The Logan Square Lane Puzzle

Last weekend, Liz and I were driving around Logan Square and came upon a realization. There’s this particularly tricky spot at the intersection of Logan and Milwaukee, when you’re headed East on Logan. Liz and I both had very different ideas of what lane was supposed to go where.

First, here’s a quick peek at what the view looks like:

From this viewpoint, you’re on Logan Boulevard facing East, about to cross over Milwaukee. We’re doing this a bit backwards, and talking about destinations first. There are four different options here: hard left, soft left, soft right, hard right.

Hard Left: A hard left turn takes you onto Milwaukee Avenue (you would be parallel to the crosswalk). There are two lanes here.

Soft Left: A soft left turn takes you onto a curve, which brings you almost 180 degrees onto Logan, facing the other direction. This is the stretch of road where the blue truck is parked. There are three lanes here.

Soft Right: A soft right continues you East, down Logan Boulevard. This is the stretch of road directly behind the pedestrian. There are two lanes here.

Hard Right: A hard right takes you onto the outer lane of Logan Boulevard. This is the stretch of road with the cars parked along them. There is one lane here.

Right! Now that we’ve got the destinations and the options down, let’s have a look at those lanes!

Here’s the big question: Where is each lane allowed to go?

To help talk about the lanes, I’ve named them on this map as: Lane 1, Lane 2, Lane 3, and Lane 4. I’ve also marked down the possible options for each lane, using a naming convention of Option 1, Option 2, etc.

Here is my theory:

Lane 1 can only turn left (there is a left-turn arrow printed on the lane). So it can only turn onto Milwaukee. That’s it.
Lane 2can turn onto the three-lane road. It can also go straight ahead, onto Logan Boulevard.
Lane 3 is locked into the two-lane road, and specifically locked in to the right lane.
Lane 4 is supposed to be for the single lane, the outer Boulvard with the parked cars.

Here’s Liz’s theory:

Lane 1 can only turn left onto Milwaukee (we agree on this).
Lane 2 can only turn onto the three-lane road.
Lane 3 has two options. Turn hard left onto the three-lane road and take the far right lane. Or, continue down Logan Boulevard in the left lane.
Lane 4 has the option of continuing on Logan Boulevard (the two-lane road), in the right Lane. Or, it can turn onto the outer Boulevard (with the parked cars).

When we’re driving around this route, we’re typically sitting in Lane 3. In my model, I usually continue down Logan Boulevard (the two-lane road) and stay in the right lane. This causes problems if the guy in Lane 4 also wants to do the same.

In Liz’s model, she would normally continue down Logan Boulevard (the two-lane road) and stay in the left lane. The only problems that arise would be if the car in Lane 2 competed for the same lane: three-lane road, far right or two-lane road, far left (which is pretty unlikely).

In looking at the top-down Google view, Liz convinced me over to her point of view. But I have to say – on the ground, sitting in a car in Lane 3… I feel like my approach is the right way.

If you’ve made it this far, consider me amazed. I imagine this would only be of interest for Chicago folks (and Logan Square folks in particular).

I love the fact that Google Maps allows me to indulge in this level of geekery. It’s fantastic.

So… which lanes get to go where?

I secretly hope that someone who’s got a background in city planning, or knows way more about traffic rules will see this and answer my question. In the meanwhile, I’m curious to hear anyone else’s theory. Do you like Liz’s approach? Mine? Or are we both completely wrong?

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. There’s another option, but having not driven the intersection I don’t know if it works practically. There are five directions you can go as Logan approaches Milwaukee (including the right onto Milwaukee). Conveniently there are five lanes. Therefore, each lane gets a direction. Lane 1 gets Milwaukee left. Lane 2 gets Logan left. Lane 3 gets Logan right (express?). Lane 4 gets Logan right (local?). Lane 5 gets Milwaukee right.

    Now it’s common that lanes approaching a lane split get a choice, so I think it’d be reasonable to assume that Lane 3 gets to choose Logan left in addition to Logan right express. For this same reason, Lane 4 can choose between Logan right express and Logan right local. This is Liz’s theory.

    Another way to look at this is that there are three lanes (2-4) that split into 6 lanes. Therefore do an even split. Lane 2 gets the first two lanes of Logan left. Lane 3 gets the third Logan left and the first Logan right express. Lane 4 gets the second Logan right express and Logan right local. This is Liz’s theory again expressed a little more formally.


    So, in short, your wife is right. Get used to it.

    I have a friend who’s into road-sleuthing which has elements of your analysis, but includes deciphering road history (previous routes (alignments in road geek lingo), etc). He blogs about his explorations. Here’s one of my favorite road geek posts: If you like it, be sure to check them all out. Very cool stuff.

    Aaron Moman Reply

  2. Here’s what I think…I agree with you Felix, tho I’m not sure about access to the Logan service drive on the right. I believe on the ground the lane markings for Lanes 2 & 3 follow Logan east.

    It’s absurd to have 3 lanes of traffic on the left soft curve, but the whole configuration around the Square is absurd (tho somewhat improved in the last year or so with better lane striping.

    Challenge: See how many times it takes you to find route around the circle (Square) that does not require you to change lanes.

    Challenge: See if you can go westbound on Logan through to Sawyer without changing lanes.

    Challenge: See if you can go eastbound on Wrightwood (Logan’s name west of the Square) through to Albany without changing lanes.

    Challenge: See if you can go southbound on Kedzie through to Linden without changing lanes.

    That should keep people busy for an afternoon.

    Bike riders challenged by configuration even more so due to unpredictable car lane changes.Pedestrians challenged as there is only one direct crossing to the Square (on the north side). Every other crossing requires at least two road crossings, thus a minimum of three road crossings to continue on your way.

    There have been efforts to address these problems for years. One idea is “squaring” the Square, or making the configuration rectangular rather than circular so that people have to make 90 degree turns around the Square. This includes the idea of closing Milwaukee Avenue between eastbound Logan on the south and westbound Logan on the north so that the Square (circle) becomes a rectangle.

    Whether or not the Square is squared, I believe Milwaukee Avenue between the two Logans will eventually be closed making the Square an oval.

    Also, plans are already in the works to close the far right slip lane you write of and make it part of a plaza to the south. This would make your Lane 4 the only lane to turn right onto Milwaukee. (For more on that, see

    You’re far from the only one to notice the lane puzzle here. Reply

  3. When I first started driving around Logan Square ages ago, this little stretch of road would confuse my friends and me so much!! We would also sometimes get stuck in the roundabout, at which point we’d make the necessary National Lampoon’s jokes. “Look kids! Big Ben!” It’s a weird stretch of road for sure.

    Marty J. Christopher Reply

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