Bike Boxes, Slip Lane Removal, and a Fat Crosswalk Come to Wicker Park Six-Way

Tan paint and flexible posts have been used to shorten crossing distances, and green bike boxes give cyclists a head start over drivers. Photo: John Greenfield
Tan paint and flexible posts have been used to shorten crossing distances, and green bike boxes give cyclists a head start over drivers. Photo: John Greenfield

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The Chicago Department of Transportation’s complete streets project on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, including a fairly dramatic makeover of the North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection, is nearly finished. (See a full rundown of planned improvements here.) The six-way junction recently got four bike boxes and an extra-wide crosswalk, and tan paint and flexible posts were used to shorten pedestrian crossing distances and close the slip lane at the southeast corner.

North/Damen/Milwaukee before and after the recent changes. Photos: John Greenfield
North/Damen/Milwaukee before and after the recent changes. Photos: John Greenfield

The bike boxes, which provide a place for cyclists to wait at stoplights in front of motor vehicles, were installed on the northwest, north, southeast, and south legs, which involved the removal of two somewhat redundant CTA bus stops. In the near future CDOT will install bike symbols on the green boxes to make their purpose more obvious.

The slip lane removal at North/Damen/Milwaukee. photo: John Greenfield

The department has used the paint and posts to remove the slip lane, which previously facilitated dangerously fast right turns by motorists, and shorten crossing distances at the southeast and north intersection legs. The changes to the north leg also included the banning of right turns by southbound drivers on Damen.

The addition of the bike box and curb extensions at the north leg of the intersection involved banning right turns by southbound drivers on Damen. Photo: John Greenfield
The addition of the bike box and curb extensions at the north leg of the intersection involved removing the right turn lane for southbound drivers on Damen. Photo: John Greenfield

On the south leg of the intersection, CDOT has moved the stop bar for motorists several feet south, which makes room for the bike box, as well as greatly expanding the crosswalk into a large, triangular pedestrian zone, a rarity in Chicago. This better accommodates the heavy pedestrian traffic at the intersection, and provides a shortcut for people walking to the Blue Line station just south of the intersection.

The new, extra-wide crosswalk. Photo: John Greenfield
The new, extra-wide crosswalk. Photo: John Greenfield

Overall, the changes make this hectic six-way safer, better organized, and more pleasant for the many people who pass through on foot and bike each day, without causing any undue inconvenience for drivers. The intersection will get even more people-friendly next year, when CDOT plans to add two new crosswalks between the Flat Iron Building and Flash Taco, and between Starbucks and Walgreens.

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Before and after views of the slip lane removal at Division/Ashland/Milwaukee. Photo: CDOT, John Greenfield

Elsewhere along the Milwaukee corridor, the plastic posts have been added to complete the slip lane removal at the northwest corner of the Division/Ashland/Milwaukee junction. Several other paint-and-post bumpouts have been completed between Division and North.

New bumpouts at Honore and Milwaukee shorten crossing distances. Photo: John Greenfield
New bumpouts at Honore and Milwaukee shorten crossing distances. Photo: John Greenfield

How do you think the latest changes are working out? Let us know in the comments.

Correction and update 9/13/17 10:45 AM:

The installation of the bike box at the north leg of  North/Damen/Milwaukeee did not involve the banning of right turns for southbound motorists but only the removal of the right turn lane for drivers. The post has been edited accordingly — sorry for the error. As was the case before the redesign, rights on red by motorists are prohibited.

Readers have commented that, with the removal of the slip lane at the intersection, right turns for drivers from northbound Damen on southeast-bound Milwaukee look dangerously sharp. According to CDOT transportation planner Mike Amsden, signage will be added shortly to indicate that this move is now banned, but right turns onto North are still legal (which is why the right-turn lane will remain in place.)

Amsden added that all the tan paint in the new paint-and-post sidewalk bumpouts along the Milwaukee has been installed, bike symbols will be added to the N/D/M bike boxes today.

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.

  • planetshwoop

    The changes to M/D/N seem like a big improvement. It was a less scary when I came through on Monday. Esp if you’re a ped. I couldn’t use the bike boxes because cars were in them, but I suppose there’s a learning curve?

