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.

  • Deni

    I’ve been looking forward to this since they announced it. I live close to Division/LSD and it is not uncommon for me to need to bike up to around the North/Clybourn area, and I have always taken a somewhat convoluted route to stay on side streets (like Elm to Hill back to Elm through Seward Park, Larrabee to Scott, swing up Kingsbury or Dayton; whew!) mostly just to avoid the transition at Division/Orleans/Clybourn that has had way too much space for cars to do crazy things at high speeds. Not to mention that Clybourn itself was not the most comfortable biking route. This should take the stress out of going that way.

  • Fred

    Something needs to be done with Orleans between Hubbard and Division. Franklin is the main northbound cycling route on the west side of the loop. It has bike lanes and is generally decent to ride on… until you cross the river and the bike lanes disappear at Hubbard. You are then left to ride in a narrow gutter with 3 lanes of angry commuters trying to get to the Ontario feeder ramp. It’s not as miserable to ride on once you get north of Erie. Going south, these nice new protected lanes dump you on to Orleans, whose southbound lanes disappear at the feeder ramp. I see many cyclists going through the Orleans/Ontario intersection to the south into the temporary 1 block 1-way north traffic. This is no good for anyone. Southbound cyclists need to be encouraged to make their way over to Wells St which is significantly more bike friendly, especially with the new green wave treatment.

    Cyclists should not encouraged to use nice preferred cycle facilities and then be dumped into crappy ones!

  • Jeremy

    Yes, Orleans can be quite treacherous during evening rush hour.

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