CDOT Proposes Chicago’s First Curb-Separated Bike Lane On Clybourn

A Streetmix graphic showing the protected bike lane that would run from Halsted to Division, or in a secondary proposal, a shorter segment from Halsted to Larrabee. Image: CDOT

The Chicago Department of Transportation presented a proposal last night to build curb-separated bike lanes on each side of Clybourn, from Halsted to Division Streets, and to reconfigure the oversized intersection where Clybourn meets Division, Sedgwick, and Orleans in front of Seward Park.

CDOT bikeways engineer and project manager Nate Roseberry explained that Clybourn is part of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s ongoing protected bike lanes feasibility study, which will test many elements of the design. Its goals, he said, are to reduce crashes, increase options for how people get around, and evaluate new design features. Those features include two infrastructure features new to Chicago: a curb separating the bike lanes from the auto travel lanes, which at three feet wide will also provide an opportunity for rain gardens; and a bus stop island, where bicyclists will go up and behind the bus stop.

Roseberry said that the proposal “was by no means complete,” and that he wanted to listen to feedback from a group of keen and curious neighbors. Many people who bike through the area also gave their input.

27th Ward Alderman Burnett kicked off the meeting by saying the “state is allowing the city to propose” the first protected bike lane on a state route. In 2011, IDOT banned protected bike lanes on state routes, preventing CDOT from extending the Jackson protected bike lane where the street comes under state jurisdiction, east of Ogden Avenue.

Burnett said the proposal is intended to “stop the danger of bikes and cars from running into each other.” He recalled that the death of 26-year-old Bobby Cann, who was bicycling on Clybourn at Larrabee, “enhanced the conversation” about safety on the street.

A Streetmix graphic showing a proposal for a buffered bike lane, rather than a protected bike lane, from Larrabee to Division. Image: CDOT

Burnett prefaced the meeting with his own concerns, particularly that parking is a challenge during the daytime for teachers and health clinic workers. He added that CDOT was finding places around the area to add street parking where it previously wasn’t allowed. He also said that, since there are a lot of bicyclists and a lot of car drivers in the community, “let’s make [CDOT] work to satisfy us” with the final design. CDOT data showed low parking utilization between the short commercial corridor southeast of Larrabee and the residential area northwest of Larrabee. They also found unused car parking available on side streets.

Roseberry described an alternative proposal for Clybourn, from Larrabee to Division, that would stripe a buffered bike lane in each direction. It would have the advantage, he said, of removing far fewer parking spaces. The disadvantage, he said, was that it wouldn’t eliminate the dooring hazard, unlike the curb-protected bike lane. Doorings made up 18 percent of reported bike-car crashes in Chicago in 2012.

Another part of the project, which would be funded by IDOT, includes a complete overhaul of the lane markings at the Clybourn-Division circus. New traffic signals for bicyclists would be installed on Division — for westbound bicyclists at Clybourn and eastbound bicyclists at Orleans. The westbound signal would have a push button for through-bicyclists. Roseberry said that bicyclist-specific traffic signals lead to better compliance, saying that bike signals on Dearborn increased compliance from 31 percent to 90 percent.

CDOT is proposing to change Clybourn in other ways, like eliminating left turns from Clybourn onto Larrabee, which is done at a “counterintuitive,” acute angle, Roseberry said.

CDOT will make it clearer at Clybourn/Divsion/Orleans where bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians should travel. Image: CDOT

Roseberry mentioned that traffic counts conducted by the design team, which also included John Baczek and Pam Broviak from IDOT, showed that bicyclists made up 10 percent of morning rush hour traffic, adding up to over 300 cyclists during some peak periods. Despite this heavy bike traffic, CDOT is not proposing any bikeways for the short block of Clybourn between North Avenue and Halsted, past the Apple Store. Roseberry cited the need to manage “traffic queues” at that intersection.

Two attendees were concerned about future vehicle traffic conditions, which they assumed would increase due to the New City mall and residential complex currently under construction, and other new developments.

Mike Amsden, the assistant director of transportation planning at CDOT, said this plan was “forward thinking because of the growth in bicycle transportation.” Alderman Burnett added that a new Brown Line station at Division and Orleans, just east of the site, is being “contemplated” as part of the Cabrini-Green redevelopment plan. Too much car traffic should be a good reason to invest in more space-efficient modes, like transit and bicycling.

