Opinion: Repurpose Parking for Bike Lanes and Outdoor Seating

With car parking banned from two blocks of Chicago's Milwaukee Avenue on weekend nights, the city could take the opportunity to permanently adapt the space for other uses.

1 minute read

February 7, 2022, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

After complaints from neighbors about illegal street drinking and after-hours noise on a popular strip of Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, the city banned parking on the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Milwaukee Avenue on weekend nights. But now, as John Greenfield reports, some business owners say "not only do empty parking lanes make the corridor look more desolate, they also encourage motorists to speed in the travel lanes, or even drive in the parking lanes, which is particularly dangerous for people cycling in the dashed bike lanes on Milwaukee."

Greenfield argues that the city should do more to support the retrofitting of curbside parking into outdoor seating and dining areas, and that these efforts should include shoring up bus service in popular commercial areas and installing protected bike lanes in former parking lanes.

While some local business owners expressed concern about losing parking when a protected bike lane was first proposed in 2017, Greenfield writes that "it sounds like removing all of the car parking on Milwaukee during prime bar-going hours hasn’t actually been devastating to local businesses, but instead has been a minor inconvenience. That’s evidence that converting only half of the spaces for protected lanes at all times wouldn’t cause major problems either, but would instead make it safer and easier for customers to bike to their establishments."

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