Responding to a query today from Streetsblog Chicago about abysmal conditions for cyclists on Milwaukee Avenue, transportation commissioner Gabe Klein says he has asked a deputy commissioner to work with the Department of Water Management “to put a better traffic management plan in place for cyclists ASAP.” Deputy commissioner Pat Harney said he is “talking to DWM now.”
When they rebuilt the nearly 10 miles of track on the Red Line’s Dan Ryan branch the Chicago Transit Authority took the “rip the Band-Aid off” approach to providing rail service to the south side. Instead of keeping slow zones for four years and closing the branch for renovation on weekends, the CTA shut it down for five months. They provided excellent alternate shuttle service, reduced the fare for existing nearby bus routes, and gave free train rides at Garfield Green/Red Line station. The final component was that CTA reached out to hundreds of neighborhood, faith-based, and workforce organizations, and campaigned for a year to let everyone know about the change.
The Department of Water Management should have taken inspiration from the CTA in developing its bike thoroughfare-busting water main project on Milwaukee Avenue from Ogden (where the mayor recently aided an injured cyclist) to Erie in River West, which started the first week of October.
Just a short time ago, in June, the Chicago Department of Transportation dramatically transformed Milwaukee by reconfiguring the street with buffered and protected bike lanes. It wasn’t a secret (at least not to Streetsblog readers) that the water main project was on the horizon, but hundreds (maybe thousands) of cyclists got a big surprise.
John Amdor bikes from Logan Square on Milwaukee toward UIC. He told me that unexpected changes to street design are frustrating and confusing to both drivers and cyclists. He added, “Grousing suburban newspaper columnists trolling for pageviews is one thing, but the city is frustrating real residents and business owners when it installs (and then sometimes removes) bikeways without really engaging the community.”
Brendan Kevenides of FK Law (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor) called the current situation on Milwaukee unacceptable, writing, “A temporary bike lane should be created for use during the construction project so that the cyclists, mostly commuters to and from the Loop, can pass safely on this street that they have come to rely upon.”
It wasn’t a surprise to me, though, that the departments made absolutely no bike provisions, given city departments’ and contractors’ track record of putting signs in bike lanes, failing to secure sidewalk construction outside downtown, saying the Kinzie bike lane is closed ahead when they really mean that you’ll just have to share a travel lane for 200 feet, having one sign say use Clark while another says use Dearborn, or putting hundreds of people in the street at a busy Metra station.