possibility of mitigating that with smart traffic lights, particularly since sheridan will presumably have a pretty short light north of the “park” area.

    2) Would it make sense for Jewel to have an entrance at the new Sheridan/Broadway intersection (with traffic lights)? Their current entrances are in terrible locations; if you’re traveling north on Sheridan, that is a messy couple turns to get in the lot using the existing broadway entrance.

    3) Why such a huge median on Broadway north of Montrose? Agreed that a median would be visually useful for vehicles, but you’d want to keep the left hand turn lane going south. Maybe just make a small median and add bike lanes as a previous commenter suggested? On the other hand, if that is supposed to be “usable” space by people, I’m doubtful that people will want to place themselves on such a tight peninsula in the midst of lots of traffic and minor street side activity… seems quite unpleasant.

    4) Will you allow right-turns onto Montrose from Broadway heading north? If so, you’ll probably need a dedicated right-turn lane, so traffic doesn’t back up on Broadway. Is there enough room with the added green space? How about the existing left-turn lane that is current there to turn west onto montrose? If that section was squeezed into a single lane in both directions as appears on the image, you’d have gridlock.

    Tough intersection; too bad a roundabout couldn’t fit. Would also be interested to hear about the vision for the main “park” area (as well as projected size) — that is a no-man’s land intersection (surrounded by moving vehicles on two sides and a vast gated parking lot on the third). Don’t necessarily see hula-hoops and coffee stands in its future, but could see a line of trees, planters and park benches to provide a bit of respite from the otherwise very concrete jungle surrounding it.

    • Uptowner–tough is right! Not only are there three streets coming together awkwardly at this intersection, but you have the Jewel driveways to boot. Car storage on that turn is a thorny issue, one that might be relieved by new signal timing and limited turn restrictions. In the end this is a preliminary proposal. While our primary concern is a safe intersection, we also wanted to throw some big ideas out for discussion, like the greenspace and the large median down Broadway- sculpting Broadway into something like Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Your ideas about adding a line of trees, planters and benches are on target. Activating the largely unused Jewel parking lot was another option that we are hearing in the comments- and that would include re-thinking store access as you mention. If Uptown were to have more community space, what would it look like? How could it be used to calm traffic and energize street life? Protected bike lanes certainly fit that picture as well.

  8. This is an excellent proposal!

    Would it make any sense to do improvements at Sunnyside and Sheridan to help divert Sheridan southbound traffic over to Broadway and vice versa for northbound Brdwy traffic to jog over to northbound Sheridan?

    There are many benfits in a plan like this. One that occurred to me is this would encourage the owners of the Jewel lot to develop the SE corner. That parking lot is way oversized, a pedestrian friendly business right there on a plaza would transform the interesction into a neighborly place.

    • This should be put to a pilot test. Easy enough to just block off the stretch of Sheridan in the triangle.
      Maybe for good measure throw some sod down temporarily on the roadway…it would be love at 1st sight for the Uptown local.

      • LittletoninUptown, we’re glad you like it. We would love to do a collaborative community project that involves re-interpreting the surface parking lot at Jewel into a more pleasant place for pedestrians. There are already a few trees- what about making it into a mini urban orchard with educational plaques on each variety?

  9. Tony

    Nope! Nope! And Nope! Go back to the drawing board!

  10. uptownproud

    I appreciate the spirit of this proposal – both in the benefits to bikers and pedestrians. This intersections needs a redesign of some sort. I do think there are some issues with the interruption of north/south traffic on Sheridan, particularly route 151 which is a vital transportation link for many in our community.

    I think Littleton means the NE corner of the Jewel lot – that is an inspired idea. Massive parking lots are killer to the overall pedestrian “walk ability” of a neighborhood and adding some development to that corner would definitely be an improvement. Granted, unoccupied retail is the last thing we need in this neighborhood at present, but this idea should be noted and filed away for long term planning.

  11. Mo

    This intersection looks like it would be perfect for an European roundabout, which would help motorists save gas otherwise spent idling at stoplights and offer the green space that the intersection so badly needs. Any reason why installing a roundabout wasn’t explored?

