Yeesh! Drivers crashed into Ainslie Art Plaza (again!) and Manor Greenway island

Update 1/2/23, 10:45 PM: After the publication of this piece, Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) provided the following statement. “The Ainslie Arts Plaza has always been a temporary design as the Lincoln Avenue Streetscape will completely change the infrastructure there. We want to ensure that it’s designed in a way that leads to less collisions and a safer environment for our neighbors. The streetscape is envisioned to be completed by the end of 2024. As for the pedestrian island on Lawrence, we want to follow up with CDOT to see how it can be addressed.”

In the words of the Angry Bicyclist from “Portlandia,” “Ugh, cars man. Why?!”

When the city of Chicago installs nice things for bike riders and pedestrians, reckless drivers often destroy them. That happened twice within the last couple of days in two different locations in the 40th Ward, in or near the Lincoln Square community.

Yet another Ainslie Arts Plaza crash

On Saturday evening, Streetsblog reader John Fallon alerted me that a driver had once again crashed into the Ainslie Arts Plaza, located at the spot where where diagonal Lincoln Avenue bends meets Ainslie Street (4900 N.), just west of Western Avenue (2400 W.)

Aerial view of the Ainslie Arts Plaza. Image: Google Maps

SBC readers will recall that last August another motorist largely wrecked the plaza, which featured a street mural, picnic tables, and painted planters, created by artist Andrea Jablonski. The initiative involved pedestrianizing city-owned parking spaces next to a McDonald’s. During that incident, a woman driving southeast on Lincoln north of the plaza jumped the curb, crashed into the facility’s street furniture and destroyed it. Luckily no one was in the plaza at the time, and the motorist only suffered minor injuries. Frustratingly, there were no legal consequences for the offender.

— @ward40 (@40thforward) August 2, 2022

40th Ward alderperson Andre Vasquez surveys the damage from last August’s crash.

The art plaza has since been partly restored, and concrete Jersey wall barriers were added on its north side, at Lincoln/Ainslie. However, John Fallon said he often walks by the plaza, and has noted more than once since August that a driver has crashed into the the facility. This latest time the motorist took out a sign and a small tree.

The latest driver to strike the Ainslie Art Plaza took out this small tree. Photo: John Fallon

Commenters on twitter proposed various solutions. One person argued that more traffic calming is needed on Lincoln. Another called for having police do targeted enforcement events at the four-way stop signs just north of the plaza, where Ainslie continues west of Lincoln, saying drivers regularly roll through that intersection.

Local alderperson Andre Vasquez tweeted that safety upgrades are already in the works for Lincoln as part of an upcoming streetscape project on the corridor between the plaza and Catalpa Avenue (5500 N.)

The new streetscape will work to address this, as it’s clearly in need of improvement

— Ald. Andre Vasquez, Political Account (@Andrefor40th) January 1, 2023

While a short section of protected bike lanes is planned for this stretch, in September advocates sent a letter to city and state officials asking that protected lanes be installed along the entire corridor. Said Fallon, “I imagine [the crash] bolsters the case for this.”

Driver struck Manor Greenway pedestrian island

Reportedly on New Year’s Eve, there was another infuriating act of driver destruction a mile west of the plaza on Lawrence Avenue (4800 N.) just west of the Chicago River. That’s where a (dunk?) motorist crashed into the crossing island at the north end of the Manor Avenue Greenway route (2930 W.) The island facilitates bike and pedestrian crossings between the greenway, a traffic-calmed itinerary on side streets, and the North Shore Channel Trail. The driver knocked down a warning sign and left debris all over the island.

The fallen warning sign is blocking the route through the crossing island. Photo: John Greenfield

Some folks on Twitter noted that Lawrence is also getting a streetscape project between the river and Western, including another island on the east side of the river to improve trail access, but the existing painted “door zone” bike lanes won’t be upgraded to protected lanes. Asked one commenter, “If we can’t trust drivers to not hit a warning sign on a concrete median, why is [the Chicago Department of Transportation] trusting them to not hit cyclists on the… Lawrence painted bike lanes that will lead here?”

Another person said in December they made 311 service request to repair a fallen sign at this location. He wondered if it had been fixed and struck again. Someone replied that they planned to reach out to Ald. Vasquez and 47th Ward alder Matt Martin (the island straddles the borderline between the two districts) to get an ETA for when it will be fixed.

A third person said they tried to get destroyed signs along the Roscoe/School/Aldine Greenway in Lakeview replaced, without success.

@Driving_Is_Sin … or these signs that were at Sheffield/School.

My experience in my neighborhood is that with rare exceptions, most signs wrecked by drivers never get replaced; even with personal requests to 311, @ChicagoDOT, and my alder.

— CHIdrives (@CHIdrives) January 2, 2023

And yet another example of a “fallen soldier” in front of the Empty Bottle music venue in West Town, which someone tweeted after the publication of this article.

Little detour to Westen and Cortez on my bike commute to add to tge documentation.

— @the_berthold (@the_berthold) January 3, 2023

Ah, car culture. Is there anything it can’t ruin?

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