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A CDOT show-and-tell on this year’s new bikeways, and what’s on deck for 2020

New green paint and posts on the Harrison bike lanes by UIC. Photo: CDOT

The quarterly Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council meetings at City Hall are a great opportunity to get updated on the latest cycling initiatives and provide direct input to city decision-makers. (Unfortunately the meetings are scheduled during business hours, when many people who work 9 to 5 hours can't attend.)

At today's meeting, Chicago Department of Transportation bikeway planner Brad Huff provide an update on new cycling infrastructure built this year, as well as upcoming projects for next year. Here are some of this year's accomplishments:

  • Concrete upgrades to the 55th Street and Harrison Street protected bike lanes.
  • Polk/Plymouth/9th connection from the Dearborn protected bike lane to Grant Park. This included a short stretch of two-way concrete-protected bike lane on the south side of Polk Street. This project was delayed by about a year due to stonewalling by 4th Ward alderman Sophia King over parking concerns.

The concrete treatment on Polk. Photo: CDOT
The concrete treatment on Polk. Photo: CDOT
The concrete treatment on Polk. Photo: CDOT
    • Harrison Street through UIC and the Illinois Medical District. CDOT painted the entire stretch through UIC green, and UIC funded the installation of plastic posts throughout the campus. New bike lanes were also added in the IMD, roughly from Ashland Avenue to Wood Street, including some pedestrian improvements.
    • Neighborhood greenways on Wood and Cortland streets in Bucktown. These connect to other bike lane streets and the Bloomingdale Trail. Turn pockets were built at Cortland/Marshfield and Cortland/Damen to facilitate left turns to and from the Bloomingdale and Damen.
    • Complete streets projects on Clark Street and Milwaukee Avenue. Stretches of Clark in Andersonville and Milwaukee in Logan Square got new dashed bike lanes and paint-and-post sidewalk extensions.
Screen Shot 2019-12-05 at 7.23.51 PM
Buffered bike lanes on Cermak. Photo: CDOT
Buffered bike lanes on Cermak. Photo: CDOT
    • Buffered bike lanes on Cermak Road. The lanes were striped on Cermak from roughly Marshall Boulevard to Wood Street. At Wood, to help cyclists avoid the daunting Cermak/Ashland/Blue Island intersection, a short stretch of neighborhood greenway was created on Wood and 21st Street, where there's a stoplight for crossing Ashland Avenue.
    • Madison Street Vision Zero project. This included new pedestrian islands and buffered bike lanes near Garfield Park. Next year new concrete sidewalk extensions will be installed in the area.
    • Bike lanes on State Street from 103rd to 119th streets. This provides a continuous bikeway all the way north to the 95th Street Red Line station.
Bike lanes on State Street on the Far South Side. Photo: CDOT
Bike lanes on State Street on the Far South Side. Photo: CDOT
Bike lanes on State Street on the Far South Side. Photo: CDOT

Meeting attendees attendees noted that there are problems with drivers parking in some of these new bike lanes, especially Harrison by UIC. Cycling advocate Ann Alt also noted that there have been some issues with some of the concrete curb protection being hard to see for cyclists and pedestrians, particularly in locations where the curb is only a couple of inches tall, posing a hazard. "I've known a number of people who've been injured or have very nearly had crashes or done face plants as pedestrians because they could not see the edges of those," she said. "They really need to be painted yellow."

Huff also discussed a couple of new bike bridge projects:

    • The Riverview Bridge. Part of the 312 RiverRun bikeway, this causeway crosses the Chicago River to connect Clark and California parks, spanning a few blocks near Addison Street.
    • The Lincoln Village Bridge. This structure is also nicknamed the Stone Bridge, an ironic reference to the late 50th Ward alderman Berny Stone, who blocked its construction for mysterious reasons. The span will connect the two sides of the North Shore Channel Trail between Lincoln Avenue and Devon Street. It's slated for completion this winter.
Screen Shot 2019-12-05 at 7.24.05 PM
The Riverview Bridge. Photo: CDOT
The Riverview Bridge. Photo: CDOT

MBAC North Region community rep Jacob Peters recommended that CDOT add wayfinding signs to guide cyclists to lower-stress roadways like Grace and Roscoe streets as an alternative to busier ones like Irving Park Road and Belmont Street.

Next Huff talked about some projects planned for 2020.

    • Protected bike lanes on Harrison from Loomis to Ashland. This will fill in a two-block gap, creating a continuous bikeway from the IMD into the Loop.
    • South Side bikeway expansion. In conjunction with the launch of Divvy on the Far South Side next spring (pushed back from this year due to a bureaucratic snag), CDOT is planning to install about ten miles of new bike lanes in the area, funded by Divvy sponsorship money from Lyft. Huff said the department is hoping to get the bikeways striped early in the year to provide better connections to destinations like the Major Taylor Trail. "This will help establish a good backbone of a network when the Divvy bikes roll out."
Potential new Far South Side bike lanes.
Potential new Far South Side bike lanes.
Potential new Far South Side bike lanes.
    • Belmont Cragin neighborhood bike network. CDOT is currently finalizing a contract with a consultant for the planning and design of a comprehensive network of bikeways. The department has already been in talks with aldermen and community groups, and hopes to start the community input process for the project next summer. "That's going to be a really exciting one," Huff said.

One man asked if there are any plans to add bike lanes in the 19th Ward, which includes Beverly and Mount Greenwood, as part of the Far South Divvy expansion. The district currently has no on-street bikeways, and alderman Matt O'Shea once told CDOT "If you never put a bike lane in my ward, that’s too soon," although he later told me that was "something I probably shouldn't have [said.]"

Amanda Woodall, who manages the Divvy program for CDOT, responded that the department has been collecting input for where the new Far South bikeways should go. "So the ten miles that were mentioned in this presentation, those have come as a result of everyone who has shown up for our community engagement... I know that in the 19th Ward we've had a really strong response, saying, 'Yes, please bring Divvy, bring bikeways, bring all this to us.' So we heard it loud and clear, and we're set up better than we ever have been before to move this forward quickly, so stay tuned."

Anne Alt, who lives in Beverly, added that she's been in contact with the Active Transportation Alliance, the Beverly Area Planning Association, and the Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association. "We've been trying to schedule a meeting with Alderman O'Shea to discuss this very topic and the can has been getting kicked down the road." She said they're hoping to schedule something this winter.

"I know where he lives -- we could just show up," responded the man, drawing chuckles from the crowd.

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