Eyes on the Street: New Buffered Lanes on Halsted Between Fulton and Erie
The Chicago Department of Transportation has taken advantage of recent warm spells to do some late-year bikeway construction. In addition to new bikeways on Lincoln, the department recently striped buffered bike lanes on Halsted, between Fulton and Erie in the West Loop and River West.
This half-mile stretch, done as part of a repaving project between Lake and Chicago Avenue, is a handy link between Greektown and Milwaukee Avenue. It will become even more useful if it the lanes are extended further north to Chicago Avenue, where Halsted has existing non-buffered lanes. CDOT would like to do this, but staffer Mike Amsden says there’s nothing planned at this point.
There are a few nice things about this new stretch of BBLs. Although the section of Halsted between Fulton and Chicago was shown on the 2014 Chicago Bike Map as having non-buffered bike lanes, there actually haven’t been visible bikeways on this segment for years, so the new lanes are essentially terra nova.
Between Fulton and Kinzie, the bike lanes are curbside, with wide buffers to the left. Installing flexible posts in the buffers, to encourage drivers to stay out of the BBLs, would be a helpful addition.
A short road diet was done on the one block north of Fulton, with one of the southbound mixed-traffic lanes removed to make room for buffered lanes in both directions. This helps calm traffic on the bridge over Kinzie, a long stretch without intersections where drivers often speed.
The curbside BBLs switch to non-buffered lanes within the narrow railroad viaduct north of Kinzie. The mere existence of any bike lane in this dim tunnel is an improvement. North of the viaduct, the bike lanes are generally located to the left of the parking lanes, with buffers on one or both sides.
Streetsblog’s Steven Vance told me he likes that, approaching Grand/Halsted/Milwaukee from the south, the bike lane continues all the way to the intersection with solid lines. He noted that, without a left turn lane for northbound car traffic, drivers waiting to turn left here obstruct through traffic, and northbound drivers often veer to the right to pass them.
The new bike lanes don’t solve this problem, but at least they remind drivers to look out for cyclists before passing on the right. Left turns are already prohibited here during rush hours, and a full-time left-turn ban might be warranted.