Saturday, October 13, 2012

Are These Curb Bumpouts Necessary?

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Traffic calming measures---designed to protect everyone by making motorists drive in a more civilized fashion---have been around in Chicago in one way or another for many years---almost as long as there have been cars and trucks.

But in the last decade or so, they have been popping up all over the city.

The best known are speed humps (typically found on streets) and speed bumps (typically found in alleys). But there are also traffic circles (found in the middle of intersections) and various types of curb bumpouts (which extend protection for pedestrians by funneling vehicular traffic into a more narrow path).

When placed in the right location, traffic calming devices can prevent crashes and damage to property---as well as prevent injuries and even save lives.

Placed poorly, they amount to an annoyance at best and a potential hazard at worst.

The newly installed curb bumpouts at 52nd and Luna fall into the latter category, according to Susan Donner Stacken, who lives right there. The concrete bumpouts---which essentially eliminate several parking spots on an already crowded street---are next door to the front of her house.

So she wrote to the Chicago Department of Transportation:

"I live at 52nd and Luna. The city has just installed some cement islands on the street at the corners.  I would like to know why?  This street has parking issues, and it is also a cul-de-sac; so the traffic is next to nothing to control.  Also, one side of the street has a "No Parking From Here to Corner" sign and then "No Parking/Handicap" sign.  I do not understand who approved this and for what purpose exactly?  It is going to make it a nightmare for the residents of this block. With winter fast approaching, things are going to get ugly around here very soon. The parking spaces these cement islands took up were valuable to the residents. It truly has no functioning purpose. I am requesting that these things be removed immediately!"

After seeing it for myself, I have to say I completely agree with her. If it were my block, I'd be raising hell with the city.

So I asked the Chicago Department of Transportation for an explanation. Here is what they gave me:

"CDOT's Traffic-calming program serves the need for counter-measures intended to either stop, disrupt and/or discourage vehicles from speeding or cutting through residential communities. The program addresses speeding, reckless driving, and other motorist behaviors which negatively impact the quality of life in any community.In the last few years, we have seen a considerable spike in speeding and reckless driving citywide, and it is not so unusual that additional traffic-calming tools may be requested to address the safety concerns that have arisen.  

"A single traffic-calming tool can often address concerns related to speeding and safe pedestrian crossing. Unfortunately, not all traffic problems on residential streets are resolved so easily. In this case, it was reported that pedestrians were being challenged in the crosswalk by motorists entering and exiting the dead-end block, and it was suggested that our department determine alternatives to help resolve the safety concerns. CDOT staff conducted a field evaluation and observed troublesome traffic patterns and behaviors of motorists. Street bump-outs were selected because that particular tool best serves the need of placing a canopy of protection around the vulnerable pedestrians in the roadway while minimizing their exposure to oncoming traffic when crossing the street."
The curb bumpouts, as seen from the SE corner of 52nd and Luna.

Seeking a translation, I contacted 23rd Ward Alderman Michael R. Zalewski. He replied, 

"The bump outs are a result of a letter I received from residents on the block, of autos driving down the block at a high rate of speed once they realize there is a cul de sac at the south end of the street. CDOT did a study at my request to deal with the problem and suggested the bump outs. I would be open to a petition to remove the cul de sac if that is what the majority of the block wants. I never liked cul de sacs. However, it would have to be approved by Alderman Burke, considering this block will now be in the 14th Ward."

CDOT also said that Alderman Zalewski requested the bumpouts. The request was received by CDOT back in March; and then later approved in May.

Zalewski did not say which residents or how many residents sent him that letter. One? Five? Ten? And he did not say if all households on the block were consulted or even notified.

Susan Donner Stacken says she wasn't consulted, and did not know about the CDOT study or the decision until after the concrete was poured.
Looking south from the southwest corner of 52nd and Luna.

Let me say this: I don't live on the block, but I can't see how cars routinely speed on a block that is already cul-de-sac'ed. And if somehow they do, wouldn't it make more sense to install a speed hump a little south of the crosswalk, so cars would have to slow down as they neared pedestrians? At least that way, you wouldn't eliminate parking spaces.

Or better yet, add and improve markings that warn motorists that Luna is cul-de-sac'ed. Currently, there is one sign on a pole that is partially obscured by a tree in the summer. Didn't CDOT see that when they came out to have a look?

