Eyes on the Street: Roosevelt Raised Bike Lane Is Almost Ready to Ride

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It seems like it has taken an eternity, but the Roosevelt Road raised bikeway is finally getting the green paint and bike symbols that will turn it into a functional cycling route. This Chicago Department of Transportation initiative is part of a streetscaping project that involved widening the sidewalk along Roosevelt between State Street and Michigan Avenue to make room for the two-way bike lane.

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Street layout from State to Wabash, where the bikeway will exist as on-street lanes, to the left of bus lanes.

The new lane extends a block or so past Michigan on the north sidewalk of Roosevelt, ending near the trunkless metal legs of the “Agora” installation and the Grant Park skate park. From there, cyclists can head north a block to the 11th Street bike and pedestrian bridge over Metra and South Shore tracks. From there a multi-use path leads under Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive to the Museum Campus.

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CDOT rendering of Roosevelt streetscape, looking east from Wabash. Note the separation between the blue crosswalks and the green “crossbikes.”

The streetscape project also includes new metal benches and decorative pavers inscribed with various words that are meant to be thought-provoking, or evoke the cultural facilities of the Museum Campus. Near the CTA ‘L’ station at Roosevelt and State, which serves the Red, Orange, and Green Lines, CDOT has installed extra-long bus shelters that will have ad panels.

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A crew member applies adhesive to the lane for attaching the thermoplastic bike symbol segments. Photo: John Greenfield

Between State and Wabash Avenue, the bikeway will exist as a pair of one-way bike lanes located in the street and marked with green paint. Eastbound bicyclists will use a special “crossbike” – a crosswalk for bikes – to move to the bi-directional raised bike lane on the north side of Roosevelt east of Wabash. Westbound cyclists will be shepherded from the raised lane to the westbound on-street via a green-marked lane that will slant from the sidewalk to the bike lane.

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Using a torch to “weld” the symbols to the sidewalk. Photo: John Greenfield

The on-street bike lanes aren’t marked yet, but the sidewalk bikeway is nearly finished — workers were installing the bike symbols this afternoon. Hi-visibility blue crosswalks have been installed a Rosevelt’s intersections with State, Wabash, and Michigan, and some of them have the same kind of semi-random works emblazoned on them as on the pavers and benches.

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Some of the blue crosswalks have semi-random words printed on them. Photo: John Greenfield

So far, not everyone is a fan of the wordy crosswalks. “It’s distracting,” concerned citizen Stephen Boyd recently told CBS. “There’s going to be an accident any second.”

While that may not be a realistic worry, the design of the giant bus shelters does seem to be a bit problematic. Streetsblog’s Steven Vance has discussed this issue before, but it really is puzzling why the designers chose to devote a lot more sidewalk width to the shelters than the pedestrian right-of-way.

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A new, extra-long bus shelter creates a bottleneck near the station. Photo: John Greenfield

When I dropped by in the mid-afternoon, this layout was creating a minor bottleneck. During rush hours and Bears games, it seems like the narrow walkway must be a major annoyance.

That misgiving aside, it will be interesting to see how the new raised bikeway works out once all the lane markings are in place. It’s now fairly obvious that the green areas are intended for bicycling, so hopefully people on foot will respect that and stay on the unmarked portion of the sidewalk.

This post is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago, Illinois law firm committed to representing pedestrians and cyclists. The content is Streetsblog Chicago’s own, and Keating Law Offices neither endorses the content nor exercises any editorial control.

  • planetshwoop

    I used to run past that station on my lunch hour. There was always a bottleneck, even before the shelters were built. The buses are busy, and people just bunch up, not to mention the foot traffic.

  • BlueFairlane

    … so hopefully people on foot will respect that and stay on the unmarked portion …

    You mean like that mother and child running in the lane ahead of you? Or that skateboard kid who swerved randomly across your path twice? That’s a lot going on for a 37-second video. I think I’d have refilmed it.

  • It will become more obvious the green lane is intended for bikes once the separate bicycle crosswalks are in and people start cycling in them. We can also expect a learning curve — once locals have gotten used to the facility and have learned not to walk in the bike lanes, that will provide a cue for visitors as well. Of course, all bets are off on Bears games.

  • ardecila

    The bottleneck problem is not hard to solve as the shelters have an open design… just get rid of that tree planter and those brochure boxes and let people use the full width of the sidewalk. That was easy…

  • Not so fast — the sides of the shelters are slated to get ad panels.

  • Lankyloo

    Why the city decided to make one of the most complicated pedestrian/bike/bus multi-use designs in an area frequented by confused tourists is beyond me. It was over congested before the rebuild, and looks like it will be even worse after it. And the idiotic words everywhere just makes it feel like an incredibly expensive practical joke that took a year and a half to build, and they’re still not done.

