Skip to content

Posts tagged "buffered bike lanes"

15 Comments

Exploring New Bikeways on Marquette Road

IMG_0701

Biking the new buffered lanes in the Marquette Park neighborhood. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday, I navigated a couple of Chicago’s newest bikeways on Marquette Road, named for Father Jacques Marquette, one of the first Europeans to map out the northern Mississippi River. The Chicago Department of Transportation recently striped buffered lanes on Marquette (generally 6700 South) between Stony Island (1600 East) and Cottage Grove (800 East), and between Damen (2000 West) and California (2800 West).

Marquette, a relatively low-traffic, two-lane street, has the potential to become a bike-friendly east-west route, running about nine miles from the city’s western boundary at Cicero (4800 West) all the way to the Lakefront Trail. The upgrades to these one-mile stretches are a step in the right direction.

IMG_0659

This bike path paralleling Marquette Road through Jackson Park is a low-stress way to get to the lakefront. Photo: John Greenfield

At Stony Island, Marquette connects to a nicely marked, two-way off-street bike path that runs half a mile through Jackson Park to an underpass beneath Lake Shore Drive that escorts cyclists to the Lakefront Trail. Making Marquette west of Stony Island more bikeable will create a nice, low-stress route to the beaches.

IMG_0662

Buffered lane at Marquette and Stony Island. Photo: John Greenfield

The stretch of Marquette from Stony Island to Cottage Grove, in the Woodlawn community, features curbside bike lanes with a buffer striped to the left and no car parking lane. The lanes were striped on the existing pavement, which is in decent shape, rather than freshly laid asphalt. It would be a nice touch to add flexible posts to the buffers to discourage motorists from driving and parking in the lanes.

On the current Chicago Bike Map, Marquette is shown as having non-buffered bike lanes on the entire stretch between Stony Island and Central Park Avenue (3600 West). However, unlike on streets where CDOT has scraped out conventional bike lanes and replaced them with buffered lanes, there was no evidence of the old bike lanes on the Stony Island to Cottage Grove segment. This suggests that bike lanes were striped several years ago but weren’t refreshed, so they faded to black, or perhaps the street was repaved but the lanes weren’t restriped.

Immediately west of Cottage Grove, a previously striped conventional bike lane is still easy to see. But most of the roughly 3.5-mile stretch between Cottage Grove and Damen, which is supposed to have conventional lanes on its entire stretch, is hit-or-miss. There are plenty of segments where the lanes are barely visible, and others where they disappear completely. All told, I’d estimate that only about half of this stretch has usable bike lanes.

IMG_0683

Although there are bike lane signs on this stretch of Marquette, there really isn’t a bike lane here. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago bike lanes are usually built using federal grants that can only be used for building new infrastructure, not for maintaining the old. This federal money can be used for upgrading existing conventional lanes to buffered or protected lanes, but when Chicago bike lanes are re-striped as-is, the work is generally funded as part of a repaving project, or bankrolled by the local ward. CDOT currently has no dedicated funding for bike lane restriping, which is why so many of our older lanes are in such bad shape. City Hall really needs to allocate dedicated funding for bikeway maintenance.

Read more…

10 Comments

PBLs Off the Table in Jeff Park, But Milwaukee Still Needs a Road Diet

extralarge

CDOT rendering of Milwaukee with a road diet and protected bike lanes.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has proposed three possible street reconfigurations for Milwaukee from Lawrence to Elston. Unfortunately, the one that CDOT originally said would have had the greatest safety benefit for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers is now off the table.

The scenario where the current five-lane speedway would have been converted to two travel lanes and a turn lane, plus protected bike lanes, is no longer under consideration, according to 45th Ward chief of staff Owen Brugh. He said that Alderman John Arena and CDOT jointly concluded that PBLs weren’t a practical solution for this stretch, due to the high number of driveways.

Since protected lanes would have involved moving the parking lanes to the left side of the bike lanes, parking spaces would have had to be eliminated at each intersection and curb cut to ensure that cyclists and motorists could see each other. This would have required the removal of 20 percent of the parking spots on Milwaukee. However, parking counts show that, in general, spaces on this section of Milwaukee are currently used as little as 50 percent of the time, and not more than 90 percent of the time, so there would be a relatively minor impact on the availability of parking.

extralarge1

Rendering of a road diet with wide buffered lanes.

