Eyes on the Street: A Helpful Sign Along a Handy Bike Shortcut

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A thoughtful warning sign along the Kingsbury shortcut. Photo: John Greenfield

Ever since they began demolishing the Finkl Steel Mill, I lost one of my favorite bike shortcuts between Near Northwest neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Bucktown and North Lakefront neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Lakeview.

Before the area was fenced off, it used to be possible to pedal between bike-friendly Cortland Avenue and the Southport Avenue bike lanes via short, privatized stretch of Southport that ran through the steel mill campus. The block had turnstiles to keep private cars out, but bike use was tolerated, so it was a nice car-free route for those in the know.

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It’s quicker to use Kingsbury (diagonal street with white dot) instead of Clybourn to travel between Southport and Cortland. Click to enlarge. Image: Google Maps

Currently, if you’re biking south on Southport and want to get to Bucktown, Google Maps’ bike directions will route you southeast on Cortland Avenue to the intersection of Cortland and Racine Avenue. But you can save a bit of distance, and avoid two stoplights, by continuing south on Southport past Clybourn to Kingsbury Street, turning southeast, and then heading west on Cortland. Accordingly, I saw several bike riders on Kingsbury when I rode it during rush hour yesterday.

The only fly in the ointment is that Kingsbury has railroad tracks that pose a hazard to southeast-bound cyclists. It’s important to bike across the tracks at as perpendicular an angle as possible, so as not to get your wheel stuck.

Fortunately, some thoughtful person put up a makeshift sign on a construction bollard to warn cyclists to proceed with caution. Whoever it was deserves a tip of the hat or helmet for trying to prevent crashes on this useful shortcut.

I’m not sure if these tracks carry rail traffic anymore. If not, it would be great if the Chicago Department of Transportation could make this stretch of Kingsbury safer for cyclists by ripping out the tracks and repaving it.

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