Skip to content

Posts tagged "Milwaukee Avenue"

42 Comments

Milwaukee Bottleneck Addressed but Illegal Parkers Endanger Cyclists

IMG_1473

Illegally parked cars force a cyclist to ride dangerously close to traffic. Photo: John Greenfield

On Thursday, Steven Vance and I got the news that the city was forcing a developer to fix a dangerous bottleneck on Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago’s busiest bike street, in Wicker Park. However, when I dropped by around 4:30 p.m. yesterday to check out the new street configuration, I found that the situation was as dysfunctional as ever.

In late June, Convexity Properties, a developer that’s turning the neighborhood’s iconic Northwest Tower into a hotel, built a pedestrian walkway in the street to protect people on foot while façade work takes place. The walkway’s exterior concrete wall narrowed the southbound lane of much of the 1600 block of North Milwaukee. As a result, southbound cyclists who tried to ride to the right of motorized traffic ran the risk of being squeezed into the wall.

IMG_1366

The street configuration last week, before the centerlines were striped. Photo: John Greenfield

Streetsblog Chicago writer Steven Vance brought the problem to the Chicago Department of Transportation’s attention. Last Thursday, a CDOT source told Steven that Convexity was not complying with the terms of its construction permit, which requires that both lanes of traffic be safely maintained.

CDOT would force the developer to pay for restriping the road’s center line to provide more room for southbound bike riders, Steven was told. Relocating the northbound lane east would require temporarily removing metered parking on the east side of the block, and Convexity would be responsible for compensating the city’s parking concessionaire for lost revenue.

Readers told us the work was carried out later that day. When I dropped by yesterday, the new yellow centerlines looked sharp. However, all of the paper “No Parking” signs, affixed to poles on the east side of the street, had been torn out of their wood frames and plastic lamination, presumably by disgruntled merchants or motorist. That side was still lined with parked cars.

IMG_1501

Hulk no like “No Parking” sign! Photo: John Greenfield

Read more…

33 Comments

Milwaukee Bottleneck Is Being Fixed, After Streetsblog Alerted CDOT

IMG_1389

A tight squeeze: the current configuration doesn’t allow cyclists and drivers to safely share the road. Photo: John Greenfield

Construction to transform Wicker Park’s Northwest Tower into a boutique hotel has created a dangerous bottleneck for cyclists next to the construction site. Partly thanks to advocacy by a Streetsblog reader and reporter Steven Vance, the developer is fixing the problem.

On Wednesday, June 25, Kevin Monahan wrote Streetsblog to tell us that Convexity Properties was building an enclosed pedestrian walkway next to the 12-story tower at 1600 North Milwaukee Avenue. The walkway is meant to protect people on foot while workers rehab the façade of the building, nicknamed the Coyote Tower and slated to reopen as a hotel in June 2015.

IMG_1355

The walkway protects pedestrians and provides room on the sidewalk for construction equipment. Photo: John Greenfield

The six-foot-wide walkway is a good accommodation for pedestrians. However, its concrete exterior wall, which runs for about 200 feet north of North Avenue, has narrowed the southbound lane of Milwaukee, Chicago’s busiest biking street. Currently, northbound bike riders can share the lane with cars, but southbound cyclists who try to do so run the risk of being squeezed into the wall by vehicles.

Still, many southbound riders are attempting to stay to the right of car traffic. More confident cyclists are dealing with the problem by riding in the center of the southbound lane. When there’s a line of southbound cars stopped at the traffic light, some riders are passing the vehicles on the left — a risky move, since it involves biking in the oncoming traffic lane. Monahan told us he planned to avoid this frustrating scenario altogether by detouring around the block via Wabansia and Wood streets.

Read more…

10 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Cut Off Green St. To Cut Milwaukee Ave. Bike Conflicts

Two bicyclists take different routes around this driver blocking the bike lane with their car

A driver, waiting to make a left turn from Green Street, blocks the Milwaukee Avenue bike lane. Meanwhile, two bicyclists dodge the car on either side.

Chicago has long blocked cut-through car traffic on lightly traveled residential streets with hundreds of cul-de-sacs sprinkled throughout the city. The same traffic diversion tactics could also improve safety for bicyclists at dangerous intersections by simplifying movements and removing potential conflict points.

