“Dashed Bike Lanes” Will Go in on Milwaukee in Wicker Park Next Week

The dashed bike lane layout. Image: CDOT
The dashed bike lane layout. Image: CDOT

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The city’s latest plan for the Milwaukee Avenue corridor in Wicker Park includes a strategy that I’ve long thought would make this high-bike-traffic corridor safer without requiring the removal of dozens of car parking spots. Yesterday the Chicago Department of Transportation announced that they intend to striped “dashed bike lanes” on Milwaukee between Division and North, a stretch where there’s not enough street width for conventional bike lanes and two parking lanes. The department plans to start construction of the lanes and other near-term improvements to the corridor next week, with the work wrapping up within two weeks.

The dashed bike lanes will generally function like conventional bike lanes, with the stripe on the left side of the five-foot-wide lane being dashed rather than solid. Bicyclists will use the dashed lanes just like regular bike lanes. Car drivers will generally stay within the nine-foot-wide travel lane, only entering the bike lane when necessary, and yielding to cyclists when doing so. CDOT expects that drivers of trucks and buses will occupy part of the bike lane, but they will be required to move to the left to leave at least three feet of space when passing people on bikes.

We’re likely to hear some grumbling from both cyclists and drivers over the new configuration, especially while people get used to this novel road treatment. But, since it looks like stripping all the parking from one side of the street to make room for full bike lanes is currently a non-starter from a political standpoint, this seems like a good compromise. Bike riders will tend to get more room to maneuver – important on a corridor that has seen a dooring epidemic in recent years.

And while the idea that large vehicles will be occupying the bike lane at times may seem a little unnerving, the fact that motorized traffic on congested Milwaukee generally moves at a moderate speed makes it less likely that there will be dangerous conflicts. CDOT plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the dashed bike lanes by surveying users and monitoring lane positions, vehicle speeds, and crashes. I predict that the number of collisions will decrease under the new set-up, partly because having a more robust bikeway on this section of Milwaukee (currently there are just bike-and-chevron “sharrow” symbols) will raise awareness of cyclists on the road.

One thing that’s a little odd is that, while CDOT hosted two community meetings on the Milwaukee Corridor Complete Streets Project, the dashed bike lane concept wasn’t discussed. According to assistant director of transportation planning Mike Amsden, the decision to try this new strategy was based on the fact that CDOT “heard from almost all of attendees on the importance of providing dedicated space for people on bikes.”

Image: CDOT
Image: CDOT

Other near-term improvements that should be added in the next couple of weeks on Milwaukee include a mix of dashed and conventional bike lanes between North and Western, the removal of slip lanes at Division/Ashland and North/Damen, construction of paint-and-post bumpouts at several intersections, and new green-painted bike boxes at North/Damen. 20 mph speed limit signs will also be installed along the corridor and bus stops will be relocated and consolidated.Here’s a full rundown of the plans. The funding for the $235,000 project is coming from Divvy revenue. CDOT plans to add two additional crosswalks to the six-way North/Damen junction next year.

Kudos to CDOT for piloting the dashed bike lane treatment on Milwaukee instead of making cyclists wait years for new bikeways. I’m looking forward to seeing how the “Hipster Highway” operates after these changes are made – it should be a noticeable improvement.

This post is made possible by a grant from Freeman Kevenides, a Chicago, Illinois personal injury law firm representing and advocating for bicyclists, pedestrians and vulnerable road users.  The content belongs to Streetsblog Chicago, and Freeman Kevenides Law Firm neither endorses nor exercises editorial control over the content.

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