Clark Street, identified in Chicago's Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 as bike-priority Spoke Route, has bikeways for most of its length, and is therefore a not-totally awful direct bike route between the North Side and downtown. But it's been a head-scratcher why the Chicago Department of Transportation lists the high-speed, four-lane stretch of Clark between Rosehill Drive (5800 N.) and Devon Avenue (6400N.) in Edgewater, where Clark fuses with Ashland Avenue, as a recommended cycling route on the city's bike map. Years ago when I made the mistake of taking a novice cyclist on that stretch, they were absolutely terrified.
So it was great to read in Edgewater alderman Harry Osterman's (48th) newsletter that CDOT is planning to install protected bike lanes on Clark between Hollywood Avenue (5700 N.) and Devon later this summer. The project will involve relocating much of the on-street parking and converting one of the northbound lanes of Clark on the two-block stretch between Granville (6200 N.) and Devon to make room for the bikeways. The result will be a safer connection between the Andersonville retail district with Clark in Rogers Park, which features a Mexican food restaurant strip with a number of good eateries.
Osterman said he's been working on the project for years with the CDOT bike program, the neighboring 40th Ward (currently represented by Alderman Andre Vasquez), residents, and merchants on or near Clark. "This project is expected to calm automobile traffic through our community, creating a safer experience for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike," Osterman wrote. He invited constituents to contact ward staffer Ally Brisbin at ally[at]48thward.org for more info.
The CDOT fact sheet on the Clark Street project notes that this stretch isn't just hostile to people on bikes. It's also dangerous and unpleasant for people walking to local businesses and bus stops due to the high traffic speeds and long pedestrian crossing distances. The department says it has received many requests from locals to make this segment more people-friendly. The bikeways will do that, not only by encouraging drivers to slow down, but also by shortening crossing distances.
Most of curbside parking spots on this stretch – which includes car-centric land uses like a car wash, an auto parts store, strip malls, and food restaurants with drive-throughs – sees little use due to the many off-street parking lots, shown in the map below. Therefore CDOT indicates that most of the curbside spots will be relocated to make room for the bike lanes, while spots in relatively high-demand locations will remain.
The department promises "The protected bike lane will physically separate people biking from automobile traffic." According to 48th Ward staffer Ally Brisbin, "For a portion of the project there will be flexible [plastic posts], and for another portion the parking lane will be what separates motorists from cyclists."
Why stop at Devon? No way I’m going to ride Devon to Howard on Clark - jumping over to Ridge is still a million times safer
Judging from the response to the news on Twitter, many Chicagoans who bike are jazzed about the project. However, as the person above noted, the next logical step is to extend the Clark bikeways 1.5 miles north to the city limits at Howard Street. In the meantime, heading two blocks east from Clark on Devon to the Glenwood / Greenview Neighborhood Greenway route is another good alternative for biking to Evanston.
In addition to editing Streetsblog Chicago, John writes the transportation column for the Chicago Reader weekly paper. A Chicagoan since 1989, he enjoys exploring the city on foot, bike, bus, and 'L' train.
On Thursday, disadvantaged business enterprises attended a meeting hosted by the Chicago Transit Authority to learn more about the Red Line Extension and the subcontracting opportunities available. The event took place at the CTA’s West Loop headquarters.