Clybourn Ave and State St Could Get City’s First Curb-Separated Bikeways

Central Montreal Bike Lanes - pioneers in separated lane
A two-way curb-separated bike lane in Montréal, Québec. Photo: Adriana McMullen

At yesterday’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, Chicago Bicycle Program project manager Mike Amsden revealed a new detail about the missing piece of the Clybourn Avenue buffered bike lane. The Chicago Department of Transportation is working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to install a protected bike lane on Clybourn that may be separated by a curb.

IDOT had until recently prohibited protected bike lanes on roads under its jurisdiction, which includes all of Clybourn and Elston north of Armitage Avenue.

At October’s unveiling of an honorary street sign for Bobby Cann – killed in May by a drunk driver near Larrabbe Street – 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett announced that IDOT would implement a protected bike lane pilot project on Clybourn. The project would cover the stretch from Division Street to North Avenue, the only section that did not get bike lanes when Clybourn was redesigned earlier this year. Further details are unavailable but Amsden wrote in an email that “we’re still gathering some existing conditions data and scoping the project in partnership with IDOT.” He expects CDOT will host a public meeting in January.

Memorial to Bobby Cann, killed while bicycling
Critical Mass stops at a memorial for Bobby Cann.

Another project might also have curb-separated bike lanes. Amsden said that CDOT is working with 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell to install the city’s first curb-separated bike lane on State Street between 26th Street and Garfield Boulevard/55th. This 3.5-mile project will extend the buffered and protected bike lanes installed on State between 18th and 26th earlier this year and connect to a potential — but yet-to-be-designed — bikeway on Garfield Boulevard, labeled a “crosstown bike route” in the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020.

The route passes the Dearborn Homes, Illinois Institute of Technology and student housing, and De La Salle Institute high school. Near IIT’s campus, the bike lane would greatly improve the convenience and comfort of cycling on this part of State Street, where drivers tend to speed because of the limited number of driveways and the long medians that seem to have a funneling effect. There’s no curbside parking by IIT, but north and south of campus, State is a typical four-lane street with parallel parking. A protected bike lane will likely mean a road diet — converting the four travel lanes to two lanes plus a center turn lane — that preserves parking.

IIT · State Street Village
A typical view of State Street through the Illinois Institute of Technology campus. Photo: James Lin

The project is too new for Amsden to describe any more details. In his email he said that CDOT just finished reviewing existing conditions and will come up with a “design concept” next. “We need to do a lot of outreach along the corridor over the next couple of months, including an initial public meeting ideally in late January,” he wrote.

Amsden anticipates both projects will be constructed in 2014.

New protected bike lane on State Street, near Cermak Road. More photos. Photo: John Greenfield
  • *kermitflail of happiness*

    I’m so amazed and pleased it’s happening so soon. Somehow I expected it to be, I don’t know, 2017 before we got any curb-separated lanes.

  • Jim Mitchell

    I agree; curb separation really seems to me like the best way to go. Sharrows are a joke, and buffered lanes and protected lanes with just those little plastic posts don’t seem much better to me and don’t make me feel safer. By safer, I mean “safe from accidentally killing somebody.” I am not a cyclist, and I likely will never be (47 years old and chicken), but I’m a conscientious driver with over 30 years behind the wheel and no significant accidents. I want people to be safe and not cursing each others’ existence while just trying to get places. I like the idea of curb separation primarily because I find that new, non-standard painted lane designations, even the green pavement, don’t always make drivers play well with cyclists, even if (like me) they have good intentions. This is because we literally don’t know what the markings mean and what we and cyclists are intended to do. Maybe better education is the answer, but I like curbed bike lanes because they remove ambiguity about where cars and bikes belong. That makes me feel warm inside, I guess. That said, I’d like any solution that makes me feel I’m not endangering people, and they are not endangering themselves, by using our streets.

  • duppie


    Repeat after me: Mike Amsden for commish!

