This February, Steven Vance reported that the Illinois Department of Transportation has been prohibiting the installation of protected bike lanes on state jurisdiction roads in Chicago at least until the Chicago Department of Transportation collects three years of “safety data” on existing Chicago protected lanes. That means the earliest the ban would be lifted would be July 2014, three years after Chicago’s first protected lanes opened on Kinzie. IDOT is not blocking installation of buffered lanes.
IDOT’s anti-protected lane policy came into sharp focus after cyclist Robert “Bobby” Cann was fatally struck by an allegedly drunk, speeding driver, on Clybourn Avenue, a state jurisdiction street, on May 29. Chicago’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 designates Clybourn as a bike-priority “Spoke Route,” and the street is wide enough for protected lanes. Had IDOT not been blocking protected lanes on Clybourn, it’s possible that the city would have built them prior to the crash.
The circumstances of Cann’s death are still unclear and, since the crash may have happened in an intersection, it’s not certain that PBLs would have shielded Cann from an out-of-control driver. However, protected bike lanes on Clybourn could definitely help prevent similar tragedies. Since protected lanes are off the table, CDOT has announced plans to stripe buffered lanes, which do not shield cyclists from cars, on Clybourn from Division to Belmont, with construction likely starting this week. IDOT is cooperating with the project.
At last Wednesday’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting at City Hall, attorney Brendan Kevenides (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor) asked IDOT Project Engineer Aren Kriks why his department is prohibiting protected bike lanes on streets like Clybourn, despite evidence from other cities that protected lanes improve safety for all road users. CDOT Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton was involved in the discussion, as was I. Here’s a transcript.