OK, how do I drive on Madison Street?

A guide to understanding the street's new layout

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

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.

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Reader Comments

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Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 2nd, 2019 10:58 PM

Brian Slowiak the problem of not having road markings should have become apparent to some one at the Village, since the 1040 North Boulevard parking lot already had this problem and there was no snow. When the installed the parking box and removed the marked spaces and the lines faded, car's were parking haphazardly. Now that the stripes are on the pavement the car's are back in order. The Village has learned their lesson from 1040 South Boulevard how important it is to let driver's know where the space is to park

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: November 2nd, 2019 10:24 PM

In order for this new plan to work, a motorist, bicyclist, pedestrian must see the stripes on the road. That means curb to curb snow plowing, down to the pavement. The village hasn't posted new snow plowing procedures.

Brad Tabor from Oak Park  

Posted: October 31st, 2019 8:37 AM

Looks like I will be using Washington to get around now. New design makes it even more inconvenient to use Madison. I will be thinking twice before heading to any businesses on Madison.

Brian Sharpe  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 11:38 PM

There really is no "right" or "wrong" way to drive here. Most of these inane traffic controls end up being merely suggestions.Watch for bikes and pedestrians like you would anywhere... then proceed with business as usual.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 10:07 PM

Jason if I recall the so called "road diet" was needed to slow traffic which - based upon some inane urban studies - would necessarily increase retail development. Of course the ultimate slowing of traffic - no traffic - the former Oak Park Mall, basically destroyed retail. D'OH!

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 9:55 PM

Jason Cohen The Madison street business district has seemed to have reached only about 10 percent of its full capacity for years. Now with the development it will become a business district. It will have more traffic stopping and parking instead of using Madison street as a street to get from one place to another. I think all of the building that has taken place is a good idea although very overcrowding and I thought when you pile one floor on top of another floor of high rises that it would mean more taxes brought in which would divide the tax base and lower the over all tax rate. This is something I learned in the early 1970's which maybe I was naive. I do not think director's, leaders, or whatever title they are given s going to learn how to become more effective with less payroll since it is so easy to create a new position in Oak Park, and have tax payers pay for it. The other thing I learned about taxes in the early 1970's was you never lower taxes because before you know it, tax payers will expect it again. Maybe that part was not being naive

Jason Cohen  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 8:02 PM

I still don't really understand what this was hoping to accomplish. The street is much more crowded and less convenient to drive on. There seems to be less parking now which doesn't seem great for the businesses on Madison. The only possible advantage might be for bikes assuming they don't get doored. I am all for biking but if we essentially made it harder for all drivers and worse for retail the trade off really doesn't seem worth it.

Caroline La Torre from Oak Park  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 6:57 PM

A street shouldn't need instructions! The traffic is worse than ever and pouring on to Jackson now. I have no words for what a cluster**** this is!

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 5:33 PM

Mimi Jordan the easiest way without hiring any consultants is to measure the distance from the passenger door to the curb. Then subtract the distance a door is opened at and minus that from the area. Now with the remaining area, deduct the average with of a bike rider and that will give you the resulting answer of how much space a bicycle rider has before coming in contact with an open door on the passenger side. This is a much better way since the picture does not give measurements

Lisa Bisou from las Vegas  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 4:45 PM

HOT MESS!!!!! glad I only go back to visit... wont drive down that street... Oh No!!!

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 2:50 PM

Regarding bike riders getting "doored" by passengers of parked cars, the bottom picture looks like there is a buffer zone between the parking space and the bike lane. Hopefully that will help.

Jasper Long from Oak Park  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 2:44 PM

Not a fan AT ALL, although I'll admit I like to pass so this serves me right I guess lol

Kline Maureen  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 10:49 AM

now if we could only get the Village to implement diagonal crosswalks at busy intersections

Susan Montgomery from Chicago  

Posted: October 30th, 2019 10:39 AM

I'm an Oak Park native, now living in Chicago, so I follow the Journal online. Chicago did implement this very traffic plan several years ago. (i.e., on Dearborn). At first, no one liked it. However, you get used to it. That doesn't mean you have to like it. I do think it is safer for cyclists.

Barbara Purington  

Posted: October 29th, 2019 10:00 PM

New Madison street layout cannot be what's meant by Dementia-friendly Oak Park.

George Smith  

Posted: October 29th, 2019 9:29 PM

Only in Oak Park could people think spending millions to make a street worse is a good idea.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: October 29th, 2019 8:45 PM

The "floating parking" idea does not make travel safer for bicyclists, but more dangerous. Having once put 6500 miles on my bike in a year. I know the traps. Getting hit by travelling cars is not the only problem. It's parked car drivers opening their doors without looking. The bicyclist faces the equivalent of hitting a brick wall -- head or spinal cord injuries more than likely in the fall, with broken limbs. But at least the driver probably looks for car traffic coming first (on a busy street), and may spot the cyclist approaching. But passenger-side people are used to opening the door directly onto the curb, and don't look for anything. That lane to their right will now be where the cyclist is. I used to bike on the side streets, and travelled main streets as little as possible, even going out of the way. There is no way to ameliorate the effects of this built-in disastrous design, other than to undo it, which scraps the whole narrowing concept..

Bill McClung from Oak Park  

Posted: October 29th, 2019 8:33 PM

Parkers need to warn their passengers to look out for cyclists when they open the vehicle doors. I don't like the design...it is too busy...and a distraction. I travel west from Austin at about 7.00am and the traffic at junctions is twice as long sometimes missing the light. There are several trucks unloading and ignoring the signage. Sure you can't please all the people but I've never seen enough cycles on Madison to justify this mess let alone the expense... One has to wonder if there was any kickback!!!

Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: October 29th, 2019 8:06 PM

The Village Board in their infinite wisdom decided to do this. Madison is now as dead to me as Roosevelt is. When they complain about traffic on side streets and how businesses can't stay open on Madison, I'll roll my eyes. And if they think people will bike to the Jewel on Madison with their reusable bags, shop, then bike home, then the Board is even more out to lunch than I thought. The wasted dollars for this fiasco could change lives...but they will struggle to balance the budget and demand more. They always demand more...

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: October 29th, 2019 4:24 PM

So, where are the parking meters? If Madison Street is parking meter free, then why isn't the rest of the Village meter free? Did the plans show that there would be no meters?

Steve Brown  

Posted: October 29th, 2019 3:43 PM

Bikes don't use it because it's dangerous. This kind of circular logic has been used over and over around the country to keep our streets wide, fast, and dangerous. I've seen more bikes on Madison since the construction, and the lanes aren't even open yet. There's also no shortage of parking on Madison. And where do delivery trucks stop? I don't know, where do they stop on every other two-lane road in America? Somehow they find a way. Madison is safer and more pleasant now. Sorry you can't speed anymore.

Ray Traynor  

Posted: October 29th, 2019 3:28 PM

It looks like recreational marijuana was involved with this street layout. Where do delivery trucks stop to make deliveries without impeding traffic? We now have less available parking than before. Hardly any bicycles ever use Madison. Oh BTW not a fan, I case I was too subtle.

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