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CDOT plans new bikeways on Far South Side, provides update on recent bike projects

8:23 PM CDT on September 5, 2019

A We Keep You Rollin’ event in Beaubien Forest Preserve. Photo: Deloris Lucas

At today's Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, Chicago Department of Transportation bike and pedestrian program manager Dave Smith provided a rundown of several recent and upcoming bike lane projects. The slate includes several potential bikeways in the Riverdale community area on the Far South Side, which has a strong bike advocacy presence thanks to the group We Keep You Rollin', led by Deloris Lucas, but is currently a bikeway desert.

Smith said that several of the potential bikeway streets in Riverdale, which includes the Algeld Gardens housing project and neighborhoods like Golden Gate, were identified in the recent Riverdale Community Area Multimodal Transportation Plan, which Lucas and other local residents helped create. On State Street there are currently bike lanes from the 95th Street Red Line station to 103rd Street. CDOT plans to extend those bike lanes south to 119th, hopefully this month.

This fall and winter CDOT plans to focus bikeway design efforts on the the Far South Side and hopefully stripe new bikeways next year, including further extending State to 127th Street, where it ends at the Calumet River. Striping bike lanes west from State on 115th Street to the Major Taylor Trail is another possibility. 124th Street, a quiet roadway that goes past West Pullman Park and a school, could also get a bikeway treatment to connect State to the trail.

Proposed Riverdale bike lanes.
Proposed Riverdale bike lanes.

In addition the Riverdale plan calls for creating a safe route to the trail from Altgeld Gardens via 130th Street, which is currently a high-speed, highway-like road that is dangerous for cycling, plus Indiana Avenue and 127th Street. These streets are all controlled by the Illinois Department of Transportation, so CDOT is in talks with IDOT to see if there are any upcoming projects in their five-year plan that CDOT could piggyback the bike lanes onto. "At this point there are not any projects planned," Smith said. Lucas, sitting near him at the MBAC meeting, responded with a groan.

"So I coordinated an internal meeting at CDOT to see what we can do within our own team," Smith added quickly. The plan is to move forward with getting design resources to look into the possibility of building a side path on 130th, plus whatever improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians are possible on Indiana and 127th.

Lucas asked if a connection could also be made to the Cal-Sag Trail, south of Riverdale, via Indiana, noting that the Cal-Sag is even closer than the Major Taylor to Golden Gate and Riverdale. "You might as well go for the gold" and do both connections, she said. Smith responded that the Cal-Sag connection might make sense as a separate project, and CDOT does have some ideas on how to move forward with that.

Smith added that CDOT is looking into the possibility of adding a bikeway on 111th Street from Cottage Grove Avenue, which could help create a connection from Pullman to Big Marsh Bike Park, located east of Lake Calumet.

55th Street in Hyde Park got concrete upgrades.
55th Street in Hyde Park got concrete upgrades.

Next Smith highlighted a few other recent projects on the Southeast Side. 55th Street in Hyde Park, which has had parking-protected bike lanes for several years, and CDOT is almost done adding concrete curbs for additional protection. CDOT also added several pedestrian bump-outs along the corridor to shorten crossing distances on the broad street.

CDOT recently extended the bike lanes on Root Street, about 4100 south. The existing lanes went from roughly Halsted Street to the Dan Ryan Expressway. The extension continues the bikeway a couple of blocks east to State. The department plans to work with Southeast Side MBAC rep Ronnie Matthew Harris, who also leads to transportation advocacy group Go Bronzeville, to determine the best route east from there to the new 41st Street bike/ped bridge.

The department has also started designing bike lanes, including a section of protected bike lanes, on 71st Street from South Chicago Avenue, which has bike lanes, to the South Shore Cultural Center and the southern end of the Lakefront Trail. They hope to do construction next year.

UIC helped fund green paint and flexible posts on the Harrison bike lanes.
UIC helped fund green paint and flexible posts on the Harrison bike lanes.

Harrison Street in the Loop recently got concrete curbs (no thanks to local alderman Sophia King, who stonewalled the project for about a year.) UIC funded improvements to Harrison past its campus, including a raised intersection at Morgan Street, green paint, and flexible posts to help encourage drivers to stay out of the lanes. The Harrison bikes continue to Loomis, where cyclists can connect to bikeways on Polk Street or Jackson Boulevard.

CDOT has designed an extension of the Harrison bikeways west to Ashland Avenue but needs to coordinate with some major construction at Rush University at the northeast corner of Harrison and Ashland. West of Ashland CDOT will be installing curbside bike lanes, a new pedestrian crossing, and a pedestrian island in front of the university. The department hopes to complete all of this work this year.

Planned routes on Harrison and Paulina streets.

The Wood Street neighborhood greenway currently goes south to Hubbard Street, but it doesn't cross the Eisenhower Expressway. So CDOT plans to add a marked bike route on Paulina Street, a block east, which does cross the Ike, from Hubbard to Roosevelt Road, providing access to Rush University. There's a pickup and drop-off area at Rush between Van Buren and Harrison that's closed to through traffic, which cyclists are already riding through, and Smith said the University is supportive of formalizing that as a bicycle cut-through.

A recommendation of the Vision Zero West Side Plan was to make bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements to Madison Street. CDOT quickly installed bike lanes and is in the process of building pedestrian islands and sidewalk extensions along the corridor from Pulaski Road east through Garfield Park.

Madison Street in East Garfield Park.

Smith also noted that Clark Street has gotten five-foot-wide dashed bike lanes and paint-and-post curb bump-outs between Lawrence and Bryn Mawr avenues in Andersonville and lowered the posted speed limit along the corridor to 20 mph. He noted that the dashed bike lanes were first piloted on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park two years ago. "On streets where we really can't do anything else except marked shared lanes ["sharrows"], we've seen very positive results with getting motorists to drive along the center line and out of the bike space, and we've seen an increase in bicyclists riding outside of the door zone."

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