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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.