Eyes on the Street: Halsted Street Cyclists Battle Drivers for Bike Lanes

a bus driving in the halsted bike lane

A reader submitted this photo, taken from inside of REI at 1466 N. Halsted St., of a CTA bus being driven in the Halsted bike lane. It was one of four seen within a 15-minute period last week.

Two readers have contacted Streetsblog to report that many Chicago Transit Authority bus operators and other Chicagoans are driving in Halsted Street’s buffered bike lane, between Division and North. Drivers appear to be taking to the bike lane to avoid queues on northbound Halsted as it approaches the busy three-way intersection at Clybourn and North Avenues.

One reader has submitted three complaints to CTA, saying, “Buses in the bike lane… [are] illegal and dangerous to people on bikes in the bike lane, bus passengers, and motorists who are patiently waiting in the legal lane.” She also attached photos of four Halsted bus operators, all seen using the bike and parking lanes in a span of 15 minutes.

driving in the Halsted bike lane

A driver illegally uses the Halsted bike and parking lane.

The same reader sent us photos of several drivers who are also using the bike lane to bypass backed-up traffic. Reader J. Patrick Lynch, who commutes along Halsted from the West Loop to Lakeview, has also seen this: “Because there is relatively little commercial use from Grand Avenue to North Avenue, the empty parking lanes have turned into de facto traveling” lanes, he said in an email. This has become more common, he wrote, since construction at the New City site (seen above) has blocked off parking along the east side of Halsted’s 1400 block, and opened up an extra-wide space outside the travel lane.

“People are so frustrated at the traffic that they choose to drive in the parking and biking lanes now,” Lynch said.

CTA didn’t respond to our request for comment, and responded to the reader with a standard message: “Your information has been forwarded to the responsible General Manager for appropriate corrective action. Safety is the CTA’s top priority, so thank you for reporting this incident.”

We’ve seen before that bus garage general managers will sometimes respond in more details, often about how the driver was identified and instructed on how such behavior was against policy.

This would be a great opportunity to use self-enforcing infrastructure design. Once construction is completed, a well-placed curb extension — for instance, in the no-parking zone in front of a fire hydrant, or at the mid-block crosswalk in front of the British School – would both prevent this behavior and create more green space.

10169 (Dylan Passmore)

A curb extension, like this one in Victoria, B.C. would prevent drivers from driving in the parking lane. This one also doubles as a bioswale, and offers seating. Photo: Dylan Passmore / Flickr