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City Set To Shut Down More Than A Dozen Miles Of Streets For More Outdoor Space During Pandemic

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot is at the controls of several proverbial green lights when it comes to reopening the city.

Those green lights include when to open outdoor restaurants in the city, and now, when to shut down more than a dozen miles of city streets – giving new options for bikers and runners who have seen their options shrink of late.

As CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported, the paths along the lakefront remained closed as of Wednesday. But new ones are set to open elsewhere – along streets that have never been attractions before.

A total of 14 miles of shared streets will open for itchy Chicagoans.

“It’s very tricky,” said Chris McFarland. “Very tricky.”

Travels are tricky for McFarland and his son, Owen.

“We try to get outside every day as best we can,” McFarland said.

But with their beloved 606 Trail eight-sixed, and lakefront paths also shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have sought out parking lots and dead-end streets as avenues to exercise.

But new options are opening up.

CBS 2 has learned that the Chicago Department of Transportation has been quietly scouting streets to close partially to vehicle traffic – giving more room for bikers and runners and outdoor enthusiasts who feel their options have been given the squeeze.

A similar program rolled out in New York earlier this spring. Some car traffic will remain, but the streets will largely be set up for those needing new options.

These are the first selections for the Shared Streets program:

• Cortland Street from Ridgeway Avenue east to Rockwell Street in Logan Square on the West Side;
• Palmer Street from Long Avenue east to Kedzie Avenue in Hanson Park, Hermosa, and Logan Square on the West Side;
• Leland Avenue from Lincoln Avenue east to Sheridan Road in Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, and Uptown on the North Side;
• Glenwood Avenue from Devon Avenue south to Carmen Avenue in Edgewater and Uptown on the North Side.

Sources said South Side locations will be selected next.

Some of the pavement has been getting a facelift ahead of the program’s start.

“I’m excited to see what it looks like,” McFarland said. “Could be fun.”

Fun – that’s a word that isn’t heard much lately as Chicago offers a bold prescription for cabin fever.

New York City has opened 40 miles’ worth of city streets for its Open Streets initiative and plans to open 100. The city has opened parts of far busier roadways to pedestrians and bicyclists than those proposed in Chicago, including several blocks of Broadway in Manhattan and 34th Avenue in Queens. Several blocks of numerous side streets have also been closed in all five boroughs.

Boston, Charlotte, Minneapolis, and Oakland are also among the many cities trying this approach.

In Chicago, it could start any day.

There is no word from the city on a timeline or how residents who live along the affected stretches will navigate parking or access to their homes.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot had been opposed to such a plan initially, and needed to be convinced of closing streets in any way.

It is unclear what changed her mind.

Neither Lightfoot nor the Department of Transportation would talk with us about it, and the mayor was not able to talk to the news media on Wednesday.

Source: CBS Chicago

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