The two other alternatives are still under consideration. One would involve a road diet with wide buffered lanes, which CDOT says would still have a significant safety benefit for all road users. The other would maintain all five lanes but add narrow buffered lanes, which would provide a minor safety benefit for cyclists and pedestrians, but have practically no effect on car speeds.

It’s a shame that protected lanes are no longer being considered, since this stretch of Milwaukee would greatly benefit from a major reboot. This section consistently averages well under 20,000 vehicles, making it the least busy stretch of Milwaukee in the city. But while Milwaukee south of the Kennedy Expressway is generally a two-lane street, north of the Kennedy it has two travel lanes in each direction, plus turn lanes, and the excess capacity encourages speeding. Recent CDOT traffic studies found that 75 percent of motorists broke the 30 mph speed limit, and 14 percent exceeded 40 mph, a speed at which studies show pedestrian crashes are almost always fatal.

Since speeding is the norm here, it’s not surprising that there’s a high crash rate. The project area saw 910 crashes between 2008 and 2012, causing at least 17 serious injuries and three deaths, according to CDOT. In January of this year, two men were killed in a rollover crash on the 6000 block of the street, just south of Elston.

Read more…

16 Comments

Eyes on the Street: More New Buffered Lanes on the South Side

IMG_1954

Oakwood Boulevard, just west of Lake Shore Drive. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation continues to pump out more bikeways, as part of its effort to build 100 miles of protected and buffered lanes by 2015. Today I took a spin around the South Side to check out new buffered lanes on 75th Street and on Oakwood Boulevard.

IMG_1955

Looking west on Oakwood, west of LSD. Photo: John Greenfield

In conjunction with a street repaving project, CDOT recently upgraded a quarter-mile stretch of conventional lanes on Oakwood, from its junction with Pershing Road to the lakefront trail, in Oakland. The buffered lane serves to shepherd cyclists to one of my favorite spots, a bulge in the coastline that was constructed a few years ago, which provides a breathtaking skyline view.

IMG_1962

The view from the Oakwood hump. Photo: John Greenfield

The new buffers narrow the travel lanes, which helps to calm traffic. Since the lanes are curbside, flexible post to discourage drivers from driving and parking in them would be a good addition.

IMG_1953

Road diet at northwest corner of Oakwood and LSD. Photo: John Greenfield

In addition, a section of the road has been striped with dead space just west of the southbound Lake Shore Drive offramp. This creates a tighter turning radius for vehicles coming off the drive, encouraging drivers to hit the brakes as they turn right onto Oakwood. Installing posts here as well would help keep motorists out of the striped area.

Read more…

15 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Recent Bike Upgrades in the Loop and on the South Side

IMG_1682

Wide buffered bike lane on California over the Ike. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago Department of Transportation crews are continuing their work this summer, building new bikeways and upgrading existing ones. Yesterday, I took a spin around the Loop and the South Side to check out the latest improvements on Randolph, Harrison, California, 33rd, and King.

I started out on Upper Randolph, where CDOT recently upgraded the existing conventional lane between Michigan and the Millennium Park bike station to a buffered lane, and added a short stretch of buffered lane to shepherd riders onto Lower Randolph. When I checked this out earlier this month, tour buses were still using the stretch of the bike lane near Michigan, where the lane is curbside, as a standing zone.

IMG_1647

Flexible posts have been added to upper Randolph. Photo: John Greenfield

However, flexible plastic posts have since been added, which seem to be doing a good job of keeping buses out of the lane. Drivers don’t seem to be having any problems navigating the slightly complex road layout. Further up the hill, the bike lane shifts to the left of a parking lane, so the buses only partially block the bikeway.

IMG_1650

Further up the hill, the Randolph lane shifts to the left. Photo: John Greenfield

Next, I checked in on the new protected lanes on Harrison from Wabash to Desplaines. Since the last time I looked at it, CDOT has added flexible posts. With generally good pavement quality, plenty of green paint, and now posts, Harrison now joins Dearborn, Milwaukee and Elston as being one of Chicago’s nicest PBLs.

