Milwaukee Bike Lanes Will Be Upgraded With Concrete Curbs From Ohio to Chicago

The northbound and southbound bike lanes will each be closed for two weeks during construction

Looking south on Milwaukee from Ogden. The original "Curbee" bike footrest installed by Streetsblog's Steven Vance and friends was taken out by a motorist. Photo: Steven Vance
Looking south on Milwaukee from Ogden. The original "Curbee" bike footrest installed by Streetsblog's Steven Vance and friends was taken out by a motorist. Photo: Steven Vance

The wave of the (near) future for Chicago protected bike lanes should be concrete curbs. Unlike flexible plastic posts, they provide cyclists with actual physical protection from motorists, and they can be used to physically prevent drivers from entering the bikeway. Curbs are a great approach to create protected lanes on stretches where moving a parking lane to the left of the bike lane to provide protection is not an option. The city has dabbled with this strategy on streets like Sacramento in Douglas Park, 31st near the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Elston near Fullerton and Damen.

So it’s great that the Chicago Department of Transportation is adding curb protection to a nearly half-mile stretch of Milwaukee Avenue (the city’s busiest biking street) between Ohio and Chicago Avenue. The concrete will be especially helpful in locations that lack car parking and, therefore, any physical protection save for the flimsy posts.

A curb-protected bike lane on 31st Street neat IIT. Photo: John Greenfield
A curb-protected bike lane on 31st Street neat IIT. Photo: John Greenfield

Starting today, the northbound bike lane of this part of Milwaukee will be closed for about two weeks for construction of the northbound curb protection. After that, the southbound bike lane will be closed for roughly two weeks during while curb protection is added.

Here's a two-way route (green) you can use to avoid the construction area (red): Chicago, Morgan, Huron, Peoria, Erie, and Halsted. Map: John Greenfield via Google Maps
Here’s a two-way route (green) you can use to avoid the construction area (red): Chicago, Morgan, Huron, Peoria, Erie, and Halsted. Map: John Greenfield via Google Maps

“People biking northbound will be required to merge into the travel lane,” CDOT stated in a press release. “Motorists are required yield to people riding bikes at all times and should not attempt to pass bicyclists unless they can do so while giving bicyclists at least three feet of room and without exceeding the speed limit.” But if you don’t feel comfortable sharing the travel lane with drivers who may or may not obey the three-foot law, above is a two-way detour route I’ve mapped out that you can use during both the northbound and southbound construction.

The bu
The southbound bus stop at Carpenter will get a “floating” transit island. Photo: Steven Vance

In addition to the curb protected bike lanes, the project includes sidewalk extensions, a pedestrian island crossing Milwaukee at Erie, and a “floating” transit island at Carpenter for the southbound #56 Milwaukee Avenue bus.

A short stretch of concrete protection was installed on the northbound side of Milwaukee Ave north of Chicago Ave in summer 2015. Tragically, there was no concrete protecting the southbound bike lane at Racine, where a right-turning trucker fatally struck art student Lisa Kuivinen, 20, the following summer.

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Milwaukee Bike Lane Overhaul Includes Some Concrete Protection

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Note: Keating Law Offices, P.C. has generously agreed to sponsor two Streetsblog Chicago posts about bicycle safety topics per month. The firm’s support will help make Streetsblog Chicago a sustainable project. Chicago’s busiest cycling street is receiving some safety improvements, including a segment of bike lanes with concrete protection. Milwaukee Avenue, nicknamed “The Hipster Highway” […]