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Get Ready to Bike Like the Dickens: Contraflow Lanes Proposed on Dickens Ave.

The Dickens neighborhood greenway route.

Dickens Avenue in Lincoln Park has long been a useful, and extremely chill, westbound route from the Lincoln Park Zoo to the Clybourn corridor and Webster Avenue bridge. Therefore, I included it on the Mellow Chicago Bike Map.

Dickens appears as a westbound route on the Mellow Chicago Bike Map.
Dickens appears as a westbound route on the Mellow Chicago Bike Map.

Now the Chicago Department of Transportation is proposing to make the route even better by designating it as a neighborhood greenway and adding an eastbound contraflow bike lane on much of its length, which would create a two-way route. The project will also include westbound shared-lane markings (bike symbols with chevrons), traffic calming features, and wayfinding signs. The route would connect with Clybourn Avenue via Magnolia Avenue, and go as far east as Stockton Avenue.

There was some discussion on The Chainlink social networking site about why Dickens was chosen for the greenway as opposed to, say, the also-excellent Willow Street / Menomonee Street mellow route between Clybourn and Lincoln Park a few blocks south. Lincoln Park bike advocate Michelle Stenzel responded that Dickens is a good candidate for contraflow lanes because it has sufficient road width, and the presence of Oz Park halfway through the route is a roadblock for cars (cyclists use an existing path to cross the park) that keeps drivers from using it as a cut-through alternative to nearby Armitage and Fullerton avenues.

Motorists can't drive on Dickens past Oz Park, but cyclists can use a path to get across. Image: google Maps
Motorists can't drive on Dickens past Oz Park, but cyclists can use a path to get across. Image: google Maps

It must should be noted that all of Chicago's neighborhood greenways are in relatively affluent and bike-friendly North and Northwest side wards where there has been political support for spending discretionary menu money, the usual funding source, to bankroll the projects. However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has pledged to earmark $20 million a year in the city budget for walking and biking infrastructure, which will hopefully lead to CDOT installing neighborhood greenways on the South and West sides as well.

There will be a community meeting on the project this Thursday from 6-7 p.m. at St. James Lutheran Church, 2101 North Fremont. There has been some opposition to contraflow bike lanes from local homeowners in the past on the grounds that they would lead to crashes. But the Chicago Department of Transportation has previously stated that contraflow lanes have had a good safety record in Chicago.

So it would be a good idea to show up if you support the project, especially if you live in the 43rd Ward. Alternately you can voice your support with to the ward office by emailing rocio@ward43.org.

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