Skip to content


Posts from the Design Category


Eyes on the Street: Roosevelt Raised Bike Lane Is Almost Ready to Ride

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

It seems like it has taken an eternity, but the Roosevelt Road raised bikeway is finally getting the green paint and bike symbols that will turn it into a functional cycling route. This Chicago Department of Transportation initiative is part of a streetscaping project that involved widening the sidewalk along Roosevelt between State Street and Michigan Avenue to make room for the two-way bike lane.

130924 Public Presentation FINALFINAL

Street layout from State to Wabash, where the bikeway will exist as on-street lanes, to the left of bus lanes.

The new lane extends a block or so past Michigan on the north sidewalk of Roosevelt, ending near the trunkless metal legs of the “Agora” installation and the Grant Park skate park. From there, cyclists can head north a block to the 11th Street bike and pedestrian bridge over Metra and South Shore tracks. From there a multi-use path leads under Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive to the Museum Campus.

130924 Publick Presentation FINALFINAL

CDOT rendering of Roosevelt streetscape, looking east from Wabash. Note the separation between the blue crosswalks and the green “crossbikes.”

The streetscape project also includes new metal benches and decorative pavers inscribed with various words that are meant to be thought-provoking, or evoke the cultural facilities of the Museum Campus. Near the CTA ‘L’ station at Roosevelt and State, which serves the Red, Orange, and Green Lines, CDOT has installed extra-long bus shelters that will have ad panels.


A crew member applies adhesive to the lane for attaching the thermoplastic bike symbol segments. Photo: John Greenfield

Between State and Wabash Avenue, the bikeway will exist as a pair of one-way bike lanes located in the street and marked with green paint. Eastbound bicyclists will use a special “crossbike” – a crosswalk for bikes – to move to the bi-directional raised bike lane on the north side of Roosevelt east of Wabash. Westbound cyclists will be shepherded from the raised lane to the westbound on-street via a green-marked lane that will slant from the sidewalk to the bike lane.

Read more…


Eyes on the Street: A Roundup of New Bike Lanes, Part I


New buffered lanes on Lawrence in Albany Park. Photo: John Greenfield

We’ve done write-ups of many bikeways the city installed this year as part of their effort to reach 100 miles of buffered and protected lane, including facilities on South Sacramento, South State, Vincennes, Clybourn, Milwaukee, and Washington. However, there were a few more new lanes I’d been meaning to check out, and some others that weren’t on my radar because the Chicago Department of Transportation hadn’t announced them on the bike program’s Facebook page. Recently, however, CDOT provided this list of bikeways they built this year:


Yesterday, I took advantage of the gorgeous weather to check out some of the new lanes on the Northwest Side. In the near future, I’ll provide a roundup of the new South and West Side bikeways we haven’t already covered.

It’s worth noting that most of the bikeway mileage installed this year was simply upgrades to existing facilities — usually turning conventional bike lanes into buffered lanes. While these upgrades helped CDOT to reach their goal of installing 100 miles of buffered and protected lanes within the last four years, they didn’t actually expand the bike network or improve connectivity. On the other hand, buffered lanes are more comfortable to ride in than conventional ones, so it’s nice that non-buffered lanes are going the way of the dinosaur.

Moreover, CDOT has halved their mileage goal for the next four years to only 50 miles. Since there will be less pressure to quickly rack up mileage, maybe there will be more emphasis on building brand new bikeways, rather than simply upgrading old ones.

And perhaps a higher percentage of the new lanes will be physically protected – only 19.5 of the 103 miles of lanes installed under Mayor Rahm Emanuel have been protected. In addition, CDOT has stated that they plan to focus on improving connectivity and making intersections safer, which is good to hear.


New buffered lane by the Copernicus Center, near Lawrence and Milwaukee. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday, I started out by riding the 2.50-mile stretch of buffered lanes, upgraded from conventional ones, between Central Park and Central in the communities of Albany Park and Mayfair. It’s always fun to check out this strip, a melting pot of Latin American, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Korean businesses. As is usually the case with new bikeways nowadays in Chicago, the lanes are generally marked through intersections, and the project also included new high-visibility, zebra-stripe crosswalks.

