Eyes on the Street: New Buffered Lanes on North Halsted

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Looking south on Halsted, north of Fullerton. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation is currently hoping to install up to 20.7 more miles of buffered and protected bike lanes before the close of the construction season. However, since thermoplastic striping doesn’t properly bond to asphalt at under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the current freeze is delaying these projects, so it’s unlikely all of them will be completed this year.

“We don’t want to stripe when it’s too cold and have the pavement markings come up next year,” said CDOT Project Manager Mike Amsden. “Our ultimate goal is 100 miles by May 2015. We’re in a good spot to hit that goal.” It’s good that the agency now recognizes that haste makes waste, since portions of lanes striped too late in the season last year on Desplaines and Division have largely disappeared.

This afternoon I took a quick spin on Halsted between Fullerton and Diversey in Lincoln Park, where CDOT recently upgraded conventional bike lanes to buffered lanes. The crew ground out the old markings and restriped the new lanes on the existing asphalt on this half-mile stretch. This means, unlike the quarter-mile section of Halsted just north between Diversey and Wellington, which got buffered lanes when it was repaved last year, this new stretch lacks the buttery-smooth texture of fresh blacktop, but the pavement is still in good condition.

The new bikeways include dead space striped on the left side of the lane to help distance bicyclists from car traffic, and hash marks on the right side to encourage cyclists to ride out of the door zone. The buffered lanes are nearly as wide as the now-slimmed-down car lanes on this 50-foot-wide roadway. This road diet seems to be encouraging drivers to respect the speed limit, and when I rode them most motorists were doing a good job of keeping out of the buffer zone.

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Crosswalk at Halsted, Fullerton, and Lincoln. Photo: John Greenfield

As part of the project, high-visibility, zebra-striped crosswalks and new stop bars were striped at the vast, six-way intersection of Halsted, Fullerton and Lincoln, which remind drivers to watch for out for walkers. However, like many of Chicago’s busy six-ways, pedestrians have to make up to three crossings to get where they want to go. Like North/Damen/Milwaukee in Wicker Park, this intersection would be a great candidate for a pedestrian scramble.

Keep your fingers crossed for warm, dry weather this weekend. With any luck, CDOT will be able to get a significant number of new miles on the street before the deep-freeze sets in. However, Amsden promised that projects that aren’t completed this year will be installed first thing in 2014. He provided the following list of recently completed and potential projects:

  • 15.4 miles of federally funded buffered bike lanes:
    • Halsted (Fullerton to Diversey), completed
    • Wells (North to Lincoln), completed
    • 26th (Kostner to Pulaski)
    • Augusta (Central Park to Noble)
    • California (Augusta to North)
    • California (31st to 26th)
    • Central Park (Jackson to Franklin)
    • Damen (87th to 63rd)
    • Division (Western to Ashland)
    • Halsted (31st to 26th)
    • Halsted (59th to Garfield)
    • Halsted (69th to Marquette)
    • Halsted (85th to 75th)
    • Hubbard (Ashland to Halsted)
    • Racine (52nd to 47th)
    • Stony Island (63rd to 56th)
  • 1.05 miles of buffered and protected lanes on Broadway (Montrose to Foster), funded through menu and city funds
  • 3 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes on Lake (Austin to Central Park), funded through tax increment financing and city funds
  • 1.25 miles of buffer protected bike lanes on US 41 (87th to 79th), completed