IMG_1655

New entrance canopy at the Harrison Red Line stop. Photo: John Greenfield

As I cruised the Harrison lanes, I checked out two new main entrance canopies for the Harrison Red Line station, part of a $10 million station overhaul. These classy glass structures feature large video screens that display ads and train arrival times.

IMG_1660

Vehicle parked in the Harrison PBL near State. Photo: John Greenfield

The main fly in the ointment with the Harrison PBLs is that drivers are parking in them, since the lanes are generally curbside with no parking lane to their left. Although new “No Parking” signs have been added since my last visit, I saw a number of vehicles in the lanes, including a U.S. Postal Service truck near the main post office. Perhaps adding posts to the entrances of the lanes at intersections would solve this problem.

Read more…

40 Comments

Study: To Keep Bicyclists Outside the Door Zone, You Need a Buffer

IMG_0816

A buffered bike lane does a better job of encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone than a wide bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

A new study has found that buffered bike lanes are better than conventional bike lanes when it comes to encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. The study draws its conclusion, in part, based on a test done with bike lanes in Chicago.

The study, recently published by the Transportation Research Board, concludes that wider but un-buffered bike lanes aren’t necessarily better than narrower lanes in encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. If there’s enough space to make a wider bike lane, the authors conclude, that extra space should be used to install a “narrower bicycle lane with a parking-side buffer,” which “provides distinct advantages over a wider bike lane with no buffer.”

Researchers reached their conclusions after observing thousands of cyclists using various bike lane configurations in Chicago and Cambridge, Massachusetts. On one Chicago street, for example, few bicyclists rode outside the door zone when the bike lane had no buffer, then after a two-foot buffer was striped, 40 percent rode outside the door zone:

Bicyclists are more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than any other bike lane width studied.

Bicyclists are more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than in any other bike lane width studied.

That’s because the door zone is four feet wide, and riding in the center of a six-foot-wide bike lane still doesn’t give a cyclist enough clearance. The Chicago Bike Map itself recommends riding four feet away from parked cars, well outside the center line of even a six-foot-wide lane.

The on-street tests demonstrated that a six-foot-wide bike lane offers no advantage over one that’s five feet wide, or even four feet wide. Regardless of the width, bicyclists still ride in the center of the lane — within the radius of a typical car door swinging open. Dooring crashes are common in urban areas like Chicago: In 2012, the last year for which data is available, 18 percent of reported bike crashes were doorings.

Chicago has several six-foot-wide bike lanes, including those on Elston from North Avenue into the far northwest side, Division Street through Wicker Park, and Milwaukee between Division and Elston. The on-road test, using temporary bike lane stripes, took place on Division Street near California, and on Clark Street near Schiller. Both streets did not have bike lanes before, and then bike lanes of varying widths were installed, culminating in the buffered lanes that exist at those locations today. Read more…

27 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Augusta Buffered Lanes and Repaved Milwaukee PBLs

IMG_0816

Augusta near Noble. The buffer encourages riding outside of the door zone. Photo: John Greenfield

Due to the cold spring, the Chicago Department of Transportation’s bikeways construction season got off to a late start. Thermoplastic pavement markings don’t adhere properly to asphalt at temperatures below 50 Fahrenheit, as evidenced by bike lanes and crosswalks in various parts of town that were striped too late in the season in 2013 and have quickly deteriorated. Therefore, it was wise to wait for warmer weather this year.

IMG_9987

This Logan Square crosswalk was badly faded not long after installation. Photo John Greenfield.

Now that work has begun on the 20 miles of buffered and protected lanes slated for this year, things are moving fairly quickly. This month CDOT installed buffered bike lanes on the following stretches:

  • Halsted: 85th to 75th, 69th to Marquette, 59th to Garfield, and 31st to 26th
  • Racine: 52nd to 47th
  • 26th: Kostner to Pulaski
  • Augusta: Damen to Noble

As Steven posted earlier today, Wood recently got a neighborhood greenway treatment between Augusta and Milwaukee. CDOT is also nearly done reconstructing the Milwaukee protected lanes between Erie and Ogden. Those were largely obliterated by a water main project this fall, and then all of the remaining bike lane bollards taken out by motorists and snowplows over the winter.

