CDOT Tries a Bike Lane Saturation Strategy in Edgewater

The Glenwood Greenway. Photo: John Greenfield
The Glenwood Greenway. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago currently has about 250 miles of bike lanes, but in many cases they’re installed piecemeal, with a mile or so installed here and there, wherever the city happens to be doing a street repaving project. This means that many parts of town, especially on the South and West sides, lack a coherent bike network. Even some of the more bike-friendly neighborhoods, where lanes and paths do link up to some extent, have major gaps in the network that mean there isn’t always an intuitive or comfortable route to take you where you need to go.

In recent years the Chicago Department of Transportation has started to address this issue by seeking more community input about where new bike lanes should be installed. There were many public hearings all over the city prior to the publication of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. More recently CDOT held a series of public meetings on the South and West sides to ask residents which routes from the plan should be prioritized for bikeway installation. This process resulted in plans for new lanes on Cottage Grove and Stony Island, for example.

In the past I’ve wondered before how it would work out if CDOT focused on creating a cohesive bike network in one particular community. Now we’re getting a chance to see that idea put in action with the Edgewater Neighborhood Bikeway Network project within the 48th Ward. This district is an ideal laboratory for the experiment, because it’s the smallest, densest ward in the city. This means that its $1.3 million annual infrastructure budget is spread over a relatively small area, and a few miles of new bikeways could make a big difference in connectivity.

The project’s study area includes parts of Edgewater, Uptown and Andersonville, an area roughly bounded by Clark, Argyle, Devon, and Lake Michigan. “The development of this network will provide the study area’s 75,000-plus residents and visitors from throughout the city with a comprehensive network of streets designed for people biking,” according to the project’s mission statement. “As the planning process moves forward, recommended projects may extend beyond this study area to increase the usefulness of the network.”

A map of existing and potential bikeways in the project area. Image: CDOT
A map of existing and potential bikeways in the project area. Image: CDOT

The stated goals of the project include developing a well-connected, “8-to-80” bike network that’s comfortable for people of all ages, establishing bike connections to important community destinations, improving biking conditions on both commercial and residential streets, and increasing the number of bike trips within the community. A kick-off meeting was held on June 24 at the Broadway Armory, where residents provided feedback on streets the best and worst streets for biking, locations where there are opportunities for improvement, and key local destinations.

At the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting two weeks ago, CDOT planner Mike Amsden provided an update on the Edgewater project. “We’re doing it a little bit differently,” he said. “Edgewater’s very small and there are a lot of supportive community groups.” He noted that CDOT has done some bike projects in the area recently, including the popular Glenwood Greenway.

“There’s a strong demand to really create a connected network,” Amsden said. “What we’ve seen downtown is that when you build a connected network, a lot more people start riding. So we’re working in Edgewater, in a very small area, trying to develop this network quickly, putting in a full-build network, using a combination of local and federal money.” He added that CDOT is working with bike-friendly alderman Harry Osterman, local community groups, businesses, Special Service Areas, health organizations and other stakeholders on the project.

Existing bikeways (blue) within the project area and new stretches of bikeways on Ardmore and Argyle (red) that will be installed this fall. Image: CDOT
Existing bikeways (blue) within the project area and new stretches of bikeways on Ardmore and Argyle (red) that will be installed this fall. Image: CDOT

Pointing to the above map of existing bikeways, Amsden said, “These blue lines show what’s there today. How do we start filling in some of these gaps?” The two short red lines on this map show Ardmore and Argyle, which will be getting improvements this fall: A one-block extension of the existing contraflow bike lane on Ardmore to Winthrop, and the city’s first true advisory bike lanes on Argyle from Sheridan to Marine. (The city recently piloted a slightly different approach, “dashed bike lanes” on Milwaukee in Wicker Park.) “But what we’re looking to going forward is how do we identify these bigger projects that will require more time, more outreach, more funding and complex designs.”

In addition to the June community meeting, a community bike ride was held in late July to look at current conditions and identify potential new bikeway streets. CDOT will be meeting privately this fall with the alderman’s office and select stakeholders to narrow down the potential bikeway network. This winter, there will be another community meeting to finalize the routes, and then the department will hopefully start the design process for three or four miles of new bike lanes, Amsden said. If all goes well CDOT will stripe the lanes in 2019.

It will be interesting to see how this focused and community-driven approach works out in the 48th Ward. It would be great if CDOT also tried this strategy in the near future in other wards, especially less traditionally bike-friendly areas on the South and West sides where new bikeways would be especially beneficial.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    I suggest that CDOT (and the Ward and all the engaged or concerned residents) should think hard about (and include on the map of “Existing and Potential Bikeways”) ideas for one or two safe, comfortable, convenient, well-designed and well-built bikeways LEADING WEST OUT OF THE CENTRAL / NORTHERN PART of Edgewater. The only bikeways shown on the map of Existing and Potential Bikeways leading out of (i.e. connecting to) the project area are the one on Glenwood (heading north to Rogers Park and Evanston) and the couplet on Balmoral/Berwyn (heading west to Andersonville and east to an access point across Sheridan to the Lakefront.

    I suggest that CDOT think about how to best and most safely/robustly connect Edgewater to River Park and, even more importantly, to the recently-completed southern extension of the North Branch Trail. BTW, I’ve always found Granville (as-is) very uncomfortable for cycling (especially for kids) — high volumes, narrow ROW, drivers that want to go faster than they should (i.e. speeding).

  • Don Gordon

    Couldn’t agree more!!!

