Want to Avoid the Chaos on Milwaukee? Try This Route Instead

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Bicyclists try to share a narrow lane with drivers on Milwaukee Avenue. Photo: John Greenfield

As Steven Vance detailed Friday, so far the city has not provided accommodations for bicyclists on Milwaukee, the city’s busiest biking street, during a water main project that has torn up the street from Ogden to Erie. After Steven contacted Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein about the issue, on Friday Klein asked the Department of Water Management “to put a better traffic management plan in place for cyclists ASAP.” We also sent a suggested alternative route for cyclists to CDOT.

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This sign was recently relocated from the bike lane. Photo: Steven Vance

A construction warning sign that had recently been placed in the bike lane near Erie, at the base of the bridge over the Ohio feeder, has been relocated to the median, but otherwise Milwaukee is still an obstacle course for cyclists, and there are no signs are posted to indicate an detour route for bikes. Hopefully the city will add signage soon. In the meantime, rather than continue to curse the darkness, let’s light a candle with a look at a nice alternative to the Milwaukee chaos, a stair-step route that runs north of the diagonal street and works both southbound and northbound. The detour (photos below were taken during a southbound ride) only adds .2 miles to the trip, and it’s mostly on quiet, low-traffic side streets.


View Milwaukee Avenue alternative in a larger map

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Looking east on Chicago, at Morgan. To maximize comfort for cyclists, Jersey wall barriers could be used to create protected bike lanes between Milwaukee and Morgan on this broad, busy street. Sharrows stenciled across Chicago, and perhaps the addition of temporary four-way stop signs could help facilitate left turns from Morgan onto Chicago. Photo: John Greenfield
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Looking south on Peoria towards Erie. Photo: John Greenfield
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The south end of the construction site at Milwaukee and Erie. Photo: John Greenfield
  • madopal

    It’s sad that we have to do it, but I think many cyclists could be educated to lower stress routes. Everytime I see someone riding something like Western or Ashland or Irving, I just want to stop them and let them know how to have a less stressful ride. I appreciate that it’s not that easy for many cyclists to find alternate routes, especially when faced with finding river/expressway safe crossings.

  • David P.

    I just tried this route coming back from downtown an hour and a half or so ago. Calmer than Milwaukee, for sure. At the moment, however, side streets are getting rather icy.

  • Thanks for the report.

  • Dan Korn

    It’s the “Chicago Wiggle!”

    Of course, the other alternative to avoid Milwaukee is to not live in Wicker Park, but that’s like breaking some kind of commandment.

  • Peter Debelak

    As it is, this route is not viable during rush hour while travelling NW. Taking a left from Morgan onto Chicago with no stop sign or stop light is too difficult. Heading SE this works okay.

  • We’ve recommended that CDOT add a temporary 4-way stop here, which has been done in other locations during construction.

    Another option for NW travel is Kinzie / Green / Hubbard / Noble / Milwaukee, although this adds .5 miles to the trip.

  • Or just Halsted to Chicago, and then there are no uncontrolled lefts. Plus you get a “hill”!

  • Sure, that’s an option, but it’s a slightly longer detour, adding .3 miles to the trip, and there’s some terrible pavement on Halsted between Grand and Chicago. However, the back streets were very icy last night, so this is probably the best choice until it warms up a bit.

  • Katja

    Does breaking a commandment make it more or less hip to live in Logan Square? My vote is for more.

  • Dan Korn

    Yes, the only alternative to Wicker Park is Logan Square. There are no other parts of the city that people live in.

  • ohsweetnothing

    I found this out the hard way last night. Completely wiped out before I had time to turn around. Ouch. :(

  • bedhead1

    Ditto…it sucked. Also saw two bus crashes and a car crash.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Yeah, a cab ran into a parked car on the exact same ice slick I hit 2 minutes after I gathered myself. I felt bad for the driver, as he was moving at an absolute crawl and still lost control.

  • bedhead1

    I was moving at about 1 mph but because the street was concave my whole bike just slipped out from under me.

  • sc

    and yet for the cyclists with a death wish (like me in my twenties), ashland and western allow you to zip along at like 23 mph and if you’re really lucky not see a pedestrian or a red light between devon and chicago. try doing that on damen!

  • Alex_H

    I do the Kinzie/Green/Hubbard route regularly. Last night I noted to myself that it crosses a couple bridges that don’t really “feel” like bridges; would be easy to go too fast and slide out on unexpected ice. Something to keep in mind!

  • I was going to suggest Halsted myself but it doesn’t have a bike lane (although the city’s bike map for years has said one exists), drivers honk at you if you don’t ride far enough towards the curb, they drive fast, and there’s bad pavement.

  • If we go live near you, Dan, we have to deal with bike lanes that were poorly designed and implemented. (Talking about Little Village and the Marshall Boulevard bike lanes.)

  • I used to do this in my first few years of living in Chicago. I ride and behave much differently now (7 years later).

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