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CDOT Tries Out a New Kind of Bikeway on Lincoln Avenue: “Barrows”

11:00 AM CST on December 26, 2014

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CDOT will be adding sharrows next to the buffers on Lincoln north of Wells. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation has a toolbox of different bikeway treatments: neighborhood greenways, protected bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, and shared lane markings, also known as “sharrows.” Now they’re experimenting with a new kind of treatment that consists of sharrows -- bike symbols with chevrons -- with a striped buffer painted on the right. I propose that that these buffered sharrows should be referred to as “barrows.”

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A photo of the old sharrows on Lincoln, plus a rendering of the "barrows."

This CDOT pilot is being done in conjunction with an Illinois Department of Transportation project to repave Lincoln between Diversey and Wells, the portion of the street which is a state route. Lincoln, a key diagonal route downtown from the North Side is included in the city’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 as Crosstown Bike Route. However the blogs Let’s Go Ride a Bike and Bike Walk Lincoln Park have both posted articles detailing the challenging conditions for biking on the street, including lousy pavement.

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Prior to repaving, Lincoln was plagued with potholes. Photo: Michelle Stenzel

LGRAB’s Dottie Brackett noted that, although bikes sometimes make up 40 percent of rush hour traffic on Lincoln, speeding drivers, carelessly opened car doors, huge six-way intersections, and stopped delivery trucks create a hostile environment for cyclists. She said she’d like too see buffered or protected bike lanes on the street. Unfortunately, most of the stretch between Diversey and Wells is too narrow to install these kind of bikeways without stripping large amounts of parking. In spring of 2013, BWLP’s Michelle Stenzel and her neighbors surveyed Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park and counted 24 potholes.

43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith -- who told me she often rides a bike herself – said she lobbied hard to get IDOT to repave the street in order to create safer conditions for cyclists and drivers alike. Work began in October, including repairs to sidewalks, curbs, and gutters, as well as concrete bus stop pads. Smith also told me that she urged CDOT to get involved in planning meetings for the redevelopment of the former Children’s Memorial Hospital Site at Fullerton/Halsted/Lincoln, to ensure that the project includes pedestrian and bike improvements. As a result, bike lanes will be striped through the six-way intersection.

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Conventional bike lanes have been restriped between Diversey and Fullerton. Photo: John Greenfield

Almost all of Lincoln south of Diversey has been repaved with silky-smooth asphalt, save for a couple of blocks near the hospital site, which will be torn up during the redevelopment work. For the most part, the faded bikeway markings are being restriped in the same configuration as before.

Non-buffered bike lanes have been re-marked from Diversey (2800 North) to Fullerton (2400 North). The short segment from Webster (2200 North) to Cleveland (2100 North) is getting regular sharrows again. A quarter-mile stretch between Cleveland and Armitage (2000 North) has been upgraded from non-buffered lanes to buffered ones. Unfortunately, it appears that some of the marking work was done under sub-optimal weather conditions. While the thermoplastic lines look good, some of the bicycle symbols north of Fullerton are already starting to disintegrate.

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Conventional bike lanes between Cleveland and Armitage have been upgraded to buffered lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

From Armitage to Wells (about 1830 North), where there were previously conventional sharrows, CDOT is trying out the sharrow-plus-buffer treatment. According to a handout from the department, the buffers will encourage drivers to park closer to the curb, while helping to keep cyclists out of the door zone. CDOT says the sharrows -- which haven’t been marked yet – will be located in the same locations as before, and that parking and motor vehicle travel won’t be affected. The department will be observing the new treatment to see how driver and cyclist respond to it, compared to the conventional sharrows up the road.

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Street layouts for sharrows versus "barrows."

Stenzel, who lives on this stretch of Lincoln that’s getting the “barrows,” noted that this 42-foot-wide section was too narrow to install full bike lanes without stripping parking. She said that dooring isn’t much of an issue on this stretch because it is unmetered, so there’s a low rate of parking turnover. “Some cars don’t move for weeks,” she said. “Still, it’s good to see CDOT try something new.”

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