The new Madison Street layout has left many bewildered. Formerly a four-lane street, Madison Street now has just one lane of traffic in each direction with a two-way left-turn lane in the center. Parking space placement along Madison has also changed significantly, adding to the confusion. Engineers also lowered the speed limit from 30 mph to 25.
“It takes a while for drivers to get used to this kind of stuff,” said Bill McKenna, Oak Park’s village engineer. “It’s a lot of new stuff that we’re throwing at them.” To make it easier to understand, the engineering division created a diagram, complete with explanatory arrows and labels, designating parking areas and traffic and bike lanes.
Prior to the street’s restructure, the engineering division considered safety concerns of pedestrians and bicycle riders. “We had a lot of comments from cyclists and pedestrians, when we were looking at Madison Street, that they would be kind of afraid to ride on Madison Street,” said McKenna.
To address those worries, engineers put in bike lanes directly against the curb on Madison Street starting at Oak Park Avenue all the way to Austin Boulevard. On that stretch of Madison, a line of parallel parking spots separates the car lane from the bike lane; that arrangement is called “floating parking.”
“As a cyclist, you want to be further from moving traffic. We were trying to encourage more biking by giving them a safer environment to bike,” McKenna said.
Removing the second driving lane created enough space to implement floating parking and put in a bike lane against the curb. The elimination of that second lane prevents drivers from passing cars in the process of parallel parking.
“People are still learning what it is, you know, with the floating parking,” said Byron Kutz, assistant village engineer.
According to McKenna, parking in a floating spot is the same as parking along a curb. “You’re still in a driving lane, you still have to parallel park,” he said. “Although it looks different, because you’re kind of floating in space, it’s the same exact maneuver.”
Diagonal hatched lines indicate the beginning and end of parking stalls. “People know not to park in those areas when you hatch them with the angle lines,” said McKenna. The village is also putting in delineators for emphasis.
Traditional curbside parallel parking still exists on Madison Street from Harlem Avenue to Oak Park Avenue. Due that portion of the street’s physical narrowness, there wasn’t enough space to put in floating parking spots.
Newly installed parking stations on Madison Street are separate from the engineering division’s project. According to McKenna, the street is part of a parking pilot study the village is conducting.
The new curbside bike lane and floating parking won’t affect the Madison Street Pace bus, according to Kutz and McKenna.
“Most of the bus stops are at traffic signals,” said McKenna. “When you get near the bus stop, the bike lane gets away from the curb.” People waiting for the bus will still stand safely on the sidewalk.
The striping, which started in early October, is now largely finished. The majority of the striping that actually sets the geometry is set,” said Kutz. “Now it’s a lot more detailed work. That stuff is pretty time intensive, so it probably has two or three weeks left.”
The more detailed work includes painting bicycle symbols in bike lanes and painting portions of it green. Signage and delineator posts also need to be put up. The project is likely to be finished in early November.
To enhance pedestrian safety, the engineering division also made changes to crosswalks. The engineering division added push button beacons at four unsignalized crosswalks. “There’s a lot of drivers that don’t stop or yield to pedestrians,” said McKenna. “We really want to change that driver behavior.”
It’s too soon to see if new layout is positively impacting traffic, but in May or June the village will collect data and analyze it to see how well traffic is flowing.