The Despised Dearborn Bike Lane in River North Will Be Getting a Little Less Lousy

The non-protected stretch of the Dearborn bike lane north of Kinzie. Photo: John Greenfield
The non-protected stretch of the Dearborn bike lane north of Kinzie. Photo: John Greenfield

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The bike lane Chicago cyclists love to hate is getting a modest upgrade.

While the two-way Dearborn protected bike lane, which runs between Kinzie and Polk, is a popular route, the same can’t be said about the one-way northbound, non-protected stretch of the lane between Kinzie and Chicago Avenue in hectic River North. As with the protected section, the one-way stretch is on the left side of the multilane northbound street. The bike lane continue north of Chicago to Walton in the Gold Coast – that stretch is much quieter.

But unlike the protected segment, the section north of Kinzie doesn’t include bike-specific stoplights with separate signal phases for northbound cyclists and left-turning drivers, so there are often conflicts. This is especially a problem at Ontario Street, where many drivers turn west to head towards the Kennedy Expressway onramp at Orleans Street. It’s also common for  motorists to drive in the unprotected Dearborn bike lane in this busy nightlife area.

Yesterday Streetsblog reader Alex Hartler sent us photos of the Dearborn lane completely torn up between the Chicago River and Chicago Avenue. He noted that there were no warning or detour signs posted for cyclists approaching from the south.

When we tweeted to the Chicago Department of Transportation asking for an update, a department spokesperson replied, “Resurfacing [is] getting started for Dearborn — from the River to Chicago Ave. Please bear with us…end result will be a smoother ride for all,” later adding, “There will be [temporary] striping placed on the milled surface in the next day or so.”

My guess was that the city was hustling to get the nationally known protected lane in tip-top shape for next week’s National Association of City Transportation Officials conference, being held Monday through Thursday at Swisshotel Chicago, but that’s not the case. According to CDOT planner Mike Amsden, the work is being done as part of the repaving of the entire street from the river to Chicago Avenue, which won’t be done until mid-November.

On the plus side, the unloved bike lane north of Kinzie will be converted from a conventional lane to a buffered lane, Amsden says. That should give cyclists a little more breathing room – in the event that drivers respect the unprotected white lines. Amsden didn’t provide info about whether the raggedy-looking green bike lane section that existed just south of Chicago – intended to reduce conflicts with turning drivers – will be redesigned.

The Dearborn Bike Lane Twitter account had this to say about the situation:

Excellent question, Dearborn Bike Lane, excellent question.

This post is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago, Illinois law firm committed to representing pedestrians and cyclists. The content is Streetsblog Chicago’s own, and Keating Law Offices neither endorses the content nor exercises any editorial control.

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