Construction Begins on Berteau Avenue Neighborhood Greenway

Construction of the Berteau Avenue neighborhood greenway
Contraflow cycling is now legal on Berteau Avenue.

Berteau Avenue from Lincoln Avenue to Clark Street is en route to becoming Chicago’s first neighborhood greenway. The project resembles a “bike boulevard,” allowing two-way bike traffic where car traffic is one-way only and adding traffic calming elements like curb extensions at intersections. Construction started in late August, a couple of months later than projected.

At many intersections, the city is now installing curb extensions with bioswales (landscaping that captures, stores, and filters runoff water, reducing the strain on sewers during storms), as well as signs saying “ONE WAY EXCEPT BIKES” and “DO NOT ENTER EXCEPT BIKES.” I spotted three people bicycling east on a westbound segment for car traffic this morning.

According to Alderman Ameya Pawar’s email newsletter last Friday, the final phase of construction will consist of a new bike signal at Damen Avenue for eastbound riders, and additional street markings, wayfinding signs, and “reduced speed” signs. The whole project, including resurfacing between Ravenswood and Ashland, should be completed by October.

On the block between Damen and Winchester, the speed limit is marked at 20 mph. The narrowed travel lanes should encourage people to drive at a safe speed regardless of the speed limit.

Construction of the Berteau Avenue neighborhood greenway
Several bioswales will collect stormwater runoff and store it before filtering it into the sewer.

The design also calls for the removal of stop signs for east-west traffic at Greenview Avenue and adding a traffic circle. Stop signs impair convenient travel by bike, so removing them is a key component of neighborhood greenways.

Residents kvetched about traffic diverters — another hallmark of bike boulevards, pioneered in Davis and Berkeley, California — that would have forced drivers to turn off Berteau while allowing bicyclists to keep going straight. This would have reduced “cut through” traffic on Berteau but the city abandoned the idea after encountering resistance.

Construction of the Berteau Avenue neighborhood greenway
The traffic island on Clark Street. ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/sets/72157635370783130##More photos##.

At Clark Street, a new refuge island allows eastbound bicyclists turning north onto Clark to make the turn in two stages, but also narrows the road, squeezing north-south bicyclists among automobiles, much like the Humboldt Drive road diet in Humboldt Park. Drivers, bus operators, and cyclists will have to merge into a single file line to pass by Berteau here. The island also makes room for a left-turn lane from northbound Clark onto westbound Berteau.

The Berteau project is the third location in the city with a contraflow bike lane — and, at eight blocks, the longest — following the two-block segment that’s been a longstanding feature at the north end of the Lakefront Trail on Ardmore Avenue, and last year’s one-block addition on Albion Avenue between Lakewood Avenue and Sheridan Road.

  • Erik Swedlund

    “The island also makes room for a left-turn lane from northbound Clark onto eastbound Berteau.” *westbound Berteau.

  • Erik Swedlund

    I rode through yesterday to check out the construction. Despite the “EXCEPT BIKES” signs (and a complete lack of cars), I didn’t feel comfortable enough to bike eastbound through the one-way segments while the lane markings are still absent.

  • Anonymous

    Will they install signals on Ashland? That was always the worst part of the trip for me.

  • There are already signals for both directions at Ashland. See Google Street View.
    http://goo.gl/maps/77wzO

  • I think I passed <10 cars in my roundtrip on Berteau, from Lincoln to Berteau.

  • Bus driver was complaining about the traffic island on Clark last week. Whatever! I wish there were more of those islands on Clark next to the cemeteries. It would slow down the speeding drivers.

    Next up: Leland Greenway I hope :)

  • This is the kind of traffic island I would go for: two on the sides.

    http://urbancommuter.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/2013-04-14-urban-commuter-ottawa-18.jpg

    Bikes go on the outside while two lanes of automobile traffic meet in the middle and have to pass each other. In Sweden.

  • Ah yes. I’ve seen it in France (mostly in small towns). The lane narrows to one lane and there is a sign that indicates which side has the right-of-way. Could get messy, probably why I only saw it in smaller towns.

