More streets that would benefit from an “Instant Neighborhood Greenway” treatment

The existing contraflow bike lane on Greenview south of Morse. Streetsblog Chicago assistant editor Courtney Cobbs proposes extending this further south to create a lower-stress alternative to Glenwood. Image: Google Maps
The existing contraflow bike lane on Greenview south of Morse. Streetsblog Chicago assistant editor Courtney Cobbs proposes extending this further south to create a lower-stress alternative to Glenwood. Image: Google Maps

The city of Chicago recently installed a short stretch of contraflow bike lane on Grace Street west of Lincoln Avenue that enables low-stress cycling in both directions between the Chicago River and Ashland Avenue. Last week I discussed how installing two more short segments of contraflow lane on Grace could make the corridor even more useful, basically creating a family-friendly Instant Neighborhood Greenway route between the 312 RiverRun path network and the Lakefront Trail. I asked Streetsblog Chicago readers to weigh in on other streets across the city that could benefit from contraflow lanes and or traffic calming, and you folks had some great suggestions.

New north-south routes in Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore

Steven Lucy argued on Twitter that there aren’t enough low-stress southbound routes across Hyde Park. While, IMHO, Dorchester Avenue makes a good southbound route as part of a couplet with Blackstone Avenue, Lucy suggested adding a southbound contraflow lane on University Avenue, a relatively wide street that is northbound on its entire run across the neighborhood, from the Midway Plaisance to 51st Street, near the Obama’s house.

South Shore resident Elihu Blanks noted that Dorchester is a handy route connecting his neighborhood and Woodlawn with Hyde Park. It works in both directions between 76th Street and 59th Street (where it becomes southbound-only, so it’s necessary to jog a block east to Blackstone), save for a northbound block between 67th Street and Marquette Road, where Dorchester jogs around the Metra Electric and South Shore commuter rail lines. A bit of contraflow lane would fix that problem.

A short contraflow bike lane on Dorchester between Marquette and 67th would make a good bike route better.

Blanks also suggested adding some traffic calming to Dorchester and adding wayfinding signs to help advertise the route as an alternative to nearby eight-lane Stony Island Avenue, where at least two cyclists have been killed in recent years. There’s already some traffic calming on Dorchester between 68th and 70th streets, part of a short Slow Streets loop.

A north-south route between Tri-Taylor and Bucktown on Oakley Avenue and Leavitt Street

Oakley Avenue has long been a popular mellow, two-way bike route between Taylor and Division streets, so much so that it competes with Milwaukee Avenue for the title of “The Hipster Highway.” But north of Division it becomes one-way southbound, and a few blocks later it ends at a T intersection with Wabansia Street.

Streetsblog reader R.B. King suggested the idea of adding a southbound contraflow lane on that stretch. From Oakley’s northern terminus, a Neighborhood Greenway route could jog a block east on Wabansia to Leavitt, and then head north to Webster Ave, a good east-west route between Bucktown and Lincoln Park (although bike-friendly plates are needed for the Chicago River bridge.) A stretch of northbound contraflow lane would be also needed between Milwaukee and Armitage avenues, since that portion is one-way southbound. The route would nicely intersect with the Bloomingdale Trail, since there are access ramps at Leavitt/Milwaukee.

Adding a stretch of southbound contraflow bike lane on Oakley between Division and North, and on Leavitt between Milwaukee and Armitage, would create a low-stress alternative to Damen between Roosevelt and Webster.
Adding a stretch of southbound contraflow bike lane on Oakley between Division and North, and on Leavitt between Milwaukee and Armitage, would create a low-stress alternative to Damen between Roosevelt and Webster.

King noted that such a route would be a good corridor between Western and Damen avenues. Although Damen has non-protected bike lanes, King said he finds it to be “quite high-stress, especially by the United Center.” The issue is personal for him, since he was friends with filmmaker Andrew Ryan Biesen, 28, who was fatally struck while riding an electric Divvy bike on Damen near the stadium on September 9.

An east-west route on Berwyn across Lincoln Square and Edgewater

The Berwyn Avenue (mostly westbound) and Balmoral Avenue (mostly eastbound) couplet is a fairly useful way to bike between the river and the lake, especially because there’s a park path that leads from Berwyn and Sheridan Road to a Lakefront Trail underpass. However, to follow the letter of the law on the eastbound trip on Balmoral, near Western you’ve to dip two blocks south to Foster Avenue and then two blocks back north again — an annoying half-mile detour. Also complicating the westbound journey is the fact that the block of Berwyn west of Sheridan is eastbound.

The Berwyn (mostly westbound) and Balmoral (mostly eastbound) corridor.
The Berwyn (mostly westbound) and Balmoral (mostly eastbound) corridor.

“I love continuous mellow street routes and I wish I could legally bike east on Berwyn,” wrote a reader. “I also wish it had just a little more traffic calming.” This would require more than just a little road paint, but if a eastbound contraflow bike lane was striped from Broadway to the North Shore Channel Trail, and a westbound snippet was added to the 1000 block, that would make for a great family-friendly cross-town route.

A north-south route on Greenview in Rogers Park

The Glenwood / Greenview Greenway, which includes a few short contraflow stretches, is already a popular bike route between Edgewater and Rogers Park. But some cyclists dislike the half-mile segment between Devon and Pratt avenues because the roadway narrows there, which can lead to conflicts between people on bikes and people in cars.

Streetsblog Chicago assistant editor Courtney Cobbs is one of them. On the northbound trip, she detours around that stretch by heading west from Glenwood on Thorndale Avenue, and then taking Greenview north until it meets up with the greenway route again.

Adding extending the southbound contraflow lane on Greenview (blue) would create a mellower two-way alternative to Glenwood (green.)
Adding extending the southbound contraflow lane on Greenview (blue) would create a mellower two-way alternative to Glenwood (green.)

However, that’s not a legal option heading southbound because Greenview is one-way northbound between Morse and Devon avenues, although there’s already one block of contraflow on Greenview south of Morse as part of the greenway route. To legalize the reverse trip, she proposes extending the Greenview contraflow lane south to Devon.

Southbound cyclists could then return to Glenwood by heading east on Elmdale, an eastbound street a block north of Thorndale. Or else another eastbound snippet of contraflow could be added to Thorndale. Got all that? Good!

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