Tagstrip mall

Milwaukee Avenue versus Elston Avenue

I moved to Avondale (north of Logan Square) in the final weekend of January 2011. I didn’t want to abandon Bridgeport but I didn’t want to find a new roommate and a great opportunity opened up. I miss Bridgeport.

So now my daily riding to friends’ houses, bars, clubs, UIC, or the library, happens most often on Milwaukee Avenue. Both are diagonal streets but I live 1.6 kilometers from Milwaukee Avenue and 350 meters from Elston Avenue. To be more efficient, I should more often ride on Elston Avenue.

So why do I prefer Milwaukee Avenue? In response to a thread on The Chainlink, “Milwaukee v. Elston,” I posted a photo essay with each photo documenting and describing problems that collectively are unique to Elston Avenue. The series starts with a photo of the Ashland/Elston/Armitage intersection and moves northbound through the Elston Avenue Strip Mall Zoo* ending at Diversey and Western Avenues.

Riding through this intersection is like being a gazelle in a savannah with hungry lions. At least for 340 feet. There are so many opportunities to get hit by a car, especially going northbound right before reaching Ashland Avenue (not pictured).

View the rest of the photos in “Why I don’t like riding on Elston.”

*Strip malls are terrible urban design. They’re inhospitable to everyone, even those who drive. At some point every visitor will be walking through a parking lot to get to the front door, risking life and limb, breathing fumes, and walking through leaked automobile oil.

Afterword: The Chicago bike crash map shows few crashes on Elston Avenue relative to Milwaukee Avenue. But the number of people cycling on Elston Avenue is unknown – we cannot make a comparison.

Diversity in business and buildings

One of Jane Jacobs’ key points in her works tells about the need for diversity in neighborhoods: choices and options in housing, jobs, natural and gathering spaces, and entertainment. As lives and lifestyles change, people aren’t forced to move or move out. Urbanophile touched on that in part two of “Building Suburbs That Last.”

This should sound familiar to you since it is exactly how Jane Jacobs described a healthy city neighborhood. She says it better than I ever could: “Flourishing diversity anywhere in a city means the mingling of high-yield, middling-yield, low-yield and no yield enterprises.” And, “Time makes the high building costs of one generation the bargains of a following generation. Time pays off original capital costs, and this depreciation can be reflected in the yields required from a building. Time makes certain structures obsolete for some enterprises, and they become available to others.”

“Turnover Plaza,” a photo by PJ Chmiel.

I don’t believe that Jane’s discussions will convince any banker, economist or developer. For those arguments, you’ll have to refer to the rest of Aaron’s article on how smart, commercial land use development occurs in order to create sustainable suburbs. You should refer to paragraphs like:

If you having nothing but high value buildings, no one but national chains can afford to invest. If you have nothing but low value buildings, no one wants to. It is important to have a mixture of buildings, supporting a mixture of uses, mixture of high, medium and lower values uses, and both national chains (which bring much good with them) and indigenous business. It is this diversity that again helps to mitigate against the failure of any one element. And also provides room for the local business that is both committed to the town and a source of at least some independent economic life.

Where else does diversity give an advantage?

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