Lincolnwood may save a bike lane plan that was almost scrapped due to parking worries

The proposed bike lane layout.
The proposed bike lane layout.

North-suburban Lincolnwood is home to three bike paths — the Valley Line Trail, the Union Pacific Trail, and the North Shore Channel Trail — so it’s a reasonably bike-friendly community. However, the desire to preserve free storage for privately owned metal boxes on the public way (car parking) nearly killed off a proposal for buffered bike lanes on Pratt Avenue between Crawford and Cicero avenues. Fortunately, an alternative proposal by a quick-thinking village trustee may salvage the plan.

At last night’s village meeting, there was a discussion of the proposed Pratt bikeway, which would provide access to the Valley Line Trail, aka the Skokie Line Trail, which runs from Dempster Street in Lincolnwood to Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago. Director of public works Andrew Letson discussed the history of the project. When this stretch of Pratt was repaved in 2016, the local police department requested that parking lanes be striped to help discourage speeding and formalize the existing practice of parking on the side of the road. Last September, trustee Hlepas Nickell requested that bike lanes be considered for Pratt west of Crawford at a future meeting.

The project area. Image: Google Maps
The project area. The solid green line is the Valley Line Trail. Lincoln Avenue is the yellow diagonal highway to the right. Image: Google Maps

The bike lane idea been previously studied by staff and the village’s consulting engineers. Between Lincoln Avenue and Cicero, Pratt is  a two-lane road, currently striped with 7-foot-wide parking lanes and 10-to-12.5-foot-wide travel lanes. Letson noted that cyclists who currently ride on Pratt tend to ride in the parking lanes if cars aren’t parked there.

The road isn’t wide enough to accommodate the parking lanes and bike lanes, which would be a minimum of four feet wide. So the proposal called for replacing the 7-foot parking lanes with 4-foot-wide bike lanes plus 3-foot-wide buffers striped between the bike lanes and the travel lanes, at an estimated cost of about $48,000.

The block of Pratt between Lincoln and Crawford has four through lanes with a left turn lane onto northbound Crawford. The through lanes are each 11 feet wide, so there’s not enough space to maintain 10-foot travel lanes and 4-foot bike lanes without removing a travel lane.

“Due to the fact that removing parking on Pratt Avenue between Lincoln and Cicero Avenues may cause challenges for residents and their guests to find parking; that those individuals would likely park on adjacent streets; and due to the fact that parking is allowed on Pratt Avenue east of Crawford Avenue, staff does not recommend removing the parking lanes as they are currently marked,” Letson had written in a November 26 memo to village manager Anne Marie Gaura.

Local resident Mary S. Butler publicized the plans to kill the bike lanes on Twitter, encouraging supporters to show up to last night’s meeting. She was one of two residents to testified at the hearing, arguing that parking worries shouldn’t trump cyclist safety.

Butler told me today that, happily, a compromise was floated at the meeting that could result in cyclists getting a safer route after all. “After discussion and comments, trustee Jesal Patel proposed that [a two-way protected bike lane] be added to the south side of Pratt (between Cicero and Crawford Avenues) and that the existing parking lane remain on the north side of Pratt. The president pro tem, Ron Cope, directed that staff look into this matter and determine feasibility; one concern mentioned is street width, and whether two lanes of traffic, a parking lane, and a protected two-way bike path can all fit in the existing space.”

Parking demand on Pratt appears to be light since adjacent homes have driveways. Image: Google Maps
Parking demand on Pratt appears to be light since adjacent homes have driveways. Image: Google Maps

Since dooring won’t be an issue and therefore no buffer is needed, it should be possible to fit the two-way bike lane into the space currently occupied by the 7-foot parking lane, with a curb installed to protect cyclists from motorized traffic.

And, judging from Google Street View images of this stretch of Pratt, the number of vehicles currently being parked on Pratt is relatively small. That’s probably due to the fact that adjacent homes have driveways, and several blocks of this stretch of Pratt are located on the north side of the Bryn Mawr Country Club. So the current parking demand should be well accommodated by a single parking lane.

A two-way, curb-protected bike lane on Sheridan Road in Evanston. Image: Courtney Cobbs
A two-way, curb-protected bike lane on Sheridan Road in Evanston. Image: Courtney Cobbs

Here’s hoping that the village follows through on this commonsense proposal that will help make a relatively bike-friendly suburb more bikeable.

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