Civic Group Proposes “Car-Free” Chicago Streets

The Active Transportation Alliance released Wednesday a list of 20 streets and locations with the potential to become car-free public streets and plazas

Ever thought about what a Chicago street would be like without any cars? Well, one civic group is hoping to turn several city roadways into “car-free” streets.

The Active Transportation Alliance released Wednesday a list of 20 streets and locations with the potential to become car-free public streets and plazas.

The list includes Taylor Street in University Village between Racine and Ashland, Milwaukee Avenue through the square of Logan Square, the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, parts of Clark Street in Andersonville, and several others.

The organization, which took inspiration from Times Square in New York City and the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall in Boulder, Colo., said car-free streets and zones “can make communities more attractive places to live and shop.”

“We believe a Complete Streets strategy that accommodates all modes of travel, including cars, should be the standard approach to street design,” Ron Burke, Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said in a statement. “But we should also look for those unique opportunities where converting street space into car-free zones really works to improve communities.”

The regulations could include anything from closing streets seasonally or during evenings and weekends to converting one lane of traffic into a bike lane and plaza.

Some areas of Chicago have already implemented similar regulations, like Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square, Daley Plaza, Federal Plaza and Navy Pier, according to Active Trans.

Active Trans selected 20 other streets and locations, which they claim have been carefully studied, and hope officials will consider converting the locations into car-free spaces.

“Nearly a quarter of Chicago’s land mass falls within a public right-of-way, but most of that space is dominated by cars — not to mention the enormous amount of city space dedicated to private parking lots and parking garages,” said Burke. “Let’s give Chicagoans more car-free zones to walk, bike, shop, socialize or just relax.”

The full list includes:

  • Dearborn and/or Clark, River North to South Loop. An example concept includes converting a travel lane on Clark Street to a protected bike lane with a landscaped seating area next to it.
  • Monroe Avenue between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. An example concept would be to make the entire street segment car-free and extend the existing park space. Wide, well-lit underpasses would replace difficult crossings at Michigan and Lake Shore Drive.
  • Segments of Oak Street in the Gold Coast
  • Segments of Rush Street in the Gold Coast
  • Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile. More information at
  • One or more streets near Wrigley Field
  • Segments of Broadway Avenue in Lakeview. For example, make the entire street from Diversey to Belmont a car-free greenway with landscaping, seating, restaurant patio space and more. Use diverters to prevent local cut-through traffic, Clark and Halsted absorb traffic.
  • Segments of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park
  • Simmonds Drive between Lawrence and Foster through the lake front park
  • Segments of Clark Street in Andersonville
  • Milwaukee Avenue through the square of Logan Square
  • Bryn Mawr between Broadway and Sheridan
  • Segments of Webster Avenue in Lincoln Park
  • Segments of 47th Street in Bronzeville
  • Segments of East 53rd Street in Hyde Park
  • Segments of 18th Street in Pilsen. An example concept would be to dead end Carpenter, Miller and/or Morgan streets on the north side of 18th St. to create a pedestrian plaza. These streets already have limited through traffic because they extend just two blocks to the north before dead-ending at train tracks, and each street is offset on either side of 18th .
  • Ellsworth and/or Payne Drives in Washington Park
  • Taylor Street in University Village between Racine and Ashland
  • Segments of 26th Street in Little Village
  • Humboldt Drive and/or Luis Munoz Marin Drive in Humboldt Park. An example concept includes closing these streets to car traffic during the summer to effectively expand park space and give people a safe place to walk and bike.
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