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Bike lanes are coming to Belmont in Lakeview, but not all the way to the lakefront

Looking east on Belmont Avenue at Southport Avenue, which has non-protected bike lanes. (Yes, we know talking on the phone while biking is illegal in Chicago and is not recommended.) Photo: John Greenfield

Update 8/20/22, 8:15 AM: After publication of this piece, Jeremy Frisch alerted Streetsblog that he's launched a petition calling for more robust improvements to Belmont Avenue, including bike lanes that extend all the way to the Lakefront Trail, and bus lanes. The petition states that drivers struck 59 people on foot and bike on Belmont between Ashland Avenue and the lake in the past five years. It also notes that the #77 Belmont bus is the eighth busiest route line in the city, carrying nearly 3 million customers in 2021. In addition, the petition says the corridor's five Divvy bike-share stations saw over 27,000 trips last month.

Frisch provided the following statement to Streetsblog.

I walk or bike on Belmont almost every day with my two-year-old. When I've crossed Belmont at Seminary or Lakewood with a stroller or bike, speeding drivers have yelled at and close-passed me as we try to get to the playground. Just this week, drivers came within inches of my bike after visiting the library on Belmont but CDOT won't even consider a painted bike lane on that section because they'd need to remove street parking.

I'm tired of driver convenience being prioritized over the lives of people walking and biking. Paint is not protection. A truck driver killed a 3-year-old on her mother's bicycle [Lily Shambrook] in June because another truck was parked in a painted bike lane on Leland. That could have been my son. Protected bike lanes and intersections are the only solution.

We have an opportunity to make Belmont not only a safe place for people but a pleasant place to spend time and money at small businesses. I hope CDOT and our elected leaders go back to the drawing board and return with a visionary plan for a better Belmont for people, not cars.

There was a bit of good news from Lakeview on Thursday: The Chicago Department of Transportation will be adding brand-new bike lanes on Belmont Avenue as part of a street repaving project. Belmont is a retail-rich two-lane street in a part of the city that could use more good east-west bike routes, so it's a no-brainer choice for a bikeway.

But the situation is somewhat frustrating as well. While the resurfacing project will run 1.3 miles from Southport Avenue (1400 W.) to DuSable Lake Shore Drive (630 W.), the bike lanes will only be striped from Southport to Clark Street (830 W.), about half the length.

Yesterday Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), announced the project, which is slated to begin later this month, in his newsletter. The work will include ADA sidewalk upgrades, and curb and gutter removal and replacement for better drainage. CDOT is still hashing out the details, and renderings haven't been released yet.

Projects on the Belmont corridor. Map: Jeremy Frisch
Projects on the Belmont corridor. Map: Jeremy Frisch
Projects on the Belmont corridor. Map: Jeremy Frisch

Two more blocks of Belmont, between Southport and Ashland Avenue (1600 W.) will be repaved as part of the Lincoln/Ashland/Belmont streetscape project, and will also get bike lanes. All of the work is supposed to be finished by this November.

Streetsblog reader Jeremy Frisch contacted us, noting that no feedback has been solicited from the community on the bike lane project, which he said is "admittedly a double-edged sword," since that also means there hasn't been an opportunity for "Not In My Back Yard"-style opposition.

Frisch contacted the 44th Ward for more information and got a reply from Jacob Shelly, director of infrastructure and special projects. "We received early renderings for the plans a few months prior to the project," Shelly wrote. "When we had our meeting with CDOT last month to see updated plans, our office had some slight questions and additional suggestions for a few areas so we are just waiting for the project team to send a revised copy over."

Shelly provided some additional details (his language):

    • "The bike lanes will be painted with protected areas at busy intersections. There will be green pavement coloring markings at major intersections for cyclists. (Similar to the intersection at Broadway and Roscoe.)"
    • "All intersections will receive additional bump-outs if they have not previously been installed."
    • "Per CDOT, they believed that bike lanes from Ashland to Clark were the best option. Having a bike lane running east from Clark to DLSD would not be the best option in the interest of safety for cyclists. The street is a bit narrow and could get congested during peak hours. CDOT's bike lane plans for this project were only proposed to be from Clark headed west towards Ashland."

Shelly said he would be meeting with CDOT next week and promised to ask if the department has updated plans to share with the public.

Frisch wrote us, "I have no idea how not putting in bike lanes east of Clark is 'in the interest of safety for cyclists,'" with a facepalm emoji.

The Belmont viaduct of DLSD. Image: Google Maps
The Belmont viaduct of DLSD. Image: Google Maps
The Belmont viaduct of DLSD. Image: Google Maps

I sort of understand what CDOT and/or Shelly are getting at: Belmont east of Clark does have a tighter layout and the Belmont viaduct of the drive is not a particularly safe place to enter or exit the Lakefront Trail on a bike. It has five lanes and poor sight lines, and cyclists have to watch out for drivers going to and coming from the highway. (The viaduct also lacks a sidewalk on its south side.) As it stands, bike riders are better off using the car-free underpasses at Roscoe Street (3400 N.) and Briar Place (3130 N.)

City officials should instead be asking, "What can we do to make the stretch of Belmont between Clark and the lakefront safe and pleasant to ride on?" The answer would be to strip parking from one side of the street and install physically protected bike lanes, including under DLSD.

Proposed rendering of Belmont with protected bike lanes made possible by converting the parking lane on one side of the street. Image: Streetmix via Jeremy Frisch
Proposed rendering of Belmont with protected bike lanes made possible by converting the parking lane on one side of the street. Image: Streetmix via Jeremy Frisch
Proposed rendering of Belmont with protected bike lanes made possible by converting the parking lane on one side of the street. Image: Streetmix via Jeremy Frisch

That would be a much more constructive approach than simply throwing up their hands and saying, "It can't be done."

We'll provide an update once CDOT releases renderings of the plan.

Sign the petition calling for more robust improvements to Belmont Avenue.

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