Marshall Bike Lanes Are Getting Correct Signs Seven Months After Installation

Marshall Boulevard parking+bike lanes
Looking north on Marshall Boulevard last April; Cars are parked in the bike lanes.

In November, Chicago Department of Transportation crews installed bike lanes on Marshall Boulevard from Sacramento Drive in Douglas Park to 24th Boulevard in Little Village, near Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy. On most of this stretch the lanes are protected by parked cars on the west side of the street; to make room for the protected lanes, car parking was removed from the east side.

However, CDOT didn’t remove signs for rush hour parking restrictions along Marshall, and they didn’t install “No Parking” signs on the east side of the street, or “bike lane” signs anywhere. As a result, drivers have been parking in the bike lanes, making them unusable. There have been periodic ticketing stings, the latest on June 9, which have understandably upset local residents since there are no signs to inform them that parking in the lanes is illegal.

Dan Korn, who lives in The Hub, a co-op building on Marshall owned by bike advocates, has exchanged several emails with Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein since November in an effort to fix the problem. “I’m worried that the way this is being handled by the city is just making things worse for cyclists in the neighborhood,” Korn wrote Klein in November. “I was already yelled at on my ride to work this morning by someone whose car had been towed.” Klein responded immediately saying, “I am asking my team to jump on this to prevent any further damage. The signs must go in with the install, or this is what happens.”

Five days after I contacted CDOT for an update on the situation, I have yet to receive a response, but here’s an update that Korn sent me today:

They replaced the signage last week. It all seems to be properly marked now. Today they were out installing plastic bollards. People are mostly honoring the parking restrictions, at least south of Cermak, but north of Cermak there are still cars parked in the bike lanes on both sides. The pavement under the Metra tracks is still in really bad shape, although there are some new white and orange striped barriers there, so hopefully they’ll fix that soon.

Korn noted last week that “some better dissemination of information to the neighborhood would be great.”

Insufficient public outreach by CDOT and 24th Ward Alderman Michael Chandler led to a backlash from residents on nearby Independence Boulevard after they were surprised to see new parking-protected bike lanes on their street last fall and began receiving tickets for parking curbside. Chandler, who had signed off on the design months earlier, responded to the outcry by demanding that CDOT remove the protected lanes; the department agreed to convert them to buffered lanes, and did so in January.

Potholes in the Marshall Boulevard bike lane
Potholes in the Marshall Boulevard bike lanes underneath the Metra tracks. Last week CDOT said staff would look at fixing these when crews come out to replace the signs.

To prevent this cycle of confused drivers parking in protected bike lanes, ticketing and backlash from residents, CDOT needs to do a better job of clarifying where people should and shouldn’t park. Labeling the new floating parking lanes with paint, thermoplastic letters, or temporary signage such as sandwich boards identifying the new parking lanes, plus better outreach, like flyers on cars instead of tickets, could make a big difference in encouraging compliance. These strategies could also help foster a more positive attitude towards bike infrastructure from non-cyclists, so protected bike lanes won’t be downgraded or removed in the future.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe if CDOT hires a new Chief of Staff they could make this kind of communication and community outreach a priority? I’m still really surprised that they aren’t required to alert residents or business owners in advance when the infrastructure around their locations will be getting such a big change. Regardless of how you feel about bike lanes (pro! more of them, everywhere!) the idea of just coming in and making their changes unannounced certainly carries on that nasty stigma of “Chicago Government, Doing Whatever The Hell We Want”.

  • SafeBikeways

    They Do. Pay attention

  • Very few people attended the meeting that Alderman Chandler held about the Independence Boulevard bike lane. That’s one reason why the residents didn’t like what they got: it really was a surprise.

  • A lot of the meetings between CDOT and alderman, and the alderman and constituents, happen without much notice to people who don’t religiously follow their alderman activities. I don’t recall Active Transportation Alliance, which participated in the meeting with Chandler, announcing the meeting with Chandler and his constituents on their calendar on blog. (In fact, I can’t find the alderman’s name mentioned anywhere on their site.)

    I follow most alderman on Twitter. I subscribe to the email newsletters of half a dozen alderman. Their email newsletters in order to stay apprised of upcoming meetings.

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