Milwaukee Bike Lane Reopened at Grand, But It Could Be Closed Again Soon
Streetsblog reader Dries Kimpe tipped us off yesterday about yet another case of construction creating hazardous conditions for cyclists on Milwaukee Avenue. While plastic Jersey walls had previously been used to close the sidewalk on the west side of Milwaukee north of Grand to facilitate work on a transit-oriented development called Kenect, yesterday the barriers had been moved to block off the bike lane as well. This forced bicyclists to squeeze between the wall and moving cars and increased the chance of riders being struck by right-turning motorists.
I’m happy to report that, as of today this was no longer the case. The wall had been moved west a few feet again to reopen the bike lane. But it looks like we could see more closures of the lane in the near future.
When I contacted CDOT today about the closure, they informed me that the construction wall had been moved back. They didn’t provide information about whether it was legal for the contractor had a permit to block the bike lane and if so, the duration of the permit, or the reason for the obstruction.
Local alderman Walter Burnett has voiced support for making sure that construction on Milwaukee doesn’t endanger any road users, including people on bikes. When I called his office today, a staff member told me that the bike lane had been blocked off yesterday because the construction company, Tishman Construction, needed room for a crane to lift drywall up to windows. He said the alderman had received some complaints about the bike lane closure.
When I checked out the construction site late this afternoon, the bike lane was still open. The closure of the right-turn lane to the right of the green bike lane means there’s still an increased chance of conflicts between drivers and cyclists, but it’s a much safer situation than yesterday. Another positive development is that the sidewalk on Milwaukee has been rebuilt, and it appears to be much wider than before.
I asked contractors at the job site about the project and they politely told me that they had to close the sidewalk yesterday to do the sidewalk work, but they moved the Jersey walls back east that evening. “We’ve been permitted to completely close the bike lane for an entire two weeks,” said one of the workers. “But we’ve been conscientious about moving it back each night so we don’t block the bike lane. It’s the right thing to do.”
So it sounds like it’s legal for Tishman to close the bike lane, and they may do it again in the near future. Not an ideal situation by any means, but as long as they’re not doing it simply to make room for parking construction vehicles, as Dries Kimpe was concerned they might be, it seems like a necessary evil.