Will Disappearing Bike Lanes Be a Problem With This Year’s Installations?

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Almost-invisible eastbound lane on Division west of Rockwell this morning. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation is currently hustling to construct 35 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes this year, which would bring us to a total of 65 miles of lanes installed under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The department hopes to reach 100 miles by May 2015. However, in the rush to build a large quantity of lanes, it’s important to keep an eye on quality as well.

As Steven Vance pointed out earlier this year, eastbound buffered bike lanes striped last fall on Division Street between California and Rockwell Avenues in Humboldt Park deteriorated quickly. Nowadays, in places, the markings are barely discernible. Other sections of this bikeway, which were installed earlier in the season, are still intact.

Similar problems occurred with some of the “Safety Zone” markings installed on streets bordering the nearby Humboldt Park green space. Enhanced shared lane markings (bike-and-chevron symbols with skip dashes striped on either side of the symbol) marked last year on Desplaines Street south of Milwaukee are also largely gone.

When I recently spoke to CDOT Project Manager Mike Amsden about the latest bikeway projects, I asked him about this issue. His response suggests that disappearing bikeways shouldn’t be as much of a problem with this year’s installations.

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Faded enhanced sharrow on Desplaines at Lake in March. Photo: Steven Vance

John Greenfield: One thing that was an issue last year was that a lot of the bike lanes came in at the end of the season when it was starting to get cold. You take something like the enhanced sharrows on Desplaines, south of Milwaukee Avenue, those are pretty much gone now.

Mike Amsden: Eastbound Division in Humboldt Park…

JG: Right, the buffered bike lanes.

MA: Yeah. We’re definitely aware of it. We sent our interns out and they kind of documented not only bike lanes but some of the safety zone makings to try and find commonalities between the installations where we had problems. The vast majority, almost all of the lanes where we had problems, were installed late in the year when it was too cold.

JG: The pavement is less porous so it’s hard for the thermoplastic to adhere to it?

MA: Yeah. So that’s a lesson learned. We probably will not be installing thermoplastic that late in the year again. It doesn’t make sense.

JG: But it seems like you’re getting an earlier start on construction this year.

MA: That’s the goal [laughs]. We want to get these done as early as possible.

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