Read more…


UIC Bike/Walk Project Didn’t Get the $17 Million in Federal Funds It Needs

Screenshot 2015-11-02 15.37.50

UIC has proposed eliminating the cul-de-sacs to create a pedestrian plaza, streamlined walking path, and a bike path at Morgan Street and Vernon Park Place between the library and Behavioral Sciences Building.

Unfortunately, a transportation project that has the potential to positively transform the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus was passed over for federal funding. The $29.3 million initiative, called Crossroads & Connections, would make significant changes to campus streets in order to make walking and biking safer and more convenient.

The university was seeking $17.2 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery funding. This discretionary grant program from the U.S. Department of Transportation finances “transformative” projects that would have at least a citywide impact on safety. The remaining funds would have come from UIC’s parking revenue, because the project would have included replacing asphalt in some parking lots with permeable pavers to reduce the amount of runoff sent to the city’s sewer system.

The only Chicagoland TIGER application to win funding this year was a railroad bridge over the Fox River near Elgin used by Metra trains. A new pedestrian bridge at 35th Street over railroad tracks and Lake Shore Drive that’s currently under construction is also funded by TIGER.

Crossroads & Connections would have addressed many dangerous and annoying situations for people walking and bicycling on the UIC campus, including several pet peeves I accumulated while studying there for four years. It would create smoother cycling connections, build new pedestrian plazas, and legitimize walking routes that weren’t being accommodated before.

The university also wants to reduce crashes and injuries by modifying high-risk intersection and crossing points. The plan notes that that 252 people were injured in crashes with people walking and bicycling, from 2008-2012 on the eastern and western portions of the campus, and while making their way between the two areas.

Ever since the Student Recreation Facility opened at Halsted and Polk Streets in the mid-2000s, people have been crossing the streets diagonally and mid-block to access dorms or student center buildings. Some of them walk over planted medians to do so.

The C & C plan calls for creating a wide mid-block crosswalk on Halsted by cutting a gap into the median and adding a “High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk Beacon,” aka a HAWK signal. When pedestrians press a button on the signal, drivers would get a red light. While this is a “beg button” of sorts, it would make mid-block crossing here safer and more convenient.

Read more…


CDOT Promises the Miró-Obscuring BRT Station Won’t Be an Art Faux-Pas


The Rake’s Progress: The new bus shelter, which doesn’t yet have glass panels, is currently making the inconspicuous sculpture even harder to notice. Photo: Steve Marsala

Don’t worry art lovers, the city assures us that the project to bring faster, more efficient bus service to the Loop won’t permanently upstage one of Chicago’s most beloved public sculptures. The Chicago Department of Transportation says they have plans to use lighting and signs to highlight a statue by the famed Spanish artist Joan Miró, which is now located behind a giant Loop Link bus rapid transit shelter.

The sculpture, officially titled “The Sun, the Moon, and One Star,” but better known as “Miró’s Chicago” or “Miss Chicago,” was installed in 1981under Mayor Jane Byrne. It already had less-than-stellar placement in Brunswick Plaza, a dark nook sandwiched between the Cook County Administration Building and the Chicago Temple Building.

image1 (1)

Photo: Steve Marsala

The Miró statue, which looks something like a lady in a dress with a fork coming out of her head, is located across the street from Daley Plaza. There, the lion-like “Chicago Picasso,” by Miró’s colleague Pablo Picasso, is much more prominently displayed.

The Loop Link project, expected to wrap up by the end of the year, is creating dedicated bus lanes on Washington and Madison Street in the Loop, plus protected bike lanes on Washington and Randolph. CTA customers will wait for a ride at eight 14-foot-tall bus shelters, averaging 90 feet in length, with a design that’s reminiscent of an upside-down rake.