  • MLKendricks

    This is long overdue. State St. South of 35th St is a speedway that is way to wide considering the lack of population in Bronzeville. The lanes and the road diet will make it a much safer road and more pleasing aesthetically which hopefully will encourage more development.

  • Adam Herstein

    Yay, curb-separated bike lanes!

  • Alex_H

    I’m not 47, but I spent my whole life being terrified of biking in the city because I was afraid of getting hit and killed.

    One day, I just did it, and it changed my worldview. It’s never too late.

  • V Remark

    This is big. Concrete-separated lanes are more than physical protection. Concrete is symbolic, showing that bicycling is legitimate and permanent.

  • Mcass777

    I have been riding for 20 years. I started when I lived in Lincoln Park and got sick of waiting for the EL. My first rides were tentative and slow. Over time you begin to respect cars and your abilities as a cyclist grow. I have been hit, had a bike totaled, learned to change a flat in under 10 minutes. Try it early morning – You might come to love it as I do.

  • Coolebra

    Street plow width, one would hope.

  • Mcass777

    I like the lamp post right at the start of the run. How many cars use the protected bike lane for parking? It seems to be a daily occurrence on the north side of Kinzie!

  • Lisa Curcio

    This is exciting news!
    Jim, I am 59 years old and started cycling in the city about 20 months ago. I am a pretty cautious cyclist, but not only am I no longer terrified, I am reasonably comfortable. I started slowly, as others have suggested, and worked my way to where I am. Cycling is now an important part of my life and I miss it if I cannot do my regular commute. Thanks, by the way, for being a concerned driver!

  • North and south of the IIT segment State Street could be modified to have a two-way curb-separated bike lane (wide enough for regular plow) on one side of the street, but through the IIT area, I believe the center median prevents this.

  • I think the culture of respecting cycle infrastructure in Montréal (and Vancouver) has been around longer than it has in Chicago.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Jim.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Sure thing. I thought it would be helpful to show how a feature like a curbed bike lane would benefit non-cyclists like myself. Too often, “complete street” design is portrayed by its opponents as some sort of land-grab by bicyclists, but when it’s done right, it is nothing of the sort. The money we spend buys safety and peace of mind for everyone on the road.

  • trufe

    would be nice if the white sox could hop on board with this new lane and promote more bike parking at games.

    with the new metra stop at 35th, revamped red line, and now this state street lane making biking easier, the cell should be by far the most non-car friendly of chicago’s stadiums.

    now if they could just undo all those short sighted parking lots, and restore mccuddy’s and the rest of the neighborhood they demolished

  • Tony Adams

    Elliot! I will be stealing and using *kermitflail of happiness* whenever I can. Thank you for making our world a happier place!

  • Pleased to be of service to the community. :-> For those lacking a visual referent, a kermitflail looks like this:

  • alexfrancisburchard

    I really want to see how they do this through IIT. I love the idea of a curb protected bike lane, but like hell IIT is going to let them take away lanes on State Street, and I’d be pretty sad if they took away parts of the median because that’s about the only thing that makes walking around IIT pleasant.

    If IIT does let them take away two lanes for this, that would be pretty awesome, but I have a feeling they will fight it with all their ability due to Worst day of year traffic concerns (graduation).

    Here’s hoping for an awesome outcome! Biking to school will change a lot if they do this. I might even stop biking down S. Michigan Avenue south of 18th street, which would be a pretty big change for me.

  • Anna Schibrowsky

    Every five years IIT swings between wanting commuter students from the greater Chicago area or wanting international students who live on campus, and they design accordingly, to the detriment of the other group. Hopefully approval for this project will catch them as they are pursuing Dutch students and wanting to show off cycling infrastructure.

    If IIT can’t handle the graduation traffic, they should just move graduation back to McCormick Place, where they held it in the 90s and early 2000s.

  • alexfrancisburchard

    We did just hire a dutch Dean of Architecture – Wiel Arets.
    The school always spouts sustainability and what not to us students, now is its time to put some action behind those words.


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