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Concrete-protected lanes are coming to Clark St. from Irving to Montrose, maybe further

3:33 AM CDT on June 20, 2022

Bike riders on Clark Street between Irving Park and Montrose. Photo: John Greenfield

Clark street is one of the busiest biking streets in Chicago, and it was designated as a bike-priority "Spoke Route" in the Chicago Streets for Cycling 2020 plan. However, it currently only has flexible-post-delineated bike lanes for about a mile, between Hollywood Avenue (5700 N.) and Devon Avenue (6400 N.) in Edgewater, plus a temporary stretch north of Wacker Drive in River North as part of a detour during the rehab of the Dearborn Street bridge.

That will be changing soon, thanks to two upcoming projects. First, the Edgewater lanes will be getting some concrete protection, thanks to bike advocates lobbying local alderperson Andre Vasquez (40th), who then asked the Chicago Department of Transportation for the change. Construction of those upgrades is supposed to start in mid-July.

Bike riders on Clark Street with a #22 bus. Photo: John Greenfield
Bike riders on Clark Street with a #22 bus. Photo: John Greenfield

And on Friday Alderperson Matt Martin from the neighboring 47th Ward announced that physically protected bike lanes are planned for Clark between Irving Park Road (4000 N.) and Montrose Avenue (4400 N.) in Uptown. This stretch, which is also partly located in the 46th Ward, represented by alder James Cappleman, is three blocks north of Wrigley Field and sees plenty of bike traffic.

Learn about @ChicagoDOT's plan to add a protected bike lane on Clark St between Irving Park Rd and Montrose Ave.

📅 June 28🕑 6 PM to 7 PM🔗

— Alderman Matt Martin (@AldMattMartin) June 17, 2022

Traffic safety is a particularly urgent issue in Martin's district right now. On June 2 an SUV driver fatally struck Rafi Cardenas, 2, in Lincoln Square in the 47th Ward, and on June 9 a semi driver ran over and killed Lily Shambrook, 3, in Uptown in the 46th Ward. Martin spoke at the huge Walk + Bike for Safe Streets rally held on the morning June 12 in response to these tragedies. And that same afternoon, longtime neighborhood volunteer Peter Paquette, 75, was fatally struck by a distracted driver in North Center, shortly after the alderperson had shaken hands with him at a ward event.

"Like so many of you, I am distraught by these deaths," Martin said in a statement following Paquette's killing. "My office will continue working to ensure that future improvements to pedestrian, bike, and public transportation infrastructure —not just throughout our Ward but throughout all of Chicago—are holistic, systemic, and better designed to ensure safe streets for all.”

A car-free block party will be held to honor of Rafi Cardenas on Wednesday, June 22, from 4-6 p.m. on the 4400 block of North Leavitt Street (2200 W.)

In memory of Rafi Cardenas, next week our office will open up Leavitt Street (behind Sulzer Library) for families and neighbors to safely use the street to scoot, bike, or just hang out.

Come together to talk about how we can make our streets safer for everyone.

— Alderman Matt Martin (@AldMattMartin) June 15, 2022

The new bike lanes on Clark in Uptown will help prevent future traffic deaths, not only by shielding bike riders from drivers, but also by shortening crossing distances for pedestrians, and encouraging safer driving speeds. On Tuesday, June 28 from 6-7 p.m., there will be an online info session on the bikeway with staff from CDOT and the 46th and 47 wards.

Josh Mark, Martin's director of development and infrastructure, provided more info on the Clark proposal. The bike lanes will feature physical protection in both directions, probably concrete curbs, and will include protection via parked cars on some stretches. Unlike many Chicago protected lanes, the barriers will go all the way to the intersection, Mark promised.

A curb-protected bike lane on Campbell Street (2530 W.) near Roscoe Avenue (3400 N.) in the 47th Ward. Photo: Chicago Family Biking
A curb-protected bike lane on Campbell Street (2530 W.) near Roscoe Avenue (3400 N.) in the 47th Ward. Photo: Chicago Family Biking

To create sufficient right of way for the bike lanes, some of the parking spaces on Clark will be converted to bike space, Mark said. "There will be parking removal – that's how you get this stuff done." However, parking is already banned south of Hutchinson Street (4230 N.), so it's not like a vast number of car spots will be eliminated. Parking demand is relatively low on this stretch anyway, since Graceland Cemetery runs along the east side of the street between Irving and Montrose.

One design challenge for CDOT is that the east side of Clark at the south end of this stretch is a CTA bus staging area. It's the northern terminus for the #9 Ashland Avenue route, there's also a stop for the #22 Clark bus, and Ashland bus drivers park in between the two stops while waiting to begin new southbound runs. The transportation department will likely accommodate these activities by building bus-boarding islands, with the northbound bike lane located between the curb and the island.

In Columbus Park in Austin, CDOT recently built curbside bike lanes and bus-boarding islands. Photo: John Greenfield
CDOT recently built curbside bike lanes and bus-boarding islands on Jackson Boulevard in Austin's Columbus Park. Photo: John Greenfield

Mark said as part of the bike lane project, CDOT plans to remove the pedestrian island in the middle of Clark at Berteau Street (4200 N.), which was built as part of the Berteau Greenway project in 2013. However, bike riders probably won't be too upset that change, because the island creates a dangerous bottleneck, too narrow people of bikes to comfortably share the lane with drivers. And until recently there was a treacherous sinkhole, often filled with water, at Berteau in the northbound lane near the curb.

The pedestrian island at Berteau creates a pinch point. Photo: John Greenfield
The pedestrian island at Berteau creates a pinch point. Photo: John Greenfield

Martin has also been pushing to create a plan for bike lanes, preferably protected ones, north of Montrose Avenue as part of the Chicago Department of Planning's “Clark Street Crossroads” study of a the mile-long stretch of Clark between Montrose and Foster Avenue (5200 N.) However, last week he publicly expressed frustration that an early draft of the plan had no references to bikeways. The alderperson encouraged residents to lobby DPD to include bike lanes in the next version, via an online form.

We’ve advocated that the City include a protected bike lane in the new Clark St corridor plan.

But their initial plan doesn’t even mention the word “bike.”

Tell the city your thoughts 🔗

— Alderman Matt Martin (@AldMattMartin) June 13, 2022

As for the bike lanes on Clark from Irving to Montrose, Josh Mark hopes they will be installed by the end of this summer. However, a current strike by Chicagoland quarry workers who produce materials for concrete and asphalt could slow down or stop local road construction this season.

Bike riders on Clark Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Bike riders on Clark Street. Photo: John Greenfield

So let's keep our fingers crossed that the workers and management come to an agreement soon. "We've been pushing for this bike lane project for two years," Mark said.

Register for the virtual meeting on the Clark bike lane plan on Tuesday, June 28 from 6-7 p.m. here.

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