Clybourn Ave. protected bike lane meeting
Attendees discuss the Clybourn Avenue curb-separated bike lane proposal.

The improvements to Clybourn, however, are primarily between the street’s existing curbs. Another attendee said that she sees elderly residents of the Flannery Apartments who are unable to ride electric scooters on Clybourn’s sidewalks, because of their poor condition. Roseberry said that this project excludes sidewalk fixes. He described other improvements for pedestrians, namely that all crosswalks would be upgraded to the “high visibility” zebra style, the crosswalk over Division at Sedgwick would be shortened, and improved crossing times.

Asked whether CDOT preferred either of the two proposals – the protected bike lane all the way from Halsted to Division, or cutting it short from Halsted to Larrabee – Amsden said, “we’d really like to see a barrier through all of it.” Roseberry concluded that construction could begin in spring 2015. He invited the public to send comments to

Explore the designs in our gallery, or download the presentation and tell us what you think in the comments.

  • Vitaliy Vladimirov

    A possible stop at Division/Orleans was news to me, – it’d be a boon for the area, and with the Clark/Division stop just 4 blocks away it’d be easy to switch lines. Hope to hear more about that soon.

  • oooBooo

    Why not just put bicyclists in tunnels with limited openings to get in and out?

    arg. when does the idiocy end?

  • Katja

    This would be super. Biking through this area always leaves me thinking “I’ve made a huge mistake,” no matter which lane I take. Having clearer markings/cycle traffic lights would absolutely help.

  • There’s not been word from CTA about how it is or isn’t considering designing this station.

  • The biggest difference between these proposed cycle tracks and those built in Denmark and the Netherlands is the lack of raised pavement that puts the cycle path at a level halfway between the road surface and the sidewalk.

    I asked them to consider sloped curbs. Roseberry said they were considering that, but it would only be on the left side (by the parked cars).

  • cjlane

    The existing r-o-w is technically wide enough to include protected bike lanes and two lanes of traffic–but just barely. If the bike lanes are 5′, and the buffers are 3′, that leaves 34′ which is CDOT minimum spec for 2 travel lanes plus two parking lanes.

    Another alternative *could* be to turn Larrabee and Clybourn into one-way legs of a quasi round about. If all south bound traffic from Clybourn diverted to Larrabee, and Clybourn were NW bound only from Division to Larrabee, it could smooth out a lot of the conflicts in that ‘merge zone’ on Division. Most Drivers would hate it (I’d like it), and most of CDOT probably would as well, and the CFD would probably tell us that it’s impossible for some reason, and Target would be annoyed, but deal, but it’s an option that could work quite well.

  • CDOT is proposing 6.5 feet wide to 7.5 feet wide bike lanes with the 3 feet wide curbs to ensure that their snow removal and sweeping equipment can make their way down the lane.

  • cjlane

    Well, that explains a lot. More than just the experimenting here.

    So, they’ll plow it with a pickup truck, and drive one of the Mich Ave sidewalk sweepers out there twice a year to clean the gutter?

    Sounds like the Clybourn/Cabrini/Goose Island area should get an SSA and take care of that (and the sidewalks, which are awful from the first snow to at least the second down pour after the last snow) itself.

  • Cameron Puetz

    “The westbound signal would have a push button for through-bicyclists. Roseberry said that bicyclist-specific traffic signals lead to better compliance, saying that bike signals on Dearborn increased compliance from 31 percent to 90 percent.”

    I’m I understanding correctly that westbound through cyclists wouldn’t automatically get a green light when through cars have the green? Instead a westbound cyclist would have to come to a stop, press the button, and then wait for a light cycle if they arrived when westbound Division had the green. I predict those bike specific lights will have similar compliance to suburban crosswalk signals that don’t automatically follow the lights.

  • oooBooo

    As someone who has a road bike with low spoke count wheels I don’t find either of those better… even without parked cars in the way.

    A bi-level sidewalk to make a bicycling section would only have peds wander into the bike area and create additional traffic complexity issues.

  • I was thinking something similar (that compliance would be bad for the beg button).

    You should send in a comment. Perhaps ask for a bike sensor 150 feet east of the push button that picks up a bike moving and that sensor trips the signal instead of the push button.

  • These blocks have low numbers of up-down pedestrians so I don’t think that would be a problem.

    As they are in other countries, the biking part of the “bi-level sidewalk” would be made of a different material/texture/color.

    Most of the people walking are crossing from their parked cars to the building entrances. Closer to Division, it’s just taxi drivers hanging out.

