Exploring New Bikeways on Marquette Road

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Biking the new buffered lanes in the Marquette Park neighborhood. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday, I navigated a couple of Chicago’s newest bikeways on Marquette Road, named for Father Jacques Marquette, one of the first Europeans to map out the northern Mississippi River. The Chicago Department of Transportation recently striped buffered lanes on Marquette (generally 6700 South) between Stony Island (1600 East) and Cottage Grove (800 East), and between Damen (2000 West) and California (2800 West).

Marquette, a relatively low-traffic, two-lane street, has the potential to become a bike-friendly east-west route, running about nine miles from the city’s western boundary at Cicero (4800 West) all the way to the Lakefront Trail. The upgrades to these one-mile stretches are a step in the right direction.

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This bike path paralleling Marquette Road through Jackson Park is a low-stress way to get to the lakefront. Photo: John Greenfield

At Stony Island, Marquette connects to a nicely marked, two-way off-street bike path that runs half a mile through Jackson Park to an underpass beneath Lake Shore Drive that escorts cyclists to the Lakefront Trail. Making Marquette west of Stony Island more bikeable will create a nice, low-stress route to the beaches.

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Buffered lane at Marquette and Stony Island. Photo: John Greenfield

The stretch of Marquette from Stony Island to Cottage Grove, in the Woodlawn community, features curbside bike lanes with a buffer striped to the left and no car parking lane. The lanes were striped on the existing pavement, which is in decent shape, rather than freshly laid asphalt. It would be a nice touch to add flexible posts to the buffers to discourage motorists from driving and parking in the lanes.

On the current Chicago Bike Map, Marquette is shown as having non-buffered bike lanes on the entire stretch between Stony Island and Central Park Avenue (3600 West). However, unlike on streets where CDOT has scraped out conventional bike lanes and replaced them with buffered lanes, there was no evidence of the old bike lanes on the Stony Island to Cottage Grove segment. This suggests that bike lanes were striped several years ago but weren’t refreshed, so they faded to black, or perhaps the street was repaved but the lanes weren’t restriped.

Immediately west of Cottage Grove, a previously striped conventional bike lane is still easy to see. But most of the roughly 3.5-mile stretch between Cottage Grove and Damen, which is supposed to have conventional lanes on its entire stretch, is hit-or-miss. There are plenty of segments where the lanes are barely visible, and others where they disappear completely. All told, I’d estimate that only about half of this stretch has usable bike lanes.

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Although there are bike lane signs on this stretch of Marquette, there really isn’t a bike lane here. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago bike lanes are usually built using federal grants that can only be used for building new infrastructure, not for maintaining the old. This federal money can be used for upgrading existing conventional lanes to buffered or protected lanes, but when Chicago bike lanes are re-striped as-is, the work is generally funded as part of a repaving project, or bankrolled by the local ward. CDOT currently has no dedicated funding for bike lane restriping, which is why so many of our older lanes are in such bad shape. City Hall really needs to allocate dedicated funding for bikeway maintenance.

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A non-buffered lane lane, with a short stretch of buffer at the intersection, at Marquette and Damen. Photo: John Greenfield

West of Damen, in the Marquette Park neighborhood, Marquette Road has been repaved with luscious new pavement that’s a joy to pedal. The freshly striped bikeways here are non-buffered, curbside lanes, with short stretches of buffer at intersections, where the street widens to make room for left-turn bays.

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The new buffered lanes make it easier to access local retail. Photo: John Greenfield

After Campbell (2500 West), the lanes are buffered and curbside once again. The new bikeway ends at the northeast corner of Marquette Park. Here there’s an Art Deco memorial to Stephen Darius and Stanley Girenas, pioneering Lithuanian-American aviators who crashed while flying from New York to Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1933.

  • Not every day you see someone smoking while cycling.

  • Buff Bagwell IV

    But it is everyday you see empty bike lanes with the exception of a select few streets.

  • Alex_H

    I rode Marquette east of Damen last month; agree that the bike lane was hit-and-miss. Looks like should’ve ridden west from Damen or continued past Halsted!

    Thanks for the reporting as always, John.

  • Sure thing. It’s always fun to check out new bikeways.

  • Alex_H

    The sidewalks are empty in 4 of the 5 photos, as well. Let’s get rid of them!

  • FG

    Where’s the memorial? Or no photo? Frowny Face!

    I got a chuckle out of that last photo “Love Toys?” – says a lot about the photographer…

  • Here’s some info about the monument and an image: http://www.balzekasmuseum.org/

    Here’s a closeup of that banner. If any readers decide to patronize this
    establishment, be sure to let them know that the buffered bike lanes brought you there, so the new bikeways are stimulating commerce.

  • Kevin

    Only 3 of the five. Don’t forget the fourth picture in the article shows a car on the sidewalk :).

  • Dennis McClendon

    Current bikemap? The web version was last updated in June 2011. CDOT says they don’t have any money for an update.

  • skyrefuge

    Yeah, and with limited funds, I would actually prefer that money to be spent on keeping the map up-to-date rather than re-striping (and updating a map is surely a tiny fraction of the cost of re-striping). For safe/comfortable cycling, it’s not really the paint on the road that matters, it’s the *space* on the road. And if I can learn from a map that a bike lane was once drawn on a road, then I know that it has room for me to ride, regardless of whether the paint is still there.

  • Yep, on the current printed bike map, which was updated in 2013, Marquette is inaccurately depicted as having bikeways for most of its length.

  • Fbfree

    Marquette between Stoney Island and Cottage Grove was repaved in 2011 and did not receive any stripes (bike lane or not) until recently. It was striped before that but had quite terrible pavement quality. Given the low level of vehicle traffic, the street worked quite well without stripes.

  • FG

    Oh goodness!

  • Dude

    How hard is it to scan a copy of the paper map and post it online? Sounds like 30 minutes of work, seriously.

  • Dennis McClendon

    The online version isn’t just one huge-ass 80MB scan or PDF of the entire city. That wouldn’t be very friendly to mobile users, and back in 2001 we were worried about dial-up users and outdated browsers lacking Flash. The online bikemap is split into tiles, which have hotspots at the edges to allow you to move to the next tile over. It takes about 30 hours of work to create and upload all 286 tiles.

  • Ah, this would be one of the other inaccuracies continued on the map even after CDOT was notified. The other mistake has been persistent: the printed and online bike map has shown for years a bike lane on Halsted Street from Ohio to Chicago. There has never been one (although there were sharrows at one point, the old style of the bike inside the house).

  • Having a bike lane be marked on an official map might actually serve as a defense to support that the city intended bicyclists to ride there.

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