Alderman Brendan Reilly submitted an order to city council on Wednesday that would compel Chicago Department of Transportation Rebekah Scheinfeld to remove the Kinzie Street protected bike lane between Dearborn and the Chicago River because he says it conflicts with Wolf Point construction truck traffic.
— Brendan Reilly (@AldReilly) April 17, 2015
In 2013, under former commissioner Gabe Klein, CDOT agreed to a development plan [PDF], which was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and codified into law. The plan called for Hines, the Wolf Point developer, to pay for installing temporary protected bike lanes on Grand Avenue, Illinois Street, and Wells Street, before the temporary removal of the Kinzie Street bike lanes to facilitate the construction project.
In the long term, it makes sense for there to be bike lanes on both Grand Avenue – already identified as a “Crosstown Bike Route” in the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 – and Kinzie Street. In a petition asking other aldermen to oppose Reilly’s order, the Active Transportation Alliance wrote, “Ald. Reilly has proposed installing a new bike lane on Grand Avenue as an alternative, but the reality is people will continue to bike on Kinzie because it is less stressful than Grand Avenue with fewer cars and no buses, not to mention it provides the most logical and direct connection to the central business district.”
CDOT appears to have changed its position about the development plan. Spokesman Mike Claffey stressed the importance of the Kinzie bike lane in a statement to Streetsblog:
“CDOT has safety concerns about removing the protected bike lane on Kinzie, which is the second most popular street for bicycling in Chicago. The protected bike lane is in place to reduce conflicts and the risk of accidents between bicyclists, motor vehicles, and pedestrians. We have been in discussions with the Alderman about these concerns and will continue to work with him on this issue.”
Specifically, the development plan, identified as Planned Development 98, calls for:
- Temporary removal of the protected bike lanes on Kinzie from Dearborn to Milwaukee
- Eastbound and westbound PBLs on Grand from Milwaukee to Wells
- Westbound PBL on Grand from Dearborn to Wells
- Eastbound PBL on Illinois from Wells to Dearborn
- “An improved bicycle accommodation on Wells Street for cyclists traveling, between Grand Avenue and Illinois Street”
The Kinzie bike lane is indeed important, but it’s unclear why Scheinfeld is now pushing back against the plan. Reilly told City Council that Scheinfeld cited an internal study that supported keeping the bike lane on Kinzie. We asked for a copy of this report but Claffey said he didn’t have a copy. The development plan also says that all of the developer’s designs for these temporary bicycle accommodations are subject to Scheinfeld’s departmental review.
Another oddity in this tussle is that Reilly’s order calls for removing too much of the Kinzie bike lane, from Dearborn Street west to the Chicago River, some of which would have little truck traffic because it’s in the central business district. The protected bike lane continues west of the Chicago River to Milwaukee Avenue and Desplaines Street, which the development plan would remove, but not Reilly’s order.
CDOT could propose maintaining bike access on Kinzie Street through the construction project, which started over a year ago. If that’s not feasible, and the bike lane must come out, they should bring back their support for the original plan that temporarily removes the Kinzie bike lane to Grand. There’s emphasis on “temporary” because Kinzie is a direct and necessary route between the popular bike lane on Milwaukee and bike lanes on Desplaines, Canal, Dearborn, and Wells.