  • Karen Kaz

    I must be the only cyclist that hates traffic circles at intersections that would typically be 4-way stops. In the summer they are either planted or weeds grow so tall that you can’t see across them. So you can’t see if a car has its turn signal on or not, and there is considerable doubt as to whether the car sees you at all. I end up feeling like I have to come to a full stop at them anyway just to be sure I won’t get hit by a turning car.

    It’s not that I’m opposed to them entirely, just that if they need to look pretty they should be planted with very low growing plants and the ones I encounter never are.

    Honestly, I don’t love contraflow bike lanes either – unless (and sometimes even if) they are heavily trafficked by bikes, you still encounter one of the major dangers you would if you illegally rode the wrong way down a one-way street: namely that cars pulling out of alleys, driveways, and intersecting streets aren’t expecting and may not even look for traffic coming from the “wrong” direction. As someone who almost got plastered by a car exiting a parking garage on Grand this morning (despite coming from the same direction as cars, being in a bike lane, and yelling my head off to try to get his attention), I have little hope in drivers’ ability to see us when we’re coming from *expected* directions — and even less so in contraflow lanes. But I’m willing to be convinced if they really are a good solution.

  • Yeah, I don’t seriously recommend it for Clark Street. On Humboldt Drive, it seems there’s slightly more room than what is on Clark Street so people will pass a bicyclist while driving – it’s not comfortable. Since I believe it’s narrower on Clark Street, I predict most drivers will form the single file line behind a bicyclist.

    I always forget to bring my measuring wheel…

  • Don’t most intersections with traffic circles already have 4-way/all-way stops?

    I prefer an intersection that has no stops, and that all those who approach the intersection in the roadway (not on the sidewalk) must yield to the person on the right.

  • Did you add your near-plaster to Close Calls?
    http://cc.stevevance.net

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I must’ve been thinking of another intersection. Is Berteau actuated or timed?

  • I used it today to get home. I usually skip the light (stopping first) at Southport and Clark (shhh) because it’s a T-intersection and it helps me get ahead of all the cars that end up racing down sharrow-laden Clark next to the cemetery.

    From what I experienced, it is too narrow for a car and a bike to go side-by-side. Maybe that is just because right now it’s got the construction equipment, but I feel like if the bike rider “takes the lane” here it won’t result in squeezing. There should be a pavement marking to show the bike rider going in the direct center of the lane.

  • Anonymous

    No stop signs cause vehicles to yield closer to the traffic circle and maintain that slow speed through the intersection. Instead of the pause and accelerate which happens with stop signs. One leads to higher speed at the approaching crosswalk, one leads to higher speed at the opposite crosswalk. In the end, there are trade offs, all of which would be irrelevant if traffic circles were wide enough to significantly reduce the width between roundabout and curb so that cars couldn’t just speed around them.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm, that makes me a little nervous about the new situation on Clark…hopefully it’s truly not wide enough for a car to try to squeeze.

  • Adam Herstein

    Many people driving cars have no idea what to do at the traffic circles in this city. When turning left, one is supposed to go counter-clockwise around the island, but many people just take a shortcut and go clockwise – even with the signs saying to stay right.

  • Adam Herstein

    I believe you’re thinking of Damen.

  • Adam Herstein

    My biggest gripe with this is that parking is still allowed, so there is still the possibility of getting doored – especially in the contra-flow lane. The best thing about riding the neighborhood greenways in Portland was the lack of parked cars on either side.

  • Lee Crandell

    Portland didn’t remove parking for its neighborhood greenways — they have parked cars too. It’s possible you were just on a low-density street where not many people park on the street or a street that is too narrow for parking. http://www.streetfilms.org/portlands-bike-boulevards-become-neighborhood-greenways/

  • Karen Kaz

    I agree – and I think the combination of stop signs plus the traffic circle (which I’ve never seen in any other city) make it all the more confusing. If people used them as true traffic circles, where you yield to traffic already in the circle, how to use them would make more sense, I think.

  • Karen Kaz

    I agree, I dislike the fact that the traffic circles also have two way stops. A traffic circle is, in and of itself, a way to regulate an intersection and adding stop signs just confuses cars as to how to behave.

