The City of Chicago announced a new slate of bikeway projects today, outlining about 15 miles of new buffered bike lanes and a little more than four miles of protected lanes to be built in 2014.
Under the plan for this year, protected bikeway construction in Chicago would continue to outpace every other American city except perhaps for New York. But the city still embellishes its progress by counting buffered lanes as protected lanes, saying that it is already halfway to the goal of building 100 miles of protected lanes by 2015. (In fact, just under 17 miles of protected bike lanes have been built.)
It’s unfortunate that the city continues to mislabel buffered bike lanes, not only because it’s misleading but because it cheapens the substantial progress being made in Chicago — often in the face of difficult obstacles like the Illinois Department of Transportation ban on protected bike lanes on state jurisdiction streets, including Clybourn Avenue and parts of Elston Avenue. (The ban has now been lifted on a trial basis on Clybourn.)
This year, about 4.25 miles of new bike lanes will be physically protected from traffic by parked cars and/or flexible posts. CDOT Assistant Director of Transportation Planning Mike Amsden said in December that the city is considering using curbs for protection on Clybourn Avenue from Division Street to North Avenue — a stretch that traverses the intersection where cyclist Bobby Cann was fatally struck by drunk driver Ryne San Hamel — and State Street south of 26th Street. The news release says this is still being designed. (CDOT said at the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting in March that curb separation was “still on the table.”)
The new protected bike lanes are:
- Broadway, from Montrose to Wilson Avenues (although the news release says Foster). Construction had started in November but was halted after just one work weekend because the cold temperatures prevented crews from applying thermoplastic striping.
- Harrison Street, from Desplaines Street to Wabash Avenue. This will be a great connection between the protected bike lane on Desplaines Street and the Dearborn Street cycle track. If done well, it should help drivers and bicyclists better negotiate and safely cross the jog at State Street. It will also help fix a major misstep by the city and IDOT, which in 2012 widened Harrison Street from four lanes to six lanes for the Congress Parkway interchange reconstruction, without bicycle accommodation.
- Lake Street, from Austin Boulevard to Central Park Avenue. Is Lake Street the right choice for an east-west protected bike lane corridor? Noise from the ‘L’ and track columns blocking sight lines at intersections make this an uncomfortable route. Additionally, the bike lane is frequently used as a driveway and parking lane near several auto repair shops, and was full of snow last winter and glass in the summers. However, current cyclists apparently want it. Two years ago, Amsden said that when CDOT was creating the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, “we heard from people that they use [Madison, Washington, Warren, and Jackson] but Lake Street kind of kept rising to the top.”
CDOT will also build 15 miles of buffered bike lanes:
- California Avenue, from Augusta Boulevard to North Avenue. This will be a great upgrade in the network as California is a key route between Logan Square and Humboldt Park and the Western Metra station. But first, the city should repave the road, which is in terrible condition, causing bicyclists and drivers to zig-zag across the street. Last year, CDOT adopted a new policy to no longer stripe bike lanes on poor quality asphalt.
- Halsted Street, from 31st to 26th Streets. This extends the existing Halsted bike lane, parts of which were upgraded to a buffered bike lane last year, to a neighborhood retail and residential strip.
- Stony Island Avenue, from 63rd to 56th Streets. This adds a bike lane along the east edge of Hyde Park and Woodlawn on the non-speedway portion of the street. This can connect residents to more frequent Metra Electric service at the 59th and 55th-56th-57th stations. Separately, CDOT has proposed a protected bike lane for eight-lane Stony Island from 67th to 79th, but the protected segment isn’t listed in the city’s project list for 2014.