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It’s “New Bikeways Week” at Streetsblog Chicago. First Up: Berteau

Traffic circle, no stop signs

It's "New Bikeways Week" here on Streetsblog, and John and I will be writing up the many new neighborhood greenways, protected bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, and refreshed bike lanes installed this summer and fall. First up: the Berteau neighborhood greenway.

Construction on the Berteau Avenue neighborhood greenway, which began in late August, is now complete. This is the city's first finished neighborhood greenway – a treatment that reduces speeding and improves biking conditions without adding physical protection for cyclists. In addition to eliminating some stop signs and adding sharrows and a short stretch of contraflow bike lane where Berteau is one-way for motor vehicles, the project built out a number of traffic-calming measures.

Two weeks ago, landscaping crews installed plants inside new curb extensions, which double as bioswales that reduce sewer overflows when it rains. Bioswales retain water and let it filter into the ground, which helps diminish the sewer system overflows that despoil Lake Michigan. The city will be using more of these in its recently announced $50 million investment in green stormwater infrastructure.

These curb extensions have a safety purpose, too, as they narrow the "neck" of the roadway at intersections, causing drivers to take turns slower and pay closer attention to people in crosswalks.

Curb extension at Ashland

Another notable feature is the small traffic circle at Greenview, where the stop sign on Berteau was eliminated. This is a great, bike-friendly street safety enhancement, and it would be good to see more stop signs removed in tandem with traffic calming measures on other neighborhood greenway projects. The curb extensions coupled with 20 mph speed limit means traffic will be calmed to the point that stop signs, which don't always improve safety, aren't needed. This also makes biking more appealing by eliminating points where cyclists have to stop and re-start their momentum.

Berteau could still use more intersections with no traffic control devices. In less than a mile, there are nine stop signs and two traffic signals, whereas the Going Street neighborhood greenway in Portland has four stop signs or traffic signals along a three-mile route.

Sharrows placement

Another aspect that could be improved: The sharrows under the Ravenswood Metra viaduct are so close to the curb that anybody bicycling in a path that uses the sharrows as a guide will leave the line of traffic and re-enter, a weaving movement that is discouraged by the Chicago Bike Map and general bicycling-in-traffic education. Other sharrows are placed in the door zone instead of the middle of the lane.

When this project was in the planning phase, it called for more robust interventions, like diverters to reduce automobile through traffic. Local residents objected, however, and the diverters didn't make the cut. Hopefully this project will show Chicagoans that neighborhood greenways work well, and future projects will take some more ambitious steps.

Updated to correct say that only a stop sign on Berteau were removed from the intersection with Greenview and to add a photo of green pavement.

Clark Street pedestrian and concrete turning island
Green pavement at Ashland

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