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Posts from the Eyes on the Street Category

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Eyes on the Street: A Miniature Complete Streets Overhaul on Clarendon

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Looking south on Clarendon, south of Irving Park. This stretch was formerly two-way for motor vehicles but now has a parking-protected contraflow bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

Here’s a nice little livable streets makeover in Lakeview. The city recently converted the short stretch of Clarendon between Irving Park and Broadway, changing it from a two-way roadway for motorized traffic to a one-way northbound street for cars with a northbound conventional bike lane and a southbound, contraflow protected lane.

“CDOT received a request from [46th Ward alderman James] Cappleman to evaluate the intersection of North Broadway and Clarendon Avenue,” explained Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey. “Residents had expressed interest in redesigning the intersection in order to reduce conflicts between vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and to improve overall safety and accessibility.”

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The previous layout on Clarendon, looking south from Irving Park. The crossing distance for pedestrians has been significantly shortened. Image: Google Street View

CDOT performed a traffic study and evaluated several options before deciding on the new configuration, Claffey said. “This conversion removed the conflict between vehicles on southbound Clarendon at the Broadway and Clarendon intersection and vehicles and bicyclists on Broadway,” he said.

As a bonus, the protected lane and the concrete cap at the north end of the adjacent parking lane significantly shortens the crossing distance for pedestrians at the south leg of Irving Park and Clarendon. Construction was finished in November 2015 in conjunction with the repaving of this block of Clarendon.

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Eyes on the Street: Eight TOD Buildings Under Construction Along Milwaukee

500 N Milwaukee: The Kenect building overlooks a busy intersection

The “Kenect” pair of buildings at 500 N Milwaukee Ave, photographed last Thursday, will have 227 units and 88 car parking spaces. View all the photos in this gallery.

The Chicago City Council passed the first comprehensive transit-oriented development ordinance in 2013, and the first buildings to take advantage of that law, which reduced the minimum parking requirement and allowed smaller or more units in buildings near CTA and Metra stations, are now being built. Some of them will open to new residents this year.

The Milwaukee Avenue corridor is replete with construction. There are eight buildings at various stages of construction on Milwaukee, or one block away, between the Grand Blue Line station at Halsted and the California Blue Line station, a distance just over three miles.

Collectively the buildings have 1,146 units and 572 car parking spaces, for an average parking space to unit ratio of just under 0.50 spaces. That’s a savings of 574 parking spaces, and hundreds of fewer drivers in a pedestrian, bicycle, transit, and retail-heavy corridor.

2211 N Milwaukee: "The L" building really grabs that corner with Talman

“The L” at 2211 N Milwaukee Ave. (at Talman Ave.) will have 120 units and 60 car parking spaces, but also 120 bike parking spaces with an exclusive bike entrance.

The TOD ordinance at the time allowed a reduction of the normally required 1 parking space per unit to 1 car space per 2 units. City Council revised the ordinance on its two-year anniversary last year to extend the distance a building can be from a train station, and to allow a 100 percent reduction in the number of required car parking spaces for residential buildings. Developers can now build 51-100 percent fewer parking spaces than the 1:2 ratio if they go through an additional zoning process.

There are still no TOD buildings near Metra stations.

2237 N Milwaukee: Crane in the sky

The unnamed two towers development in Logan Square one block from the California Blue Line station was probably the most controversial. View all the photos in this gallery.

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Solving The Problem of Snow Being Pushed Into Protected Lanes

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No, this is not an expanse of arctic tundra, its one of the Broadway protected bike lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

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In general, protected bike lanes are great for encouraging “interested-but-concerned” folks to try urban cycling. However, as I discussed last week, when the lanes aren’t maintained well during the winter, they can actually make cycling more difficult. And when snow- or ice-filled PBLs force bike riders to share narrow travel lanes with motorists, that decreases safety.

Even when the Chicago Department of Transportation does a good job of plowing the protected lanes, there’s often a problem with snow later being pushed off sidewalks in front of businesses, into the curbside bike lanes. Last fall the city passed an ordinance that makes it clear it’s illegal to do this, as well as raises fines for property owners who don’t shovel their sidewalks, but CDOT officials said there were no plans to increase enforcement.

