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.

  • Random_Jerk

    Great news!

  • Tooscrapps

    Awesome!

    Now I’d love to see stretches of Lincoln get the pilot treatment that Milwaukee got!

  • Carter O’Brien

    Excellent! Although, isn’t this already the law?

    “Motorists are required to 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.”

  • Random_Jerk

    Yes it is, I haven’t seen anyone obey it….

  • Austin Busch

    *Say it again for the people in the back*

  • Carter O’Brien

    Maybe we all need a cyclist version of those pedestrian “safety flags,” except ours would be 3 feet long and extend out to the side. Sounds like the plot to a Portlandia episode, actually.

  • rwy

    I’ve heard of people putting pool noodles on their bikes for this purpose.

  • planetshwoop

    I have seen many bicycle tourers build these because they typically are on highways. I think it is often a metal coathanger bent to extend out with an orange flag attached.

  • Carter O’Brien

    I like this, except instead of an orange flag I’d go with an orange spearhead.

  • 神隠し

    This is great. One question though – street cleaners will no longer be able to access the bike lane here with the addition of the curb I would imagine. Has anyone noticed an increase in debris, broken glass, etc. sitting around in protected bike lanes longer than usual? How will that be removed typically?

  • Usually the city provides a street sweeper desinged to fit in the narrowed bike lane. A bigger challenge is often water drainage and snow in the winter. One option would be Bikerail from Dezignline solutions, which has a gap at the surface for almost the complete length.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Flkf-aB_ct8

  • “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.”

    Kudos to the city for installing rigid barrier protection along Milwaukee. Too bad it’s going to mean detours for a month though. A product like our Bikerail (https://www.dero.com/product/bikerail/) can be installed at roughly 250′ per hr. Chicago to Ohio is roughly 2230’ so for example both North and South bound lanes of that section could be completed with Bikerail in as little as 18 hours! This installation in Colorado Springs was 1400 linear feet and took the crew 5.5 hours.

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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” […]