    • Mo, a European roundabout was explored early on, and it’s still kind of a dream idea. As we mentioned to Melissa (see comment), engineers have informed us that there is not currently enough space to do a roundabout unless we were able to annex some of the land from the Jewel parking lot. So…does anyone have any friendly relationships with a Jewel staff person? Jewel management may be open to the idea if it makes getting to the grocery more attractive.

  12. Jon

    Great initial proposal albeit impractical for real traffic scenarios, i.e. Any summer evening or weekend when traffic is exceedingly heavy already heading to the lake… and adding an addition chokepoint on Broadway south of Montrose makes no sense. But good start!…

    • Jon, we are right with you–the intersection needs to maintain a free flow at peak hours while cutting down on conflicts. Crashes and confused users stuck in the middle of the intersection snarl matters up. Any future design will be informed by a CDOT Traffic Study. It might actually be wisest from a network planning perspective to divert some of the traffic that currently flows through the intersection to alternate, more preferable routes.

  13. Serge

    Wouldn’t it be simpler to forbid right turn from Montrose to Sheridan, from Broadway to Montrose and from Sheridan to Broadway; and left turn from Broadway to Sheridan and from Sheridan to Montrose?

    • You are spot on in identifying that one of the major issues with this intersection is the mind-boggling number of turning movements. While restricting movements is theoretically easy to implement, we chose this design as a starting point because it limits confusion to motorists unfamiliar with the intersection. When so many turns are limited, it can be confusing to pedestrians who can’t see all of the necessary signage. We’re imagining a full streetscape redesign because it gives us the opportunity to make the intersection more intuitive for all users.

  14. plutosdad

    there is an additional fix I do not see here that is sorely needed. When travelling northbound on broadway, the two lanes shift rightward, so on the other side of the intersection, the left lane is suddenly a left turn lane, and the right lane becomes the left forward lane, and there is a “new” right lane. This causes me problems every time I drive, because the people in the left lane have to shift over to the right, and always someone unfamiliar with the intersection will NOT shift over, and force you stop and merge, or honk and swerve or something.

    So something needs to be done, which could be widening (not narrowing) broadway and may be painting an island on the portion just south of southport (so the lanes shift left before the intersection, not afterwards), or else painting lines that go all the way through the intersection so people see the lane shift over.

    • We bow at the altar of Lane Striping That Reduces Traffic Conflicts. Traveling northbound on Broadway is very confusing in that area. We have worked with Alderman Cappleman to request a pavement marking analysis from CDOT, which will help uncover the exact places where striping is needed. It’s amazing what paint can do to calm an intersection down.

  15. Melissa

    I think it’s interesting but needs some more thought. I almost got hit there 3 times recently.. ridiculously scary!

    I disagree with those that said a round about would be good.. that is more dangerous..a least in this intersection!

    • Melissa- according to the FHWA, “Roundabouts reduce traffic conflicts (for example, left turns) that are frequent causes of crashes at traditional intersections.” In this scenario, engineers have observed that a roundabout is not possible without using some of the Jewel parking lot. While a conversation with Jewel could make that possible, it’s not currently feasible. We really hear you on how scary the intersection can be, and we want to make it safer for every person who uses it.

  16. G. Hackley

    This redesign forces through Sheridan traffic to make three turns, two of them left turns. It does not create an economical footprint for any public use, other then perhaps some landscaping. A better solution is to use protected left turn traffic signals in a sequence that separates Montrose, Broadway and Sheridan traffic.

    • We agree that this is an interesting design challenge. This drawing is meant as a conversation starter- so all good ideas are appreciated. For example, your ideas about landscaping as a potential use of the space, and protected left turns that control the space a little more.

      • ElBarto

        nd pExcept that those were your ideas, and not his. No one would want to protect a “park” this small in the middle of an intersection that if constructed as built, would become one of the deadliest in Chicago within weeks.