One example is Green Street, where it intersects Milwaukee Avenue’s buffered bike lane. A traffic diverter at this intersection would increase the safety and convenience of bicycling down both Milwaukee and Green, which could be an alternative to Halsted Street towards the West Loop and to the UIC campus.

The intersection of Green and Milwaukee sees many dangerous vehicle turning maneuvers. Southbound drivers on Milwaukee either make fast, wide right turns across the southbound bike lane, while drivers from Green either block the bike lane when waiting to turn left, or zoom left right in front of southbound cyclists. Six bicyclists were injured in automobile crashes here between 2005 and 2012.

This last block of Green serves as nothing more than a free parking lot right now, since it runs between a vacant parcel on one side and an abandoned building on the other. Preventing car access at this one opening to Green would eliminate the dangerous turns entirely — but still allow filtered permeability, safely allowing bicyclists and pedestrians passage onto or across Green.

Read more…

26 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…

26 Comments

Bollard Blues: This Winter Was Rough on Chicago’s Protected Bike Lanes

IMG_0294

All the bollards along Milwaukee have been taken out. Photo: John Greenfield

[This piece also runs on the Green Lane Project's blog.]

In the wake of this brutal winter, Chicago’s third snowiest on record, some sections  of the Dearborn protected bike lanes resemble a gap-toothed grin. Several of the white, plastic posts that delineate the bi-directional bikeway are missing in action. Roughly half of the posts that once separated bikes from cars on nearby Kinzie are gone.

On Milwaukee, the city’s busiest biking street, every single bollard is missing from protected bike lanes the city installed less than a year ago. It’s a reminder of the downside of relying on plastic posts for protection, and the advantages of permanent lane separations such as curbs.

Milwaukee Avenue, with bollards - photo by Steven Vance

Milwaukee Avenue, shortly after the buffered and protected lanes opened. Photo: Steven Vance

Mike Fierstein, co-owner of Ancien Cycles, which recently opened on Milwaukee to take advantage of its high bike traffic, said the bollards were wiped out by reckless motorists, snowplows, and a water main project which tore up a stretch of the street last fall. That section of road is slated to be repaved and restriped this spring. “It seems like the posts aren’t really made to last that long anyway,” Fierstein said.

Chicago Department of Transportation project manager Mike Amsden has said the city made the decision to start out with the flexible, plastic posts, which cost about $90 each installed, rather than more durable, but more expensive, concrete infrastructure, in order to build many miles of protected bike lanes ASAP. “There’s pros and cons to doing it both ways — quality versus quantity, honestly,” Amsden told Seattle Bike Blog in January. “The philosophy of just getting as much in as quickly as you can is great.”

Read more…

21 Comments

Blue Line Construction Strands Shuttle Bus Riders Amid Detoured Traffic

Heavy traffic in Logan Square

Two southbound shuttle buses took about six minutes to travel 500 feet through Logan Square’s traffic circle.

Last weekend’s Blue Line track work, just one week of the months-long Your New Blue project, pushed rail riders onto shuttle buses that ran along Milwaukee Avenue — and right through a traffic jam created by the very same track work. Instead of following the designated detour, drivers diverted from Fullerton and Sacramento Avenues under the Blue Line piled onto Milwaukee Avenue and slowed buses to a crawl.

An alternative approach that I’d suggested earlier would have set up diverters on Milwaukee, preventing through traffic while still allowing access to all businesses and parking spaces. Since there were no diverters to keep Fullerton drivers off Milwaukee, many drivers continued on Fullerton and then — at the last minute — turned onto northwest-bound Milwaukee, adding more traffic to a stretch that’s already plenty busy during weekends. The resulting traffic jam paralyzed not only the Blue Line shuttle buses, but also the heavily used 74-Fullerton and 56-Milwaukee bus routes.

CTA Blue Line traffic detour

This diagram shows the intended detour in blue, designated by signs on the street, and the more commonly used detour in orange that slowed buses. Image: Adapted from Chicago Transit Authority

A small sign on Fullerton directed drivers to turn onto California, but the road ahead was wide open, and barriers didn’t force a turn off Fullerton until Milwaukee. Forcing a turn at California would have kept Milwaukee relatively clear for the many shuttle buses needed to carry Blue Line passengers, minimizing their delay and keeping the “rapid transit” service at least a little bit “rapid.”

Traffic jam on Milwaukee Ave. during Blue Line track work

The little detour sign that most westbound drivers on Fullerton ignored.

