July 31, 2020 – A pilot program that would limit vehicle through traffic to transform select residential streets into a shared space for pedestrians and bicyclists is set to begin Monday, Aug. 3 in Oak Park.
The slow streets program will prioritize activities such as walking, jogging, biking, rollerblading and wheelchair rolling and discourage drivers from using designated streets unless necessary to reach a final destination such as their home or garage.
Portions of Van Buren Street, Kenilworth Avenue, Harvey Avenue and Thomas Street have been designated as corridors where signage and barricades will be used minimize vehicle traffic and encourage drivers to slow down and be alert for people walking along the roadway.
The program will be implemented in phases. In the first phase, Van Buren Street will be a slow street between Kenilworth and Harvey avenues. Kenilworth and Harvey also will be slow streets for a three-block stretch between Madison and Van Buren streets in the initial phase.
Plans call for additional phases that would expand the slow streets along Kenilworth and Harvey avenues from Van Buren Street in the south to Thomas Street in the north, with gaps near main thoroughfares such as Lake Street and Chicago Avenue. In this phase, Thomas Street would also be designated a slow street between Kenilworth and Harvey.
Click here to view a map of the Village’s slow streets network.
The plan was developed by the Village’s Transportation Commission and Engineering Division in response to concerns among residents about the difficulty of maintaining 6 feet of social distance on many sidewalks and park paths.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents have increasingly been walking and jogging in the street in an effort to maintain social distance while exercising, exposing themselves to fast-moving vehicle traffic.
Vehicle access will be maintained for residents who live along slow streets route and their visitors, as well as deliver drivers and emergency vehicles. Access to alleys and driveways will also be maintained, and parking regulations are not affected by the program.
However, residents who live in the vicinity of slow streets are urged to avoid driving along the corridor whenever possible.
Village officials stress that the program is intended to create safe pedestrian and bicycle corridors and that the slow streets are expressly not intended to serve as a location for a public gathering.
All social distancing and public health guidelines apply along slow street routes. This means anyone who uses the slow streets to walk, jog or bike should maintain six-feet of separation from others.
Face coverings are required along the slow streets route in circumstances where it is not possible to socially distance per Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide executive order requiring any person over age two to wear a face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance.
While the slow streets program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it also fits with the Village’s objective of being a walkable and bikeable community. Officials say they intend to use the pilot program to gather feedback so a decision can be made about the feasibility of continuing the slow streets program in the future.
Residents who wish to provide feedback about the program will be invited to take a short survey at www.oak-park.us/slowstreetssurvey.
More information about the slow streets program is posted at www.oak-park.us/slowstreets.