Originally, the Chicago Department of Transportation planned to build fully enclosed stations that would have provided good weather protection. However, after merchants expressed concerns that their storefronts would be blocked, CDOT is instead building giant canopies with glass backs that stop several feet before the roof, so they may not offer much protection from blowing rain and snow. However, a concrete bench will run the length of each shelter, so there’ll be plenty of room to sit.

Despite the department’s efforts to make the canopies relatively unobtrusive, the shelter that they recently erected in front of the Miró makes the previously inconspicuous sculpture even harder to notice from the street. Karen R. Nussbaum, a classical singer who performs at the Chicago Temple, wrote a passionate letter to the Sun-Times decrying the situation:

Read more…


In Some Ways, The 606 Isn’t as Good as the High Line — It’s Better

Ridgeway from the air on Opening Day

According to Renn, The 606 is not “a project of citywide significance, nor a bona fide tourist attraction.” Photo: Trust for Public Land

Nationally known urbanist and ex-Chicagoan Aaron Renn recently threw shade on our city’s beloved new linear park with a blog post titled “How Chicago’s 606 Trail Fell Short of Expectations.” He wrote that the new path, aka the Bloomingdale Trail, doesn’t hold a candle to the High Line in Manhattan, where he now resides. However, I’d argue that The 606 is superior on a few different levels.

During a recent visit to Chicago, Renn checked out three of the city’s new public spaces and was wowed by the new riverwalk extension and Maggie Daley Park. However, he was unimpressed with the 2.7-mile trail-and-parks system on the Northwest Side:

The problem with The 606 is not that it’s bad. In fact, it’s a nice, eminently serviceable rail trail. I won’t do a full writeup since Edward Keegan had a good review in Crain’s in which he asks, “Is that all there is?’ that I think gets it basically right… What I will do is highlight three areas that I think contribute to Keegan being underwhelmed: inflated expectations, financing problems, and an odd lack of attention to design detail.

What Keegan, actually wrote is that visitors to the new path might ask themselves “Is that all there is?” because it lacks the show-stopping design elements of the High Line or Millennium Park. But Keegan himself wasn’t underwhelmed – he argued that The 606’s relative minimalism is appropriate. “It’s an example of simple, clear and modest design being almost the right answer.” The “almost” is there because he thinks the designers should have been bolder with a few elements, such as the trail’s “clumsy and inelegant” Milwaukee Avenue bridge, and he wishes there were more places to sit and linger.

However, Keegan noted that “the designers deftly move the path from side to side and up and down to the extent possible to provide as interesting a path as possible for its users.” He also praises the wide plaza at Damen, the stadium-style seating area at Humboldt Boulevard, and the poplar grove between St. Louis and Drake, as well as the thoughtful trail lighting.

In his own post, Renn notes that the city of Chicago set up expectations that The 606 would surpass the High Line, but he argues that it isn’t even in the same class:

The 606 is not even remotely another High Line, nor a project of citywide significance, nor a bona fide tourist attraction for the masses. It’s a neighborhood-serving rail-trail that is elevated above the streets with some nice features like lighting that you don’t see often.

While the Bloomingdale may never be the tourist attraction that the High Line is, it certainly draws people from many different parts of Chicago, and it beats the NYC facility in three different departments. It’s nearly twice as long as the 1.45-mile Manhattan path. Unlike the High Line, you can bike on the Bloomingdale, and it provides direct access to many public schools, so it functions as a very useful transportation link.

Thirdly, The 606 is more democratic. The High Line runs through some of the nation’s priciest real estate and, during the three times I’ve visited it, the crowd seemed to be pretty homogenous.

