A Quick Update on the Bike Bridge Berny Blocked

IMG_0051
North Shore Channel Trail. Photo by John Greenfield.

The bike-pedestrian bridge connecting two sides of the North Shore Channel Trail near Lincoln and Peterson avenues is one piece of infrastructure I can’t wait to see completed. Its absence symbolizes the power of Chicago’s aldermen to obstruct improvements as the city grows its car-free transportation network.

Back in 2006, the Chicago Department of Transportation had funding and a design for the bridge, which would have allowed cyclists to safely transfer between paths on either side of the waterway without having to ride on busy Lincoln or Devon Street. But then-50th Ward Alderman Berny Stone put the kibosh on the span. First he argued that it was unsafe for cyclists to ride on the west side of the channel, behind a shopping center, and then he revealed that a new senior center was planned for the location and claimed it was dangerous for peds and bikes to share the path. Whatever his real motivation was, it was clear the bridge wasn’t going to get built as long as the feisty alderman held power.

464165586_15a7a4e681
Berny Stone. Photo by Allison Williams.

After Debra Silverstein defeated Stone in 2011, the new alderman expressed interest in building the structure, now ironically called the Stone Bridge by local bike advocates. But by that time CDOT had already used the funding for other projects, and a canoe launch had been built on the west side of the channel at the original proposed bridge site, so the agency had to go back to the drawing board.

Happily, last month the Illinois Department of Transportation announced that it is allocating $20 million in Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program funds to bike and ped projects in the region, including $979,600 for the bridge, which will be located just north of Lincoln at Hood Avenue. But today CDOT spokesman Pete Scales told me the there’s no timeline for construction yet and the agency still needs to secure a 20 percent local funding match. He added that the tentative plans also call for additional path work on the east side of the river and repairs to the canoe launch. Silverstein has said its unlikely she’ll use ward money for the bridge; CDOT project manager Janet Attarian previously mentioned the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as a possible funding source.

Once CDOT is ready to move forward there will be a public meeting to review the design. So the wait continues but the end is in sight, and I look forward to attending the ribbon cutting for the Stone Bridge, a reminder of how one misguided politician can stand in the way of progress for the entire city.

  • Anon

    $20? or $20 million?

  • Anonymous

    “Stone Bridge”? You gotta be kidding me. They *must* change that name

  • CL

    I actually love that it’s named Stone Bridge. Is it named after him specifically? Naming something he opposed in his honor would be funny, and also a small way to stick it to him for opposing it.

  • Anonymous

    While I support most ways of sticking it to that a-hole, naming the bridge after him is not a good one. People 50 years from now are going to think he championed the bridge or at the very least served his constituents well, where the opposite is the truth.

  • Don’t worry, CDOT is not calling it the Stone Bridge. That’s the nickname local advocates have given it. Sorry for the confusion; I’ve edited the post to reflect that.

  • Fred

    Great project! Now they need to improve the roadway between the Lakefront Path and it. I usually take Granville across, but the road surface is not terribly pleasant. I find myself out in the middle of the roadway to avoid long stretches of potholes and dangerous pavement.

  • Berwyn is a nice route west from the lakefront to the channel trail.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the clarification, John. I just don’t want to see anything named for that jackass ever. He was the epitome of the entitled machine alderman. I remember an investigation into the “menu” money a few years back (pretty sure it was Joravsky or Dumke at the Reader). Berny was using a big chunk of his to lease a town car and pay a full time driver.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. Low traffic, with nearly every intersection having either stop signs or a traffic light. Berwyn is an absolute delight to ride on.
    Only problem is getting from Sheridan to Broadway: You have to salmon for one block or go north on Sheridan, west on Catalpa, south on Winthrop, adding 3 blocks.

  • mcass777

    how cool would it be if one of the boat companies came up to Peterson? Imagine biking to the boat and heading downtown along the river.

  • Fred

    Thank, I will have to give that a try this year. What do you use for a return route?

  • The Chicago bike map shows a fairly circuitous eastbound route: E on Balmoral, S on Lincoln, E on Foster, N on Leavitt, E on Balmoral, S on Winthrop, E on Berwyn. Or you could just take Lawrence, which has bike lanes and sharrows the whole way.

  • Anonymous

    I think there are some pretty low bridges in the way. Fine for canoeing/kayaking, not so much for a bigger boat

  • Anonymous

    I would advice against using Lawrence, at least until the road diet between Western and Clark has been completed. Too busy, and four lanes between Western and Ashland.

    During the day time I have pretty much settled on Bryn Mawr. BrynMawr dead ends at Western, but you can continue through the Rosehill cemetery. (Bikes are not allowed, but I have never had any troubles. Just act respectful). You come out at Ravenswood and Rosehill. From there you can go south on Ravenswood to Balmoral and take that all the way to the lakefront

  • Fred

    When I first started riding up that way I used to take Lawrence, but the street is just too busy with too much traffic and feels sketchy in spots. Searching for an alternative to it is how I found Granville. Granville is mostly residential with stop signs and light traffic. It would be a perfectly pleasant ride if it weren’t for the terrible road surface in spots.

  • m.

    Imagine commuting morning via kayak & biking home at night! Might be worth contacting Chicago River Paddle (http://www.chicagoriverpaddle.com/) to see about multimodal tours!

  • jeff wegerson

    Damn. I was hoping to see the artist rendering of a stone bridge with arches and a keystone at the top.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

STREETSBLOG USA

Vancouver Set to Claim Another Bridge Lane for Active Transportation

|
In 2009, Vancouver converted a southbound car lane on the west side of the Burrard Bridge to a protected bikeway using concrete dividers, freeing up the sidewalk for pedestrians. On the east side, the city converted the existing sidewalk into a bike path. The three-month experiment defied predictions of carmageddon and became a permanent fixture. Thanks to the protected lane and […]

CDOT Previews Chicago’s Next Round of New Bikeways

|
The quarterly meetings of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council are a good place to get up to speed on Chicago’s latest bike developments. Wednesday’s meeting was no exception, with updates on bike lane construction, off-street trails, Divvy bike-share, and more. The sessions take place during business hours, but if your schedule allows you to attend, […]

“A New Bike Route” No Substitute for Safer Biking on Elston

|
Last month when Chicago Department of Transportation staffers discussed plans for buffered bike lanes on Elston between North and Webster at a meeting hosted by the North Branch Works industrial council, there was stiff resistance from local business owners. Although there’s currently a protected lane on the street from Division to North, and a fading […]