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When I discovered the City’s plans to launch a pilot program on Greenleaf Street, limiting traffic and creating space for pedestrians and cyclists, I knew I had to check it out for myself. 


I always appreciate a good walk, so I called up my friend Suzy Vazquez, and together we strolled the length of Greenleaf Street from McDaniel Avenue to Lake Shore Boulevard, documenting the walk in pictures.

Our walk began at the intersection of Greenleaf Street and McDaniel Avenue. To the east stood Harbert Payne Park and the North Shore Channel Trail, and to our west, a quiet residential neighborhood. 

Greenleaf St. runs from the east to the west end of Evanston, so the street-sharing program created a pathway from the North Shore Channel to Lake Michigan. If the program is adopted more widely, this could be an opportunity for cyclists, joggers or pedestrians like myself to take a longer hike along the North Shore Channel to the lake and then along the waterfront.

The street was sleepy, and Suzy and I walked on the street rather than the sidewalk for the majority of our walk.

Orange and white signs were distributed along the length of the street, slowing traffic and reminding cars to share the space. Neighbors have complained about these signs, saying they create confusion among drivers and make Greenleaf Street look like a construction site. An Aug. 5th RoundTable article discussed these complaints in greater detail. 

Although Suzy and I were probably the only pedestrians taking advantage of the pilot program that afternoon, we did encounter a number of runners and cyclists along Greenleaf Street.

Throughout the walk, I began to realize that this shared street pilot was geared more towards cyclists, who need to use the road and benefit from less traffic, than pedestrians and joggers, who could just as easily walk on the sidewalk. 

Because it was my first time on Greenleaf Street, I was surprised at how residential the area was. I had falsely assumed that the pilot would be along a street with some shops, parks or playgrounds, but mostly we just passed houses and apartment buildings. The shops pictured here were a small exception, in addition to some more stores at the intersection of Chicago Avenue. Suzy and I did stop at Retro Fit, a second-hand store. 

It occurred to me that I had no pictures of Suzy, so I took a photo while we waited for the light at Chicago Avenue. 

After the brief industrial sector at Chicago Avenue, we found ourselves in a residential neighborhood again, and not long after, we arrived at the lake, marking the end of Greenleaf Street. Here, we discussed our final thoughts on the pilot program.

 

Overall, I am very supportive of making Evanston more accessible to cyclists and pedestrians, but some details of this pilot program puzzle me.

For a pedestrian or jogger walking along Greenleaf Street, the sidewalk is perfectly suitable, and I didn’t feel that the program created any significant changes. 

For cyclists, the program is much more applicable, and I concluded that the program could be useful for transportation via bike, since it does run east-to-west, but other than the industrial areas, much of Greenleaf Street seemed relatively quiet to begin with. I don’t know what the City will do now that the program ended, but I do wonder if it’s necessary for the City to allocate its resources towards reducing traffic or building a bike path on this street specifically. 

Furthermore, I would much rather the City add street-sharing programs to areas in which cyclists, joggers and pedestrians could stop to peruse shops or restaurants, picnic in a park or stop at a playground. To get from one end of the City to the other, Greenleaf Street is convenient, but it wouldn’t be my go-to path if I was looking for a leisurely stroll. I much prefer walking along the lake, through a park or in a more commercial area. 

Those are my two cents. Evanston is beautiful, and a walk through this City is always enjoyable. To get home, Suzy and I walked north along the lake, watching the water ripple under the afternoon sun.

By Adina Keeling

 

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  1. I agree with this commentary. I’m all for experimentation, but I don’t see the need to extend this one. I bike on Greenleaf all the time, and it feels quite safe as is.

  2. Dear Adina,

    What a lovely account of Greenleaf Street and an honest appraisal of the street sharing program. As an avid cyclist who often uses Greenleaf from Chicago Avenue to Dodge, I actually found the street blocking signage somewhat dangerous and distracting. I found myself having to navigate not just the traffic, but the road blocking signs and I had a few close calls with cars all trying to veer for narrowest path between the signs while keeping an eye on pedestrians at the same time. I hope if the program happens again that more concern will be focused on keeping cyclists safe as well, especially those of us who use this route all the time.