Eyes on the Street: Bikes Allowed on Ridge Avenue for One Day

Bike the Ridge in Evanston by Jeff Zoline
##http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/tags/biketheridge/##Biking on Ridge Avenue## is allowed one day per year. Photo: Jeff Zoline

The city of Evanston transformed Ridge Avenue for two miles yesterday for the annual Bike The Ridge, a car-free open streets event. Normally, Evanston bans bicycle riding on Ridge Avenue, a four-lane arterial through town, but not this past Sunday.

Ridge Avenue could go on a road diet, swapping space for cars with space for curbside bike lanes, which would have the further benefit of keeping bicyclists out of the hair of people on the sidewalk.

Ridge in Evanston from Streetmix
What Ridge Avenue would look like after a road diet. ##http://streetmix.net/stevevance/11/ridge-at-lake-street-evanston-remix##Redesign it on Streetmix##.
  • CL

    I drive on this road every morning. Currently, the lanes are too narrow. Wide vehicles, such as busses, take up more than one lane so that you can’t pass them without crossing the median — and you can’t do that until there’s a break in traffic, because oncoming traffic is so close. I regularly see cars bump into the curb as people try to keep a safe distance between themselves and the cars next to them. Which is pretty much impossible.

    A road diet would improve Ridge, as long as we had turn lanes at major roads — the left turn lane looks good, but we’d also need a right turn lane at Church (northbound) and maybe Dempster and Main. It would also be good to carve out a space for busses to pull over so that cars could pass them — otherwise, traffic would get very backed up.

  • Anonymous

    I would guess that the rush hour traffic counts really are too high for a road diet here and there aren’t good alternative options as an artery.

  • CL

    Ridge is only one lane from Pratt to Howard, and it goes back to one lane at Emerson. The two-lane stretch is admittedly a busy stretch, though — I’d be curious to see estimates of how a road diet would impact speeds.

  • There’s also Chicago Avenue, which parallels Ridge but leads into downtown Evanston, whereas Ridge is at the far western edge of downtown.

  • Scott Sanderson

    I had no idea cycling was not allowed on ridge. Are there any signs?

  • CL

    Yes, there are pictures of bikes with a red circle and a line through it.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know how I missed you there. We hung far too long at the park watching the embarrassing lead singer who used her cell phone to read the lyrics of the classic rock songs she was crooning.

  • Anonymous

    Chicago is more clogged than Ridge

  • Anonymous

    Ridge may go back to two lanes at Emerson, but that’s also the beginning of 4 lane Green Bay, which is where most of the traffic going up Ridge seems to go.

  • I didn’t know either until I talked to Greenfield about it.

    What the sign looks like:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/10024000333/in/photostream/

    I wonder what the citation and fine are.

  • I didn’t go! Jeff Zoline took the photo. I was in Wisconsin all day. Kenosha to ride their vintage streetcar and Milwaukee for their Cargo Bike Roll Call.

  • Would you say most of the traffic on Ridge is going to places in Evanston or places beyond Evanston?

  • Ryan Wallace

    Looks like CL is right, there appears to only be 35′ of pavement (two 9′ lanes and two 8.5′ lanes). Here is a mock up of the existing typical pretty much throughout the 4 lane section (http://streetmix.net/rewallac/7/ridge-at-lake-street-evanston-existing)

    Also, I think the ROW varies (its 82′ at Lake, but only 71′ at Monroe, http://www.cityofevanston.org/imfmaps/imf.jsp?site=publicbrowser)

    The road diet you have proposed Steve is more of a complete reconstruction (rather than road diet) as you are reconfiguring almost everything within the right-of-way (35′ pf pavement >> 46′ pavement). There is an awful lot of landscaping that would have to be completely removed (which would cause quite the uproar). Don’t get me wrong, I like your design, but the most feasible road diets are ones that make little to no change to the pavement and achieve most of the changes with only pavement markings. Given those restraints, it becomes difficult to provide even a one-way standard bike lane (http://streetmix.net/rewallac/8/ridge-at-lake-street-evanston-road-diet).

  • John

    In Evanston

  • Asbury runs parallel just one block west; a welcome alternative to the the very narrow and generally very fast 4-lane road that is Ridge.

    When biking south back to Chicago, I take Asbury to Howard and it’s a quick jaunt east to get back onto Ridge.

    Also, I understand (and embrace) road diets but having grown up driving regularly on Ridge and now biking regularly in Chicago for the past eight years, I don’t think Ridge is an ideal candidate. And Evanston is pretty bike-friendly these days, as far as I can tell. I dunno.

  • Ridge is not a balanced street that’s for sure but I think the resources could be put towards another project first.

  • Per IDOT it’s about 1700 vph at pm peak Oakton-Dempster, and something like 18000 per day. That’s right on the edge of where a road diet can be useful without starting to negatively impact volumes. I think it would be a great candidate for a 4-3 diet, but I still don’t really think there’s enough room for bikes to be comfortable in that scenario. Asbury is a much nicer road to ride (or drive) on, in any case.

  • I didn’t know about this either until I tried riding on it one time, and a motorist pointed it out in a fairly friendly way. It’s so narrow and terrifying to ride on that it’s pretty much self-enforcing.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah it looks like you would really have to take the entire lane. My memory of Ridge is that the traffic is fairly heavy. Would be a bit unpleasant!

  • If Streetmix had it, I was going to make it a raised bike lane!

  • Jin Nam

    I had no idea about Ridge, probably because I would never choose to ride on Ridge in Evanston. Hinman is my usual N/S access street in and out of Evanston.

  • Anne A

    Ridge is an essential bus route and wouldn’t function well with a road diet.

  • Anne A

    It’s not allowed from Howard up to Simpson (by city hall). North of Simpson, the street is wider and bike traffic is allowed.

  • Anne A

    Chicago has a lot more businesses, so it gets a fair amount of bike traffic, even though it’s not a pleasant street to ride on. It’s a wider street with wider lanes.

  • Anne A

    I agree with John. That’s what I’ve observed for years.

  • Scott Sanderson

    OK. I was surprised to hear it because parts of ridge are on the typical weekend morning north shore road bike route that is so popular. I have only been on ridge early in the morning when there is very little car traffic, and I never saw those signs or considered that bikes might not be allowed there.

  • Anne A

    Hinman is much nicer for bike traffic.

  • Anne A

    “parts of ridge are on the typical weekend morning north shore road bike route that is so popular”

    Up at the north end of town, right?

  • Scott Sanderson

    Not really sure which part of Ridge. I just follow the pack and try to keep up.

  • I swear I measured some place to be 46 feet wide, curb to curb!

    Okay, I made a new one. I’m not enthusiastic about it, though.
    http://streetmix.net/stevevance/12/ridge-at-lake-street-evanston-road-diet-remix

    Perhaps another street would be better on which to emphasize cycling and de-emphasize driving.

  • Ryan Wallace

    What you have now is probably the best case scenario (probably don’t want 12.5′ outside lanes as that would encourage speeding, probably better to go 12/11/12). The difficulty here is they chose a ridiculous design the first time around and there is very little that can be done to rectify it properly without full reconstruct.

  • I was also thinking to design 5/3/10/10/3/5 with no turn lane. Or a turn lane at intersections that makes the bike lane end prematurely, but I hate when that happens, so no.

    I’m feeling more comfortable taking an alternative road to make AMAZING for bicycling and just downright annoying to use as a through street in an automobile. Hmm, sounds like a bike boulevard!

  • No it wouldn’t function with a road diet, I agree with you.

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