Eyes on the Street: The Roscoe and School/Aldine Greenways Are Ready to Ride

The Roscoe Greenway features a contraflow bike lane on the west side of Broadway to facilitate a northbound jog. Photo: John Greenfield
The Roscoe Greenway features a contraflow bike lane on the west side of Broadway to facilitate a northbound jog. Photo: John Greenfield

keating

One of Chicago’s best low-stress, east-west bike routes just got a little safer and easier to navigate. This morning city officials officially opened a couplet of “Neighborhood Greenways” on Roscoe Street (westbound), and School Street and Aldine Avenue (eastbound), along with heralding other infrastructure upgrades in the area.

Tamley speaks at this morning's event. Photo: CDOT
Commissioner Karen Tamley of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities speaks at this morning’s event. Photo: CDOT

Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward), Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, Department of Water Management commissioner Randy Conner and Commissioner Karen Tamley of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities gathered at Roscoe and Inner Lake Shore Drive to highlight the following improvements:

  • The greenway, which runs a total of 1.5 miles, connecting to the Lakefront Trail.
  • The repaving of Inner LSD from Belmont Avenue to Stratford Place.
  • Five major water main repairs between Aldine and Hawthorne Place.
  • Installation of accessible pedestrian signals at Roscoe and Inner LSD.

The ribbon-cutting occurred a few days after CDOT reopened all lanes on North Lake Shore Drive at LaSalle Drive near North Avenue after work was completed on a bridge repair project, as well as the repaving of the drive from Grand Avenue to Monroe Street.

Despite their appearance, the accessible pedestrian signals are not the much-hated  “beg buttons” that pedestrians are sometimes required to press in order to permission to cross the street. According to CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey, the walk signal to cross the Inner Drive comes up every signal cycle, and the signal cycle is 65 seconds long. (The walk signal to cross Roscoe is always on.)

The only purpose of the push buttons, which constantly emit a “tock” sound to alert people with visual impairments of their locations, is to indicate the status of the walk signal via an audible alert when pressed. Since the button doesn’t actually activate the walk signal, you don’t have to push it if you don’t need the audible cue.

Roscoe and the Inner Drive is the eleventh intersection at which CDOT has installed such audible signals. CDOT is working with the office of people with disabilities and other stakeholders to pick sites for additional APS signals.

A new fence has been added behind the bus stop at Roscoe/LSD. Photo: John Greenfield
A new fence has been added behind the bus stop at Roscoe/LSD. Photo: John Greenfield

That explanation out of the way, let’s take a look at the finished greenways. On a bicycle heading west from the Lakefront Trail, after you pass through the Roscoe underpass you take a ramp to the right, which leads up to Roscoe and a bus stop that has been improved a bit with a new high metal fence separating it from Lake Shore Drive.

The westbound bike lne on Roscoe. Photo: John Greenfield
The westbound bike lane on Roscoe. Photo: John Greenfield

After crossing the Inner Drive, you’re on the Roscoe greenway, with wayfinding signs and a bike lane to the left side of the street.

When you come to Roscoe and Broadway you encounter the most dramatic change. Roscoe jogs north here, so to facilitate the move for cyclists, they’ve putting in a green bike crosswalk across Broadway and a raised contraflow bike lane on the west side of Broadway, which curves left to meet up with an on-street bike lane on the south side of Roscoe. A bus stop and several parking spots have been relocated or removed to make room for the bike lane.

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The curved north end of the raised lane discourages southbound cyclists on Broadway from riding down it the wrong way, but some people are doing that anyway. Photo: John Greenfield

While the raised bike lane is an interesting feature, as I sat at a café next to the lane writing this post, I noticed a possible drawback of the design. The north end of the raised bike lane bends west, which discourages southbound cyclists on Broadway from entering it, and some “shark teeth” are marked there (although I doubt many lay people will interpret these as meaning “Do not enter.”) However, while I was typing up this post at a cafe next to the raised lane, I saw at least two southbound riders maneuver around the lane’s curb and ride down it the wrong way. That could be somewhat hazardous if a north- and westbound cyclist was approaching in the contraflow lane, since it’s not designed for two-way bike traffic.

The old slip lane at the south corner of Roscoe/Paulina/Lincoln. Photo: John Greenfield
The old slip lane at the south corner of Roscoe/Paulina/Lincoln. Photo: Image: Google Maps

The westbound greenway ends at the six-way Roscoe/Paulina/Lincoln intersection, which was recently improved with curb extensions that narrow pedestrian crossing distances. In addition, a slip lane was removed at the south corner, creating a triangular plaza-like space.

The new plaza-like space created by the slip lane removal. Photo: John Greenfield
The new plaza-like space created by the slip lane removal. Photo: John Greenfield

On the return trip from Lincoln to the lake on eastbound School and Aldine, the bike lane switches to the right side of the street. According to CDOT’s Claffey, the Roscoe lane was put on the left side of the street to better line up with the access point from the Lakefront Trail, and to connect better with the raised bike lane on Broadway. But CDOT is interested to hear which configuration cyclists prefer, left side or right side, so let us know in the comments and we’ll pass along the intel.

