Yojimbo’s Garage Owner Keeps Tabs on the Clybourn Protected Lanes

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Yojimbo’s Garage owner Marcus Moore shoveled out on of the Clybourn protected lanes in front of his shop. Photo: Marcus Moore

As the Chicago Department of Transportation builds more protected bike lanes, especially curb-protected lanes, it’s important that these bikeways are well maintained, particularly after snowstorms. A snow-filled PBL is at best an annoyance, and at worst a danger to cyclists, because it can force them to ride in the adjacent, plowed, mixed-traffic lanes, which may be too narrow to safely share with motor vehicles.

City Hall took a step in the right direction last fall, passing an ordinance that makes it clear it’s illegal to shovel or blow snow into the street, including curbside bike lanes. The law also states that shoveled snow may not block train stations, bus stops, building entrances, bike racks, or Divvy stations.

In addition, the ordinance increased the fines for shoveling scofflaws from the previous $25 to $100 range to $50 to $500, although CDOT officials said there were no plans to increase enforcement. The department only issued 226 tickets for failure to shovel last winter.

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A CDOT worker plows the Clybourn protected bike lanes after a snowfall last month. Photo: Marcus Moore

Last month, after the first snowfall of late 2015, it was encouraging to see that the city used a special snowplow to promptly clear the new curb-protected lanes on Clybourn Avenue. A photo of the plow in action was posted on Facebook by Marcus Moore, a longtime Chicago bike advocate and owner of Yojimbo’s Garage bike shop, 1310 North Clybourn.

You may know Moore as the guy who led the successful campaign to save the South Chicago Velodrome. It’s fortunate that he’s there on Clybourn to keep an eye on the bike lanes, which are something of an experiment, since they’re the city’s first significant stretch of curb-protected lanes.

During this week’s heavier, multi-day snowfall, it seems there have been some issues with snow in popular PBLs. Steven Vance and I have heard complaints about Dearborn Street downtown and Broadway in Uptown. Although CDOT is responsible for plowing the lanes, they don’t necessarily deserve all the blame for the slushy bikeways.

When the city’s Streets and Sanitation department plows the travel lanes, snow is often thrown into the protected lanes. And when workers clear sidewalks in front of businesses and multiunit buildings, the snow often gets pushed into the lanes. This is still happening despite the new ordinance.

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Click on the above image to view a video by Marcus Moore.

Last Monday, Moore posted some video of the bike lane near his shop filled with slush. He noted that openings in the curbs that protect cyclists are designed to allow water to flow from the street to sewer openings, but these openings can get filled with snow that freezes and blocks the drainage.

On Wednesday, Moore noted on Facebook that the sidewalk in front of Unity Manufacturing, 1260 North Clybourn, was cleared, but all the snow had been dumped in the bike lane. He also noted that, Winfield Moody Health Center, a clinic next door to Unity that sees many patients who are pregnant, on crutches, or in wheelchairs, had only shoveled a small section of the sidewalk.

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Snow from the sidewalk by Unity Manufacturing was dumped in one of the Clybourn protected lanes. Photo: Marcus Moore

Matt Dinerstein, a Facebook friend of Moore, contacted Unity about the problem and got a message from the company in response. “[They say] they are sorry, and that the workers that shoveled should have known better, and that they will correct the issue,” Dinerstein reported. “They deserve a pat on the back for that action.”

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The bike lane, after Unity had it cleared. Photo: Marcus Moore.

It’s nice that the company is addressing the problem, but it would be great to see CDOT step up enforcement of the new ordinance that forbids dumping snow in PBLs, and well as writing more tickets for un-shoveled sidewalks. It would mean safer conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, plus more revenue from fines for our broke city – seems like a no-brainer.

Streetsblog Chicago will resume publication on Monday. Have a safe and happy New Year!

  • Lisa Curcio

    I finally figured out that the snow earlier this week that was in the Dearborn lane from Kinzie to the Westin driveway was snow that the business on the southwest corner of Dearborn and Kinzie pushed into the bike lane. It was finally cleared today, but once all of that snow is in the lane it is really hard for CDOT to clear the entire lane. If the city would hit some of these businesses with big fines, they might stop doing it!

  • Pat

    I encountered that as well. Went into traffic to go around it, as I didn’t feel like slipping downhill.

  • kastigar

    Looking at the pictures in front of Yojimbo’s and Unity, I don’t see where the snow is supposed to be moved too.

    The bike lane is squeezed between the sidewalk and the street. After a heavy snow is going to get covered by sidewalk shoveling or street plowing.

    It looks like a Catch-22: you can be fined if you don’t shovel the sidewalk, and you can be fined if you shovel it into the bike lane.

  • nick

    And then DHL drivers just use the PBL like it’s their own private lane…

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Look at the last photo. They figured out a good compromise.

  • johnaustingreenfield
  • Mcass777

    This is the worst aspect of PBL’s. The City has not kept up with keeping these lanes clean. Before PBLs the snow plows cleared streets which included a bike lane. It was dry and clean usually a day after a significant snow. Now it’s weeks in PBLs.

  • Not necessarily, regarding snow clearance of conventional or even buffered bike lanes: because of the parked cars adjacent to the bike lane, the plow drivers often don’t go near the parked cars and thus clear the snow from 1/3 to 1/2 of the bike lane.

    Then, people further clear the snow from around their cars and build little mounds in the bike lane limiting the cleared width even more.

  • Drove (sorry) by the car protected bike lanes on Broadway north of Montrose. Full of unplowed snow and un-rideable. I saw one biker on the traffic side of the parked car buffer because it was un-rideable.

  • The real trick is that the city can’t just plow it once and decide once the snow’s stopped falling, the lane’s still clear. It needs to be checked, and replowed as needed.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    The problem on Broadway is definitely due to merchants pushing snow into the lanes *after* CDOT plows them.

  • Mcass777

    Bingo!

  • They do it for the car lanes.

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