It’s great when merchants are conscientious about clearing their sidewalks for pedestrians. However, many business owners, or at least the people they hire to shovel, seem oblivious to the fact that plenty of Chicagoans use the protected lanes year-round, and that it’s illegal to dump snow in them.

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The Clybourn bike lane, after Unity had it cleared. Photo: Marcus Moore.

The good new is that once people are made aware of these facts, they may change their behavior. After a cyclist contacted Unity Manufacturing, 1260 North Clybourn, and asked them to stop pushing snow off their sidewalk into one of the Clybourn curb-protected lanes, the business had a path cleared for bike riders.

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Last year, I took Broadway PBL snow clearance into my own hands. Photo: Justin Haugens

The protected lanes on the short segment of Broadway between Wilson and Montrose, one of the few stretches of PBLs in Chicago along a retail strip, are especially prone to being filled with shoveled snow. Last winter, I took matters into my own hands and shoveled out a section of the bike lanes myself.

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Take a Virtual Ride on the New Section of the Lakefront Trail at Fullerton

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A new section of the Lakefront Trail north of Fullerton has been open since November, but the second half of the path south of the street debuted last week. The path sits on 5.8 acres of brand-new parkland that was created via infill as part of the $31.5 million Chicago Department of Transportation and Chicago Park District project. The main goal of the project was to repair the area’s crumbling seawall.

One benefit of the initiative is that it creates 600 feet soft-surface pedestrian path south of Fullerton, in addition to the paved multiuse path, which provides a bit of mode separation – something that many trail users have been asking for. The paved path is also moved further east from the off- and on-ramps for Lake Shore Drive at Fullerton, which helps make that location less chaotic.

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A skyline view from the new parkland. Photo: John Greenfield

Workers will continue to landscape the new land until next summer, so everything but the path is still fenced off. But you can already enjoy breathtaking new views of the skyline from the terra nova.

During construction, a temporary paved path detour existed south of Fullerton, on high ground close to the highway, but this has been ripped up and turned into the soft-surface trail. In the past, one of the big issues south of Fullerton is that the multiuse path sits very close to the lake and tends to get flooded and iced over during the cold months. It looks like the project hasn’t addressed that problem, but we’ll have to see what happens later this winter.

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Eyes on the Street: On the First Day of Loop Link

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Loop Link station on Washington east of State. Photo: John Greenfield

Like kids unwrapping presents, travelers in downtown Chicago had some shiny new infrastructure to try out Sunday morning. The Loop Link bus rapid transit system debuted on a day when weekday traffic wasn’t an issue, although the central business district was packed with holiday shoppers. Monday will be the first big test of the system.

The main part of the bus corridor runs about a mile across the Loop district on Washington and Madison streets, where giant bus shelters with near-level boarding platforms have been constructed. On Washington, a new protected bike lane runs between the sidewalk and the island stations.

The route also includes Canal and Clinton streets in the West Loop, so it connects the two West Loop commuter rail stations with Michigan Avenue. Six different bus routes that terminate in different corners of the city are now using the corridor, which is designed to double bus speeds from the previous sluggish pace of 3 mph during rush hours.

Time-saving features include red concrete bus-only lanes, limited stops, and white “queue jump” signals at intersections, which give buses a head start, similar to “leading pedestrian interval” traffic signal timing. The queue jumps are currently in effect and seem to function well. Pre-paid boarding isn’t in effect yet, but the city says it will be tested this spring at the station on Madison at Dearborn Street. Read this post for more info about the design of the Loop Link corridor.

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Right turns by motorists are prohibited at several intersections. At others, drivers may cross the bus lane, and right-turn and bike signals prevent conflicts. Photo: John Greenfield

The system is still very much a work in progress. Only seven of the eight planned stations are built — one at Washington and Wabash Avenue will be constructed after work on a new elevated station nearby is finished. Some of the existing shelters are still under construction. And bus drivers, motorists, bike riders, and pedestrians will need some time to get used to the new traffic patterns.

