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Eyes on the Street: New 2-Way Protected Bike Lane on Evanston’s Chicago Avenue

A cyclist enters the Chicago Avenue protected bike lane at the Sheridan Road curve. Photo: Jeff Zoline

The City of Evanston recently installed a two-way protected bike lane along a segment of Chicago Avenue, one of its main arterial streets. The bike lane is part of a larger project to improve multi-modal usage of both Chicago Avenue (what the city of Chicago's Clark Street becomes north of the Howard Street border) and Sheridan Road. The Sheridan Road-Chicago Avenue Improvement Project involves redesigning the 1.9 mile corridor along these two major streets to make them more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. This will involve building a bi-directional protected bike lane on the east side of each street.

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Eventually the protected lane will run all the way from Chicago and Grove to Isabella, the northern border of Evanston. Image: Google Street View
Eventually the protected lane will run all the way from Chicago and Grove to Isabella, the northern border of Evanston. Image: Google Street View

Other improvements include new traffic signals and bus stop bump-outs as well as landscaping and water main infrastructure improvements. Specific bike-friendly improvements include an eight-foot-wide bi-directional bike lane, a three-foot-wide concrete median and a one-foot-wide buffer to separate the bicycle lanes from the vehicular parking and traffic lanes on the left. Additionally, dedicated traffic signals, curb extensions, refuge islands, lane markings and intersection barrier protection for bicyclists and pedestrians will be installed at each intersection. The speed limit for traffic will also be reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph.

The $13.3 million dollar project is paid for with city and state funds as well as five annual $1 million dollar contributions from Northwestern University to the city’s Good Neighbor Fund. The project area is bounded on the south by Chicago Avenue and Grove Street in downtown Evanston and on the north by the Evanston/Wilmette border at Sheridan Road and Isabella Street. The project has been divided into three phases.

Phase One, which has just been completed, runs between Grove Street and the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road. Phase Two construction, which will run along Sheridan Road from Chicago Avenue to Lincoln Street adjacent to the Northwestern University campus, is scheduled to occur between June 12 and September 15, 2017. Phase Three construction, which will run from Lincoln Street on the northern edge of the campus to the city limits at Isabella Street, is slated to occur between April 1 and October 19, 2018.

Bike lane curb barrier at Chicago and Clark. Photo: Jeff Zoline
Bike lane curb barrier at Chicago and Clark. Photo: Jeff Zoline
Bike lane curb barrier at Chicago and Clark. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Unfortunately, due to the longstanding state budget impasse, the Illinois Department of Transportation has recently ordered all state funded transportation projects to cease by June 30th. This will put the next phase of construction on hold until the budget impasse is resolved.

The Sheridan Road/Chicago Avenue project will connect directly with existing downtown Evanston protected bike lanes along Church and Davis Streets, providing a safer passage to and from the Northwestern University campus and downtown Evanston. This follows a tragic bike fatality last year in which a concrete truck driver ran over Northwestern University student Chuyuan Qiu as she entered Sheridan Road from the campus drive at Garrett Place. Qiu’s death shook up the campus and local raised awareness about the dangers of biking near the university. The new protected bike lanes will help prevent such tragedies in the future.

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