CDOT Reveals Plans for Chicago’s First Raised Bike Lane on Roosevelt Road

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CDOT rendering of Roosevelt streetscape, looking east from Wabash.

At a community meeting Tuesday at Columbia College, Chicago Department of Transportation Project Director Janet Attarian outlined plans for the new Roosevelt Road streetscape from State Street to Columbus Drive. The project will include a groundbreaking new segment of sidewalk-level, two-way bicycle lane, part of a bike-friendly route to and from the lakefront. The info session, hosted by aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd) and Will Burns (4th), also covered CDOT’s proposal for a new protected bike lane on State Street from 18th Street to 26th Street in Bronzeville – we’ll have a report on that project soon.

The new sidewalk bikeway, which Attarian referred to as a “sidepath,” will be built on the north side of Roosevelt between Wabash Street and Indiana Avenue, connecting with multiuse paths through Grant Park. The streetscape project will also include pedestrian improvements and high-capacity bus shelters.

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Street layout from State to Wabash.

Earlier this year, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein told Streetsblog that the department planned to install a raised lane within the next year, so it’s good to see this is coming to fruition, even if it’s only for a block-and-a-half. If this pilot is successful, it would presumably lead to longer stretches of raised lanes in the future.

As part of the streetscape, existing bike lanes on Roosevelt between State and Wabash, uncomfortably situated between bus lanes and travel lanes, will basically stay in the same configuration but will be painted green to increase visibility. At Wabash, eastbound cyclists will need to make a two-stage crossing to get to the bike lanes on the north sidewalk. CDOT would like to add special pavement markings to facilitate this move, but since Roosevelt is a state road, it may be difficult to convince the Illinois Department of Transportation to allow these, Attarian said.

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Street layout from Wabash to Michigan.

Riding east in the sidewalk lane, cyclists will cross Michigan Avenue, then continue half a block on the north sidewalk to Indiana. At that point, they will turn left and head a block north through Grant Park to the existing 11th Street bike-and-pedestrian bridge. From there they’ll continue southeast to the lakefront via a series of paths and tunnels under Columbus and Lake Shore Drive.

The entire route from Wabash to the lake, while bike-friendly, will be fairly circuitous. Attarian said continuing the sidewalk lanes east of Indiana on Roosevelt, which would have been more direct, would have required widening the sidewalk, which wasn’t considered an option due to IDOT’s car capacity requirements and structural issues with a bridge over Metra tracks west of Columbus. Rather than take the meandering new offstreet route, experienced cyclists may prefer to simply continue pedaling east in the street on Roosevelt to Columbus, where they can pick up a short path to the lakefront at the northeast corner of the intersection.


View Roosevelt sidewalk bike lanes and onstreet route in a larger map

Proposed bike-friendly, circuitous route to lakefront using sidewalk bike lanes (blue) and existing, more direct route (red).

The streetscape is very much a hybrid project, with the road configuration varying from block to block. Attarian says the new configuration on Roosevelt will better accommodate high pedestrian traffic during special events. For example, during a roughly two-hour period following a Bears game, CDOT counted some 3,000 people walking on the north sidewalk of Roosevelt near Michigan. These throngs often spill into the street, creating a hazardous situation, she said.

To make more room for wider sidewalks on Roosevelt, travel lanes between State and Michigan, currently 11 to 13 feet wide, will be narrowed to 10 to 11 feet. Between State and Wabash, CDOT will widen the sidewalks, currently 10 to 11 feet, expanding them to 15.5 feet on each side of the street. On the same block, 13-foot curbside bus/turn lanes, which get relatively high use, will be retained.

However, between Wabash and Michigan the bus/turn lanes get little traffic, so they will be eliminated to make room for expanding the north sidewalk to over 32 feet. The new space will include a 14.4-foot-sidewalk, eight feet for the two-way bike lane, and a 10-foot parkway, which will house a large bus shelter. CDOT will also add a median with trees on the east half of this block, capped by a pedestrian refuge island at Michigan.

