Tow Trucks Invade Wicker Park/Bucktown This Weekend
Open Streets, Bucktown 5K Will Impact Traffic On Northside Sunday
An army of tow trucks will invade the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhoods this weekend.
A series of large scale events will not only close miles of streets to vehicular traffic but some drivers will come back to find an empty space where they left their car the day or night before.
Sunday is the big day in question. Both the Bucktown 5K is being run along streets in its namesake neighborhood while Open Streets will close down nearly 1.4 miles of Milwaukee Avenue from Division St. and Ashland Ave. to Western Ave. from 8 AM to 4 PM.
While all side streets along Milwaukee Ave. between Western and Division will be closed off with barricades, both Damen and North Avenues, which bi-sect the event site, will be open to motor vehicle traffic.
Despite the obvious affect on traffic in the area on Sunday, event organizer Julia Kim of the Active Transportation Alliance is relatively optimistic the impact for area drivers will be low.
“We have been working closely with city agencies to insure everyone can get to wherever they need to go,” says Kim.
Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation will have a total of 10 tow trucks in the area starting early Sunday morning–five for each event–to remove any vehicles who’s owners haven’t gotten the message to move their cars.
Everyone involved seems to be working hard to get the message out to car owners.
According to Streets and Sanitation spokesperson Anne Sheehan, that department will be posting signs along both event routes starting Friday. Bucktown 5K organizers have had large signs along the race route for over a week and have been posting and distributing warning fliers. Active Trans, working with the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, and both 1st and 32nd Ward offices have also been using social media, e-mail blasts and such to spread the word.
“It is our hope that motorists will comply with the posted parking restrictions and avoid being towed,” says Sheehan.
According to Sheehan, only 15 cars got towed from the streets on the Bucktown 5K race course last year.
“On a personal note, I don’t like to be towed,” says Kim, who has been working hard to keep cars towed off Milwaukee Ave. to a minimum because of her first hand experience with her vehicle being hooked to the back of a tow truck.
Any vehicles towed from either event will find their car at Chicago auto pound located at 701 N. Sacramento. Most car owners will have to pay $150 plus a $10 a day storage fee to reclaim their vehicle. Heavier vehicles will cost owners $250 plus the $10 a day storage fee.
“If a resident’s car is towed, we encourage them to make arrangements to redeem their vehicle as soon as possible to avoid daily storage fees,” says Sheehan.
Tow trucks will start as early as 1 AM Sunday morning removing cars along the Bucktown 5K race course, while drivers must be off Milwaukee Ave. no later than 5 AM to keep from having to make a trip to the auto pound.
The Open Streets event, produced by Active Transportation Alliance, is essentially a hipper version of a block party with an overarching goal of bringing communities together in a fun way to encourage active healthy lifestyles according to event press materials.
With Milwaukee Ave. cleared off cars for over a mile, event planners has lots of family friendly activities going on including yoga, a pop-up skateboard park, fencing, a dunk tank, bike riding, four square, tons of kids stuff and more.
What makes these events somehow more intriguing in the middle of a car-less Milwaukee Ave?
“It’s really about providing a safe public space to do something active,” said Kim. “It’s a chance to slow down and look at city streets in a whole new way. Instead of looking for parking to engage with (local) businesses you’re more inclined to interact with neighbors in a safe, car free space.”
This is the second year of Open Streets, and the Wicker Park/Bucktown version is the second one this year. Downtown State Street played host to the event again last weekend.
But this weekend’s event, with 15 blocks of street closed to car traffic, is more ambitious than it’s downtown sibling. Kim says the group has a goal of linking Chicago neighborhoods by expanding this event to include up to seven miles of Milwaukee Avenue in the next year or two.
UPDATE: To make things that much more difficult this weekend for drivers, according to Alisa Hauser of Chicago Pipeline, a Chevy commercial is being shot in Wicker Park Saturday morning. This will also require parked cars to be removed and streets to be closed with the most significant being Milwaukee Ave. from North Ave. south to Evergreen and a few adjacent side streets around the actual Wicker Park.
Get those full details over at the Pipeline, along with some interesting questions Hauser is raising with her story, “Parking Alerts: Two Special Events (and one Chevy Commercial) Prompt Street Closures, Parking/Towing Alerts this Weekend.”