  • cjlane

    “These blocks have low numbers of up-down pedestrians so I don’t think that would be a problem.”

    And it will remain not a problem after the completion of New City, and the apartment building on the south side of Division east of Larabbee, and the apartment building in the Clybourn/Division triangle? All of the residents and patrons of those projects are going to be drivers?

    What about if the Brown Line station gets built? Still no problem, bc everyone will just be passing thru? What about if Obama Prep actually gets built?

    Should we not consider the near-certain, near-term change in use when building infrastructure?

  • It wouldn’t be a problem with growing numbers of pedestrians because the new-to-them design would be learned.

    The city is building a sidewalk-level bikeway on Roosevelt for one block from Wabash to Michigan. This is not even a bi-level sidewalk like the kind I think should be built.

    CDOT plans to color the sidewalk-level bikeway green and separate it from the sidewalk with trees.

  • cjlane

    If it’s so readily ‘learned’, why resort to a claim of “there’s no one there”, when that won’t be true by the time (or shortly after) the bike lanes are finished?

  • Dumb question from someone who doesn’t bike nearly as much as most of the people on this blog: what does low spoke count have to do with it, and what’s it good for?

  • rohmen

    What’s the advantage of a bi-level cycle lane/sidewalk in this instance?

    Also, I think pedestrian/cyclist interaction concerns are a bit over-stated when people talk about protected lanes. I get that a cyclist is trapped and can’t swerve out of the way if a pedestrian steps out into the lane, but it’s not like a cyclist can easily swerve out of the way in regular painted lanes or road with sharrows either, considering there is normally a steady line of traffic right next to the cyclist in those situations.

  • One advantage of a bi-level cycle lane (the way the Dutch do it) is that the pavement can be designed to direct water flow into the roadway where automobiles and motorists are less affected by it than bicyclists and their bicycles.

    This is really an advantage in all instances.

    Another advantage, again, for all instances, is that it creates a smaller curb for the bicyclist to easily mount when they are ready to enter the sidewalk and park the bicycle. The curb on the left side, where the parking is, isn’t so steep either, for the meandering cyclist.

  • “it’s not like a cyclist can easily swerve out of the way in regular painted lanes or road with sharrows either”

    Exactly, which is why the city uses this line to discourage motorists from parking in bike lanes. (see “tips for motorists” )

  • BlueFairlane

    A wheel with a low spoke count is more fragile and gets knocked out of true more easily. (As such, I have no idea why you’d have one unless you’re running the Tour de France.) In this situation if there’s a curb you might be forced to ride off of or onto for whatever reason, a low-spoke-count wheel would be more likely to have problems.

  • BlueFairlane

    … but it’s not like a cyclist can asily swerve out of the way in regular painted lanes or road with sharrows either …

    In my experience, the streets are rarely so packed that I don’t have space to move into the lane if I need to. One, I keep a pretty eye on what’s behind and beside me, and two, the routes I travel just don’t have that solid line. This has saved me on more than one occasion. The only times I can think of where you do have that solid line are on streets like Milwaukee through Wicker Park, where they never put protected bike lanes.

  • rohmen

    I agree swerving isn’t difficult in most instances where you have time to react, like when a car is double parked or you see people standing in the lane a block away.

    I’m talking about when someone literally just steps out into the lane with no warning. I’ve had a couple close calls on Damen through WP, for example, though admittedly I’ve found the road is still wide enough there that you can come out of the lane a little if you have to since cars generally aren’t hugging the bike lane. It’s sketchy when it happens, however.

    Milwaukee is definitely what I was thinking of in my mind with regards to often not being able to swerve, which funny enough is also the street I’ve had the most problems with pedestrians either drunkenly or blindly/carelessly walking into the street to cross or look for a cab. I’ve seen a few close calls in the stretch between division and north.

    Point being, I just personally don’t see how protected bike lanes are really that much more dangerous with regards to pedestrian interaction.

  • oooBooo

    You have no clue how much I bike. I do ride less and slower than I did 20 years ago, but if you want to try to keep up with me, maybe we can arrange something? I’ll choose a nice suburban arterial road with no bike lanes. Let’s see how well you do?

    Low spoke count is a way weight is saved in road bikes. The wheels are fairly tough but they aren’t like balloon tired 1950s bikes and one has to take care going over things like curbs and curb jumping just isn’t a good idea except for maybe people who weigh 100lbs or less. Those of us who ride at a pace greater than 8mph generally don’t like being on the blind side of parked cars or having concrete hazards intentionally constructed.

