Eyes on the Street: Deteriorating Safety Infrastructure in Humboldt Park

Division Street faded pavement markings
The bike lane markings on eastbound Division are deteriorating rapidly, while the westbound markings, which were installed earlier, are not.

Pavement markings installed in 2012 in the Humboldt Park neighborhood to designate bike lanes and “Children’s Safety Zones” are quickly disappearing, less than six months after installation.

The buffered bike lane on Division Street was installed in two phases. The first phase striped four westbound blocks and two eastbound blocks in May. Those are holding up well. But the remaining two eastbound blocks, installed several months later between California Avenue and Rockwell Avenue, are fading at an alarmingly fast rate. Bicycle symbols have nearly disappeared, as well as substantial segments of the buffer. The second bike lane segment replaced an earlier, “fake” bike lane installed in 2011 as part of a research project examining the effects of different bike lane widths.

Additionally, two “SAFETY ZONE” stencils on California Avenue are rapidly disappearing (at North Avenue and Division Street). They are part of the speed camera program that will go into effect later this year. Nearby stencils on Sacramento Boulevard and on the park’s circular Luis Munoz Marin Drive are in excellent condition. The Chicago Department of Transportation was unaware of the marking problems with the bike lane and the stencils when we contacted them. One possible explanation is that they were put down on a day that was too cold for the markings to adhere properly.

Safety zone around Humboldt Park
SAFETY ZONE stencil on California Avenue at North Avenue in October 2012 in good condition.
Faded SAFETY ZONE marking on California Avenue just south of North Avenue
The same SAFETY ZONE stencil, in its deteriorated condition, last week.

Lastly, one of CDOT’s new speed indicator signs, which is supposed to show drivers at Kedzie and Division how fast they’re going, is already broken. CDOT said it’s aware of this issue and is working with the vendor on the new signs. Meanwhile, the department also has a dozen speed indicator signs installed several years ago that have stopped working and are sitting on the sidelines. CDOT says it is still working out a plan for them.

Updated 19:00: The speed indicator sign is working as of Friday, according to CDOT. It flashes the speed when people exceed the speed limit.

  • Adam Herstein

    Can snow plow trucks scrape off the thermoplastic markings?

  • I’ve noticed this issue with the enhanced shared lane marking on Desplaines near Milwaukee as well.

  • Ted King

    The other side of the coin is the flak that a city catches for NOT doing the markings. Here in San Francisco the Church St. transit lane project has been delayed for several months due to cooler (*) weather and occasional rain.

    SF Streetsblog post –

    SFMTA Transit Effectiveness Project –
    NB – The newsletter from 20 Feb. 2013 has a box that notes the work has been pushed back from Jan. 2013 to “Spring 2013”.
    PDF – http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mtep/documents/TEPSpring2013NewsletterelectronicFinal2.20.13.pdf

    * I chose “cooler” out of respect for Chicago area ideas of what is “cold”.

  • Another reason for the green lanes, imho. :)

  • That “Eastbound Division Street” photo looks like deliberate removal.

  • Cecilia Gamba

    the bike lanes on 55th St in Hyde Park (installed last summer) are also deteriorating at a fast pace, and some portions did not get plowed

  • That view isn’t the best, then. There was a symbol there, for the fake bike lane, that was removed prior to the new symbol and real bike lane being installed.

    Better views: One, Two. Each of the two blocks has several degraded parts.

  • Ah! Can you send photos of the detioration? I’m aware of this plowing/drainage/icing issue.

  • Yes.

    I thought this could be a good explanation but dismissed that notion because the markings on the “phase one” bike lanes on Division Street are in excellent condition while the “phase two” bike lanes are in dismal condition, and they’ve been plowed an equal number of times. Also, look at bike lanes that have been there for years.

  • I noticed it a couple weeks ago. I have a photo. I believe Desplaines and Division Street were installed in the same week. My photo documentation is lacking, though, so I don’t have photos soon after each was installed that I could use to corroborate the dates.

    If each was installed in the same time period, then I would expect all installed at this time to have similar conditions of deterioration.

  • This is an issue with making “wild” promises. CDOT said that Dearborn Street’s two-way cycle track would be installed by the end of the year, and they needed successive “warm” days on which to install it. They installed the traffic signals in like 25-35°F weather. The warm days came and it was installed. I wonder if those pavement markings will deteriorate at a similar rate.

    Then there was the promise by Mayor Emanuel to install 100 miles of protected bike lanes by the end of his first term, May 2015. Realizing in 2012 that wasn’t going to happen, the City came out and redefined what a protected bike lane is (instead of redefining the goal). SO, Chicago will be getting 100 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes in the same time period.

  • I recently noticed the same problem with a thermoplastic crosswalk marking installed late last year at Clark and Foster. On one leg, half the line is nearly completely gone.

  • Anonymous

    I was wondering if it might be a combination of too cold at application time plus plows. ie, it wasn’t installed according to spec, so when a plow came along, it stripped off big chunks.

  • I have seen the green stuff wearing away, too. I think it’s the southbound lane on Halsted at Roosevelt that I’ve seen this. I can’t remember how long it’s been there, though.

  • That green lane have been there since like 2006 or 2007. Their longevity is kind of miraculous. It was installed along with SB Lincoln at Wrightwood and… I can’t remember the other locations right now! The city did a study on them but never published the results.

  • efe

    Reminds me of the (non-existent/completely faded) bike lane markings on Wells Street. I would have thought Neill Townsend’s death on this stretch last year would have motivated CDOT to paint some new lanes, but I guess not.

  • Anonymous

    A little coincidental that a crown wear mark would be left behind on Division near Humboldt Park. I agree that the arrow appears to have some paint or something on it . . . in both the photo above and the updated ones Steven posted below.

    The bike and other elements? Well they surely look like wear . . .

  • Julia

    They already look like they’re on track to deteriorate pretty quickly. I’ve spotted a few chunks missing, but I wonder if they’re also impacted by the amount of standing water and/or salt in the Dearborn lanes. Seems that neither of those would be terribly friendly to pavement.

  • Cecilia Gamba

    well, after more than a month here are a few pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22685466@N03/ (these are just some examples, the bike lanes on 55th have bumps and cracks all over the place between Cottage Grove and the lakefront

  • Ah, in two of those photos the city has ground away the asphalt bumps created by the heat and friction from CTA buses. This is usually good for cyclists but this one that you posted is dangerous for cyclists.

    I would send this photo to the alderman with a note about how the uneven road surface and the bumps here create a dangerous situation for people cycling. This part of the roadway should be fully ground away and a new asphalt surface (or better yet, a concrete bus pad) installed.


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