CDOT announces a grid of new bike routes for Belmont Cragin and Hermosa

Young people bike on the Palmer Avenue Slow Street in Belmont Cragin in July 2020. Photo: John Greenfield
Young people bike on the Palmer Avenue Slow Street in Belmont Cragin in July 2020. Photo: John Greenfield

Sometimes it’s frustrating how disjointed Chicago’s approach to installing bikeways can be. A mile of bike lanes is installed here, and a couple blocks of concrete protection are installed there, wherever a street is being repaved, or there happens to be a bike-friendly alderman. The result is a bikeway network with lots of gaps, that’s not particularly welcoming to non-confident riders.

So it’s refreshing to see that the Chicago Department of Transportation is taking a different approach in Belmont Cragin and Hermosa, largely blue-collar, predominantly Latino communities on the Northwest Side that have no rapid transit service and only a few blocks of bikeways. In conjunction with the expansion of Divvy bike-share service into the area, CDOT is planning to crisscross the communities with a grid of bike routes. That should go a long way towards encouraging residents to use personal and shared bikes to access local destinations like schools, parks, and retail.

According to a CDOT handout, the department and the 30th, 31st, and 36th wards (aldermen Ariel Reboyras, Felix Cardona, and Gilbert Villegas, respectively) collaborated with other local community leaders to identify good streets for bike routes in the neighborhood. “These new projects will form a connected bike network to help neighbors easily get to all of the places they want and need to go by bike,” the handout promises. “Providing people with more places to bike will help improve the accessibility, safety, public health, and overall quality of life in Belmont Cragin and Hermosa.”

Map of the planned bike routes and Divvy stations. The stations will be so-called "E-stations," bike rack installations for parking electrical-assist bikes with built-in locks. Image: CDOT
Map of the planned bike routes and Divvy stations. The stations will be so-called “E-stations,” bike rack installations for parking electrical-assist bikes with built-in locks. Image: CDOT

East-west streets where new bike routes are planned include:

  • Roscoe Avenue (3400 N.)
  • Belmont Avenue (3200 N.)
  • Diversey Avenue (2800 N.)
  • Wrightwood Avenue (2600 N.)
  • Grand and Armitage avenues (2300 to 2000 N.)

North-south streets where new bike routes are planned include:

  • Austin Avenue (6000 W.)
  • Central Avenue (5600 W.)
  • Laramie Avenue (5200 W.)
  • Kilbourn Avenue (4500 W.)

The handout says that bike improvements will be starting this summer. It doesn’t specify what types of  treatments are planned for these routes. Possibilities range from signed routes with no new pavement markings, to protected bike lanes with physical barriers to shelter people on bikes from traffic. However, a Neighborhood Greenway treatment was recently installed on one-way northbound Kilbourn Avenue, including a southbound contraflow bike lane. And 35th Ward alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa recently announced that dashed bike lanes are planned on Armitage between Laramie and Western, with installation likely taking place next month.

The new Neighborhood Greenway on Kilbourn Avenue. Photo: Alejandro Porras
The new Neighborhood Greenway on Kilbourn Avenue. Photo: Alejandro Porras

The CDOT handout also states that new bike parking racks will be installed in Belmont Cragin and Austin at locations suggested by community members.

Belmont Cragin and Hermosa residents are encouraged to take a short survey to help CDOT better understand how community members get around the area by bike, and how bicycles are perceived by locals.

We’ll update this post with more info about the upcoming bike routes after we hear from CDOT. But it looks promising that Belmont Cragin and Hermosa are about to become a lot more bike-friendly.

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