IMG_9015

Milwaukee Avenue during water main construction. Photo: John Greenfield

I plan to ride the new South Side facilities next week. This afternoon, I took a quick spin to check out conditions on Augusta and Milwaukee. CDOT striped conventional bike lanes on Augusta from Central Park to Noble a few seasons ago, but as I ride in from the west, I noticed that many stretches west of Damen are badly faded. Hopefully, these sections will be next in line for an upgrade.

Read more…

18 Comments

Business Owners on Elston Won’t Fight Buffered Bike Lanes

IMG_0156

Biking on Elston, just west of Ashland. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s official: business owners along the Elston industrial corridor are giving up their fight against better bike lanes on the street.

In December, when Chicago Department of Transportation staff discussed plans for buffered bike lanes on Elston between North and Webster at a meeting hosted by the North Branch Works industrial council, there was stiff resistance. Although there’s currently a protected lane on the street from Division to North, and a faded conventional lane on most of this stretch, the industrial council argued that encouraging more cycling on the street would interfere with truck movement and endanger bike riders.

In January, as an alternative to upgrading the Elston lanes, the North Branch Works lobbied CDOT to build a roundabout bicycle route proposal designed by a local architecture firm, dubbed “A New Bike Route.” However, transportation chief Rebekah Scheinfeld wrote Mike Holzer, director of economic development for the industrial council, last month pointing out that there’s already heavy bike traffic on Elston, and 26 percent of crashes resulting in injuries involve cyclists. She also noted that ANBR would add half a mile to a bike trip downtown, and the infrastructure could cost 100 times as much as the buffered lanes.

At the end of March, CDOT project manager Mike Amsden presented a slightly modified design for the buffered lanes, with the travel lanes widened from 10.5 feet to 11 feet, to North Branch Works, and now the council is grudgingly accepting the plan. The bike lanes are slated for construction in late 2014 or early 2015.

Read more…

43 Comments

Elston Has a Speeding Problem — A Safe Bike Lane Can Help

Without protected bike lanes on Elston, bicyclists will continue to get the truck route squeeze

Without protected bike lanes on Elston, bicyclists will continue to get squeezed between trucks.

To reach Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of having five percent of trips under five miles made by bike, bicycling will have to appeal to a much broader base of people than it does today. CDOT’s bikeway projects will only succeed at that goal if new cyclists feel safe and comfortable while riding in these lanes — which, in turn, largely depends on whether they feel safe from nearby traffic.

Elston Avenue, where a proposal for buffered bike lanes has proven contentious, is a good place to measure how fast people are driving — and whether bike lanes provide sufficient separation from speeding cars. CDOT has proposed a buffered bike lane from North Avenue to Webster Avenue, and, at some point in the future, an extension further north through Avondale and beyond. The North Branch Works business association isn’t pleased with the proposal, saying that it will impede truck traffic.

John Greenfield and I spent last Tuesday morning measuring drivers’ speeds at two different locations on Elston. We used our new radar speed gun — donated by Streetsblog readers — to collect data on northbound drivers on Elston at Blackhawk/Magnolia, where Elston bends slightly, and on Elston at Willow, next to the Creative Scholars Preschool. The Blackhawk/Magnolia intersection is part of the stretch of Elston that has a bike lane separated from traffic by flexible posts, and the Willow intersection is part of CDOT’s new project area.

The proportion of speeders was high at both locations. At Blackhawk/Magnolia, 37.6 percent of drivers exceeded the 30 mph speed limit, and at Willow, 32.3 percent of drivers were speeding. We measured vehicle speeds for 15 minutes at each location, capturing 100 drivers apiece. While ideally a larger sample would be collected to gauge the extent of speeding, our measurements suggest there is a higher proportion of speeders on Elston than on other bike routes known for high speeds, like Marshall Boulevard and 55th Street.

High motor vehicle speeds not only pose a danger to people who bike, they also discourage people from biking in the first place by increasing the perception of risk. Likewise, bikeways that provide greater separation from speeding traffic not only reduce the risk of injury, they also lead more people to bike by increasing the perception of safety. To compensate for the high level of speeding on Elston — and the preponderance of truck traffic — the street should have the safest bicycle infrastructure available.

