Eyes on the Street: 2-Way Protected Lane Is Taking Shape on Clinton

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Tight post spacing discourages left-turning motorists from driving in the bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

About three years ago, the Chicago Department of Transportation blazed a new trail by repurposing a lane of Dearborn Street to create the city’s first two-way protected bike lane. Now they’re building a similar two-way lane on Clinton Street as part of the Loop Link bus rapid transit project. After a few years of new bikeway designs, such as the Clybourn Avenue curb-protected lanes, the Clinton lane seems less game-changing and more like business as usual, but it has a few novel elements.

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Bus and bike route on the Loop Link corridor. The Clinton bike lane is being extended north to Fulton.

The Loop Link corridor includes dedicated bus lanes on Clinton, Canal Street, Washington Street, and Madison Street. One-way protected bike lanes will be constructed on Washington and Randolph, with the latter replacing a conventional lane that used to exist on Madison.

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Bus lane on Clinton. Photo: John Greenfield

While the bus-only lanes on Washington and Madison are paved with red-dyed concrete, the bus lane on Clinton has simply been marked on the existing asphalt with red thermoplastic. The Clinton bike lane is marked is being marked with green thermo.

The two-way lane runs will run from the Harrison Street protected bike lanes up to Fulton Street, which is part of a route between downtown and Milwaukee Avenue, the city’s busiest bike street. The section of Clinton south of Randolph is largely finished; a crew was striping the northern stretch this afternoon.

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Crew marking Clinton north of Randolph. Photo: John Greenfield

For the first time in Chicago, the entire bikeway will be green, except for at the intersections, where it will only be marked with white dashes. Hopefully, all-green bike lanes will become the standard here in the future, since color makes it more likely that motorists will notice and respect the lanes.

The green thermo will also provide a warning to pedestrians, so they don’t inadvertently step into bike traffic. As on Dearborn, “Look Bikes” has been marked at the crosswalks on Clinton, so people on foot aren’t surprised by northbound cyclists on the otherwise southbound street.

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The words “Look Bikes” are marked at each intersection. Photo: John Greenfield

CDOT is using a new kind of flexible post on Clinton, which is tubular, and shorter than the type than they’ve typically used to delineate PBLs. They seem a bit sturdier as well, and they’re spaced relatively tightly near intersections, with about ten feet between the posts. That should discourage drivers from entering the bike lane before making left turns.

Between Madison and Randolph, the contractor erroneously striped the dashed yellow line that divides the bike lane, so that it’s left-of-center. CDOT says that will be corrected soon, but it’s actually not a bad layout, since it gives northbound cyclists plenty of room to stay out of the gutter.

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On one stretch of the lane, the dashed yellow line is off-kilter. Photo: John Greenfield

Bike-specific traffic signals have already been installed on Clinton, but they’re not activated yet, so the bike lane is still barricaded. However, I saw plenty of cyclists riding in the lanes already. That suggests the new bikeway will be quite popular once it’s officially open for business.

Update 10/14/15: Although the protected bike lane currently terminates at Jackson Boulevard, it will be extended south to Harrison next summer, after work is completed on the Union Station Transit Center.