“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.

  • rwy

    This requires motorists to show patience when passing a cyclist. This will fall unless there is very rigorous enforcement.

  • Frank Kotter

    Well written devil’s advocate piece, John. However, I’m at a loss to understand what grumblings are possible from those who drive in the area and complain about parking. If I read this right, there is not a single redesign other than a striped line.

    I still believe this and many other transportation corridors could be improved with parking on alternating sides to allow the creation of bulb-outs, chicanes, wider sidewalks and protected bicycle infrastructure.

    Milwaukee parallels the I94. If you want a place to drive your car without being bothered by ‘life’ you should be on it.

  • BlueFairlane

    This sounds exactly like what’s always existed, only with the addition of paint. And this is Chicago, so the paint’s temporary.

  • Carter O’Brien

    “Car drivers will generally stay within the nine-foot-wide travel lane, only entering the bike lane when necessary,”

    Unfortunately the devil is in the details of what (and who) defines “necessary.”

  • Sterling Archer

    Seems like a good idea until the stripes disappear after one winter. I’m not very confident that drivers will ever yield to cyclists when it is “necessary” for them to use the bike lane. I’d imagine they will just pass at unsafe distances like they always do.

  • c2check

    That’s a pretty tight configuration. I say they should ensure traffic is calmed enough to keep vehicles consistently at a low speed as well.

  • Kevin M

    A dashed–or even solid–bike lane may give novice cyclists a false sense of security that they are safer from doors and such. These bike lanes will certainly include the dreaded door zone given the lack of buffer between the auto-parking lane. Furthermore, once the inevitable potholes or other pavement pockmarks show up in the bike lanes, or when motor vehicles are double-parked, cyclists will end up in the (now-sanctioned) auto-lane.

    These stripes are not worth the cost of the paint.

    Two-sided street parking on Milwaukee Ave has got to go.

  • Well, it’s better than sharrows. Still seems like they’re using my soft tissue for traffic calming instead of removing parking. Not that it’s enforced but there are supposed to be no trucks on the boulevards. Why not disallow trucks from these so-called spoke routes? Utility trucks tend to be the ones I see making the risky 6″ high speed passes. 90-94 is already a designated truck route.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Drivers are going to complain that the 9′ travel lanes are too narrow — they’re barely wide enough for a regular-size car. But when drivers are nervous about safety, that’s a good thing.

    I don’t think I’m really playing devil’s advocate here. Conventional or protected bike lanes would obviously be better here, but they would require stripping tons of parking, which would be a very heavy lift politically, and would also require the city to compensate the parking concessionaire for any loss of metered spots.

    I think this project represents a small, short-term win, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep pushing the city for much bolder solutions in the future, such as Active Trans’ proposal to consider making Milwaukee one-way for private cars during rush hours.

  • rohmen

    I agree with the dashed-line bike lane being worthless, and outside of bus stops, I can’t think of another street in Chicago that utilizes them. It’s essentially an invitation for cars to ignore them, and are essentially glorified sharrows.

    That said, I personally find value in solid lane (especially with a buffer-zone built in) bike lanes. If a street is found by CDOT and/or IDOT to not be able to accommodate a full protected lane, I’d still rather have them stripe a solid-line painted bike lane. Almost my entire 8-mile commute is on painted bike lanes (except for stretches with have nothing), and cars do act better on the streets I ride where painted lines are present. Maybe they’re not perfect, but neither are the protected lanes being built in the city (especially at intersections), and solid painted lines are better than no markings at all.

    I will say that in terms of pavement pockmarks and potholes on MKE going forward, at least this move will result in the City having to fix them, or face liability for any accidents that result. Maybe a small comfort, but adding these marking at least gives some teeth under Illinois law to CDOT’s duty to keep the lanes safe for cyclists, as it makes clear cyclists are intended users of that stretch (not just permitted under case law).

  • Joshua Heffernan

    It’s incredible how long, how hard, and in how many ways that parking meter deal will screw the city.

  • 1976boy

    We certainly cannot anger the parking gods.

  • rduke

    What happens when a 10′ 2″ wide bus has to use Milwaukee then?

  • rduke

    This is worse than nothing. Mark is a shared street and be goddamn done with it unless we’re gonna find the sack to rip out parking.

  • Deni

    Exactly my thought. Even if we had the most progressive leadership in this city it would still be hard to do what needs to be done due to the cost of paying a private company for the right to take away parking from a public right of way. Insanity.