  • Marc Dreyfuss

    I think that the design, while well-intentioned, is misguided. The sidewalk-looking areas on each side of the bike lane will confuse pedestrians, especially those going to the museums and Soldier Field. I have a hard time believing that at the same grade as the sidewalk and surrounded by sidewalk, the painted bike lanes will work. I don’t understand why they didn’t create a cycletrack, with the bike lanes at street grade. The grade difference would have deterred pedestrians. I also don’t understand why the bike racks are between the bike lane and the street. Those could have been an easy pedestrian buffer.

    Lastly, taking away the bus lane and then placing the bus shelter across the bike lane from where the bus stops seems like a poor choice and an bike/ped accident waiting to happen.

  • It’s difficult to visualize if you haven’t checked out the area in person, but they’re not taking away the bus lanes. Take a close look at the second and third images in this post. Between State and Wabash, the block where the ‘L’ station is, the green bike lanes will be located in the street, to the left of the bus lanes. That’s not an ideal set-up for cyclists, since they’ll be sandwiched between two lanes of moving traffic. But it means that pedestrians won’t be crossing the bike lane to catch the bus. East of Wabash, green bicycle crosswalks connect with the two-way, on-street bike lane.

  • Scott Sanderson

    Looks great. Wish the city had started putting these in years ago.

  • Keep in mind, this is really a pretty tiny pilot project, about a quarter of a mile long, and only about two-thirds of that is raised. Still, it’s good to see the city trying something new and, if this succeeds, maybe they’ll try it on a grander scale elsewhere in the future.

  • Walking west down Roosevelt to Michigan yesterday at ~5 pm I fairly swooned when I saw a lady start to walk into the green lanes and then realize her mistake and almost immediately get over to the regular sidewalk. This morning I rode a Divvy on them, very satisfying.

    However, the wayfinding really needs some attention.

    It is counter-intuitive for people biking to the Museum Campus from Roosevelt & Michigan to go north in order to take the 11th street bridge > the Columbus and LSD underpasses. This is because Roosevelt continues going east and the Field Museum looms tantalizingly close on your right/to the south.

    While the green bike lane veering north may help a bit, specific signage stating that for bikers the 11th street bridge is the preferred route is at bare minimum what is needed. The challenge is that pedestrians will still continue to Columbus, where many will struggle to cross at street level instead of taking a different but equally counter-intuitive underpass that also requires one to backtrack to the north.

    These lanes are great progress, some fine tuning on the wayfinding would go a long way.

  • disqus_1pvtRUVrlr

    I’m not in Chicago, so I don’t know the area, nor the details beyond what is provided in the article. However I work in bike/ped transportation and this is a train wreck. A lot of money was spent on a poorly designed facility.

    The hope that pedestrians will recognize and respect that as a bike space is just that; a wish, especially during heavy ped periods. The cycletrack on the MIT campus (similar to this, except one-way) routinely has people walking in it, even during light ped volumes.

    Green paint is intended for bike/vehicle conflict zones, and this arguably waters down the impact of that, not to mention making it expensive to build and maintain. Two blocks? I get that it is a pilot, but this ostensibly requires one direction of users in the bike lanes approaching the new facility to cross the street, bike for two blocks, and then cross again. Will people actually do that? I wouldn’t. Plus, it actually adds conflict points for those cyclists.

    The article makes no mention of bike signals. Are they being used? I don’t see them in any of the images, though the resolution doesn’t allow for that in some instances. If they aren’t in the design, that is a huge problem, and the planners/designers should be dope-slapped. Two-way cycletracks have higher crash rates and introduce dangerous conflicts at intersections. Without bike signals it is a guaranteed problem. It effectively legitimizes two-way sidewalk bicycling which is responsible for some of the most significant crash typologies.

    Is that signal mast in the edge of the lane a new installation? They couldn’t do a better job of designing around that hazard? That will be great during peak hour. Dodging pedestrians, other bicyclists, signal poles…love it!

    If this was a low-cost installation to try things out prior to a more permanent design, some of these details could be forgiven, but this is simply poor design.

  • One big difference between this and the MIT bike lane (which I checked out this summer — see attached photo) is that the Chicago lane has trees *between* the pedestrian and bike spaces.

  • Not quite.

    The Roosevelt lane has trees quite close to the buildings, making pedestrians want to walk in the bike area, because it’s the broader, more inviting path, with fewer constrictions.

    Hopefully once the city gets things signed and marked properly it will be clear that the wide, inviting, majority-of-the-sidewalk is a bike lane, because right now it looks like the broad plaza-like sidewalks that are so common downtown,with a narrow strip near the buildings for people to stand or smoke in and a wider area near the street intended for foot traffic.

  • The bike lane area isn’t broader than the pedestrian area — see attached photo. Granted, the pedestrian area may feel more constricted because it’s next to the buildings. On factor that’s currently steering pedestrians towards the bike lane is construction scaffolding in front of the building at the NW corner of Roosevelt/Michigan.

  • Todd Farkas

    or hopefully it fails and gets cancelled/dismantled. re; state street pedmall circa 1978

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