  • Don Gordon

    Harry inherited his mom’s genes when it comes to the lakefront and the environment. Good for him and for leading the way here. I would ask that he consider repaving Winthrop and Kenmore Avenues from Devon to Ardmore, where there is currently bike lanes, in an effort to get rid of all the dangerous pot holes and also redo the speed bumps to allow for a opening cut in the middle to allow bikes to safely negotiate the bumps without having to engage them. Thank-you!

  • duppie

    Ardmore has been completed, I believe, so you can now legally ride Ardmore from the lakefront to Broadway. (You can continue west by zipping left-right onto Victoria with the light) That is not a complete East-West route on the North end of Edgewater, but it is progress.

    Also, if you have been involved in the community process (I have), you will know that the map in this article is outdated, as in it was a baseline, not the final state. There was talk about an East West route at Rosemount.

  • duppie

    According to Mike Amsden, the city is piloting a new design somewhere else in the city that should be more bike friendly

  • Guy Ross

    Is the 1.3 million the city’s share for a potential 20/80 total budget for changes or does this specific project exist outside of the 1.3 million?

    I agree about the approach here and to make it really an experiment entailing a neighborhood-wide redesign it needs some serious funding. I’m pretty sure 1.3 – even each year for a decade – is just not going to get them there.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Each ward gets $1.3 million each year in discretionary “menu” funds from the city budget to use on infrastructure. I don’t know how much the 48th Ward will be spending on this project, but probably not the entire $1.3 million. I’ll look into this. Using menu money for the local match for a federal grant is a possibility. In some cases, wards will pay for the entire costs of a bike improvement.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    CDOT is planning to use federal transportation grants for this, so 80% of the funding would come from the feds, 20% local.

  • Guy Ross

    Does the mean the range is then 0-1.3 mil or 0-5.2 mil?

    Sorry to bore into you here but the pdf floored me. It showed that there are some heads involved who really see what is possible. The amounts allocated will be the limiting factor.

    Thanks John, have a great weekend!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    From Mike Amsden: “Funding TBD. Will be a combination of federal and local funds. No $ amount set aside, will determine once design starts.”

  • Granville should be improved in every way possible. It is a natural route all the way to Kenzie from the lake. More parking should be removed similar to the western stretches of the street where parking has already been removed.

  • Take a real good look at the pink commercial zone. That’s Broadway. A major missing link for any true Bike Network. With luck the existance of the surrounding network will build pressure to fix the glaring missing major commercial/cultural network link.

    In the meantime Alder Osterman is insensitively putting literal road blocks up for 8-80 biking to/from Broadway. Speed bumps with an insufficient 6 inch gap in the middle have begun to be installed in alleys near Granville. Speed bumps! Not even humps!

    A major informal local social usage bike lane is the alley just west of Broadway. For many riding to destinations on Broadway from the west who are afraid to ride on Broadway itself and for whom Glenwood is too far out of the way and not wanting to cross Broadway to get to Kenmore Winthrop the alley is perfect for the north/south part of the trip.

    As a biker I appreciate the calming effect of the bumps. But there has to be a way to create a wider gap. Especially for older bikers for whom the alley feels so comfortable to ride in otherwise.

  • Henry

    A contraflow lane on Berwyn from Western to (at least) Campbell would help. If you’re trying to head east around the cemetery (and avoid Peterson or Foster), there aren’t a lot of legal cycling options.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Where on Granville has on-street parking been removed (i.e. between what street and what street)? Was it removed on one side only? What exactly did the City do with the extra real-estate/street width in this area?

  • Between Kenzie and Western. The south side Western to California and the north side between California and Kenzie. I do not know the history or why. I just know that it is not there. From Westetn to Sheridan there is parking on both sides.

    Sometimes the parkway between the sidewalk and the street is wider as on Granville between Broadway and Glenwood.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    I believe that buffered or separated bike lanes would be possible and very desirable on Broadway between Foster and Devon (maybe north on Sheridan too?). Such facilities may be achieved by removing on-street parking (which businesses will not like at all) or by making the Broadway three lanes (two through-lanes and one two-way center turn lane). Another alternative would be to somehow put Broadway bikeways on the sidewalks… Yes, Broadway is an IDOT road north of Foster. But so is Bryn Mawr from Lakeshore Dr. to Broadway, and it has been ‘calmed’ to make it work for its context. Yes, Broadway carries, on average, somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 vehicles per day. Though, most of these are at rush/peak hours only, I’d think. Nonetheless, given the urban “context,” and the nearby mass rapid “transit,” and the surrounding land uses, having such a large, high-speed road is not desirable, wise, or rational. Nor is it efficient, conducive to long-term economic development, revitalization, and property values. Broadway should be “calmed” and bicycles somehow accommodated.

  • You could not be more right. And the thing is Broadway represents new N/S laneage starting at Devon. Think about it. A whole new N/S arterial street appears.

    Removing parking is easier than it seems. Notice all the parking lots along the route. Fast food lots near Devon. Mosque lot near Rosedale. Fast food and Aldi lot north of Granville. Two drugstore lots and an LA fitness lot south of Granville. Whole Foods lot. Patio Beef and Library lot. Armory and bank lot at Thorndale.

    Broadway does not need parking. Plus one could put in more metered parking on all the side streets. And if the neighbors complain throw them the bone of permit parking.

    Broadway is so overbuilt.

  • Thomas potter

    I agree but I’d also appreciate if bikers ride in the direction that arrows direct them to ride ..on the right on kenmore going north and on the right going south on Winthrop . It’s very disconcerting to an automobile driver to have a bike coming at you going the opposite way . You are to follow the rules of the road not your own rules . That means stopping at stop signs also . I ride my bike and I stop at stop signs and do not expect a car to yield to me if they are at the intersection first. Also cross walks are not for bikers to use to get across an intersection really?

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