        I say one of the deadliest only becausemost cars would avoid it, using Agatite, Cullom, etc all instead. And those patient enough to wait 8 cycles to get through would be too locked up to collide with sufficient force to kill. No, the fatalities would mostly be the bicyclists

  17. Pingback: Give Feedback on Broadway, Montrose and Sheridan Intersection « Graceland-Wilson Neighbors Association

  18. Pingback: Give Feedback on Broadway, Montrose and Sheridan Intersection « Graceland-Wilson Neighbors Association

  19. JZ

    When I saw this, my first thought was traffic jam. The right turn going NB from Broadway to Montrose is very awkward. I’m not certain, but in this plan it looks like there will only be 1 lane. So, that will slow down traffic greatly. As will any bus that stops. We all know they don’t always pull all the way over. Then you throw in people turning right from Sheridan or Broadway heading SB onto Montrose and they have to obviously slow down and/or wait for pedestrians to cross which would bring these lanes to a halt. This seems like it will back up traffic all over. Also, let’s face it, a ton of bikers do not “wait in line” at a red light. They move up the right side of the cars. So, you factor them into doing that – which will stop people from turning right and then just clog things up more. I just don’t see how this is a realistic solution. I’m all for more green areas, but I’m strongly against more bottlenecks for traffic.

  20. JZ, see our response to Jon, above:

    Jon, we are right with you–the intersection needs to maintain a free flow at peak hours while cutting down on conflicts. Crashes and confused users stuck in the middle of the intersection snarl matters up. Any future design will be informed by a CDOT Traffic Study. It might actually be wisest from a network planning perspective to divert some of the traffic that currently flows through the intersection to alternate, more preferable routes.

  21. Pingback: Plans for Chicago's Broadway, Montrose, Sheridan Intersection Looking Good - Chicagotalks

  22. lag

    I am glad to see someone is finally looking at this intersection! I hope this goes somewhere. I used to walk northward on the east side of Broadway across Sheridan every morning with my daughter in her stroller, and every morning would nearly get run down by the southbound broadway traffic turning right onto Sheridan. I always waited to cross until it was my turn, yet the drivers would honk and yell as if I was crossing against the light and even having a child in a stroller got no sympathy. I have also seen wheelchairs try to cross there and I am scared for them (not to mention the pavement his all broken up on the north side of the crosswalk and which makes getting out of the intersection a challenge). I made calls to the previous alderman’s office, calls to 311 and even mentioned it to a group of the local police officers that work in that neighborhood (who did say they would keep an eye out when in the area). I did get a call once from a traffic engineer in the CDOT department who told me he was doing a study on the intersection, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. I think this is a great idea. The only concern I have about the greenspace is that it seems like a location where people may loiter, and we definitely don’t need more locations like that in Uptown. I have seen drug deals happen at that intersection. Has any thought been given on how to prevent that from happening? Maybe it should be a green walkway without benches?

    • Joseph Musco

      I think the best practice for building public spaces today is to make them as inviting as possible, not to avoid amenities like park benches. You want spaces to invite people of all demographics to stop and enjoy the space, therefore ensuring the care and attention to the space of a large number of people.

      You can see in the stretch of Broadway from Montrose to Wilson including Wilson Yards and the stretch with the Alderman’s office there are no public benches or green space, yet plenty of people sitting on sidewalks, on curbs, on iron fencing. The best way to make a safe space is to make a space that will be used and enjoyed by many people — this includes putting nice benches in the space, not no benches.

  23. The Other

    Cambridge, mass did something similar a few years back. http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Transportation/projects/completedprojects1/lafayettesquare.aspx some of it good, some of it annoying. Main complaints are that there isn’t any soft space, and a lack of shade. It’s a brick plaza with the green only in raised beds. The trees will mature. Also because of driveways, some of the turns have to be taken overly slow to not worry about delivery drivers from the restaurants pulling out.

  24. Joe Gaugler

    I love this! What is the status of this and how are we working to make this happen? I’d love to help.

    • We are very close to making this project a reality! The Participatory Budgeting vote is coming up soon and the SherMon intersection redesign will be one of the items of the ballot. Community members on the Streets & Cycling committee have been working hard to come up with sound proposals and renderings, which you can see in person before the vote Monday the 8th at the next project expo (see link below for details).

      The public PB vote will take place in person at the Alderman’s office from April 27-May 3 and at the final voting event on May 4, anyone living in the 46th ward (new boundaries), 16 or older can vote. Please mobilize your neighbors, friends, and family to vote for this project, we are SO close!

      More details here: http://james46.org/uncategorized/participatory-budgeting-project-expos/

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