The Chicago Department of Transportation continues to pump out more bikeways, as part of its effort to build 100 miles of protected and buffered lanes by 2015. Today I took a spin around the South Side to check out new buffered lanes on 75th Street and on Oakwood Boulevard.
In conjunction with a street repaving project, CDOT recently upgraded a quarter-mile stretch of conventional lanes on Oakwood, from its junction with Pershing Road to the lakefront trail, in Oakland. The buffered lane serves to shepherd cyclists to one of my favorite spots, a bulge in the coastline that was constructed a few years ago, which provides a breathtaking skyline view.
The new buffers narrow the travel lanes, which helps to calm traffic. Since the lanes are curbside, flexible post to discourage drivers from driving and parking in them would be a good addition.
In addition, a section of the road has been striped with dead space just west of the southbound Lake Shore Drive offramp. This creates a tighter turning radius for vehicles coming off the drive, encouraging drivers to hit the brakes as they turn right onto Oakwood. Installing posts here as well would help keep motorists out of the striped area.
A few miles south, CDOT has upgraded a mile of existing conventional lanes on 75th from Cottage Grove Avenue to Stony Island Avenue, in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. This stretch is a bit of an orphan, since it doesn’t connect with any other bikeways, except for buffered lanes on South Chicago Drive. However, after rolling another half-mile east of Stony to Jeffery Boulevard, cyclists can head north a mile on Jeffery to access the Lakefront Trail. This section of Jeffery is fairly bikeable, thanks to the Jeffery Jump express bus’ car-free lanes.
Since they’re also striped on brand-new asphalt, the 75th buffered lanes are a very smooth ride. They also serve to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, and they seem to be having a calming effect on car speeds.
“I love the new bike lanes,” said Dellon Campbell, who was cruising 75th on his mountain bike. Campbell, a 45-year-old grocery store worker, uses his bike as his main form of transportation. “Some drivers show no respect for people on bikes at all, so this should help.”