Take a virtual bike ride on the new Logan Boulevard bike lanes near Western Avenue

View from the new westbound bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield
View from the new westbound bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

After hearing the good news yesterday about the long-awaited Logan Boulevard road diet and bike lanes being installed, which Streetsblog freelancer Sharon Hoyer wrote about yesterday, I stopped by this afternoon to check them out myself and shoot some handlebar-view video.

The bike lanes serve as a kind of memorial to two young men who lost their lives while cycling through the boulevard’s complex intersection with busy Western Avenue, where residents have requested safety improvements for many years. In 2008, a driver struck and killed videographer Tyler Fabeck, 22, and on May 26 of this year a motorist fatally struck “School of Rock” drummer Kevin Clark, 32.

Tyler Fabeck and Kevin Clark.
Tyler Fabeck and Kevin Clark.

Hopefully their loved ones can take some solace in the fact their advocacy in the wake of these tragedies helped make this project possible. By calming traffic and giving people on bikes a dedicated place to ride, the bikeways may well prevent future cycling fatalities and further heartache.

After riding the lanes during early rush hour, my impression is that the half-finished bike lanes already represent a big improvement. Traffic is calmed by the reduction of four travel lanes to two east of Campbell Avenue, but there didn’t seem to be undue congestion for drivers. And it was great to have a few feet of striped pavement between moving vehicles and myself.

The situation isn’t perfect. In the westbound video below  (sorry about the interminable wait at the stoplight) at about 2:05 you can see a driver steer into the bike lane to pass another motorist on the right.

Drivers will probably respect the lanes a bit more after the Chicago Department of Transportation installs flexible plastic posts in the striped buffer to delineate the bikeways. But as you’re sure to hear more often in the future, plastic posts are not protection – they don’t even scratch a car’s paint job, let alone actually stop motorists from entering the bike lane.

Flexible posts in the new bike lane on 119th Street in West Pullman. Photo: John Greenfiedl
Flexible posts in the new bike lane on 119th Street in West Pullman. Photo: John Greenfiedl

Protected bike lane designs sometimes need to be tweaked after installation, so it’s understandable that CDOT usually doesn’t install permanent concrete curb protection until after the layout has proved successful. But anywhere wide striped buffers and flexible posts can be used, why not use moveable Jersey walls instead? The example below shows that, when the concrete barriers are decorated by artists, this strategy can actually beautify streets.

Adding painted Jersey walls to the new Logan lanes would offer real, physical protection for cyclists. That would be an even better tribute to Fabeck and Clark.

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