That said, things seemed to be functioning pretty well on Sunday. True, cars in the remaining two mixed-traffic lanes on Washington were moving pretty slowly when I visited in the late afternoon, but it was prime shopping time. In particular, lots of people were walking between the State Street retail strip to the German Christmas market at Daley Plaza, which made it difficult for drivers to turn north onto Dearborn.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Eyes on the Street: New Section of Lakefront Trail at Fullerton Is Half Open

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The new section of trail north of Fullerton. Photo: John Greenfield

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About a year ago, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Park District kicked off the Fullerton Revetment project, which is building 5.8 acres of new parkland along the lake. The main goal of the $31.5 million endeavor was to replace the crumbling seawall. But it’s also making room for the partial separation of pedestrian and bike routes on a section of the Lakefront Trail that’s currently a bottleneck. Infill and revetment construction is wrapping up this fall, and landscaping should be done by next summer.

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A plan view of the project.

North of Fullerton Avenue, a section of the new path is already open, although the separate pedestrian walkway will only exist south of the avenue, west of the bike path. The soft-surface footpath will run for about 600 feet before ending at a turnaround at Fullerton. Workers have ripped out the old stretch of the trail north of Fullerton that hugged the Theater on the Lake, and walkers, joggers, and cyclists are now directed to the brand-new path segment.

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The old section of the path by the Theater on the Lake is now closed. Photo: John Greenfield

The initiative includes widening the strip of parkland along the trail by as much as several hundred feet via infill, creating a brand-new hump of land that’s sure to be a hit with sunbathers. Last summer, that area resembled a milky turquoise tropical lagoon, contained by a wavy wall of corrugated steel pilings. Crews have since filled in the lagoon with rocks and dirt, and are currently covering the area with sod.

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Eyes on the Street: The Loop Link BRT Corridor Continues to Take Shape

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Washington Street west of Franklin Street. Photo: John Greenfield

The Loop Link bus rapid transit route, slated to be largely complete by New Year’s Day, seems to be moving along nicely.

As I’ve discussed, some of the project’s features have been reduced, modified, or delayed. We’re not getting transit signal priority, truly level boarding, or enclosed bus stations, and the pilot of prepaid boarding will be delayed until next year. But we are getting limited stops, dedicated bus lanes, queue jumps, near-level boarding, and extra-long shelters with lots of seating, and we’ll eventually be getting prepaid boarding at all stations. As such, Loop Link should demonstrate some of the benefits of BRT and help build support for a more robust BRT system on Ashland Avenue.

Recently, crews installed green thermoplastic and bike symbols in the eastbound curbside protected bike lane that has been constructed on Washington Street along with the island bus stops and giant bus shelters, each averaging about 90 feet long and 14 feet high. A two-way, north-south PBL is largely complete on Clinton Street, and a westbound protected lane will eventually be installed on Randolph Street.

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A crew installs pavers on the platform of a bus stop on Washington east of State. Photo: John Greenfield

When I stopped by yesterday, I saw that the platforms are also taking shape, as workers install pavers and tactile warning strips at the edge of the platforms — similar to those at ‘L’ stations. Underneath the pavers are electric heating coils, which will help keep the bus stops clear of snow this winter.

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Tactile warning strips are being added to the edge of the bus platforms. Photo: John Greenfield

Seating will run almost the entire length of the shelters, so just about everyone who wants to will be able to take a load off. Wooden benches are already in at some of the stops, with metal dividers to discourage people from sleeping or skateboarding on them.

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The view from inside a shelter. Photo: John Greenfield

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Once Again, the Construction of a Mariano’s Creates a Hazard for Pedestrians

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People walking the street on Broadway past a sidewalk closed for the construction for the parking-rich Mariano’s development. Photo: J. Patrick Lynch

Broadway is a city-designated Pedestrian Street between Diversey and Cornelia in Lakeview. But during the construction of a new car-centric development, people on foot are encountering a decidedly pedestrian-unfriendly situation.

A massive new complex featuring a Mariano’s grocery store and an XSport Fitness gym, plus 279 car parking spaces, is currently being built at 3030 N. Broadway. For the past several weeks, the sidewalk on the west side of Broadway has been closed to accommodate the construction.

Streetsblog Chicago reader J. Patrick Lynch sent us photos of the situation, which is all-too-common in Chicago. Since the sidewalk closure signs are located mid-block, people who encounter them are supposed to backtrack half a block to the crosswalk in order to detour to the east sidewalk. Lynch tells us that many people simply opt to walk in the street.

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