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Street layout from Michigan to Indiana.

The city is proposing to build a mid-block crosswalk between State and Wabash at the entrance to the Roosevelt ‘L’ station, but Attarian acknowledged that IDOT may frown on this. State law dictates that motorists must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, and IDOT may fear that the new crosswalk could cause traffic back-ups. “We do feel that [the crosswalk] is really important to accommodate the pedestrian movement, but we also want to make sure that it’s a safe solution,” she said. With or without a designated crosswalk, pedestrians who are currently crossing will continue to do so, but it’s good to hear CDOT is paying attention to existing desire lines.

While the new route, including the sidewalk bike lanes, could be great for ushering less confident cyclists, such as tourists on Divvy bikes, to the lake, sidepath design requires special attention to cyclists’ safety at intersections. To reduce conflicts with motorists, CDOT should install bike-specific traffic signals and make sure there is plenty of space between the marked stop bars for cars and the intersection crossings for bikes. The CDOT renderings show that these crossings will feature green pavement; perhaps LED lighting could also be embedded in the asphalt to further remind drivers of the presence of cyclists.

  • Anonymous

    They need to just take it to the corner of columbus and roosevelt….

  • Anonymous

    Even though it doesn’t look like much, I say that it is a great step forward.

    Remember, the Dearborn bike lane didn’t even exist a year ago. Now there is conversation about similar two way cycle track development in other locations.
    I would not be surprised if a few years from now we’ll see numerous raised bikelanes.

  • Chicagio

    I wish they could but i don’t see a way they can do it without making modifications to the bridge.

  • Chicagio

    Great reporting, as always.
    Quick question… The blue line on the satellite image, is that something CDOT discussed or are you just indicating a potential route to the lakefront?
    Personally, i see most bikers just proceeding east on the north sidewalk along Roosevelt once they get east of Michigan (like everyone does already). Due to the very high speeds of vehicles in this stretch (connecting LSD and the dan ryan) all but the hardiest of bikers will ride on the sidewalk to get to the tunnel under Columbus. This is a tough area because of the high amounts of pedestrian, bike, and auto traffic.

  • Anonymous

    Roosevelt does not need three westbound lanes from Columbus to Michigan.

  • Wow, this is awesome. I hope it’s successful. I don’t really know how well a block-and-a-half pilot is going to work out (I think longer pilots, like Dearborn’s lanes, are more representative), but it’s great to see this happening on a street that is normally so awful for non-drivers like Roosevelt.

  • Tell that to IDOT.

  • Most of the credit goes to freelancer Kristen Maddox, who attended the meeting.

    That’s the route that Janet Attarian outlined to me but, you’re right, a lot of people will simply continue east from Indiana on the north sidewalk of Roosevelt to the path at Columbus.

  • Adam Herstein

    It’s great to see this kind of cycle track going in. I wish it was a bit longer, but hopefully that will come soon enough.

  • Given the current interference IDOT imposes on cities and their ability to decide for themselves the type of street designs they can build, I think the bike lane should be widened by 1 foot, taking 1 foot from the adjacent general purpose lane. However, this 1 foot would not widen the green bike lane but add double lines (solid lines, in rules of the road parlance, mean avoid crossing, while double lines mean do not cross). While the police may not enforce this, the visual indication might.

    Anyway’s here’s the Streetmix profile for Roosevelt between State and Wabash proposal and the one for Roosevelt between Wabash and Michigan for your enjoyment. When you make your own Streetmix, post it here.

  • Anonymous

    The rendering above shows it effectively going down to two lanes between indiana and michigan anyways, so they should just do it that way the whole way. instead, they’ve created a bottleneck, that will probably considerably worsen traffic. The left turn lane to columbus doesn’t need to go the whole block, shorten it, move the median over, and put in a left turn pocket to indiana from roosevelt. Problems all solved.

  • Anonymous

    or maybe I misread the way they have that right turn lane marked and its actually still three lanes. still, that’s unnecessary if you just put in a dedicated left turn pocket 3 or 4 cars deep at indiana.

