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
  • Meh. Halsted is still a less-than-desirable street on which to bike. Tons of taxis park in the bike lane. Which I suppose is legal, but not desirable. Intersection treatments — where bike infrastructure is needed, but CDOT hasn’t yet showed any innovation (or really just following any international standard) — are also lacking.

    Personally I’ll stick to other streets, which is unfortunate bevause otherwise Halsted is a great way to get from Uptown where I live, all the way to the Loop, on a straight street.

  • 1st Ward Guy

    What do you mean by “intersection treatments”? Give us an example or two, is it just street markings or something else?

  • Yeah. It’s one thing I hope the next CDOT commissioner takes on. Most bike lanes end at intersections which become a mess of turning cars and loading buses. They also don’t tell people on bikes how to safely turn left at big intersections. So the beauty of this (Dutch) design, which amazed me the first time I used one, is that it doesn’t really require any more space than already exists at intersections. You’d have to find a way to accommodate bus stops, another thing CDOT hasn’t tried.

  • Chicagio

    Halsted is more of a destination street. You’re right, it’s not a great through-street but there are any number of trips I make where I’m on Halsted for at least a few blocks. If you’re coming from the grand/Milwaukee area, halsted is your main connector to the north side.

  • Christopher Murphy

    I feel bad for Halsted commuters. Morning commute, I see cars traveling in the bike lane south just north of Grand. And then there is no bike lane on the bridge just south of Grand.

  • Adam Herstein

    Was this street too narrow for protected lanes?

  • Adam Herstein

    I am fairly certain that is not legal for a cabbie to park in the bike lane. Can you show where it says otherwise?

  • Alex_H

    It is definitely not legal.

  • No, because I was wrong. Where did I hear that? I thought taxis could pull over in the bike lane to get or drop off passengers.

  • Katja

    I always liked Halsted as a bike through street, at least from Grand to Clark. It’s not amazing, no, and there’s always some car or oblivious pedestrian or something in the lane, but the traffic isn’t super fast and now it’s mostly nicely repaved (at least from Chicago north).

  • Alex_H

    Cars who wish to park in a parking space may use the bike lane to get there, obviously. But no car may use the bike lane to discharge or accept passengers.

  • Anne A

    I’m looking forward to these, especially Damen.

    Damen (87th to 63rd)

    Halsted (31st to 26th)

    Halsted (59th to Garfield)

    Halsted (69th to Marquette)

    Halsted (85th to 75th)

  • duppie

    It only dawned on me tonight: with this buffered lane and the new one on Wells, you can now ride from Wrigley Field to the loop in buffered lanes, except for 6 blocks (Lincoln from Halsted to Wells): Clark> Halsted > Licoln > Wells. I know buffered lanes are not protected lanes, but this is quite a game changer for me. I will ride this route for a while and see whether I like it better than my usual Clark>Southport>Lincoln>Wells.

    The network is coming together nicely from my perspective…

  • I believe so. It’s also politically difficult to do PBLs on streets with dense retail, since they usually involve removing some parking spaces at intersections to improve sight lines.

  • cjlane

    ““We don’t want to stripe when it’s too cold and have the pavement markings come up next year,””

    But it’s been no problem for them to put them in in areas with planned street construction. Sheesh.

  • Which are you talking about – Milwaukee Avenue in River North? If so, that’s an example of good planning by CDOT. I was annoyed at the time that they only spot-patched the street instead of completely repaving it. When the construction started in the middle of the street, I understood the wisdom of this decision.

  • cjlane

    I was specifically thinking of Clybourn, where they put down the striping and about 6 weeks later milled the street for about 3 blocks.

    Just frustrated when the city uses “don’t want to do it twice” as an explanation when they also regularly ‘do it twice’ without being concerned.

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