City Begins Work on Next 50 Miles of Bikeways, Funds Bikes N’ Roses

IIT grad student Yuan Zheng rides in a new curb-protected bike lane on 31st. Photo: John Greenfield

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Today at a ribbon cutting for curb-protected bike lanes on 31st Street by the Illinois Institute of Technology, Mayor Emanuel and transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld elaborated on the city’s previously announced plan to build 50 more miles of bikeways by 2019.

This represents a slower pace of installation than the city’s previous achievement of installing 103 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes in about 4.5 years, starting in 2011. However, while 83.5 miles of those lanes were buffered, merely paint on the road, it’s possible that a higher percentage of the new bikeways will feature better protection from car traffic.

Scheinfeld say the upcoming 50 miles will include many so-called “better bike lanes,” including off-street paths, new “neighborhood greenway” routes on traffic-calmed residential streets, concrete-protected lanes, and safety improvements at key intersections.

Cortland/Ashland in Bucktown, near the eastern terminus of the Bloomingdale Trail, and Logan/Western in Logan Square spring to mind as intersections with high bike traffic that also are scary junctions with high crash rates – hopefully these are on the shortlist for improvements.

Scheinfeld and Emanuel in of the 31st Street lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

“We’ve made progress installing protected bike lanes in neighborhoods across Chicago, making it easier and safer for everyone – no matter their age or ability – to get around on a bicycle,” Emanuel said. “Today, we’re building on that progress and looking to the future.”

Today’s event highlighted the new roughly half-mile, seven-foot-wide bikeway on 31st between State and LaSalle. It’s a mix of buffered lanes, curbside lanes protected by plastic posts, and concrete-protected lanes, with the majority of the concrete near the college campus. After I took a quick spin on the facility my impression is that it’s a well-designed bikeway, although we’ll have to see how it holds up in rainy and snowy weather – which has been an issue with the city’s other major curb-protected bikeway on Clybourn.

This year the city plans to install nine more miles of “better bikeways,” up to 18 more bikes of other (“worse”?) bikeways, and restripe up to 20 miles of existing bike lanes. “As we focus on building better bike lanes, CDOT will continue to strengthen and improve the connectivity of Chicago’s existing bike network so that bicycling continues to grow and serve as a safe and enjoyable way to travel around our city,” said Scheinfeld.

The commissioner added that protected bike lanes seem to be effective in reducing crashes, partly due to their traffic calming effect. For example, CDOT reports that, since the 55th Street protected bike lanes were installed on 55th Street in Hyde Park in 2012, overall crashes have dropped by 32 percent. CDOT recently released the new bike lane report 2015 Bikeways: Year in Review, which has more info on their findings. I’ll provide an analysis of that document tomorrow.

The Active Transportation previously put out a call for the city to install 100 miles of better bikeways by 2020, but director Ron Burke says OK with the city’s current, more modest mileage goal of 50 miles, although he still hopes CDOT will wind up installing more.

The new bikeway runs under the CTA Green Line tracks. Photo: John Greenfield

“We recognize the importance of quality as well as quantity,” he said. “These curb-protected lanes are obviously a huge step in making facilities that the average person will feel comfortable riding in and that will last. The plastic posts are getting knocked down all the time, so this is part of the evolution of the bike network.”

Prior to 2011, the lion’s share of bikeways went to neighborhoods with a high existing level of cycling and bike advocacy, which favored wealthier North Side neighborhoods, although CDOT says 60 percent of the bike lanes installed under Emanuel have gone to the South and West Sides.

In an effort to increase bikeway equity in the future, CDOT has been hosting a series of community meetings on the West and South Sides to get input on which streets should be prioritized for new bikeways. Unfortunately, a total of only five West Side residents showed up for the first two meetings in Austin and East Garfield Park.

CDOT is hosting the two South Side meetings this week. The first takes place tonight at Vodak-East Side Public Library, 3710 E. 106th Street, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The second is Tuesday at the Historic Pullman Foundation at 11141 S. Cottage Grove Avenue, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Hopefully there will be a better turnout for these hearings.

Slow Roll Chicago cofounder Jamal Julien says the meetings are a step in the right direction towards improving bike equity. “We hope to keep working with the city to push for additional bike infrastructure and resources that are distributed equally,” he said. “When you have more walkable, bikeable communities, you have more liveable and safe communities.”

Bikes N’ Roses community bike shop. Photo: John Greenfield

In other bike news, yesterday Emanuel announced that the city will provide $154,000 in funding to reopen the Belmont-Cragin headquarters of the Bike N’ Roses youth education center and community bike shop, which the city says will fund 65 employment opportunities for low-income teens. Bikes N’ Roses previously shut its doors after Governor Bruce Rauner cut state funding to the center and the Catholic Campaign for Human development pulled grants to the center’s parent organization the Albany Park Neighborhood Council due to its support for LGBT rights.