Read more…


CDOT Will Create a Multi-Modal Transportation Plan for Altgeld Gardens Area

Map of Riverdale community area

Rail lines, viaducts, the Bishop Ford Expressway, the Calumet River and bridges surrounding Riverdale all create barriers for people walking or biking. Image: CDOT

Residents in the Riverdale community area, which includes the Altgeld Gardens, Eden Green, Golden Gate, and Riverdale neighborhoods, are surrounded by barriers that make it hard to travel within and beyond the area. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning recently awarded the Chicago Department of Transportation a Local Technical Assistance grant to create a multi-modal transportation plan for the area. In the grant application [PDF] CDOT noted that Riverdale residents are hemmed in by large industrial land uses, the Bishop Ford Expressway, four railroads, and the Little Calumet River. Additionally, all of the arterial streets are recommend truck routes, “creating an additional challenge for people walking and biking due to high truck traffic and speeds.”

“There is a need to improve access to adjacent neighborhoods, recreational opportunities, transit service, and employment centers,” said CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey. He added that there are many “nearby developments…or existing resources that support active transportation…but are difficult to access via walking, biking, or transit.” These include the Cal-Sag Trail, Major Taylor Trail, Wolf Lake Trail System, Millennium Reserve, and the Pullman National Historic Monument. In addition, Claffey noted, local residents are in support of improving transportation options.

In the application, CDOT pointed out that there’s a much lower rate of car ownership in these communities compared to the rest of the city. The area has limited transit access, sidewalks are often missing, and there are no bikeways. The median household income ranges from $13,000 to $14,500, far below the city’s median of $47,250.

The transportation plan will be a collaborative effort, Claffey said. They’ll work with a local organization called the Safety & Transit Action Council, led by Deloris Lucas. CDOT said in the application that they would also involve other organizations working on nearby projects, including Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail, the Southeast Environmental Task Force, and Slow Roll Chicago. We Keep You Rollin’, a new biking group that launched in the Riverdale area last February, will also be involved.

Read more…


Eyes on the Street: 2-Way Protected Lane Is Taking Shape on Clinton


Tight post spacing discourages left-turning motorists from driving in the bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

About three years ago, the Chicago Department of Transportation blazed a new trail by repurposing a lane of Dearborn Street to create the city’s first two-way protected bike lane. Now they’re building a similar two-way lane on Clinton Street as part of the Loop Link bus rapid transit project. After a few years of new bikeway designs, such as the Clybourn Avenue curb-protected lanes, the Clinton lane seems less game-changing and more like business as usual, but it has a few novel elements.


Bus and bike route on the Loop Link corridor. The Clinton bike lane is being extended north to Fulton.

The Loop Link corridor includes dedicated bus lanes on Clinton, Canal Street, Washington Street, and Madison Street. One-way protected bike lanes will be constructed on Washington and Randolph, with the latter replacing a conventional lane that used to exist on Madison.

Read more…


Romanelli Is Right: Randolph Would Be a Better Bike Route Than Lake Street


Roger Romanelli at an anti-BRT meeting. Photo: Mike Brockway

As the old saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Streetsblog Chicago readers know Roger Romanelli as the guy who has led the charge against fast, reliable bus rapid transit on Ashland Avenue with his anti-BRT group the Ashland-Western Coallition. He also made headlines for asking Chicago Police Superintendant Garry McCarthy to force a historic church across the street from Romanelli’s home to stop its decades-long tradition of early-morning bell ringing. However, there’s some method to the madness of Romanelli’s latest NIMBY crusade.

As director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association, which represents the interests of West Loop industrial businesses, Romanelli is currently opposing the Chicago Department of Transportation’s plan to install buffered bike lanes on Lake Street in the West Loop. Similar to how the North Branch Works industrial council futilely fought against installing buffered lanes on Elston Avenue north of North Avenue, he’s worried that more bikes on Lake would be an inconvenience to truck drivers.

In his campaign against the Ashland BRT project, which would involve converting mixed-traffic lanes to bus-only lanes, Romanelli cleverly proposed a watered-down alternative express bus proposal with some expensive bells and whistles. That way, he could disingenuously argue that he was advocating for better bus service, not just trying to kill the city’s plan.