    My complaint about the poor sight lines across the traffic circles I encounter is relevant whether or not there are stop signs. In either case, you can’t see the turn signals of the car opposite you, so you have to wait for them to get past the visual obstruction before you can proceed. If this weren’t the case, two vehicles (cars or bikes) going straight in opposite directions could traverse the intersection at the same time.

  • “My complaint about the poor sight lines across the traffic circles I encounter is relevant whether or not there are stop signs.”

    I agree, and this is one of many reasons that traffic circles are not ideal traffic calming strategies. Another gripe is that drivers will turn left in front of the traffic circle instead of turning right around it.

    I think a better solution would be to narrow the openings (street legs) of the intersection with curb extensions on all 8 corner parts. See this video for a related example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA&list=TLKpWeIAVMT0Q

  • What you described is a roundabout. Traffic circles are mere circle-shaped pieces of concrete that you drive around, not in.

  • Right, I biked on Going Street and there were very few cars parked on that bike boulevard. I guess they were either in the driveway, in the alley, on a different street, at work, or the household didn’t own a car.

  • That’s why bikes should get a leading light like pedestrians do at some intersections. Gives time to establish a place in the lane.

  • Karen Kaz

    I agree, those would be great – although the traffic circles I encounter are on much smaller roads than your example. (I’m talking primarily about many of the residential streets in Edgewater, Andersonville, and Rogers Park since that’s where I have lived.) The ones on Granville are currently bugging me something fierce.

  • Karen Kaz

    Interesting distinction. I had never thought of there being a difference – for me I thought of “traffic circle” vs “roundabout” as more regional colloquialisms rather than actual different structures. Thanks. :)

  • Agreed – there should be a center green stripe, like Salt Lake City does.

    I’m gonna go back and measure Clark Street, but I measured the Humboldt Drive lane width to be 15’11” between the curb and the traffic island. That’s technically enough for a car and a bike to be side by side, but still wide enough for people to drive fast past you.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/75698896@N00/4993411474/

  • All signalized intersections with Berteau are timed. Very few signals in Chicago are actuated. The ones that are, though, are not bicycle or pedestrian friendly. For example, the intersections with Lake Shore Drive. Many times the buttons are too far away to reach:

    1. LSD/Jackson: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/6983559478/

    2. Ashland/35th: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/5000485246/

  • Anonymous

    I guess the comparison to Humboldt is what concerns me. That street is not bikeable as far as I’m concerned. But this sounds like maybe just a small stretch of “one lane” traffic before widening again to allow bikes and cars to co-exist?

  • Your observations are accurate: Humboldt Drive is not very comparable to Clark Street. I was comparing only their traffic islands. The width between the island and the curb is wide enough such that a driver can pass a bicyclist in the single lane here, but it’s not comfortable for the bicyclist.

    It appears that the lane width between the island and curb on Clark Street is not (effectively) wide enough for a driver to pass a bicyclist. The problems with Humboldt Drive surmount the issues presented at this island on Clark Street.

  • BerteauAveResident

    Guess what people? Berteau is a road made for vehicles! You are all spoiled brats and making life miserable for residents. I will see you on Berteau with tennis balls to throw at you fools, and even then, it will only be in the summer because your bicycle gets rusty for 9 months out of the year. This is Chicago. Deal with it.
    PS- Why do you care, anyway? Most of you don’t even follow traffic laws. Keep blowing stop signs. I actually like almost running you over.

  • Adam Herstein

    Roundabouts are usually built for higher speed and the entrances are curved to allow easier access.

  • PaulaBL

    The narrowing of Clark at Berteau makes me really nervous. The cars and bikes expect there to be enough room for both and suddenly there isn’t. I was unclear today whether the cars were expected to squeeze in with me or wait behind me. Luckily the car waited… today.

  • Now that I’ve had the chance to use it more I agree. Initially all the construction stuff narrowed the lane, but now it looks wide enough to drivers, and it isn’t. I’ve seen a few close calls in the morning. Makes me nervous.

  • studio murmur

    Lovin’ it!

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