Bike lanes are finally coming to Pratt Ave. in Lincolnwood

The likely layout of the Pratt bike lanes, looking east. Image: Village of Lincolnwood
The likely layout of the Pratt bike lanes, looking east. Image: Village of Lincolnwood

Good news: A bike lane project in north-suburban Lincolnwood that was almost scrapped due to car parking worries is moving forward with support from village trustees. However, it probably won’t be a physically protected facility, as some had hoped.

Bike lanes had previously been proposed on Pratt Avenue between Lincoln and Cicero avenues, providing a connection to the Valley Line Trail. The lanes would have replaced parking lanes on this largely residential stretch, which has low on-street parking demand due to the presence of driveways and the Bryn Mawr Country Club to the south. However, Lincolnwood director of public works Andrew Letson recommended against the change, arguing that “removing parking… may cause challenges for residents and their guests.”

A stretch of Pratt Avenue adjacent to the Bryn Mawr Country Club. Image: Google Maps
A stretch of Pratt Avenue adjacent to the Bryn Mawr Country Club, looking west Image: Google Maps

At a December 3 village meeting (read our writeup here), trustee Jesal Patel proposed that a two-way protected bike lane be added to the south side of Pratt between Cicero and Crawford Avenues, which would allow the existing parking lane to remain on the north side of Pratt. Village staffers promised to look into the idea. It wast also requested that staff evaluate options for extending the project area further east to connect with the Union Pacific Trail near Lawndale Avenue.

The project area. The dotted green line is Pratt, the solid green line to the west is the Valley Line Trail, and the solid green line to the right is the Union Pacific Trail. Image: Google Maps
The project area. The dotted green line is Pratt, the solid green line to the west is the Valley Line Trail, and the solid green line to the east is the Union Pacific Trail. Image: Google Maps

Following the meeting, village staff worked with Christopher B. Burke Engineering to develop design alternatives. The firm previously designed and managed the construction of the excellent two-way curb-protected bike lane on Sheridan Road in Evanston. That facility was installed following the 2016 death of Northwestern student Chuyuan Qiu, 18, who was struck on her bicycle by the driver of a concrete mixer on Sheridan by the university  campus.

The two-way protected bike lane on Sheridan Road in Evanston. Photo: City of Evanston
The two-way protected bike lane on Sheridan Road in Evanston. Photo: City of Evanston

Prior to another village meeting last night, Lincolnwood staff provided an update on the three design alternatives currently under consideration — check out that document here. In general Pratt is 34 feet wide, with two 10-foot-wide travel lanes and two 7-foot-wide parking lanes, between Lincoln and Cicero.

Option 1

This is the alternative that was essentially shot down in the previous meeting, replacing both of the parking lanes with two 4-foot bike lanes with a 3-foot stripe buffer between traffic and the bicyclists. Plastic posts would be installed inside the buffer zone. The total cost is estimated at $229,700.

The layout for Option 1, looking east. Image: Village of Lincolnwood
The layout for Option 1, looking east. Image: Village of Lincolnwood

The other two alternatives would require widening Pratt to the south (since the light poles are on the north side of the street) by three feet to create a 37-foot-wide cross section and maintain lane widths. This would move the travel lanes closer to all of the homes on the south side of the street, which may draw some opposition from those residents.

Option 2

This scenario would include two 10-foot travel lanes, a 7-foot parking lane on the north side of the street, and two 5-foot, non-protected bicycle lanes on either side of the street. The bicycle lanes would need to be wider than the 4-foot lanes due to the lack of physical protection. The cost is estimated at $616,200.

The layout for Option 2, looking east. Image: Village of Lincolnwood
The layout for Option 2, looking east. Image: Village of Lincolnwood

Option 3

The third alternative would involve an installing an 8-foot-wide, two-way protected bike lane on the south side of the street with a 2-foot striped buffer with a concrete curb in the middle of the buffer, plus two 10-foot travel lanes and a 7-foot parking lane on the north side of the street.It’s a similar layout to Evanston’s Sheridan Road protected lane. The cost for the roughly one-mile stretch is estimated at $839,200.

The layout for Option 3, looking east. Image: Village of Lincolnwood
The layout for Option 3, looking east. Image: Village of Lincolnwood

However that may be on the high side, since Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey told me that CDOT estimates $400-700K per mile for a new two way curb protected lane. That includes potential traffic signal upgrades, such as adding dedicated bike stoplights and turn arrows for drivers, which won’t be as much of an issue on Pratt as it was for building two-way protected lanes on Dearborn and Clinton streets in busy downtown Chicago. On the other hand, unlike the Lincolnwood estimates, the CDOT estimate doesn’t include design costs, ranging from $19,200 for Option 1 to $70,000 for Option 3.

The village staffers argued that the concrete curb would make it difficult to keep the two-way bike lane clear of snow. They said that, unlike Chicago, the Lincolnwood public works department doesn’t own a suitable snowplow, and buying one would cost about $40,000, so they recommended that Option 2 be chosen to “minimize operational difficulties.”

Last night’s meeting

Lincolnwood resident Mary S. Butler, who first publicized the bike lane issue on Twitter, told me she’s happy with the outcome of last night’s hearing. “I found the tone of this meeting to be much more pleasant and cyclist-friendly than the one in December.”

During the meeting Andrew Letson presented the three alternatives. Afterward, attendees who had submitted a speaker’s request form to the village manager were invited to address the board. Butler spoke first, voicing her support for Option 3. “I  noted that it was the safest option for bikers, runners, pedestrians, and residents who live on Pratt.”

Butler was followed by resident Dale Wickum, a cyclist who was also in favor of building a two-way bike lane. A third speaker named Art Lovering lives on Pratt and rides a bike. Lovering mentioned that in the time since the parking lanes were striped in fall 2016, his car had been hit twice while he’s been pulling into his driveway. He blamed the poor sight lines created by parked cars, so he said adding bike lanes could improve the situation.

Andrew Latner, Dale Wickum, and Jesal Patel. Photo: Mary Butler
Andrew Letson, Dale Wickum, and Jesal Patel. Photo: Mary Butler

After much discussion, Mayor Barry Bass asked trustees to weigh in with their preferred option. The majority supported Option 2. Trustee Jesal Patel said he supported option 3 because he was worried about the northern bike lane in option two being located between parked cars and moving traffic. He argued that placing both bikes lanes against the curb would be safer. Letson said revisions could be made to Option 2 to put the place the north bike lane between the curb and the parking lane, a suggestion that met the approval of the majority of the board.

However, it’s not clear that there would be sufficient road width for that configuration, since there would need to be a striped buffer roughly 3-feet wide between the north lane and the parking lane, ideally with plastic posts, to keep cyclists out of the way of opening car door. That’s the typical layout of Chicago-style protected bike lanes. Without out it, bike riders can get caught between an opening door and the curb.

Chicago parking-protected bike lanes include a striped buffer, usually with plastic posts, to help keep cyclists away from opening car doors. Photo: John Greenfield
Chicago parking-protected bike lanes include a striped buffer, usually with plastic posts, to help keep cyclists away from opening car doors. Photo: John Greenfield

At any rate, it’s good that the bikeway project seems to be moving forward. Lincolnwood plans to apply for a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grant to offset the cost of building Option 2. Prior to applying for the grant, an initial study will need to be prepared.

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