Gareth Newfield, a longtime Logan Square resident I interviewed while we both watched crawling, bunched-up shuttle buses from inside the Logan Square Comfort Station, noted that “the CTA always provides complete service” during construction projects, “but it doesn’t provide good service.”

Newfield suggested shifting priorities. “How about we say, ‘Getting people to the airport is such a priority that we’ll shut down a [traffic] lane to run express buses’ ” and maintain adequate service for Blue Line riders traveling through Logan Square. “The city isn’t taking [that trip] seriously, but the CTA does.” Newfield added that the few personnel dispatched to a site aren’t thinking about traffic jams as a system: “even a cop… isn’t thinking about it – ‘hold on folks, this bus needs to go first’ — or limit[ing] turns.”

Traffic jam on Milwaukee Ave. during Blue Line track work

Drivers line up to turn onto Milwaukee from Fullerton, instead of making the recommended detour earlier.

Even where there were additional lanes, for example through the square, no space was dedicated for transit; instead, both lanes were filled with cars. The CTA didn’t respond by press time to a request about shuttle bus speed data.

He later tweeted that “[I] probably could have walked faster.”

Police officers or Traffic Management Aides were not on scene to change or hold traffic signals, or to prevent turns onto Milwaukee when they saw a shuttle bus coming.

Erin Borreson was biking northwest on Milwaukee to the Comfort Station; she had to get off her bike and walk on the sidewalk because there was too much traffic. “Buses were [driving] so close to the parked cars,” she explained, “and there’s no way a biker could have gotten through.” Borreson said she was not only more comfortable on the sidewalk than in the jammed street, but added “I was faster on the sidewalk.”

The next Blue Line bus bridge along an equally congested stretch of Milwaukee will start Friday, April 4, replacing Blue Line service at Damen and Western. The shuttles will run a much longer route than the first weekend — from Western Avenue to the Clark/Lake station –  because it’s the only way to provide fully accessible service.

The same problems may recur that weekend, unless there are appropriately enforced detours. Whenever there are more buses on the road, that means more traffic. The city has a lot of options at its disposal to live up to the spirit of its Complete Streets policy, and to put transit riders first.

22 Comments

CDOT Forgets to Accommodate Cyclists During Bloomingdale Construction

MVVA_Milwaukee

The bridge over Milwaukee will be modified to remove piers from the roadway and sidewalks, and add arches.

Bloomingdale Trail construction charges ahead, with bridge work that involves closing Milwaukee at the viaduct, tonight at 8 p.m. through early Monday morning. Cars, trucks and buses will detour around the construction via North and Western, and pedestrians are advised to take a shorter detour via Oakley, Wilmot, and Leavitt Street to reach Wilmot. Winnebago, which would otherwise be a detour option since, like Wilmot, it parallels Milwaukee, will also be closed at the Bloomingdale viaduct during construction.

But what alternative route should people on bikes use to avoid this closure of the city’s busiest cycling street? The Chicago Department of Transportation map [PDF] doesn’t mention or show a bike-specific detour, and one wasn’t mentioned in the original press release. “My mistake,” said CDOT spokesman Pete Scales when I asked him about the oversight. “We recommend that cyclists use the designated bike lanes along Damen and Armitage to avoid the area.” He told me he would update the website posting, which he did.

CDOT's map modified to show their recommended bike detour in green and the more convenient alternative in yellow.

CDOT’s map modified to show their recommended bike detour in green and the more convenient alternative in yellow.

However, a more intuitive solution for the bike detour would be a bit more direct, saving people on bikes 0.2 miles and a minute of pedaling time. If a northbound contraflow bike lane was added to the short southbound stretch of Leavitt between Wilmot and Milwaukee, cyclists could use the same detour route as pedestrians.

While Scales was responsive to my request to add a bike route to the posted detour info, at this point CDOT really shouldn’t need to be reminded to accommodate cyclists during construction projects. However, even as the pace of bike lane construction has dramatically increased over the last three years under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, this continues to be an issue. Read more…

14 Comments

To Smooth Out the Blue Line Rehab, Divert Cars From Milwaukee

adf

In San Francisco, private motor vehicle traffic is diverted off the iconic Market Street at key locations, which speeds up surface transit. A similar arrangement on Milwaukee could help Blue Line passengers who have to use shuttle buses while train service is disrupted on ten weekends later this year.

