More Bike Lane Blockage on Milwaukee, This Time at Grand Avenue

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Looking northwest on Milwaukee at Grand. The green bike lane in now blocked by Jersey barriers. Photo: Dries Kimpe.

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After art student Lisa Kuivinen, 20, was fatally struck on August 16 by a flatbed truck driver while biking downtown in a Milwaukee Avenue bike lane, many people noted that the bike lane was blocked by construction zone nearby at 830 North Milwaukee. While the lane closure doesn’t seem to have been a factor in the crash, the case has drawn attention to the problem of the many current Milwaukee Avenue work zones creating a hazard for cyclists.

When I rode on Milwaukee from Logan Boulevard to Kinzie Avenue last week I counted 18 construction sites, at least seven of them for transit-oriented development projects. I observed that the sidewalk on the west side of Milwaukee north of Grand Avenue was blocked off by plastic Jersey walls for a TOD project at the northwest corner of the six-way intersection. However, the green bike lane was unaffected by the work.

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Looking southeast on Milwaukee at Grand last week, when the construction zone only blocked the sidewalk, not the bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Reader Dries Kimpe cc-ed us on an email he sent to local alderman Walter Burnett noting that the barrier has been moved east so that the southeast-bound bike lane is now part of the construction zone. “[The] developer has fully closed off the bike lane without providing any signs providing an advanced warning to bicycles and without providing any safe alternatives,” Kimpe wrote, adding that the only reason the bike lane seemed to be walled off was to provide a parking space for construction vehicles.

“This is very close to the spot where only recently a 20-year-old bicyclist was killed in a traffic [crash],” Kimpe added. “Given how busy the Milwaukee bike lane is, and considering the dangerous situation at a complicated intersection, I would hate to see another incident in the news.” He noted that cyclists are now squeezed into a tight space between the plastic wall and motorized traffic, which makes it more likely that “right hook” crashes might occur.

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The bike lane blockage has created a hazard for cyclists. Photo: Dries Kimpe

“My hope is that your office can reach out to the developer to make them aware of this fact, and to provide a safe passage or alternative for cyclist,” Kimpe wrote. 

After Kuivinen’s death, Burnett told Streetsblog that the Chicago Department of Transportation was going to provide an update on the 830 North Milwaukee bike lane blockage. After a few requests, we still haven’t been able to get more info on this from CDOT.

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the north end of the bikeway blockage, on Milwaukee half a block north of Grand, looking southeast. Photo: Dries Kimpe

However, we’ll check in with Burnett and the city soon to see in hopes that this hazardous and bike lane blockage situation at Grand can be removed or at least mitigated.

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.

  • Mcass777

    I think the bike lane was back today. It looked as though curbs and sidewalks were being paved.

  • There still needs to be a better protocol to manage bike and car traffic. Some kind of speed hump, speed limit signs (20? 15?), signs warning merged bike traffic, signs warning no passing of bikes etc. Even for a one day closing. It’s a culture change that needs constant reminder and enforcement until it’s automatic.

  • JacobEPeters

    It was back today. Definitely moved to accommodate parked trucks. One of the trucks blocking the lane yesterday was a DOT truck, I sent in that photo to the clear the way campaign & will bring it up at the MBAC too.

  • Dries

    I agree. It was actually closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, for no apparent reason, in that no construction seems to have happened which also required the bike lane to be blocked (in addition to the right-turn lane).

  • The bike lane was back today, but a block north of there (at Elston) I watched a truck full of portapotties cut off about 10 cyclists. It was too dangerous to take a picture or I would have.

  • Cheryl Zalenski

    I was coming off Elston ann did take a photo: https://goo.gl/photos/5quzE1oq8ogaH3JN7

  • osi

    It was closed because they were pouring the new sidewalk and putting in a new curb. The sidewalk and curb were the same broken shit that had been there since the prior building.

    I did see a sign about the bike lane being closed and about sharing the lane during the closure.

  • JacobEPeters

    Where was that sign related to the Kenect project? The only one I saw was up at Milwaukee & Willard north of Chicago

  • osi

    I saw a sign as I came over the overpass heading south. It would have been ~ 7am.

  • JacobEPeters

    Are you sure that it was the overpass at Milwaukee & Ohio? The only sign I saw at 8:45 this morning was the sign at the Willard & Milwaukee overpass, a mile north of where this blockage was occurring at Grand and Milwaukee.

  • osi

    The bike lane on Milwaukee going south before Grand was not blocked this morning on my commute at ~ 7am. The barriers were only blocking the on-street parking.

  • JacobEPeters

    yeah, I think the issue people were pointing out is that on the days that the lane is blocked, like yesterday, there is no sign at Ohio & Milwaukee to alert drivers and cyclists that there will be an unexpected merge.

  • osi

    I saw a sign on Wednesday. I don’t know about Tuesday though since I didn’t cycle due to the rain.

  • ardecila

    Not to accommodate “parked” trucks. They had to provide a wide lane so that concrete mixer trucks could come in and pour the new sidewalk. The parked truck was just there as a placeholder to keep the lane clear when the concrete trucks arrive. Working in construction, you can’t always be sure when the delivery will come so you have to be ready for it all day.

    Now it seems the sidewalk has been poured and the bike lane is back to normal.

    I think a new sidewalk and pedestrian improvements are something this blog should be in favor of, especially considering the awful crumbling concrete that used to be there. It is worth a one-day disruption to the bike lane.

  • JacobEPeters

    I did not see the sign at Ohio on Wednesday. Just the one at Willard.

  • JacobEPeters

    No one is against the construction improvement, just against the manner in which the merge was left unsigned, and the actual bike lane north of the barriers was blocked by other trucks. Like this city vehicle. You can build an improvement without creating dangerous road conditions during rush hour.

  • Pat

    I had a similar incident with a grease truck yesterday morning around 8AM on Wells/Erie (Hooters) and actually stopped and had a productive chat with the driver.

    I explained to him the current tension in the cycling community and how him parking in the bike lane was dangerous. He was aware of the recent string of deaths and genuinely seemed to be sorry for blocking the bike lane.

    Frankly, he was put in a bad position by Hooters and his company. The grease outlet was on Wells, there was no loading zone (cars were parked against the curb), Hooters doesn’t send anyone to let him in before 8, and he was equipped with a 100 ft hose.

    I sympathized with him and he vowed to ask Hooters to allow him to come earlier (before the rush) and to get a longer hose so that he has more options to park when doing his work.

    I can count on one hand the positive interactions I’ve gotten with trucks that block bike lanes, but if a trucker from Joliet is aware of issues, I think some progress is being made.

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