Read more…

13 Comments

Chicago Building Four Miles of Protected Bike Lanes This Year

Can you believe this road was expanded from 4 lanes to 6?

CDOT will install a buffered bike lane on Harrison Street through this asphalt monstrosity built for the Congress Parkway interchange expansion.

The City of Chicago announced a new slate of bikeway projects today, outlining about 15 miles of new buffered bike lanes and a little more than four miles of protected lanes to be built in 2014.

Under the plan for this year, protected bikeway construction in Chicago would continue to outpace every other American city except perhaps for New York. But the city still embellishes its progress by counting buffered lanes as protected lanes, saying that it is already halfway to the goal of building 100 miles of protected lanes by 2015. (In fact, just under 17 miles of protected bike lanes have been built.)

It’s unfortunate that the city continues to mislabel buffered bike lanes, not only because it’s misleading but because it cheapens the substantial progress being made in Chicago — often in the face of difficult obstacles like the Illinois Department of Transportation ban on protected bike lanes on state jurisdiction streets, including Clybourn Avenue and parts of Elston Avenue. (The ban has now been lifted on a trial basis on Clybourn.)

This year, about 4.25 miles of new bike lanes will be physically protected from traffic by parked cars and/or flexible posts. CDOT Assistant Director of Transportation Planning Mike Amsden said in December that the city is considering using curbs for protection on Clybourn Avenue from Division Street to North Avenue — a stretch that traverses the intersection where cyclist Bobby Cann was fatally struck by drunk driver Ryne San Hamel — and State Street south of 26th Street. The news release says this is still being designed. (CDOT said at the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting in March that curb separation was “still on the table.”)

The new protected bike lanes are:

Read more…

56 Comments

“A New Bike Route” No Substitute for Safer Biking on Elston

A_New_Bike_Rolute_Dossier copy

The ANBR route map. Note that the route is slightly less indirect than shown because the street marked as Marcy is actually Clybourn.

Last month when Chicago Department of Transportation staffers discussed plans for buffered bike lanes on Elston between North and Webster at a meeting hosted by the North Branch Works industrial council, there was stiff resistance from local business owners. Although there’s currently a protected lane on the street from Division to North, and a fading conventional lane on this stretch, they argued that encouraging more cycling on the street would interfere with truck movement and endanger bike riders.

As an alternative to upgrading the Elston lanes, the industrial council is now pushing a bike route proposal designed by the architecture firm MAS Studio and bankrolled by Topology, a real estate development company. Dubbed “A New Bike Route,” it features an itinerary connecting the east end of the upcoming Bloomingdale Trail, AKA The 606, to buffered lanes on Wells south of Division, mostly via side streets. The roundabout route includes Cortland, Marcy (although the street shown on the map above is actually Clybourn), Kingsbury (Topology’s office is located at 1422 North Kingsbury), Scott, Cleveland, Hobbie and Hill.

“The idea is to make a bike route that is a good ride as an alternative to simply designating a bike lane for a city street,” said Tom Melk, project leader for Topology . “The route weaves its way past retail areas, the Clybourn Metra stop, schools, and employment centers, and through parks, avoiding anonymous areas like the Elston industrial zone.”

A_New_Bike_lRoute_Dossier copy

Rendering of ANBR on Hill Street by Seward Park.

“The focus is to create a good ride, an interesting ride, and an efficient way to connect Milwaukee Avenue and the new 606 to Michigan Avenue, River North and the Loop while avoiding difficult, unfriendly intersections… or routes through long tedious and uninteresting neighborhood areas,” he added. “Who wants to bike down Elston anyway?”

Actually, lots of people do. CDOT counts conducted in late summer of 2012 observed an average of 219 cyclists on Elston at Division per two-hour peak period. It’s also clear that upgrading the Elston bike lanes would make even more people choose it as a bike route. Bike counts on the street showed a 55 percent increase in cycling after the protected lanes were installed.

While the stretch between North to Webster is wide enough for protected lanes, the business owners are dead-set against the buffered lane proposal, let alone extending the PBLs north, because they fear more cyclists on Elston would interfere with their shipping operations. Their main reason for promoting the ANBR proposal is to get bikes out of the way of their trucks.

Read more…