Burke applauded the city’s decision to fund the program. “We love Bikes N’ Roses,” he said. “Community bike shops like them are crucial to the fabric of the neighborhoods they serve, and they help cultivate the next generation of bike advocates.”

This post is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago, Illinois law firm committed to representing pedestrians and cyclists. The content is Streetsblog Chicago’s own, and Keating Law Offices neither endorses the content nor exercises any editorial control.

  • tooter turtle

    We have to give the mayor credit for pushing ahead with bike infra, despite the cray ant-bike reaction in recent years.

  • Jeff Carlson

    Any idea when the westbound PBL on Randolph will be started/completed?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    It’s not going to happen until after the Block 37 construction is complete.

  • David Henri

    I’m glad to hear that the city is moving forward on installing 50 additional miles of “better” bike lanes. I really think we can do better though. Some thoughts:

    – If we don’t have the money (or street space, heaven forbid we lose a lane of parked cars) to put in a separate protected bike lane, can we at lease move the painted bike lane to the curb and use the parked cars as a buffer? It takes no more room and is a lot safer with the parked cars used to separate the auto traffic from the bike lane. Can we try this on Milwaukee? Can we get serious about this?

    – Where we have separation, please stop using the plastic posts. The cars just drive over them as if they are a joke. If we’re serious about separation, then put up a curb. That’s separation!

    – Where there is a dedicated bike lane (as on Dearborn), place curbed pedestrian islands at the intersections, so pedestrians can cross the bike lane and have a safe place to stand while they’re waiting for the light (Dearborn and Jackson comes to mind). It also enforces the separation of the auto traffic from the protected bike lane.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Protected bike lanes do require more street width than single-buffer, non-curbside bike lanes, because the buffer between the PBL and the parked cars needs to be wide enough to prevent doorings (since cyclists have a limited amount of space to get out of the way of car doors.) PBLs also generally require the elimination of a few parking spaces for sight lines which is why, so far, it’s been rare for the city to put them in on retail streets.

    Curb-protected lanes are significantly more expensive than PBLs with plastic posts, and it’s a lot tougher to tweak the design after it’s built. But I think we’ll see the city upgrading some of the existing post-protected lanes to curbs this year.

    Ped islands at PBL intersections is a good idea, and NYC has been doing this for years. A CDOT staffer told me a few years ago that the reason this wasn’t being done in Chicago was that our city is relatively broke and it’s an added expense. But hopefully we’ll see more of this in the future.

  • Jeff Carlson

    Thanks! Really appreciate all of the work you guys do here. Donating to support next year’s coverage now.

  • Pat

    I hope the plan is to extend this curb protected lane to the Lake Path. Seems like whatever plastic poles were there before have been completely removed (including the bases) and the once “PBL” is now just a buffer. I’m curious as to why they picked this stretch to curb protect rather than the building off the natural connection to the lake.

  • Jeff Gio

    No standing in the bike lane, Rahm!

  • hopeyglass

    Damn those ants!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Thanks Jeff!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Funny, I haven’t noticed much bike lane opposition lately in the local media, let alone from from crayfish or ants. While that’s a good thing for the bike scene, I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to write posts deconstructing the latest anti-bike rant from Kass or Konkol.

  • Quite frankly, I’d rather be doored and crash onto the sidewalk than doored under a bus. But I suppose, the sidewalk is always there, and the bus isn’t. That being said, in general using forgiving curbs next to bike lanes would be a good step.

    Everything else I agree.

  • David Henri

    John, I don’t see the logic where it’s perfectly acceptable to have a bike lane (non-protected) painted between a lane of parked cars and traffic, right in the active door zone; but it’s unacceptable to place the parked cars adjacent to the traffic and the bike lane (painted, but not protected) along the curb. We have to be protected against car passengers opening their doors but not against the car drivers opening theirs? This makes no sense.

    I’d rather take my chances of a passenger opening their car door and be able to hug the curb, rather than be forced onto traffic trying to avoid a driver opening his car door.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    If a car door opens into a protected bike lane with a narrow buffer, it can fill most of the lane, and there’s not much room to evade it.

    Yes, the consequences of falling into moving traffic in the event of a dooring are potentially much more serious. But that kind of dooring is generally a lot easier to avoid if you make a habit of riding three feet away from parked cars.

    I’ve been cycling on Chicago streets just about ever day for the past 25 years, and I haven’t been doored since the mid-Nineties. That case was when a cab pulled up to my left on Lincoln Avenue by Lounge Ax (R.I.P.) and a passenger opened the door on me. Taco-ed front wheel, but no injuries.

  • what_eva

    I swear I just walked across such a ped island the other day on Dearborn, maybe at Monroe or Madison? Though I may be confusing it with the islands related to the Loop Link stops.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    It’s probably the new “protected intersection”-inspired treatment at Washington/Dearborn.

  • what_eva

    That sounds right. I was kinda half-wandering across the loop the other day. When I have to go from one corner to the other, I kinda turn whenever.


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