Eyes on the Street: Augusta Buffered Lanes and Repaved Milwaukee PBLs

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Augusta near Noble. The buffer encourages riding outside of the door zone. Photo: John Greenfield

Due to the cold spring, the Chicago Department of Transportation’s bikeways construction season got off to a late start. Thermoplastic pavement markings don’t adhere properly to asphalt at temperatures below 50 Fahrenheit, as evidenced by bike lanes and crosswalks in various parts of town that were striped too late in the season in 2013 and have quickly deteriorated. Therefore, it was wise to wait for warmer weather this year.

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This Logan Square crosswalk was badly faded not long after installation. Photo John Greenfield.

Now that work has begun on the 20 miles of buffered and protected lanes slated for this year, things are moving fairly quickly. This month CDOT installed buffered bike lanes on the following stretches:

  • Halsted: 85th to 75th, 69th to Marquette, 59th to Garfield, and 31st to 26th
  • Racine: 52nd to 47th
  • 26th: Kostner to Pulaski
  • Augusta: Damen to Noble

As Steven posted earlier today, Wood recently got a neighborhood greenway treatment between Augusta and Milwaukee. CDOT is also nearly done reconstructing the Milwaukee protected lanes between Erie and Ogden. Those were largely obliterated by a water main project this fall, and then all of the remaining bike lane bollards taken out by motorists and snowplows over the winter.

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Milwaukee Avenue during water main construction. Photo: John Greenfield

I plan to ride the new South Side facilities next week. This afternoon, I took a quick spin to check out conditions on Augusta and Milwaukee. CDOT striped conventional bike lanes on Augusta from Central Park to Noble a few seasons ago, but as I ride in from the west, I noticed that many stretches west of Damen are badly faded. Hopefully, these sections will be next in line for an upgrade.

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Augusta near Damen. Photo: John Greenfield

East of Damen, the pavement is in moderately good condition, with a few nasty potholes here and there, so CDOT simply scraped out the old conventional lanes and painted new lanes with a striped buffer on the right, encouraging cyclists to ride outside the door zone. The new configuration also narrows the travel lanes by several inches, which encourages drivers to watch their speed. The bike lanes are striped as dashed lines through intersections, and new high-visibility, zebra-striped crosswalks have been added to most intersection legs.

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Augusta and Wood, where CDOT is creating a neighborhood greenway. Photo: John Greenfield

At Wood, the neighborhood greenway is also indicated with dashed lines through the intersection, although Wood now has sharrows, rather than bike lanes. As Steven wrote, the addition of a contraflow lane on a block of Wicker Park Avenue near Milwaukee now allows cyclists to legally ride in both directions along Wood, from Armitage to Augusta and beyond.

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Noble at Milwaukee. A southbound contraflow lane would be useful here. Photo: John Greenfield

As I reach the east end of the Augusta lanes at Noble, it occurs to me that CDOT should also stripe a contraflow lane on the short, northbound block of Noble between Augusta and Milwaukee. That would legitimize two-way cycling on another popular north-south bike route, which connects Milwaukee to Hubbard.

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Satiny pavement on Milwaukee south of Ogden. Compare to the above photo during construction. Photo: John Greenfield

Heading southeast on Milwaukee, I soon come to the flawless new pavement south of Ogden. The protected lane runs from Elston to Kinzie, and I was annoyed last year when CDOT only repaved the short stretches north of Ogden and south of Erie last year, prior to building the bike lane. They only patched small sections of rough asphalt here and there in the middle section. However, the logic of this strategy was revealed when the water department completely tore up that segment last fall.

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Milwaukee near Huron. Photo: John Greenfield

After enduring many months of lousy pavement on the Milwaukee protected lanes, cyclists are now being rewarded with an unbroken stretch of silky smooth road. The white stripes have already been repainted. Green thermoplastic will be put down in potential conflict areas next week, the flexible posts will be reinstalled by June 11, in time for Bike to Work Week, and a parking corral near the Matchbox bar will be returning as well, according to CDOT spokesman Pete Scales. With all that in place, plus good pavement, we’ll finally be able to enjoy the Milwaukee PBLs the way they were meant to be.

  • JacobEPeters

    There are so many short contraflow lanes that are needed to legalize traffic patterns that make side street routes through neighborhoods safe, convenient and clearly marked. Like Berteau between Lincoln and Leavitt, or Leavitt between Armitage and Milwaukee for people heading north off the Bloomingdale towards Webster and Lyndale.

    Selective signage is also needed to advertise certain 2 way routes that are ideal for getting around neighborhoods without taking higher traffic roads. For example showing people how to clearly get between the two parts of Wood without being stuck at an intersection without a traffic signal, or a sign on northbound Oakley at Wabansia advertising that Leavitt is a safer connection to the Bloomingdale as opposed to Western.

    I saw a great graphic for how to make those cross street signs above intersections indicate whether a street is a “neighborhood bike route”, so people heading down a street with a protected bike lane, know which street to take as a safe alternative to major thoroughfares.

  • Vic

    How about teaching riders to obey the state traffic laws? Even with contra flow lanes they still don’t know what a stop sign and stop light mean. I witnessed a crash 2 days ago by a cyclist blowing a stop light and go flying over a car hood. The police wanted to give the driver, who had the green light, a ticket. After I spoke up the cyclist ended up receiving a citation while in the ambulance. Don’t get me wrong, I ride my bike over the place as well. But I do have a basic understanding of traffic laws. As long as the city was a keep installing cycling lanes cyclists need to understand they have to understand the laws and obey them.