  • Deni

    I dream of a world where we could actually turn Milwaukee Ave in to a bus/bike/pedestrian only street (with limited AM delivery hours). It is so inefficient as a car street.

  • rduke

    It’s not any different than the door zone sharrows that are already there, except it reinforces “car lane for me, bike lane for you, git out mah way!”

    The sharrows should be big, green, and painted smack dab in the middle of the lane, where bikes should be to avoid getting doored. Average speeds through this corridor are never higher than a bike’s anyways.

  • Blind RedHat

    You don’t drive, do you?

  • David Henri

    How about signage? What’s to differentiate the bike lane from a car lane when it’s separated by striped paint, similar to a car lane divider. I think this is worse than what exists there now. Extremely disappointed.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    If the design is intended as “Advisory Bicycle Lanes” (see here: http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/documents/10180/371767/complete+streets+facility+types+13+-+advisory+bike+lanes.pdf/dbc9f13f-9300-47ee-b07f-1f84cad5e223 and http://altaplanning.com/wp-content/uploads/Advisory-Bike-Lanes-In-North-America_Alta-Planning-Design-White-Paper.pdf), then there should NOT be any center line! The center area (without a center line) should be slightly less wide than needed for two cars traveling in opposite directions to pass. Advisory bike lanes are intended for roads with Average Daily Traffic (ADT) of around 6000 vehicles or less. Streets with Advisory Bicycle Lanes PRIORITIZE bicyclists / travel on bicycle.

  • Concobhar Mac Conmara

    I’ve always wondered… there has to be SOME loopholes, right? Like, what if the city took over a parking garage and made the lanes official “streets” of the city and metered that. Would that get them out of it?

  • BlueFairlane

    I drive. I don’t drive on Milwaukee because it takes for-frickin’-ever. There are plenty of alternative routes.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yeah, that’s why CDOT isn’t calling these advisory bike lanes. It looks like they’re going to pilot ABLs elsewhere in the not-too-distant future.

  • rduke

    No such thing as a car lane except on limited access highways. Bikes may use any lane.

  • Additionally, the use of this treatment on a 42′ roadway is extremely questionable, especially if parking is sparse.

  • No, this is worse than sharrows. At least with sharrows, there’s a cursory expectation for bicyclists to be in the traffic lane. Now they’re guaranteed to be bullied.

  • Sorry, this is a horrendous design. It’s a good thing that CPD now specifically tallies “doorings” in their collision reports because they’re going to need it for this abomination. A thoroughfare with a 42′ roadway is NOT a good candidate for this treatment and if the present situation is sharrows, this will almost certainly be a major step backwards. Repaint the sharrows centered in the 14′ lane that they’re parceling up, perhaps backed with green paint, and call it a day. No need to make this more complicated than it needs to be.

  • planetshwoop

    Not really. If they take away revenue, they have to make it up elsewhere. Can be more spots somewhere else or just a flat payment.

    The usual way to get out of a contract like this is to buy up the bonds and then take the entity into bankruptcy. Would be hard to do but not impossible.

  • planetshwoop

    The way to make this happen is breaking conventions (and possibly a little civil disobedience.)

    Find a few cyclists at a light, and ride in a mass in the car lane.

    The lane doesn’t “belong” to cars. People will slow down because there are enough other road users that they have to drive at speed.

    Behaving too predictably decreases safety.

  • Anyone know what the ADT / traffic volume is on this street? Advisory bike lanes are only intended to be used on low volume streets. Also, there should be no center line.

  • Blind RedHat

    You didn’t make the original comment here. I was curious as to whether the OP drives.

  • Blind RedHat

    Now there’s an idea: hook up with other bicyclists and purposefully slow down auto traffic. That’ll make drivers stop hating bicyclists.

  • BlueFairlane

    I did not make the original comment. I made an additional comment offering the perspective of somebody who drives.

  • planetshwoop

    First, if you drive on Milwaukee during rush hour, you probably already hate bicyclists.

    Second, most of us who bike aren’t especially concerned about how much drivers like us. Staying safe is more important.

  • planetshwoop

    I want the same thing. I drive.

  • Doug vanderHoof

    Uck. Why didn’t they make a two-way pair of bike lanes on one side of the street, like Dearborn in the loop? Use the curb lane and protect it with parked cars.
    You can do it with paint, too.

