Thanks to Bill Smith from Evanston Now
Diagonal parking spaces in the 500 block of Davis Street — empty late Tuesday evening — but in high demand, merchants say, for restaurant customer parking earlier in the day.
Some merchants are objecting to plans for a bike lane in the 500 block of Davis Street in downtown Evanston because it will eliminate diagonal parking there — reducing by 10 the number of on-street parking spaces.
Ted Mavrakis, who owns Giordano’s pizza at one corner of the block and owns the building housing Todoroki, said there are five restaurants on the block, “and that creates a very serious situation for parking.”
Mavrakis said half of his business comes from customers who pickup a pizza at his restaurant, and they want to park very close to the door.
“I have another store in Morton Grove, and the pickup business there is twice as large as in Evanston, because I have pickup parking there,” Mavrakis said.
He suggested that the city could solve the parking problem by purchasing the now-vacant lot around the corner at 1515 Chicago Ave. and using it for parking — an idea that didn’t win any takers among aldermen concerned about what that solution might cost.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested the bike lane could be moved a block or two south — to Grove or Lake streets.
“We need to be mindful that we get revenue from these busineses,” Fiske said, “and what they’re saying is that the loss of those 10 spaces would have a dramatic negative impact on their business.”
But Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward said the City Council had already voted last year to do — going eastbound on Church and west back on Davis.
And Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said the bike route, which is intended to extend from McCormick Boulevard to the lakefront is importatn to regional bike plans.
“Skokie talking about extending their bike path on Church Street to meet with ours, and once you get to McCormick you’ll be able to go almost anywhere,” Grover added.
Aldeman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward said she agrees with the idea of completing the two-way bike loop.
“I see more and more people using it on Church Street,” she said. Wynne suggested that city staff reexamine the streets adjoining the block to see if any additional parking spaces could be squeezed into those. “Look at all the loading zones to see if they’re still being used. Make sure we’re not wasting some space.”
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said, “It’s critically important to make sure we have a safe route for bikes.”
Wilson, a cyclist himself, said he initially didn’t favor protected bike lanes, but has come to believe they play an important role in providing a safe option for riders to commute and shop downtown.
“We want to keep moving cars and bikes from coming into contact,” Wilson said. He conceded that cyclists could still be “doored” by a passenger getting out of a car, “but it minimizes the risk of a more serious incident — you’re not falling into a lane of moving traffic where you’ll be killed.”
The bike lane also drew support from one speaker during the council’s public comment session. Natalie Watson of 820 Oakton St., said the bike lane will attract more young people to dine at downtown restaurants.
She suggested the on-street parking problem is caused by the city under-pricing on-street parking.
“If you charged a makret price for parking,” Watson said, “more people would park in the garages and people would walk, cycle and take mass transit more.”
Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said Davis Street in the 500 block is narrower than it is in the rest of downtown and that to have any room for a bike lane at all, the diagonal parking would have to be eliminated.
The aldermen, under pressure to act soon on the Davis Street repaving project to be able to get it completed during this year’s construction season, voted to ask staff to come up with alternatives for the 500 block of Davis for next Monday’s City Council meeting, but move forward with seeking bids for the overall project.