As the Chicago Transit Authority prepares to fix up Blue Line tracks, the agency is warning riders that they’ll face significant delays during the weekends when work is underway. But tens of thousands of transit riders would face less inconvenience if the city cleared some room on Milwaukee Avenue by diverting motor vehicle traffic.

The CTA will be upgrading tracks over ten weekends from March to August as part of the “Your New Blue” track and station rehabilitation program. On seven weekends, shuttle buses will carry passengers between Logan Square and Western, stopping at the California Blue Line station, and on three weekends, the buses will run between Western and Damen.

The CTA said it has been testing the shuttle service ”in traffic to determine the best routes and to gauge travel times,” according to the Tribune, and spokesperson Brian Steele said riders should plan on adding 5 to 20 minutes to their trip. O’Hare-bound riders should budget for the longest trips. The closures would start at 10 p.m. each Friday and last until 4 a.m. Monday morning.

The delays for transit riders don’t have to be this long. Instead of making tens of thousands of passengers deal with traffic congestion, the city could make more room for the shuttle buses by diverting through traffic off Milwaukee at spots between Kedzie Avenue (at the Logan Square station) and Ashland Avenue (at the Division station).

Diverting traffic every few blocks could reduce congestion and speed up shuttle and 56-Milwaukee buses while maintaining car parking and access. Diversions at select cross streets would mean that someone driving from Logan Square to Wicker Park would have to use the grid instead of Milwaukee. For example, one could drive east on Fullerton Avenue, and then south on Damen Avenue, or south on Kedzie Avenue, and then east on North Avenue. But drivers could still use cross streets to access any block of Milwaukee.

Read more…

15 Comments

Construction Makes Milwaukee Bike Lanes An Obstacle Course

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.

Read more…

19 Comments

Proposed Rules for Road Construction Could Be Better for Walking and Biking

Terrible accommodation for bicycling on Milwaukee Avenue

A construction zone with lumpy pavement and a path that's too narrow for bicyclists to share the road safely side-by-side.

The Chicago Department of Transportation is accepting public comments until 5 p.m. today on the draft update to “Rules and Regulations for Construction in the Public Way” [PDF]. Among other things, this document can help improve safety for biking and walking by creating better conditions during street construction projects.

If the city’s proposed rules were in place today, for instance, the construction site over the bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue between Ogden Avenue and Erie Street probably wouldn’t be so abysmal for bicycling. This document is a big improvement over the existing rules, but there are a few ways the provisions to maintain walking and biking paths could be stronger.

The draft includes rules to accommodate people walking and biking that don’t exist now. For example, bike racks in the construction zone must be removed and returned, bikeway markings must be restored within seven days (no timeline was given before), many crosswalks that are now two stripes must be restored as more visible zebra crosswalks. And, for the first time, bicyclists and pedestrians are specifically mentioned as groups that require safe accommodation. The existing infrastructure for biking and walking should not be disrupted – language that doesn’t exist now. Additionally, the draft rules require a traffic control and detour plan to make a safe walking path to bus stops and train stations.

The existing rules only mention bicycling once — to say that bike lane markings must be restored. This shows at the construction work on Milwaukee Avenue. The new protected bike lane — installed this past summer on the city’s busiest cycling street — is closed due to a water main project, and cyclists share a narrow lane with automobiles in both directions. Cuts were made in the street and covered with lumpy asphalt, gravel, and slippery metal plates. Safely accommodating cyclists as required by the new rules should lead to better conditions during projects like this.

Still, the draft requirements for good bicycle and pedestrian accommodations and detours can be strengthened. Section 4.3 says, “[Traffic Control Plan] and Detour plan drawings shall meet the standards defined in this Manual, the IDOT Highway Standards and the MUTCD whichever is more stringent.” While the federal MUTCD manual does require “alternate routes to be provided” when pedestrian or bicycle facilities are disrupted, Chicago’s document should explicitly be the most stringent so that CDOT has the utmost control.

The same section requires “adequate facilities for drivers to maneuver safely through the construction area, day or night, and varying weather conditions” but not for people walking and biking. And it says that construction projects must “provide the capacity necessary to maintain an acceptable level-of-service for the traveling public” but again doesn’t require the same guarantee for walking and biking. This goes against the spirit of the department’s Complete Streets Design Guidelines, which place pedestrians atop the modal hierarchy.

Read more…