CDOT & Reilly Reach a Consensus on Kinzie: The Protected Lanes Will Remain

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Crews were restriping the Kinzie PBLs Tuesday morning.

There’s some great news about Chicago’s oldest protected bike lanes. Yesterday, the Chicago Department of Transportation confirmed that the Kinzie Street PBLs will stay in place for the foreseeable future, despite an effort by downtown alderman Brendan Reilly to force CDOT to remove them.

The department installed the Kinzie lanes in 2011, not long after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office. In 2013, CDOT agreed to a development plan that called for the developer to pay for installing PBLs on Grand Avenue, Illinois Street, and Wells Street, before the temporary removal of the Kinzie lanes to ease construction of a new high-rise at Wolf Point.

However, by early this year, the new lanes still hadn’t gone in and the transportation department seemed to be unwilling to remove the old ones. Last April, Reilly introduced an ordinance to City Council that would have required CDOT to take out the Kinzie lanes, arguing that they conflicted with the Wolf Point construction truck traffic.

Reilly told the council that transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld cited an internal study that supported keeping the bike lanes on Kinzie. CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey didn’t provide Streetsblog with a copy of the study, but he said the department had concerns about removing the lanes on Kinzie, which had become the city’s second-busiest biking street after Milwaukee Avenue.

In response to Reilly’s move, the Active Transportation Alliance launched a petition asking the other alderman to oppose the ordinance, which garnered more than 1,400 signatures. They also got almost 50 businesses to sign a letter to Reilly asking for the Kinzie lanes to be left in place but improved.

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Most of the flexible posts on Kinzie are gone.

Over the years, the pavement, bike lane markings, and flexible posts on Kinzie have deteriorated to the point where the PBLs barely function as such. Several weeks ago, CDOT crews patched some potholes in the bike lanes, but Scheinfeld did not confirm that the department had reached an agreement with Reilly.

Tuesday morning, crews were restriping sections of the PBLs and crosswalks on Kinzie. This time, Claffey confirmed that the department had reached a consensus with the alderman. “We’ve agreed that the temporary removal of the bike lanes is not necessary at this point in the Wolf Point development, but should be evaluated with future phases of development as part of the traffic study process that is required of the developer,” he said.

In the meantime, CDOT has been in talks with Reilly, plus local businesses and residents to develop a plan for safety improvements to Kinzie, Claffey said. These include refreshing the markings, plus better signage and lighting.

“CDOT is also working with [the Chicago Police Department] to increase education and enforcement efforts regarding traffic law compliance to improve traffic safety along Kinzie Street,” Claffey added. If this is anything like the type of targeted enforcement that has previously taken place on Kinzie, it will mostly consist of officers issuing warnings and tickets to bike riders – rather than car drivers – who don’t come to a complete halt at stop signs.

One of Reilly’s assistants told me he’s traveling and is unavailable to comment about the bike lane agreement.

Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke heralded the news that the Kinzie lanes will stay as a victory for bike advocacy. He noted that Reilly has generally been supportive of buffered and protected bike lanes in his ward, including the Dearborn PBLs. “While we didn’t agree with the alderman about removing the Kinzie bike lane, we thank him for working out a solution with CDOT and for highlighting some elements that need to be improved,” Burke stated.

Now that the lanes are being repaired, Active Trans is calling for further improvements, including repaving the street, better lighting under the viaducts, and replacing the virtually disposable plastic posts with concrete curbs, or some other type of permanent infrastructure. They also want to better enforcement to keep drivers from parking in the bike lanes, and they’re proposing a stoplight for the intersection of Kinzie and Kingsbury Street, “where too many cyclists don’t yield to pedestrians,” Burke stated.

It would have set a terrible precedent if the Kinzie PBLs had been removed without creating an alternative protected route, so it’s great that they will stay in place and are being fixed. And if the flimsy posts are replaced with real physical protection for bicyclists, that would be a big win for cycling.

  • duppie

    The road surface from Orleans all the way to Clinton is in a deplorable state. But given the financial state the city is in, it would be good to wait until Wolf Point is all completed and all the construction traffic is going away.

    Active Trans is calling for a trafficlight at Kingsbury? That would be a complete wast of money, inconveniencing drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists alike.

  • David P.

    In no way was removing these lanes ever necessary. I was recently in Stockholm and rode multiple times daily through the early phases of a massive 5+ year construction project to replace a bridge and redesign ramps and roadways (connecting Sodermalm to the north) and cyclists, drivers and pedestrians were all fully accomodated with their own separated travel areas. Where there is a will, there is a way.

  • Lisa Curcio

    I am uncertain what the point would be of a traffic light at Kingsbury and Kinzie. When I ride through that intersection, I seldom see drivers go through the stop sign, or even roll through the stop sign. Not so true for my fellow cyclists.

  • Jin Nam

    Great news! But traffic light at Kingsbury/Kinzie seems like a bad idea. There is a light a few yards away at Canal. There is enough foot traffic going across this intersection at the same time as the height of rush hour traffic that works fairly well to move traffic along organically, I.e. 2-3 cars can advance on one street while people are crossing. And on Kinzie, there is a small, finite number of cars that can wait at the red light at Canal without blocking the intersection at Kingsbury. Except when distracted knuckleheads can’t see the blockage impass they will create if they assert their “right” to advance during their “turn”. If a light must be put in, better at Orleans. The intersection not being a true intersection causes a routine confusion especially for drivers trying to make a left turn from EB Kinzie onto OrleansOrleans.

  • I recently did a bike-count at the Kingsbury intersection during the afternoon rush hour. Lots of cyclists going through the intersection, a steady stream of cars. I can attest to the fact that very few cars or cyclists yielded to pedestrians creating hairy situations.

    A stoplight is not going to accomplish much to stop bikers; how about a massive education campaign regarding respect for pedestrians? Failing to yield for pedestrians in the crosswalk is a city-wide problem, one that no stoplight or silly yellow warning posts will solve. What about creating traffic humps, ones that truly forces rolling traffic to slow down, that are level with the sidewalk?

  • Pat

    Totally agree with this. Should be mandated at all stop signs going forward. There would be no argument against it other than “but how will I roll through the stop sign?!”. As a cyclist, I’m ok with it too, as it will still allow me to Idaho stop.

  • High_n_Dry

    Not so true, indeed. I attempted to stop for a truck turning left onto Kinzie from Kingsbury (the underground area) the other day but the next ten or so cyclists did not stop so I continued going. A “first follower” might’ve got everyone else to stop.

    However, I don’t actually encounter too many trucks coming or going and I ride that route daily, maybe it is timing?

  • A raised crosswalk could indeed have a greater effect than a stop light.

    However, CDOT has been planning to install a stop light at Kinzie/Kingsbury since at least 2013, partly for the additional traffic generated by the Wolf Point residences that are under construction.

  • There are so many pedestrians here, crossing Kinzie and crossing Kingsbury. It’s people walking between home and work and a new traffic signal will delay so many of them and inconveniencing their walk.

    Walking should be encouraged, and let to remain organic and free flowing, not controlled and signalized, especially at one of the city’s tiniest (in physical dimensions) intersections.

  • Probably one reason there’s so much concern about the Kinzie/Kingbury intersection is that a lot of big shots work out at the adjacent East Bank Club.

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