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Don’t Panic! Take a Virtual Ride on the New Glenwood Greenway

7:52 PM CDT on May 12, 2017

Photo: John Greenfield

I’d like to start this post with a moment of silence for the victims of the Biking Green Massacre. You know, the bloodbath that occurred after contaflow (“wrong-way”) bike lanes with green paint were installed as part of traffic-calmed Neighborhood Greenway routes on Chicago streets like Ardmore, Berteau, Albion, and Wicker Park Avenue.

What, you say there was no Biking Green Massacre? Well you wouldn’t know it from watching a recent CBS report titled “New Bike Path Design Has Neighbors, Riders Concerned.” It should actually be titled “New Bike Path Design Has Neighbor, Rider Concerned,” because exactly one of each is interviewed.

The north end of the greenway at Bryn Mawr. Photo: John Greenfield
The north end of the greenway at Ridge. Photo: John Greenfield

The new $65,000 bikeway, which is largely completed, runs on Glenwood from Ridge to Foster in the Edgewater neighborhood, providing a safe north-south alternative to busy Clark and Broadway, located two blocks west and east, respectively. The contraflow bike lane, which allows southbound cyclists to safely ride on this northbound stretch, is already in, as is a concrete island at Ridge that helps keep southbound drivers from entering Glenwood, plus signage.

Bike-and-chevron “shared-lane markings” still have to be installed on Glenwood between Ridge and Foster, which will help keep northbound cyclists out of the southbound lane (you’ll see a northbound cyclist in the southbound lane for a moment in the video below). These symbols, aka “sharrows,” will also be marked on the two-way stretch of Glenwood between Foster and Carmen, a two-way street, to direct cyclists to and from Broadway, which has buffered bike lanes south of Foster.

Before the contraflow lane was fully installed, randomly selected “bike rider” Kelly D’Angelo told CBS reporter Jeremy Ross, “It seems a little bit more dangerous to me… I really don’t like when I have to go against traffic.”

Right, that’s the point of contraflow bike lanes. Under normal circumstances, riding against traffic for multiple blocks is generally a bad idea, but by creating dedicated space for “wrong-way” riders, and giving drivers and pedestrians plenty of notice to expect contraflow bike traffic, contraflow lanes make it safe to do so.

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

“We see people regularly riding down on that side of the street anyway,” Glenwood resident Bill Pinalto told Ross. Correct, lots of people are already riding against traffic, so legalizing this move and making it more predictable makes a lot of sense.

But the voiceover on the news spot notes, “Bill Pinalto is worried that drivers used to pulling out of alleyways onto a one-way street won’t remember to look both ways for traffic.” Hmm, I wonder how the city could remind them. Maybe by installing green paint and “One-Way Except Bikes”signs  at every single alley and cross street?

Signs and green paint alert drivers leaving alleys to the presence of contraflow bike traffic. Photo: John Greenfield
Signs and green paint alert drivers leaving alleys to the presence of contraflow bike traffic. Photo: John Greenfield

Pardon the snark, but the important thing is that the Glenwood Greenway is going to make biking on this already popular route safer and more convenient. While, according to the Chicago Department of transportation, six bicyclists were injured in crashes on this stretch of Glenwood between 2009 and 2013, there have been few or no bike crashes on any of the existing contraflow lanes, and none of the collisions were serious. The Berteau Greenway, Chicago's first, is celebrating its fourth birthday this year, so that's an excellent track record.

Therefore, the notion that the useful new bike lane on Glenwood will be a safety hazard is simply an alternative fact.

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