City installs speed humps, concrete islands to stop donut-spinning drivers at Loop intersection

A video screen grab shows spectators surrounded by a ring of fire as a drag racer prepares to drive donuts around the flames on Lower Wacker Drive on May 1, 2022. | Provided

CHICAGO — One year after stunt drivers spun donuts around a crowd of spectators encircled by a ring of fire in downtown Chicago, the city has installed “traffic calming” measures at the intersection, an alderman announced Friday.

Video of the stunt went viral, raising awareness of the increasingly popular car “sideshows” that have popped up across Chicago with greater frequency. At some of the events, spectators stomped on CPD and state police patrol cars and fired pyrotechnics at officers who intervened in the events this summer.

Now, the city has installed several anti-donut measures at one Loop intersection that Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said they are a direct result of the “ring of fire” incident.

Newly-installed bollards, concrete islands, and speed humps are designed to stop donut-spinning sideshows at Columbus and South Water. | Ald. Brendan Reilly

In an email to his constituents on Friday, Reilly said he asked the Chicago Department of Transportation’s traffic engineers to study the intersection after the firey fiasco. They came back with a host of “anti-drifting infrastructure” ideas.

CDOT installed eight bollards, two concrete islands, and a speed hump to prevent future “drifting incidents” at the intersection, the alderman wrote in the email, which included a photo of the completed work.

Last fall, the Chicago Police Department quietly introduced a “Tire Deflation Devices Pilot Program” to help officers combat the stunt drivers who have repeatedly tied up intersections with their sometimes hour-long donut-spinning performances. But there has been no known use of the spike strip program.

The city council last year gave police the authority to impound cars that participate in sideshows, also known as “drifting.” Some vehicles have been seized, and a few arrests have been made. But since many of the drivers obstruct their license plates—or remove them entirely—before performing, the law’s effectiveness is questionable.

Chicago is not the only city to try curbing sideshows with creative infrastructure. After donut spinners shut down an important intersection outside Las Vegas, interrupting fuel deliveries to Sin City, the Nevada Department of Transportation crews carved rumble strips across the entire intersection of Grand Valley Parkway and U.S. Highway 93 at the cost of $70,000.

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