  • Cyclist’s Rights

    “Protecting” it makes things more dangerous for cyclists. Ever heard of a hook colisión?

  • Cyclist’s Rights

    9 feet is standard. Cars are about 6 feet wide. They’ll adjust and slow down.

  • ShatteredGlass00

    Sharrows should never be in a door zone. They should be in the center of the effective lane.

  • ShatteredGlass00

    They conveniently forgot to show the door opening to slam the cyclist into the path of the overtaking car, truck or bus. If someone was trying to kill cyclists I don’t see how they could improve on this design in terms of achieving their goal.

    Sharrows – especially accompanied by Bikes May Use Full Lane signs – would be much better.

  • Kitsapien

    That’s insane.
    That’s a door zone death by design.
    The best would be a Cyclists May Use Full Lane sign, and removing those death slots.
    Even if a cyclist decided that their life was worth more than making a motorist change lanes to pass, they would still be harassed for not using those bike lanes.

  • gbshaun

    The Onion?

  • Joshua Putnam

    With a dashed line, will drivers really feel that their 14 foot lane is too narrow? If 9 feet is too narrow, then they “need” the added width, and the dashes mean they’re allowed to take it.

  • Joshua Putnam

    A corridor with “a dooring epidemic” gets a door-zone bike lane next to a narrow parking lane, *and* motorists are allowed to use the bike lane, and that’s progress?

    Upgrade to centered sharrows with traffic calming. That would be much safer than this dooring-magnifier design.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I’m seeing a “vehicular cyclist” bias here. In reality, most bicyclists do not want to ride in the middle of the travel lane on busy city streets. There are sharrows marked in the middle of the travel lanes on Kinzie Street between Dearborn and Wells, and most cyclists still prefer to ride to the right rather than worry about impatient drivers bearing down on them from behind. If you like to ride 15 to 20 mph and can easily keep up with motorized traffic, more power to you, feel free to take the lane. But for the rest of us who don’t ride that fast, the dashed lines on Milwaukee will make it safer to ride to the right of motorized traffic by encouraging car drivers to stay closer to the centerline. That will make it easier, not harder, than i currently is for cyclists to stay out of the door zone.

  • Jaik Smith

    If they just repaved Milwaukee, I’d be much happier. Not those small sections that they are doing right now…I’m talking about repaving from Kinzie to Irving Park. That would make me swerve less to avoid potholes, therefore less likely to weave into traffic or near parked cars.

  • Jack Hughes

    I’m seeing a “doesn’t understand vehicular cycling” bias here. Take the lane at any speed and you are safer even if you prefer to ride to the right where you aren’t as safe. The striping encourages riders to stay in the door zone and does nothing to make it easier for cyclists to stay out of the door zone. Cyclists of any skill level and any confidence level would be better off with nothing.

  • eliasross

    Taking the troll bait here. I suppose cyclists don’t mind running into open doors? And if they swerve out of the way, don’t mind being hit by passing cars? And if you aren’t riding in the door zone, you’ll get honked at by drivers who don’t know any better. Win-win I guess.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Look, I realize that Forester followers like yourself dislike any kind of on-street bike infrastructure that doesn’t involve riding in the middle of the lane. But riding 10 mph, a relaxed commuting speed, in the middle of a busy Chicago travel lane would lead to an endless onslaught of car honking, at best. The fact is, taking the lane is not a realistic or safe option for people who don’t bike fast enough to keep up with motorized traffic.

    A five-foot bike lane provides sufficient room for staying out of the way of car doors, which is why it’s the minimum bike lane width CDOT will stripe. (Granted, more education and/or street markings to encourage cyclists to stay in the left foot or two of the bike lane would be a good thing.) As I said, the striping makes it easier for cyclists to stay out of the door zone by encouraging car drivers to travel closer to the center line, giving cyclists more breathing room.

    But debating vehicular cyclists is kind of a futile exercise, so I’ll just leave you folks with this cartoon. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8ead9434c26131a2c79181ea777d945ee1757b7fd2f883e7da18917a78588a8c.jpg

  • Joshua Putnam

    Wait… riding in the door zone is staying out of the door zone?

    100% of that bike lane is within the door zone.

    How does striping that bike lane make it easier for cyclists to avoid using that bike lane?

    I’m no spandex racer, I’ve just seen too many riders get doored, even at 10 mph it can be crippling or fatal.