Eyes on the Street: The New Normal on Clybourn Avenue

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Bicycle rush hour on a new curb-protected lane on Clybourn. Photo: John Greenfield

The Lakefront Trail. Milwaukee Avenue. The 606. And Clybourn Avenue?

The first three Chicago routes are known for having massive amounts of bicycle traffic during rush hours, and anytime the weather is nice. With the advent of its new curb-protected bike lanes, it looks like Clybourn is joining this elite club.

The Illinois Department of Transportation began building this new bikeway in May, with assistance from the Chicago Department of Transportation. It includes Clybourn from Hasted Street to Division Street, and Division from Clybourn to Orleans Street. Read more details about the project here.

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Photo: John Greenfield

The fact that the state is building it is particularly notable because IDOT previously blocked CDOT from installing protected bike lanes on state jurisdiction roads within the city of Chicago. After cyclist Bobby Cann was fatally struck by an allegedly drunk, speeding driver at Clybourn and Larrabee Street, the state announced they would pilot the curb-protected lanes at this location.

The curbs are already largely completed on Division and the northwest-bound side of Clybourn. The southeast-bound bike lane is partially finished. IDOT plans to wrap up the entire bikeway this month, according to a press release.

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The unfinished segment of southeast-bound  Clybourn. Photo: John Greenfield

Even though the lanes aren’t 100-percent finished yet, cyclists have already embraced this new “eight-to-eighty” facility. During this evening’s rush, I observed clusters of bike riders, a miniature version of what you’d see on the Milwaukee Avenue “hipster highway” — one of the busiest bike routes in the nation. Fortunately, the curb-protected lanes are wide enough to allow for easy passing.

I encountered Active Transportation Alliance staffer Kevin Dekkinga, who told me he’s taken Clybourn home from Active Trans’ River North offices to Logan Square for years, and he had never seen anywhere near as much bike traffic on the street before the CPBLs became rideable a couple weeks ago.

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Photo: John Greenfield

It just goes to show, if you build a nice bike facility on a useful route, they will come.