FullSizeRender (7)

Currently, there’s an eastbound buffered lane on Washington, and there are protected lanes on Lake Street west of Damen. Image: Chicago Bike Map

Romanelli is shrewdly taking the same approach with the bikeway plan by arguing that Randolph Street, a street with less truck traffic than Lake, located a block south, would be a better location for the bike route. I’m confident that he would be glad to drop the idea of a bike lane on Randolph if CDOT shelved its plan for lanes on Lake between Halsted Street and Ashland Avenue. However, he happens to be correct: Randolph actually makes a lot more sense as a bike route.

Romanelli and the RFMA recently hosted a community meeting on the subject. He noted that Washington Street, a block south of Randoph, already has an eastbound buffered bike lane from Garfield Park to Halsted Street. CDOT is currently building an eastbound protected bike lane on Washington from Wacker Drive to Michigan Avenue as part of the Loop Link BRT project, and they’ll soon be adding a westbound PBL on Randolph from Michigan to Clinton Street as part of that project.

Therefore, it would be logical to continue the westbound route on Randolph in the West Loop. Meanwhile, since Lake becomes one-way eastbound east of Wacker, Washington works better as an eastbound route into the Loop.

Read more…


More Before-and-After GIF Goodness: Bike Lanes, a Ped Scramble, and BRT


Images: John Greenfield, Google Street View

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

Inspired by a post from Streetsblog USA’s Angie Schmitt, I recently tried my hand at using a new-ish feature of Google Streetview to illustrate how Chicago street transformations have improved traffic safety and made neighborhoods more livable. Google now lets you access archived Street View images, so it’s easy to see how our roadways have changed for the better.

Streetsblog Chicago readers said they enjoyed the last round of before-and-after GIF animations, so here’s a fresh batch, this time using some original photos, rather than just Street Views. Above is a view of the new curb-protected bike lanes on Clybourn Avenue in the Old Town neighborhood, which involved repurposing one of the parking lanes. It’s become an instant hit with cyclists.

Below is the city’s first (and only) pedestrian scramble intersection at Jackson Boulevard and State Street in the Loop. In addition to east-west and north-south crossing phases, the scramble phase allows walkers to cross in all directions, including diagonally.


Images: John Greenfield, Google Street View

These bike lanes on Vincennes Avenue in the Longwood Manor community show how some paint and flexible poles can transform an overly wide speedway into a calmer, more bikeable street quickly and cheaply. It would be great if the buffers are replaced with concrete curbs in the future.


Images: John Greenfield, Google Street View

The Loop Link bus rapid transit project is under construction on Madison and Washington streets downtown. This corridor, connecting West Loop train stations with Michigan Avenue, will include dedicated lanes, limited stops, and queue jumps, plus near-level and (eventually) pre-paid boarding. The Washington corridor will include a protected bike lane; the old bike lane on Madison (shown) will be replaced with a PBL on Randolph Street, 2 blocks north.

Read more…


Before-and-After GIFs of Projects That Made Chicago Streets More Livable


Last year, Streetsblog USA’s Angie Schmitt demonstrated how a new feature of Google Street View can be used to highlight street remix projects that have made cities more livable. Google now lets you look at archived Street View images, so it’s easy to compare what streets looked like before and after they were reconfigured.

I tried my hand at animating images of a few forward-thinking Chicago projects that have helped make streets safer and more pleasant places to travel and spend time. Above is the Lawrence Avenue road diet in Ravenswood, a four-to-three conversion which added wider sidewalks, curb bump-outs, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes.

Below is the Lincoln Hub placemaking project in Lakeview, which uses flexible posts and paint dots to shorten crossing distances, eliminate dangerous slip lanes, and create curb extensions that double as seating areas.


The Roosevelt Road raised bike lane project in the South Loop repurposed road lanes to make room for much wider sidewalks, plus the bikeway, parking racks, new trees, and benches. The bike lanes will get green paint and bike symbols soon.


This spring, the Chicago Department of Transportation built the city’s first curb-protected bike lanes on Sacramento Boulevard in Douglas Park. Eliminating the excess travel lanes has helped calm traffic.

Read more…