  • oooBooo

    I experienced a divided sidewalk (same level though) in Germany and even when I tried to pay attention, with a group of people I constantly wandered into the bike space. It was a very expensive sidewalk riding system with its own traffic lights tied into those for the roadway, and it was at best, good for a very slow 8mph pace.

  • What was the mode share of bicyclists in that city?

  • oooBooo

    Peds generally don’t willy-nilly enter into the roadway on the way they’ll enter into an off-roadway bike space. I don’t like anything that treats bicyclists like little children that need to be off to side, out of sight and out of mind. I find such set ups to be very scary and dangerous to ride at speed.

  • oooBooo

    In the morning commute there were a lot. I can’t remember enough to give a percentage figure, but I would say when stopped at a red signal there were probably 1/3 the bicycle riders as there were cars. Maybe more. It was in the evenings when I was walking and bicycle riders were few as was car traffic. I’d be in conversation and one of us would wander into the bike-space than then here a bell sounding from behind…

  • oooBooo

    My primary bike that I now ride 100% of time came with them from the factory. They are pretty tough if you don’t do stupid with them They take potholes and typical off-road dirt trail use just fine. I’ve rarely had to true them in 12 years, only on the rare occasions I busted a spoke.

    I have taken the bike on some rather rough trails, but I don’t jump curbs with it. Curbs are a hazard to road bikes, there are skills to deal with them, ways not to fall or wreck the wheels, but it generally requires being slow and careful and looking down instead of at traffic.

    The free hub wearing out is going to force a wheel replacement rather than the wheels themselves. Honestly I’ve had orders of magnitude more trouble with full spoke count wheels, but then again I was probably harder on them and they weren’t in the same league quality wise.

    Why want them? Road bikes handle better and are faster. Much more responsive. Big tired bikes feel like driving a truck to me. Lumbering, slow, heavy.

  • Brian Morrissey

    Guy asks you an honest question while admitting he doesn’t bike a lot and you give him “dude, I’m SO fast I rule you drool” in response? You sound like this guy: Please stick to Algonquin Road and leave the separated infrastructure to the rest of us.

  • oooBooo

    Reading it for the third time I misread it, I read it as him saying I don’t bike as much as others here. I think my miss reading is clear given the first sentence.

    When are the rest of you going to stop ruining roads? Have you ever tried riding road with separated bicycle infrastructure? It turns ordinary drivers into people who want to teach bicyclists a lesson for not using the bike space. I learned this on a road that has a dangerous (at speed) bike path parallel to it.

  • Guest

    As someone who actually does ride every day, I feel qualified to say that it’s ridiculous hyperbole to describe streets with bike infra as “ruined”.

  • oooBooo

    The roads are every bit as ruined to me as those that are decayed, moonscaped, or otherwise require moving at much reduced speed. I am forced to choose between the reduced speed and driver hostility. I’ve had a few very severe encounters with drivers demanding I use the bike space but escaped injury. The last one was in 2009, after which I simply stopped using roads with crummy low speed bicycle infrastructure if I wasn’t tired and thus used it at the sort of speed it was ‘ok’ for.

    You can try this experiment for yourself. Just ride like that protected bike lane or bike path doesn’t exist and take your spot on the roadway. It’s perfectly legal, there is no law compelling a bicyclist to use off-roadway facilities in Illinois. It’s a choice, just like riding on the shoulder or on the roadway.

  • Neal

    As the bike lanes cause more car traffic congestion I have to wonder what the effect is on air pollution. It seems to me that when cars are backed up in traffic they are polluting more. Also, regarding those that commute by bike, did they used to drive or take public transportation. I would like to see some real data showing that the bike lanes are taking cars off the road and not reducing public transportation which critically needs as much ridership as possible.

  • Where are bike lanes causing more car traffic congestion?

  • Matt F

    “As the bike lanes cause more car traffic congestion I have to wonder what the effect is on air pollution. It seems to me that when cars are backed up in traffic they are polluting more.”

    Seems to me the solution is to get cars off the road, not bikes.

    “I would like to see some real data showing that the bike lanes are taking cars off the road and not reducing public transportation which critically needs as much ridership as possible.”

    So get people out of cars and into buses — that’s a better way to reduce pollution and increase ridership.


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