Chicago may implement 'Slow Streets' to allow more room for pedestrians, bicyclists

The pandemic is changing a lot about the way we live, and now there is a push to change streets so that we can all stay safely apart.

The idea is to close some streets to vehicle traffic so that pedestrians and bicyclists have more room to spread out.

The problem derives from the fact that with parks and the lakefront shut down, some sidewalks can get very busy, especially on days when the weather is nice.

Chicago is being pushed to follow the lead of a number of other U.S. cities and adopt what are called "Slow Streets" -- residential streets that get blocked off to car traffic to give more space to pedestrians and bicycles.

“Our city needs to have a plan in place as to how we will allocate public space and the streets for people to be able to travel and recreate safely,” said Courtney Cobbs of Streetsblog Chicago.

To ease dangerous sidewalk congestion during the pandemic, Streetsblog Chicago wants the city to consider adopting "Slow Streets" where residential streets (non-bus-routes) would be blocked off to car-traffic, giving more space to bikers and walkers.

“The alderwoman in Lincoln Park has gotten tons of emails from people saying they're being passed by joggers and they're afraid, and the sidewalks are crowded and we want you to do something,” Cobbs said. “ makes sense.”

Planners say with parks, playgrounds and trails closed, and with fewer people taking public transit, the benefits of Slow Streets can be huge. Plus, they're relatively easy to convert, requiring little more than saw-horses at corners.

“And in just a matter of days, we can basically declare this space to be, ‘hey, this is for people. It's not for cars. There's not as much traffic so there's plenty of other places for cars to go,’” said head of Policy, Ride Report Michael Schwartz.

However, despite many other big cities already adopting them during the pandemic, the Chicago Department of Transportation says it still needs input from the public and aldermen.

"Over the next few weeks, CDOT looks forward to working with these groups to create and rollout effective and meaningful transportation policies that help increase access and mobility for all of Chicago’s residents,” CDOT said in a statement.

CDOT does want to hear from you on this idea. It has set up an email address for you to voice your opinion: