Developer: Milwaukee Avenue Bike Counter Project Hit a Pothole Due to City Red Tape

Rendering of the winning design on a bike counter. Image: Jay Byrnes, Fourth is King
Rendering of the winning design on a bike counter. Image: Jay Byrnes, Fourth is King

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In November 2016 it looked like the plan for a bike counter on the Milwaukee Avenue “Hipster Highway” corridor in Wicker Park – Chicago’s busiest bike route – was a done deal. The developer of a new transit-oriented development at 1237 North Milwaukee, LG Partners, was donating an Eco-Totem bike counter to the city, and was planning to pay for the Chicago Department of Transportation to install a sidewalk bump-out to accommodate the device. The counter, featuring an eye-catching design chosen by Streetsblog Chicago readers, had already been manufactured, and City Council had approved the installation, which was slated for spring 2017.

But a year and a half later, the project has come to a dead end, apparently due to excessive bureaucracy at City Hall. According to Barry Howard, formerly with LG partners and now with Core Spaces, the bike enthusiast who spearheaded the initiative, after the building was sold to Los Angeles-based real estate company CIM Group in fall 2017, the new owners “were really sold on trying to make this work.”

The new TOD. The closed slip lane, which was modified with paint and posts, is visible in front of the building. Photo: LG Partners
The new TOD. The closed slip lane, which was modified with paint and posts, is visible in front of the building. Photo: LG Partners

While Howard said “CDOT was really helpful” in trying to make the project happen, he added that the city’s law department required a new economic disclosure statement from CIM, and Howard said CIM spent several months and thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees going back and forth with the city on the matter before becoming frustrated with the process and giving up. “It was going down a legal and document route [CIM] didn’t want to go down.” A spokesperson for CIM did not respond to a request for comment.

Howard added that after CDOT closed a slip lane at the northwest corner of the Division/Ashland/Milwaukee intersection, next to the planned sidewalk bump-out location, as part of last summer’s Milwaukee Avenue complete streets makeover, the department said that it was no longer possible to install the bump-out. CDOT did not respond to a request for confirmation of Howard’s story by press time.

Barry Howard
Barry Howard

Jerry Mandujano, an assistant to local alderman Joe Moreno, who sponsored the ordinance approving the bike counter, more-or-less corroborated Howard’s story, although he seemed to put some of the blame on CIM. “The city and the building took some time to come to a legal agreement to formalize the use of the public way,” Mondujano said via email. “In that time, the building was sold to new ownership, who weren’t interested in completing the necessary disclosures required by the contract. From various conversations with CDOT personnel since then, my understanding is that a privately funded bike counter installation would need to be ‘bundled’ with a building construction in order to go forward. Alderman Moreno is still very interested in the installation of a counter, but we need to identify a private partner willing to go through the necessary bureaucracy.”

Howard said he also still hasn’t given up on installing the counter, which could help build support for adding protected bike lanes to Milwaukee in Wicker Park by quantifying the amount of bike traffic. The counter, which is now owned by CIM, is currently in storage in the now-completed TOD. “I explored having the counter donated to the Wicker Park/Bucktown and West Town chambers of commerce,” Howard said. “I even reached out to the Trust for Public Land about installing it on The 606.” TPL manages the development of the elevated trail. “We’d love to see it go somewhere.”

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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Instant gratification is great, when you can get it. Yesterday, I proposed installing a Copenhagen-style bicycle counting device on Milwaukee Avenue, known as “The Hipster Highway” due to its high level of bike traffic. This would help build support for reallocating right-of-way on Milwaukee in Wicker Park to make it safer for cyclists. Today, we got […]