The School/Racine intersection has curb extensions at all four corners. Photo: John Greenfield
The School/Racine intersection now has curb extensions at all four corners. Photo: John Greenfield

And while the Roscoe project only included signs and markings, School and Aldine feature a total of ten speed humps, and six of the intersections are got curb extensions.

The raised crosswalk at Hawthorne School. Photo: John Greenfield
The raised crosswalk at Hawthorne School. Photo: John Greenfield

These shorten crossings and “neck-down” the street, which will encourage drivers to maintain a safe speed and prevent them from parking too close to the intersections, improving sightlines. A raised crosswalk was built at Clifton Street, by Hawthorne Academy elementary school.

New bumpouts and a bit of bike lane at Aldine/Broadway. Photo: John Greenfield
New bumpouts and a bit of bike lane at Aldine/Broadway. Photo: John Greenfield

At Aldine/Broadway, two bus stops have been removed to make room for curb extensions on both sides of Broadway, plus a short stretch of bike lane on Broadway to facilitate a northbound jog for cyclists.

The new wider sidewalk on the east side of the Inner Drive. Photo: John Greenfield
The new wider sidewalk on the east side of the Inner Drive. Photo: John Greenfield

From there it’s a block east back to Inner Lake Shore Drive, where the sidewalk on the east side of the drive has been significantly widened. That makes it safer to bike on the sidewalk to access the Roscoe underpass to the lakefront, although I didn’t notice any signs stating that it’s officially legal to ride there.

Have you taken a spin on the finished greenway yet? If so, let us know what you think.

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.

  • what_eva

    I’ve ridden a few times during the construction period, so I’ve seen the contraflow bit on Broadway but not ridden it yet.

    A couple of misses to me:
    Between Halsted and Broadway on Aldine, the lane disappears, replaced by sharrows. Presumably due to the dropoff lane for Nettlehorst. It seems like CDOT wimped out due to something that gets used for a tiny fraction of the time the lanes would be in use. Seriously, school lanes like that get used for like 30 minutes in the morning before school and about the same after, and that’s for about half the days of the year (~180 school days).

    They should have switched the lanes to the left somewhere prior to that block. Note that it’s on the left between Broadway and Lake Shore, but that has the jog on Broadway for the switch. I’m not sure where would have been the right place to do it, but that could have allowed for a continuous lane.

    The other problem is the underpass. Unless they just fixed it, there were large scars in the concrete on both ramps on the Inner Drive side of the underpass.

  • Jeremy

    Regarding the Roscoe bike lane, I don’t mind the lane being on the south side of the street, but the Divvy station at Roscoe/Lincoln/Paulina is on the north side of the street. It would make sense to move the Divvy station to the south sidewalk so cyclists don’t have to cross traffic to park.

  • Tooscrapps

    Good roundup. I was a little confused by the contraflow lane at first glance while riding south on Broadway, but I wasn’t really thinking about the direction of Roscoe as I passed.

    I really like the raised crosswalks. These should be the the standard at all stop signs when a street is redesigned. Not only do the highlight that the crosswalk/stop is there, but they discourage motorists from simply tapping the brakes at a stop sign. Make ’em taller!

  • David P.

    I’d love to see raised crosswalks everywhere. I see them in cities as widely varied as Reykjavik and Bogota, and they would do something as a visual signal to maybe think about stopping at stop signs.

  • Jeremy

    It took a while to get used to riding in the left hand side cycle lane but I don’t mind it, although it does seem to encourage wrong way riding on Roscoe; perhaps some signs directing east-bound riders to School/Aldine would help. The only thing I don’t like about the left side lane is that it ends very abruptly at Lincoln with no help getting back onto the right hand side; a large bike box at Lincoln/Roscoe, or dotted lane markings moving bikes over to the right might have helped.

    On school, during the morning rush Hawthorne School are putting cones out in the raised crosswalk to make a school drop-off lane. This not only seems pretty dangerous for pedestrians trying to use the crosswalk, it also directs non-stopping cars into the cycle lane. I’ve already had a couple of near misses there.

  • Bikerliker

    I live in the neighborhood – nice to see it finished. But don’t really think shortening the crossing is necessary. It’s already a very narrow street, and it was re-done last year. so to them tearing things and doing it again shows such disrespect for taxpayer money. Also, I’m thankful there aren’t many speed bumps on Aldine, and they’re low enough that I don’t really have slow down when driving my car. And it’s kind of funny too – they put up speed limit signs that say 20 MPH – yeah right!

  • Jerry

    Appreciate the thorough coverage of this, but holy cow please proofread your articles before you post them. There are 4 or 5 really glaring errors, including the opening sentence!

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