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.

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.

A post shared by alisa (@alisahauser1) on

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.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Removing the slip lane at Division/Ashland/Milwaukee is a step in the wrong direction. The street should be narrowed on the other side to of Milwaukee it meets Ashland at a right angle. Milwaukee should be shut down completely between Division and Ashland to make a park with room for outdoor cafes. Milwaukee should also be curved at Division to make a right angle. Also the last block of Haddon (where it meets Milwaukee) should be pedestrianized.

  • JacobEPeters

    As an interim solution this is a step forward, since making the Milwaukee/Ashland intersection perpendicular will require rebuilding curbs since the existing pork chop pedestrian island and traffic light support are in the way of such a realignment. I agree that the long term solution to this intersection is squaring up the intersections & close the portion of Milwaukee that isolates the Polish Triangle (creating longer left turn bays & signal phases to organize traffic movements), but as a short term improvement the slip lane being removed does not make the intersection less safe, therefore not a step back, since it isn’t a permanent solution. We know the fixes along this entire corridor are just band aids & we’ll need some more surgery in the future (like the project on Milwaukee from Logan Square to Belmont) to really rectify the whole host of issues in this area.

  • Kevin M

    Nice write-up, John.

    I saw the taxis lined up (illegally) along the Polish Triangle during several passes I made there this weekend. And there were three parked there this morning. Unless CPD starts enforcing this new restricted lane soon, its going to be a frustrating few months for bus drivers as they carry the burden of enforcement via displacement.

    I can see Steven’s concern re: the left-turn lane for north-bound cyclists entering the 606. I also think it was a bold move by CDOT to put some bike paint that far in to the middle of car-land. I’m personally comfortable with using it (without concrete buffer), but I’m not sure less-confident cyclists are going to be.

    I was happily surprised to see the removal of some parking around the WP-BT library. That stretch feels a little more comfortable. That short stretch gives a cyclist a brief–but real–impression of what Milwaukee could be like if parking was removed the rest of the distance of Milwaukee between Ashland and Western.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    One issue is that the new taxi stand is a half or a third the length of the old one.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Yes, I agree. Baby steps. Just wanted to point out that the geometry is wrong.

  • JacobEPeters

    Yup, just like the dashed lanes, not acceptable long term, but glad to have this improvement in the interim.