  • Pete

    The greatest part of riding a bike is it makes you immune from traffic laws! The laws of physics on the other hand are much harsher.

  • kristina

    They may have redone Milwaukee, but it was done pretty badly. I give it a year until it has to be torn up again with the bad seams and messy paint job.

  • I fully support that people are taught laws regarding bicycles in traffic. There is a potential mechanism, though, in driver’s education at high schools and private schools but the state doesn’t require bicycle operating rules be part of the curriculum.

    Currently it’s the rider’s responsibility to educate themselves and understand the state statutes and somehow translate that into operating a bicycle on the road.

  • kastigar

    Hardly visible at all are the bike lanes on Lawrence Avenue, between Western west to the river, and from Central Park Avenue west to Cicero. Most of the western end of this route is invisible, and have few signs that indicate there’s a bike lane there at all.

  • Anne A

    I noticed the new lane striping on Halsted north of 85th from the train this a.m. I may check that out tomorrow.

  • Erik Swedlund

    I agree that the northbound-only block of Noble between Augusta and Milwaukee would be a great spot for a contraflow bike lane; it is already used in that way by many cyclists I see. I would also be interested in a deeper re-thinking of that block, given the conflicts caused by angled parking and heavy school pick-up traffic.

  • Karen Kaz

    The green thermoplastic on Milwaukee can’t come back soon enough – riding home Wednesday afternoon there were two or three cars parked in the bike lane instead of outside of it.

    Also the Augusta buffered lane is nice, but the road surface is not great and there is a lot of debris in the lane. The construction west of Damen is pretty disruptive right now – I anxiously await to see if they do a decent job repairing the street surface but assume they won’t.

    Can anything be done design-wise to make that Augusta-Milwaukee intersection less stressful? In the mornings heading west/south it’s just nothing but conflict and confusion with all those cars trying to get onto the expressway ramp from all directions.

  • Alex_H

    Agree that Augusta/Milwaukee can be stressful to navigate, whether turning west onto Augusta from northbound Milwaukee, or turning onto Milwaukee in either direction from Augusta.

  • CDOT has a consultant working on a citywide bike route sign program.

  • JacobEPeters

    That is great to hear, hadn’t heard that news before.

  • A lot of new news came out in the Leland neighborhood greenway meeting this week at Cappleman’s office. I’ll have a story on Monday.

  • JacobEPeters

    looking forward to it as always

  • I was thinking about the seams, too. I don’t know how to pour asphalt but it seems that the seams can be done better (maybe they are laid too far apart in time from each other and don’t “melt” together well).

    I generally have a low opinion on the quality of road work done in Chicago.

    Thankfully the seams aren’t in the bike lane because the bike lane is against the curb, but if this was a conventional, door-zone bike lane then the seams would be right at the left side bike lane stripe, or just inside (look at Armitage east of Western and you’ll see how the seams disintegrate and mess up the pavement and make it uncomfortable to bike).

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/75698896@N00/14305156922

  • J

    Would need to lose the angled parking on one side of Noble to make the contraflow work. The block is heavily parked. Think it would fly?

  • I think the width between parked cars is the same as the width on streets with contraflow bike lanes. It’s that one box truck that’s parked on the west side of the street all the time that blocks views for southbound bicyclists and northbound drivers (to see each other).

  • Mcass777

    Our neighborhood got replaced a few years ago, maybe 6 or 7 years ago. Our streets are horrible, with most potholes originating on the seams. Why don’t they put some sort of compound on the seams?

  • CDOT started using tar to seal gaps/seams for the first time ever in 2013. I don’t know their plans to use this. My street was repaved in 2012 and is coming apart at some seams and there are potholes (characterized by nearly uniform circles).

  • I’ve talked about that intersection frequently, on my other websites. I have a dozen photos of people abusing the intersection.

    I’ve not heard anyone at CDOT talking about the intersection. Perhaps they are waiting for the multi-decade “improve Milwaukee Avenue” project to make its way down from Jefferson Park/Albany Park currently to Noble Square. That would put this intersection in the redesign crosshairs at about 2020.

  • J

    The issue is not width, it’s being able to see the cyclists as drivers are backing out. Frankly, head in angled parking isn’t great for cyclists traveling with traffic either though.

  • Karen Kaz

    Yeah, good point. Coming home in the afternoon and having to take a left on Augusta isn’t much better. Your choice is to take the lane on the uphill (potentially pissing off drivers because you’re slowing them down) or do it after you crest the hill, which fells less visible and more dangerous. I choose the uphill option but always worry about rage-y drivers.

  • Russell

    Sweet! Always cool to know of new projects going in…Any news on if they will do an extension of Dearborn north of Kinzie???

  • I feel there’s enough room to create a left-side bike lane and even put up some posts. Check out this center, raised & then protected (with a wall) bike lane in NYC that they use for Manhattan Bridge access on Sands Street. They chose center because they needed to have bicyclists avoid crossing the car on-ramps/off-ramps that lead to the bridge.

    Map: http://goo.gl/maps/XpYMz

    Photos: https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=75698896@N00&q=sands%20street

  • Chris

    I think Lawrence is going buffered this year.

  • Tim

    Yes

  • g. odoreida

    Why is the guy at Augusta and Wood going thru a red light?