What a mess.

In a time when city government is running hundreds of millions of dollars in the red, shortchanging taxpayers and jeopardizing the public safety with fewer and fewer police, cutting hours at public libraries, closing health clinics, reducing anti-gang graffiti removal services and more---they somehow find funds to pour concrete on a cul-de-sac'ed street.

Stay tuned. This isn't over...

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  1. There are too many of them. I've had to get new tires because of them. In fact, my mechanic asked me, "do you have a lot of speed humps in your neighborhood?" Also the speed humps don't stop the drug dealers, especially when they're getting chased by other drug dealers or cops. They all hydroplane over them.

  2. Why does the solution to every problem have to be a restrictive measure. Instead of facilitating traffic patterns by mproving infrastructure, the city's reaction is to slow everything down more with obstacles. Has the CDOT ever taken down a stop sign, speed bump, or bump out? No, they just keep adding more and more. Why must motorists be forced to slow down to 5 miles per hour to go over a speed bump in a 20 mile per hour zone. They might as well did potholes instead.

    I'm equally enraged about the riduclous number of Big Brother cameras going up everywhere. Let's get our Napoleonic mayor to stop awarding lucrative contracts to his millionaire patronage buddy Goldner (,0,2221371,full.story), installing Big Brother cameras in our neighbornhood, and collecting revenues at our expense, so that the mayor won't have to raise taxes on Penny Pritzker's downtown Hyatt hotel. Connect the dots, follow the money, and ask yourself, "what does Emanuel, Goldner, and Pritzker have in common besides being multi-millionaires?"

  3. Shouldn't this be posted in the Sun-Times as well? This is not just an issue in our neighborhood. The cost affects all of us. And when something is posted "city-wide", then the city seems to pay attention.

    1. The Chicago Sun-Times is certainly welcome to post this story to their website. Perhaps you should go on their Facebook page and share a link to the Southwest Chicago Post story. Thanks for the compliment...

  4. Do some research and see who makes money for the installation of these items. Is it to protect jobs of the Streets and San workers who park in front of their houses for 2 hour lunches and whine when they actually have to lift something into the truck, as opposed to using the can-lift? Where does the city buy the cement from? There's a money trail somewhere.

    This is as much a joke as the "school speed zone" cameras that couldn't materialize because of all the corruption tied into it.

    Reduce the city to 12 alderman instead of all the fluff we have making 6-figure salaries with a full pension and insurance for a job categorized as part-time. Maybe then Chicago can afford the cops it needs.

    And think of how many police could be staffed if the 55 million dollars to Maggie Daley park was reallocated.

    This city is a joke. No wonder the only residents left are those employees held hostage by residency requirements or those too poor to move to a suburb.

    Curb bump-outs. Good God, it's always some scam in Chicago.

  5. I came across this post while looking for information regarding CDOT, CTA and bump-outs. I realize there is frustration and confusion over items like bump-outs and other traffic calming measures but let's be clear, vehicles and their drivers are the issue to traffic safety and pedestrians are the victims on a daily basis. If drivers were to follow the law properly, these steps would not necessarily have to be taken to literally force drivers to obey.

    Regarding other replies...

    Why are you running into these types of improvements? The times I have run into a curb is when I'm not paying attention to my surroundings.

    Follow the money trail? That maybe the case in some situations, though money is allocated to programs in a direct manner. It's not like they are withdrawing money from the police fund and depositing it into the "bump-out fund." If you're wanting to change how money is handled, plan on going after the fundamentals of the city's government.

    Why does the solution to every problem have to be a restrictive measure? Because drivers are not following the law. If you disagree, what do you suggest as "improving infrastructure"? How much money would that cost? Should we reconfigure an entire intersection for 100s of thousands or add bump-outs at tens of thousands?

    1. Almost 1 year later and I am able to see the comments....I wonder who you are? And if you live on these blocks....I highly doubt it....
      Money bet your sweet behind there is one....Your negative view of something you know nothing about over here is incredible....children were hitting these ridiculous things on their bikes..they stuck out so far that people turning the corner could not see them especially when covered in leaves or some more research on that actual matter before you post a reply such as the one above....
      Have a great day!