Eyes on the Street: New 2-Way Protected Bike Lane on Evanston’s Chicago Avenue

A cyclist enters the Chicago Avenue protected bike lane at the Sheridan Road curve. Photo: Jeff Zoline
A cyclist enters the Chicago Avenue protected bike lane at the Sheridan Road curve. Photo: Jeff Zoline

The City of Evanston recently installed a two-way protected bike lane along a segment of Chicago Avenue, one of its main arterial streets. The bike lane is part of a larger project to improve multi-modal usage of both Chicago Avenue (what the city of Chicago’s Clark Street becomes north of the Howard Street border) and Sheridan Road. The Sheridan Road-Chicago Avenue Improvement Project involves redesigning the 1.9 mile corridor along these two major streets to make them more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. This will involve building a bi-directional protected bike lane on the east side of each street.

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Eventually the protected lane will run all the way from Chicago and Grove to Isabella, the northern border of Evanston. Image: Google Street View

Other improvements include new traffic signals and bus stop bump-outs as well as landscaping and water main infrastructure improvements. Specific bike-friendly improvements include an eight-foot-wide bi-directional bike lane, a three-foot-wide concrete median and a one-foot-wide buffer to separate the bicycle lanes from the vehicular parking and traffic lanes on the left. Additionally, dedicated traffic signals, curb extensions, refuge islands, lane markings and intersection barrier protection for bicyclists and pedestrians will be installed at each intersection. The speed limit for traffic will also be reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph.

The $13.3 million dollar project is paid for with city and state funds as well as five annual $1 million dollar contributions from Northwestern University to the city’s Good Neighbor Fund. The project area is bounded on the south by Chicago Avenue and Grove Street in downtown Evanston and on the north by the Evanston/Wilmette border at Sheridan Road and Isabella Street. The project has been divided into three phases.

Phase One, which has just been completed, runs between Grove Street and the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road. Phase Two construction, which will run along Sheridan Road from Chicago Avenue to Lincoln Street adjacent to the Northwestern University campus, is scheduled to occur between June 12 and September 15, 2017. Phase Three construction, which will run from Lincoln Street on the northern edge of the campus to the city limits at Isabella Street, is slated to occur between April 1 and October 19, 2018.

Bike lane curb barrier at Chicago and Clark. Photo: Jeff Zoline
Bike lane curb barrier at Chicago and Clark. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Unfortunately, due to the longstanding state budget impasse, the Illinois Department of Transportation has recently ordered all state funded transportation projects to cease by June 30th. This will put the next phase of construction on hold until the budget impasse is resolved.

The Sheridan Road/Chicago Avenue project will connect directly with existing downtown Evanston protected bike lanes along Church and Davis Streets, providing a safer passage to and from the Northwestern University campus and downtown Evanston. This follows a tragic bike fatality last year in which a concrete truck driver ran over Northwestern University student Chuyuan Qiu as she entered Sheridan Road from the campus drive at Garrett Place. Qiu’s death shook up the campus and local raised awareness about the dangers of biking near the university. The new protected bike lanes will help prevent such tragedies in the future.

https://publicgood.com/org/chicagoland-streets-project/campaign/2017-fundraising

  • Henry

    The concrete median looks fantastic! It also looks much easier to install than the style generally used in Chicago. I wonder how the costs compare.

    Every time I see a reference to this project, I get excited mistakenly thinking it refers to Chicago Ave from South Blvd down to Howard. I know it’s a truck route, but I’d love for some protection to be added there too – there’s certainly enough road width.

  • rwy

    The other day I was going South down Sheridan, and in order to get into the bike lanes on Chicago I would have had to cross both directions of traffic. Unidirectional bike lanes on each side of the street would be so much more intuitive to use.

    While it is good to see Evanston get more bike infrastructure, it’s absolutely terrible compared to our neighbors to the South. Many trips still require you to ride on streets with fast traffic and inadequate room between traffic lanes and parking or the curb. Unfortunately there is no plan to build any more bike lanes. Possibly because it is mostly car dependent senior citizens that get involved in local politics.

  • skelter weeks

    Look at the article. It’s about connecting downtown Evanston to Northwestern University. The rest of Evanston can go hang for all they care.

  • When a project is in the middle of construction and ends abruptly because the next segment hasn’t even started, of course, then there is no way that transition can be intuitive. It’s like saying “I was riding on the new Lake Front Trail Flyover at Illinois street and I had to fall down to the street because it wasn’t intuitive how I was supposed to fly over the river. They should just build on the street and forget the flyover stuff as it’s not intuitive.”

    Sorry for the snark. It was too juicy to pass up.

    I honestly believe that when they are done you will see how very intuitive everything will become. In the mean time hang in there.

  • The concrete median is just parking space stops, yes? Standard items. And I assume that the two way bike lanes are easily plowed in the winter and cleaned with a standard ‘Zamboni’ in the summer (ahhhgh, street sweeper. Yeah that’s what they’re called.)

  • All that lane space around Calvary Cemetery and still riders have to choose between fast cars and frustrated sidewalk pedestrians.

  • rwy

    I’m saying that unidirectional bike lanes are more intuitive because us yanks are used to riding our bikes on the right side of the road. And doing things such as making right turns directly from the bike lane. There is also the problem of safety, with drivers not expecting sb traffic on the east side of a road.

    I think cyclists are expected to use the bike lanes in their unfinished state. I’m not clear on the law. At the last ward meeting, I was told that police would be ticketing cyclists outside of a bike lane. But the City Code doesn’t mention bike lanes, only that bikes should be on the right side of the road.

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