    I find the bike lane south of North horrifying. I felt really pressured to be in the door zone, more than before it was added. I didn’t want to be negative about it, but I was uncomfortable. I’m sure others might feel different.

  • rwy

    A learning curve? The sign says “Stop Here On Red”. Pretty clear. Probably did it on purpose.

  • planetshwoop

    In the Loop no one observed the “right on arrow only” signs and signals after they were installed. I feel like after a month, they’re much better followed.

    I agree that staying out of the green box isn’t hard, but maybe it will take awhile for people to catch on.

  • rwy

    Because many drivers are so resentful of bike facilities I just imagined this being their form of rebellion. In Evanston I still do see plenty of cars ignoring the “right on arrow only” sign months after it was installed. But you are right, most drivers are following the law and the ones who break it tend to stick out in our minds.

    I do wonder if signs warning of possible penalties would create more compliance.

    I also feel like an all-pedestrian phase would be helpful at 6 way intersections.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The problem is that the light is on the wrong side of the street. It should be in front of the green box.

  • Bernard Finucane

    This is fine as a quick win, but the geometry is wrong here. The street needs to be narrowed from the other side, to split the messy intersection into several smaller neater ones. As I pointed out some months ago, this intersection needs narrower more directed paths for cars, and wider, more contiguous areas for bikes and pedestrians.

    In other words, the fat crosswalk should be pedestrian only, and the area with the island and the pedestrianized slip lane should be for cars.

  • Bernard Finucane

    See my other remark here. A much safer solution is to split the six way intersection into several smaller intersections.

  • Frank Kotter

    Yes, and this only becomes obvious when people start traveling outside of the United States. Far side signals are really the most expensive, and least effective solution to controlling intersections. Kind of infrastructure in the USA in general in a nutshell.

  • Bobo Chimpan

    Yeah, I noticed the top photograph had a scofflaw cager stopped in the bike box…

  • rohmen

    Given the way the L runs along Milwaukee, the only way you could do what you’re advocating in light of the steel support beams would likely be to eminent domain the literally brand new Robey Hotel. The hotel is probably worth well in excess of $100 mil. minimum alone. That’s not going to happen.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yeah, that ain’t happening. But, Bernard, you’re aware that that’s pretty much exactly what Chicago recently did a mile north at Fullerton/Damen/Elston?

  • 515051505150515051505150

    All they have to do is put the traffic signals on the near side of the intersection only instead of on both sides. This is how it is done in Europe, and it prevents cars from pulling up too far and blocking the crosswalk/bike lane because they would not be able to see the traffic signal if they pull up that far.

  • rwy

    Kind of reminds me of Lincoln/Western/Lawrence. Which isn’t very bike friendly because it requires bikes going down Lincoln to travel down Western and make a couple of left turns.

  • Bernard Finucane

    No, nothing I have suggested come anywhere close to the El. Furthermore I see no need to widen the street in front of the Robey Hotel, though admit my crude drawing suggests it.

    If you look at the crosswalk from the Robey Hotel to the old Noel Bank building, you’ll see its about 65 feet across, but there are only three lanes. Even calculating a generous 12 ft per lane there are 41 feet of wasted space at the Milwaukee.

    My recommendation would run the curbs about like this.

    I would also recommend that the construction area in the picture also be pedestrianized, so the hotel would have even more space.

  • Bernard Finucane

    I’m not sure what they did there, but it’s important to see how much space is being wasted at this intersection — space that doesn’t move cars efficiently, or at all, but is off limits to the heavy pedestrian traffic.

    The main culprit is the crescent consisting of Milwaukee in front of Starbucks, and Damen in front of Flash Taco, which is just wasted land. Even the improved version has 60 ft curb to curb on Damen for three lanes of traffic, which is absurd.

    From the street, my configuration would look like this:

    This would create a huge plaza without losing a single lane of traffic. You could plant trees on it and have a Parisian sidewalk cafe.

  • David Henri

    If they don’t want cars driving in the old slip lane, why are they installing widely spaced flexible posts? They’ll be flattened in a couple of months. When is this city going to get serious about proper infrastructure and quit with the paint and flexible posts? We have massive concrete flowerpots at Lincoln and Southport. Don’t tell me that the concept needs to be tested. Lets get serious about PERMANENT bicycle infrastructure.