Milwaukee Avenue Update: Goodbye Car Slip Lane, Hello Bike Turn Lane

The partly completed slip lane removal at Division/Ashland/Milwaukee. Photo: John Greenfield
The partly completed slip lane removal at Division/Ashland/Milwaukee. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation’s complete streets makeover of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park seems is moving along nicely. See a full rundown of planned improvements here.

Last week the department striped new experimental “dashed bike lanes” on the stretch between Division and North, which is too narrow for conventional or protected bike lanes without large-scale car parking removals. Despite skepticism from many commenters on this site, the treatment still seems to be resulting in a modest safety improvement: Motorists are generally driving closer to the center line, allowing cyclists to ride farther away from the doors of parked cars.

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The dashed bike lanes are working, but they don’t address the issue of Milwaukees many truck deliveries. Photo: John Greenfield

The recent addition of bike symbols in the lanes further sends the message that this is space primarily (although not exclusively) for cyclists, and signs have been posted to inform bus drivers, truckers, car drivers, and bike riders how they’re supposed to use the street. Of course, as you can see from the photo below, the many delivery vehicles on Milwaukee still pose a hazard to cyclists, so we should keep pushing for a better longterm solution.

At the south end of the project area, CDOT recently eliminated the slip lane, aka channelized right turn, for drivers at the northwest corner of Division/Ashland/Milwaukee using tan paint and traffic cones, which will soon be replaced with flexible posts. This creates safer conditions and more space for pedestrians. (Shout-out to Streetsblog reader Lindsay Banks Bailey for alerting us to the new paint job.) A similar makeover is planned for the slip lane at the southeast corner of North/Damen/Milwaukee, and paint-and-post sidewalk extensions will be added throughout the corridor.

Despite "Bus Lane" street markings and signs, taxi drivers are still parking in the former cab stand location. Photo: Steven Vance
Despite “Bus Lane” street markings and signs, taxi drivers are still parking in the former cab stand location. Photo: Steven Vance

Also at the D/A/M intersection, CDOT has moved the taxi stand from the Milwaukee side of Polish Triangle (the large traffic island / small park at the center of the intersection) to the west side of Ashland to make room for a bus lane. However, as Steven Vance’s photo above illustrates, so far cabbies aren’t always complying with the new set-up. Signs were also posted along the corridor to inform CTA customers that bus stops will soon be relocated for more efficient service. (Update: Stops were relocated on Friday.)

The racks are back. Photo: John Greenfield
The racks are back. Photo: John Greenfield

Up at N/D/M, a long-vanished on-street bike rack in front of the Flat Iron Building had been replaced with a brand-spanking-new one when I dropped by yesterday. And DNAinfo’s Alisa Hauser posted on Instagram today that workers have started installing green paint for four bike boxes at the six-way intersection, which will allow cyclists to get a head start over motorized traffic at stoplights.

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Farther northwest, CDOT has installed a combination of dashed and conventional bike lanes. Steven says he appreciates that several car parking spots were removed by the Bucktown-Wicker Park Library to make room for conventional lanes, as well as the fact that the street has been patched.

Bike lanes replaced car parking by the library. Photo: John Greenfield
Bike lanes replaced car parking by the library. Photo: John Greenfield

“This was a big squeeze going northbound because you had parked cars on the right side and potholes everywhere. Those potholes have been removed.” I don’t expect we’ll hear many complaints about the parking conversions because the library has a sizable off-street lot.

New markings by the Bloomingdale, looking southeast. Photo: John Greenfield
New markings by the Bloomingdale, looking southeast. Photo: John Greenfield

The transportation department has also added new striping and green paint to facilitate cyclists transferring between Milwaukee and Bloomingdale Trail access ramps on both sides of the street. Steven’s not a fan of the new left-turn bay for northbound riders that’s supposed to make it easier to get to the ramp on the west side of Milwaukee.

“I don’t like how close this places the cyclist to oncoming traffic,” he says. “This really needs to be a concrete left-turn pocket.” See what he’s talking about in the photo below, and judge for yourself in the point-of-view video above.

I love the accommodations to make left turns across Portland.
A concrete turn pocket for cyclists in Portland, Oregon. Photo: Steven Vance

What do you think of the latest changes? Let us know in the comments.

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