Don’t Panic! Take a Virtual Ride on the New Glenwood Greenway

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

I’d like to start this post with a moment of silence for the victims of the Biking Green Massacre. You know, the bloodbath that occurred after contaflow (“wrong-way”) bike lanes with green paint were installed as part of traffic-calmed Neighborhood Greenway routes on Chicago streets like Ardmore, Berteau, Albion, and Wicker Park Avenue.

What, you say there was no Biking Green Massacre? Well you wouldn’t know it from watching a recent CBS report titled “New Bike Path Design Has Neighbors, Riders Concerned.” It should actually be titled “New Bike Path Design Has Neighbor, Rider Concerned,” because exactly one of each is interviewed.

The north end of the greenway at Bryn Mawr. Photo: John Greenfield
The north end of the greenway at Ridge. Photo: John Greenfield

The new $65,000 bikeway, which is largely completed, runs on Glenwood from Ridge to Foster in the Edgewater neighborhood, providing a safe north-south alternative to busy Clark and Broadway, located two blocks west and east, respectively. The contraflow bike lane, which allows southbound cyclists to safely ride on this northbound stretch, is already in, as is a concrete island at Ridge that helps keep southbound drivers from entering Glenwood, plus signage.

Bike-and-chevron “shared-lane markings” still have to be installed on Glenwood between Ridge and Foster, which will help keep northbound cyclists out of the southbound lane (you’ll see a northbound cyclist in the southbound lane for a moment in the video below). These symbols, aka “sharrows,” will also be marked on the two-way stretch of Glenwood between Foster and Carmen, a two-way street, to direct cyclists to and from Broadway, which has buffered bike lanes south of Foster.

Before the contraflow lane was fully installed, randomly selected “bike rider” Kelly D’Angelo told CBS reporter Jeremy Ross, “It seems a little bit more dangerous to me… I really don’t like when I have to go against traffic.”

Right, that’s the point of contraflow bike lanes. Under normal circumstances, riding against traffic for multiple blocks is generally a bad idea, but by creating dedicated space for “wrong-way” riders, and giving drivers and pedestrians plenty of notice to expect contraflow bike traffic, contraflow lanes make it safe to do so.

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

“We see people regularly riding down on that side of the street anyway,” Glenwood resident Bill Pinalto told Ross. Correct, lots of people are already riding against traffic, so legalizing this move and making it more predictable makes a lot of sense.

But the voiceover on the news spot notes, “Bill Pinalto is worried that drivers used to pulling out of alleyways onto a one-way street won’t remember to look both ways for traffic.” Hmm, I wonder how the city could remind them. Maybe by installing green paint and “One-Way Except Bikes”signs  at every single alley and cross street?

Signs and green paint alert drivers leaving alleys to the presence of contraflow bike traffic. Photo: John Greenfield
Signs and green paint alert drivers leaving alleys to the presence of contraflow bike traffic. Photo: John Greenfield

Pardon the snark, but the important thing is that the Glenwood Greenway is going to make biking on this already popular route safer and more convenient. While, according to the Chicago Department of transportation, six bicyclists were injured in crashes on this stretch of Glenwood between 2009 and 2013, there have been few or no bike crashes on any of the existing contraflow lanes, and none of the collisions were serious. The Berteau Greenway, Chicago’s first, is celebrating its fourth birthday this year, so that’s an excellent track record.

Therefore, the notion that the useful new bike lane on Glenwood will be a safety hazard is simply an alternative fact.

  • kastigar

    Why not remove the “speed bumps” on the greenway, in the bicycle path?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yeah, as you can see from the video, those are a little annoying for cycling. But they help slow car traffic and to deter drivers from using Glenwood as a cut-through street. So they’re part of what makes Glenwood a good candidate for a greenway.

  • Bodgan

    This still seems dangerous to me. It is counterintuitive to ride against traffic so when reacting instinctually accidents are bound to happen. Pedestrians will only look in the direction of car traffic since it is a one-way street and will miss the bike traffic. Maybe over time people will get used to this but I still notice more people walking into the bike lanes on Dearborn because they only look one way (for one-way car traffic).

  • Allan Marshall

    Funny you mention those speed bumps. There’s one rough one just immediately south of Granville on Glenwood, where I wish it’d get repaved. It’s so annoying to go over that one, and I really dread that particular one every time I bike on this street. It feels a little worse going over that speed bump south, vs. north.

    Should I just do a 311 call or do an online report, to report this to the city that this speed bump should be repaved?

  • 受教了!呵呵!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “It is counterintuitive to ride against traffic so when reacting instinctually accidents are bound to happen.” Agreed, it’s a little hard to wrap your head around the idea of a contraflow bike lane if you’ve never ridden one. But the data for Ardmore, Berteau, Albion, and Wicker Park Ave. shows that there have been few or no crashes on contraflow lanes on neighborhood streets, and no serious crashes.

    Dearborn is a totally different situation, since it’s a narrow, two-way bike lane on a busy downtown street with tons of pedestrian cross traffic. Some protected bike lane purists, like Streetsblog’s Steven Vance, argue argue that two-lane protected bike lanes on city streets are a bad idea, and I’ve heard of one serious bike/ped injury crash on Dearborn since the lane was installed in late 2012: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2015/06/12/lawyer-cyclist-was-not-to-blame-for-pedestrian-crash-in-dearborn-bike-lanes/

    On the other hand, the lane increased bike traffic on the street by 171 percent, and I don’t know how many bike/ped crashes there were before it was installed. Moreover, there were something like four different cases where drivers crashed into the storefront of Petterino’s restaurant at the NW corner of Randolph/Dearbon in the few years prior to the installation of the bike lane. That has completely stopped since the lane went in, and since the city installed concrete islands at the intersection last year, it’s now highly unlikely that will ever happen again. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eb836ee555cec9145df4d49e67c325731f4b3e7ac1b539cb37397c3df51dc74d.jpg

  • Looks good and practical. Contraflow bikeways are a quite common and useful tool for building good bike networks, especially if the associated one-way streets form a non-connecting network. CDOT should switch the one-way direction on one of the middle blocks to really curb motor traffic.

  • Jeremy

    People are just going to have to adjust. Things change.

  • Frank Kotter

    because then drivers will put 50% (or all of it if the parking lane is free next to it) of their car in the bikelane to get around it at a higher rate of speed.

    This is a small price for cyclists to pay for traffic calming.

  • Frank Kotter

    Although I don’t put much weight in the argument ‘new is dangerous’ I would add to the point that without enforcement of the daylighting at intersections – where the nearside crosswalk crosses the intersection – then bad things will occur as cyclists will not be able to see anyone stepping out from directly behind this parked car until it is truly too late. In the video above it looks like it is pretty good but I bet it is parked full in the evening.

  • Brian Toombs

    We should name that speed bump. He is the worst. Almost a speed curb.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Forest (Green) Bump?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    All of the above, plus calling the 48th Ward office.

  • JacobEPeters

    I am pretty sure that Ardmore predates Berteau as a contraflow lane by a few years. I distinctly remember it being referenced in planning discussions in the lead up to Berteau’s installation.

  • John Zappa

    As a regular bike commuter I find the island at the intersection of beteau and Clark downright dangerous. Cars and bikes are forced together into a narrow stretch of road. There is very little room to separate the vehicles. This island was installed as an extension of the bike lane on berteau. I suspect it was meant to slow traffic but it creates the ideal situation for a cyclist to be struck from behind.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Agreed, the space is too narrow — there’s not really enough room for drivers to safely pass cyclists here. Many others have brought this up, so it would be good if CDOT adjusted the set-up accordingly.