Eyes on the Street: Concrete protected bike lanes on Campbell in North Center

A hoverboard user test-rides the new concrete-protected bike lanes on Campbell. Photo: John Greenfield
A hoverboard user test-rides the new concrete-protected bike lanes on Campbell. Photo: John Greenfield

There’s a nice new example of concrete curb-protected bike lanes in North Center, on the two-block long stretch of Campbell Avenue (2500 W.) that connects the Roscoe Avenue Neighborhood Greenway route with Belmont Avenue, where there’s a bridge over the Chicago River. Here’s a detail from the Mellow Chicago Bike Map to give you a sense of how Campbell, the two-block north-south street in the middle of this screenshot, fits into the scheme of bikeable streets (green) and off-street trails (pink.)

Detail from the Mellow Chicago Bike Map.
Detail from the Mellow Chicago Bike Map.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has repaved the street, and the curbs are appropriately thick. So, assuming that the bikeways don’t fill up with garbage, broken glass, and snow, as is often a problem with non-raised separated bike lanes, this is a very high-quality, albeit very short, facility.

While the repaved section extends all the way on Campbell and Roscoe between Belmont and Western, the concrete protected disappears after Campbell curves east into Roscoe. That’s because CDOT opted to leave room for left-turn lanes from Roscoe onto Western and a Jewel-Oscoe, despite the fact that this stretch of Roscoe is low-traffic, so it’s not like tons of drivers would be inconvenienced if they couldn’t get around another motorist waiting to turn left.

The concrete protection disappears after Campbell curves east into Roscoe. Photo: John Greenfield
The concrete protection disappears after Campbell curves east into Roscoe. Photo: John Greenfield

I’ve also seen some commentary on Twitter wondering why this quiet stretch was chosen for concrete protection. People have argued that physical protection from cars would be much more helpful on Roscoe east of Western in Roscoe Village, a relatively busy retail district, and on Belmont, a four-lane street with higher traffic volumes and speeds and no bikeways. (A few years ago a road diet with bike lanes was planned for that stretch of Belmont, but the project was killed after the CTA protested that it would slow down the Belmont bus.)

Bike-friendly 47th Ward alderman Matt Martin advocated for the Campbell project, which was bankrolled by CDOT. I asked Josh Mark, Martin’s director of development and infrastructure, for his response to the arguments that there wasn’t much point in spending money to build concrete protection on a low-traffic street.

Mark asserted that although Campbell is a relatively quiet side street, it was still potentially dangerous. “This isn’t Berteau Avenue [a narrower street where a traffic calmed Neighborhood Greenway route was installed several years ago], it’s an extra-wide road running behind industrial and commercial buildings that can be used to avoid a massive intersection [Belmont/Western/Clybourn Avenue], with very little parking utilization – exactly the sort of place for speeding.” He argued that if CDOT had repaved the street without adding physical protection for people on bikes and narrowing the drivable portion, speeding would have gotten worse.

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

He added that this route is heavily used by families and youth accessing the Chicago River, Clark Park, two high schools, the 312 RiverRun trail network, The Garden bike jump park, and soccer fields. “My volunteers counted 300 cyclists in five hours here on a spring Sunday afternoon.”

Mark also mentioned that CDOT will be repaving the nearby stretch of Belmont in a couple of years. He indicated that Martin plans to ask the department to make bike improvements to Belmont to make the river crossing safer.

And Mark noted that the ward is also looking at adding protected bike lanes on Clark Street between Irving Park and Montrose this year. “So we can definitely do [protected lanes on] both side streets and larger streets.”

Have you ridden the Campbell protected bike lanes yet? If so, what do you think?

Correction 7/26/21: This post previously stated that ward menu funds were used for the project. According to Josh Mark, “CDOT’s bike funds” were used instead. The piece has been edited accordingly.

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