Eyes on the Street: Bike and Ped Facilities on the South Side and in the Loop

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Bike traffic in the new Grand BBL during the evening rush. Photo: John Greenfield

As the construction season winds down, the Chicago Department of Transportation has been busy building a number of new bikeways and pedestrian facilities. We’ll get you up to speed on these with a few Eye on the Street posts in the near future.

CDOT recently striped buffered bike lanes on a .6-mile stretch of Pershing from King to Oakwood. Unlike many new BBLs that involved upgrading existing, non-buffered lanes, these were put in on a section of road that formerly had no bikeway at all.

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The wide BBLs on Oakwood replaced excess travel lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

Best of all, the Pershing lanes involve a road diet to what was formerly a de facto four-lane street. The new lanes, with very wide buffers, occupy the excess road width, which calms traffic and shortens pedestrian crossing distances. Since the city striped buffered lanes on Oakwood from Pershing to the Lakefront Trail earlier this year as part of a repaving project, you can now get from King to the lakefront entirely on BBLs.

Speaking of King, while scouting out facilities last Sunday morning, I passed by the historic South Park Baptist Church, 3722 South King. You may recall that the city originally proposed installing protected bike lanes on King from 26th to 51st. However, largely due to feedback from local clergy, who were concerned that the lanes would impact church parking, CDOT installed buffered lanes here instead.

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The BBLs by South Park Baptist Church fill up with cars on Sundays. Photo: John Greenfield

In various parts of the city, it’s common for parishioners to park in travel lanes along boulevards on Sundays. While this longstanding practice is technically illegal, aldermen generally condone it. Such was the case when I passed by South Park — dozens of cars were parked in the BBLs. Fortunately, this situation only exists for a few hours a week, and traffic on King is usually light on Sundays.

A couple miles north, at 18th and Calumet, the city has eliminated an annoying barrier for cyclists. There’s an underpass and pedestrian bridge here that leads over railroad tracks to Soldier Field and the lakefront, but there was previously no curb cut to access the path to the underpass from the street.

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The new curb ramp near 18th and Calumet. Photo: John Greenfield

CDOT recently built a bumpout with a curb ramp here. They also installed shared-lane markings on Calumet with green boxes underneath, a high-visibility reminder to drivers to watch out for bicyclists.

Several blocks northwest, at Roosevelt and Canal, work has been completed on new curb ramps. Streetsblog readers may remember that this construction, which didn’t include a safe detour for pedestrians, forced people on foot out into the street.

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The construction for these curb ramps at Canal/Roosevelt forced pedestrians into the street. Photo: John Greenfield

Up in River North, the city has upgraded the existing non-buffered lane on Grand to a BBL between State and Wells. This small change seems to have had an impact on ridership. Over the past few weeks, during the evening rush, I’ve noticed that the number of cyclists on the westbound street is approaching Milwaukee Avenue levels.

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