  • Robert Smith

    What Chicago is doing right now is an inspiration for the rest of the country Very aggressive implementation of bike infrastructure

  • Thanks for commenting, Robert Smith. Some people do think Chicago’s bike infrastructure is “Just Like Heaven.” Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  • Roland Solinski

    As I suspected earlier, IDOT is treating the raised bike lanes as a streetscaping element, so they are not opposing CDOT’s plans.

    There are a lot of people crossing mid-block at the Roosevelt station, but hopefully the new auxiliary entrance on the south side of the street will cut down on that eventually. Better signage and wayfinding inside the station could help riders take the right exit to board their bus, rather than having to jaywalk.

  • Chicagio

    Was there any mention of connecting this to the skate park planned just north of Roosevelt, east of agora? Perhaps more bikers would detour to the 11th street bridge if there was some sort of dedicated route incorporated into this park that made it more desirable for a bike to head north for a little bit rather than share the sidewalk east with pedestrians.

  • Chicagio

    One more thing I really like about this plan is the routine improper lane usage of vehicles going straight from turn lanes (especially when traveling east at Michigan) should be eliminated. Well done, CDOT.

  • Yes, although the map I created shows the route to the 11th Street bridge taking an existing sidewalk, Attarian said the park district will be building a new bike path connecting the Roosevelt sidewalk bike lanes to the bridge as part of the skate park project, although she didn’t know offhand exactly what the route would be. I assume it will be a fairly direct route from the bike lanes to the bridge.

  • Michael Hulburt

    Shouldn’t the Wabash to Michigan stretch look more like this? http://streetmix.net/-/58300

    As I recall, there were planter rows on both sides of the cycle track, which I think are possibly the most important feature keeping pedestrians and cyclists on separate sections for their mutual safety. I widened the bike lanes a half foot each to make room for your double line suggestion as well (9′ total).

  • Something happened to my Roosevelt between Wabash and Michigan Streetmix. It leads to one I created for Ridge Avenue in Evanston. Will fix…

  • ped_pedal

    These plans are a great start to making Roosevelt a complete street!

    I especially like the new crosswalk on Roosevelt between State and Wabash, which recognizes that this area is a major transit-hub with lots of pedestrians and not just a road for cars to speed by. I’m hoping IDOT allows these changes to happen, rather than what many people in the neighborhood (at least, on Sloopin.com) have suggested, which is putting a fence up on the median here to prevent pedestrians from crossing the street. Just awful.

  • George stankys

    Oh my God !! The entire area is a disaster now , has been for a long time … The traffic is horrendous becuse of the construction . It took me over 20 minutes to get from Lake Shore Drive to Canal St. using west bound Roosevelt road . The west bound side of Roosevelt is down to one lane at State St.
    Drivers are fighting with each other and the busses trying to all fit in the reduced lanes .There’s all different type of machinery , hundreds of traffic barrels and a bunch of contruction workers mulling around the area but none of the machines are doing anything . I saw one man spreading sand around , that’s about all the action I saw .
    This contruction on Roosevelt , from Ashland to Lake Shore drive has been going on for years . It’s has been a traffic nightmare the entire time . The traffic lights at Canal and Roosevelt are out on a regular basis . Years ago they had some traffic aides helping with the traffic in the area but not any more .
    Who is paying fort all this ? Will my taxes keep going up so we can have more bike lanes , wider sidewalks and more trees ?
    South bound Canal St. { at Taylor } is reduced to one lane … great idea with all the stores now in the area ….. North bound Canal is closed at Van Buren ..
    I saw the widening of the sidewalk and planting of trees along Roosevelt …
    { at Michigan } . This has been going on for years ! Does anybody feel sorry for all the drivers stuck in the traffic in this area .. not to mention lost productivity , polution , etc.

    Why not post some signs alerting drivers on Lake Shore drive , Michigan Ave. , etc. not to enter Roosevelt road ? How much would a few signs cost ?

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