CDOT’s 2015 Bikeways Report Highlights Last Year’s Many Innovative Projects

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CDOT tried lots of new stuff this year, including this treatment at Washington/Franklin, inspired by Dutch “protected intersections.” Photo: CDOT

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The Chicago Department of Transportation’s new report “2015 Bikeways – Year in Review” showcases the fact that the CDOT bike program got a heck of a lot of stuff done last year. It quantifies the significant progress that was made in 2015, the year the city debuted curb-protected bike lanes.

All told, CDOT installed about 20 miles of new buffered bike lanes and roughly three miles of protected lanes, as well as restriping some 19 miles of existing, faded lanes. The city has put in a total of 108 miles of bike lanes since Mayor Emanuel took office in 2011, including many miles of existing conventional lanes that were upgraded to buffered or protected lanes. Currently there are 87 miles of buffered lanes and 21.35 miles of protected lanes.

The city’s first curb-protected lanes went in on Sacramento, Milwaukee, Clybourn, Washington, and 31st Street. Concrete protection represents a big step forward towards creating a bike network that so-called “interested but concerned” types will feel comfortable using.

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The Clybourn curb-protected bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

The new curb protection on 31st represents an upgrade from the old PBLs, which were chiefly separated from car traffic by plastic posts. “This project exemplifies the strategy of installing bike infrastructure quickly and then upgrading the project through future inprovements,” the report states.

CDOT also built the city’s first raised bike lanes on the north sidewalk of a short stretch of Roosevelt between State and the Grant Park skate park. Green “crosswalks for bikes” still need to be marked to shepherd cyclists through the cross streets.

While the Roosevelt bikeway is more of a demonstration project than a particularly useful route, hopefully the city will build a longer raised bikeway in the near future. It would be great to see Chicago pilot Copenhagen-style facilities, where the bike lane is located above the street level but below the sidewalk, which helps keep walkers out of the bike lane.

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A raised bike lane in Copenhagen, located below sidewalk level. Photo: John Greenfield

Last year CDOT made the Cortland, 18th Street, and South Halsted river bridges more bike-friendly by installing non-slip plates or concrete infill. 26 miles of bike network streets were repaved, providing a silky-smooth ride for cyclists.

The report highlights the downtown bike improvements that were made as part of the Loop Link bus rapid transit project. In addition to the eastbound Washington protected lane, located between the island bus stations and the curb, the city installed a two-way PBL on Clinton, including bike-specific stoplights.

The Clinton lane currently runs between Jackson and Fulton. This year, after the Union Station Transit Center is complete, the Clinton bike lane will be extend south to connect with the Harrison PBL, which connects with protected lanes on Canal.

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The Clinton Street makeover was one of several progressive street reconfigurations in Chicago last year. Image: CDOT

This year a westbound protected bike lane will be constructed on Randolph, once construction at Block 37 is complete. The new PBL will replace the old westbound bike lane that used to be located two blocks south on Madison – that bike lane was eliminated when the Loop Link bus-only lane was put in on the street.

The report highlights the construction of new bike-friendly intersection treatments that were put in at Washington/Franklin and Washington/Dearborn as part of Loop Link, inspired by Dutch-style protected intersections. While the report refers to the new treatments as “protected intersections, Streetsblog’s Steven Vance has argued that they don’t actually fit that definition. Still it’s good to see CDOT trying something new here, and perhaps more robust intersection treatments will be piloted in the near future.

The report also touts the “green wave” signal timing that was implemented on Wells in River North with the goal of providing a steady sequence of green lights for cyclists proceeding at 12 mph. While the timing worked immediately after the change was made, the last few times Steven and I rode Wells, the green wave wasn’t working.

But these are fairly minor quibbles. CDOT deserves kudos getting a remarkable number of projects done last year, and the report doesn’t even mention the June 2015 opening of the Bloomingdale Trail. Here’s hoping 2016 will be even more eventful.

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.

  • No mention of Greenways or neighborhood bikeways. Were they a thing of previous years or next year?

    I would love to see these become a specific kind of street of its own type. Lots of green markings and/or painted lanes, signs declaring 15mph speed limit when bikes are present and no bike passing by cars would be some of the features. Mostly these ways are low traffic residential streets often too narrow for safe passing anyway.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Not much was done with neighborhood greenways in 2015, other than restriping a portion of Berteau. However, it’s possible that the Leland Greenway will be built in Uptown this year: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2014/06/03/leland-greenway-will-debut-traffic-diverters-bikeable-speed-humps/

  • The focus really should be on making all neighborhood streets 15-20 MPH zones that discourage motor traffic. Those that become natural bike corridors could receive route enhancements and priority as well.

  • Slowing cars down has a long history. Thirty and forty years ago there were many, many fewer stop signs and four way stops. The whole idea of the stops signs was to slow cars down. And it has worked wonderfully well. People complain that cars often do not stop at stop signs. But that was never the goal. The real goal, slowing them down worked.

    The next effort at slowing cars down began about twenty years ago with first traffic circles and bump outs. The president of a neighborhood organization where I live boasted that they successfully fought traffic circles. They did. But I smile when I think of what they did not stop: speed humps.

    We are now in round three. The rise of bicycle infrastructure. Road dieting combined with bike lanes, protected especially lanes, works wonders. But those tend to be major arterials. It is time to create bicycle priority streets. A specific defined class of streets with specific infrastructure and rules.

    15 MPH when cyclists present. NO BIKE PASSING. Green paint or a pair of green plastic heat sealed 6 to 10 inch wide lines in the middle of each traffic lane. Cars must travel at the same speed as bikes. And special stop signs for cars that do not require bikes to stop at intersections.

    Around me I imagine streets like Lunt, Pratt, Granville, Balmoral, and Winnemac for the east/west direction and Kenmore, Winthrop, Glenwood, and Rockwell for north/south.

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