Eyes on the Street: Upgraded Bike Lanes on Kedzie in Logan Square

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Two of the four travel lanes on this stretch south of Palmer have been converted to buffered bike lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

Here at Streetsblog, we’re not shy about pointing out when we feel a local politician is on the wrong side of a transportation issue, but we’re also happy to spread the word when an alderman changes his or her stance and becomes friendlier to biking, walking, and/or transit.

That seems to be the case with 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado. In 2010, the Chicago Department of Transportation implemented a road diet on Humboldt Boulevard through the eponymous park. New pedestrian refuge islands made it easier to cross the street on foot, and the removal of travel lanes calmed traffic, but the alderman requested that cyclists not be accommodated with bike lanes.

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Ped refuge islands on Humboldt Boulevard make it unsafe for drivers and cyclists to share the lane. Photo: Steven Vance

The resulting configuration has pinch points that make it unsafe for drivers and cyclists to share the remaining travel lanes. After the street was reconfigured, CDOT took Humboldt Boulevard off the 2011 edition of the city’s bicycle map as a recommended route, making this the only segment of the Boulevard System that wasn’t designated as bike-friendly. The stretch was reinstated as a recommended route on this year’s map, but it probably shouldn’t have been, because it really doesn’t feel safe to ride there.

It was good to hear that Maldonato has apparently changed his attitude towards biking. For a few years Kedzie Avenue, two blocks west of Humboldt, has had conventional bike lanes between North Avenue and Palmer Street, but they dropped out between Moffat Street and Armitage Street to make room for four lanes of car traffic with sharrows. “That was done a few years back when maintaining auto capacity was the norm,” CDOT Project Manager Mike Amsden told me in August. “We had a request from Alderman Maldonado to make it better for bikes. He didn’t like the fact that you had a bike lane that disappeared.” As a result, Amsden said, the whole segment of Kedzie would be converted to two travel lanes with buffered bike lanes.

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Looking north on Kedzie, a bit north of North Avenue. Photo: John Greenfield

While the new .75-mile bikeway doesn’t include physical protection for cyclists in the form of parked cars or flexible posts, the road diet and bike lane upgrade from conventional to buffered lanes makes the street more pleasant to bike on. Notably, it’s the only buffered lane in Logan Square, one of the top Chicago neighborhoods for bike mode share, which also has zero protected lanes.

When I took a spin on Kedzie early this afternoon, car traffic was flowing in a smooth and orderly fashion within the single travel lanes in each direction, and I didn’t notice any speeding or people driving in the bike lanes, although I saw a couple of double-parked cars. The bike lanes are striped through the intersections as dashed lines, and the pavement quality is generally okay, although there are a few locations where deep crevasses in the asphalt pose a bit of a hazard.

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Ghost bike memorial to Mandy Annis. Photo: John Greenfield

At Armitage, the bikeway reverts to bike lanes with no buffer in order to make room for right- and left-turn lanes. Here there’s a ghost bike memorial to Mandy Annis, a schoolteacher who was killed on her bike at age 24 by a motorist who blew a red light in the spring of 2008. Six months earlier, Blanca Ocasio, a 19-year-old pharmacy student, was fatally struck while biking at the same intersection, by a right-turning garbage truck driver. A ghost bike honoring Ocasio also stood here for several years but was recently removed.

At Bloomingdale Avenue I encountered a crew laying conduit as part of the Bloomingdale Trail project. “It’s for fiber optic cable,” one of the workmen told me. “The trail will have fiber optic, electrical, cameras, all that s—.”

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Workers lay fiber optic lines for the Bloomingdale Trail. Photo: John Greenfield

While the north end of the Kedzie bike lanes connect with existing bike lanes on Palmer, south of North Avenue there are no bikeway markings on Kedzie. In the future, it would be great to see the Kedzie lanes extended north to meet up with the popular Milwaukee Avenue route, and continued south to connect with existing protected lanes on Franklin Boulevard.

Ideally, the northern extension would involve converting two of the four central travel lanes on Kedzie Boulevard between Palmer and Milwaukee to protected lanes, which would discourage speeding and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians. Currently, crossing this broad, high-speed section on foot at non-signalized intersections feels like a game of Frogger.

  • “Logan Square, one of the top Chicago neighborhoods for bike mode share, which also has zero protected lanes.”

    I think this goes to show that there are other aspects that encourage more bicycling to occur in a neighborhood. It may be our network of service drives along the boulevard that connect to streets like Armitage and Milwaukee with myriad shops and services as well as transportation hubs at the Blue Line stations.

    Or maybe the people who live in Logan Square are already open to bicycling as a mode transportation.

    Whatever it is, we would do well to study this and apply the environmental characteristics in Logan Square to other neighborhoods that have a lower bike mode share.

  • Suggester

    Hide the cameras on the BT overpass @ Humboldt, use the millions to extend the BT to clybourn. Speed bumps could work on Kedzie since it has no CTA or commercial traffic. Increase taxes on properties with driveways. That means you, Roberto!

  • Roger Guerrero

    I definitely would like to see more bike lanes added where the Bloomingdale access points are going to be. You can’t just build a ramp and tell people “Good luck you are on your own” The Kennedy expressway exits on to the biggest streets in Chicago, Fullerton, North Ave, Western.

    Thanks for writing this article, through the efforts of those in the community Maldonado has gone from the stance that Biking should be done in the Suburbs and on trails, to…. Bikers should have a safe passageway through the city has been a big leap forward.

  • David Altenburg

    I’ve noticed the same about Logan Square, which is where I live. Moving here about 5 years ago directly led to me biking nearly everywhere I go in Chicago, and there were a couple factors that led to it. The boulevards, like you mentioned, were one. It made biking around the neighborhood feel less threatening than in other parts of Chicago. The other factor was, counterintuitively, its lack of density compared to neighborhoods like Wicker Park, where I lived before moving here.

    Wicker Park is dense enough that I walked nearly everywhere I went when I lived there. Moving here, everything seemed so spread out in comparison! It became a running joke that everything (Vas Foremost, or Lula, or Cole’s) was a mile away. At that distance, biking starts to become really attractive, especially when you have the boulevards practically begging you to ride down them. And of course, once I became comfortable biking around the neighborhood, it was natural to start biking to work and then around the rest of Chicago.

    That said, I’m pretty convinced we have the worst drivers in the city in Logan Square. I’m glad they don’t serve as too much of a deterrent to biking.

  • “Good luck you are on your own”

    This is the message we receive every day when the pointless sign that says “bike lane ends ahead” and there is no bike facility either left, right, or straight to let you continue your route on a bike facility.

  • Adam Herstein

    Those buffered lanes look wide enough for a protected lane. Why were they not considered?

  • Sure thing, thanks for commenting.

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