Scary rumors trafficking in Hyde Park

By LINDSAY WELBERS
Staff Writer

Some Hyde Parkers heard quite a scary story this Halloween.

Rumors started flying that the University of Chicago and the South East Chicago Commission were planning to block all vehicular traffic from 53rd Street.

The SECC’s 53rd Street Twitter feed, @HydePark53, tweeted Thursday afternoon “How would you feel if east 53rd Street was closed off to drivers. Pedestrians and bikes only. #hydeparkchicago #trafficstudy.”

The SECC is currently doing a study of traffic patterns in Hyde Park.

Responses to the tweet were largely negative, with one comparing it to former Mayor Jane Byrne’s turned State Street from Wacker to Congress into a pedestrian mall in the 1980s, a move deemed an economic failure.

Wendy Walker Williams, executive director of the SECC, and Calmetta Coleman, Director of Communications for Civic Engagement Office at the University of Chicago, both flatly denied that there are any plans to close 53rd Street to traffic.

“We do not endorse and we have not vetted any ideas like this,” Williams said.

An image shared by @HydePark53 showed a view looking north west from the south east corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue with cobblestone streets, pedestrians and bicyclists but no cars, was also not authorized by the SECC or the university.

“This image is no reflection of any idea shared or considered for 53rd street from the parking and traffic study,” Williams said.

Coleman called the suggestion “very unlikely.”

Williams said the man who manages the @HydePark53 twitter feed attempted on his own to start a conversation and the rendering was something that he found using a Google Image search.

“He independently thought it would be a great source of conversation,” Williams said.

The traffic study the SECC is conducting would look at creating a “pedestrian friendly” street. Williams said she would compare it to Ellis Avenue.

l.welbers@hpherald.com