Eyes on the Street: Curb protection on Logan Boulevard makes a scary stretch feel safer
Update 9/7/22, 7:00 PM: CDOT spokesperson Erica Schroeder provided this update: “Work is still in progress on Logan, where concrete protection is planned all the way up to Diversey.”
She added, “On Kinzie [Street], concrete curb installation is expected to wrap up this week. Installation of flexible delineators and removal of temporary traffic cones will follow in a couple of weeks for both projects.”
The stretch of Logan Boulevard from Campbell to Diversey has seen dramatic safety improvements for bike riders over the past year. Tragically, it took the deaths of two young men on bikes struck by drivers – videographer Tyler Fabeck, 22, in 2008, and “School of Rock” drummer Kevin Clark, 32, last year – to spur the city into finally installing bike infrastructure on one of the few convenient bike routes connecting Logan Square with Lincoln Park Lakeview.
In October of last year, the Chicago Department of Transportation implemented a “four-to-three road diet” on the deadly stretch of the boulevard near Western Avenue, which has terrible sight lines due to the Kennedy Expressway and Metra tracks overhead. The project eliminated one of the four travel lanes to make room for bike lanes delineated with flexible plastic posts. This still relatively fresh infrastructure just got an upgrade as part of the city’s plan to add concrete infrastructure to all “protected” bike lanes by the end of 2023, providing physical separation between cars and people on bikes.
Flexi-post bike lanes on Logan between Maplewood and Western avenues are now bordered by precast curbs, which are quicker and cheaper to install than curbs constructed on site, and they can be easily relocated if the layout needs to be modified. The reflective plastic bollards along the westbound bike lane are still in place – a sensible visibility measure for drivers who might not notice the low-lying, light gray slabs of concrete. Adding bollards to the eastbound bikeway and/or painting the curbs yellow would also be a good move, especially in the dim underpass of the viaduct.
As you pedal east from Maplewood, the curbs extend all the way to the intersection at Western – with an opening for the right-turn slip lane – and pick up again right afterward, continuing just past the busy entrance to the Target parking lot. The curb protection ends about a hundred feet west of Elston Avenue, where right-turning drivers sidle up to the bike lane. However, as someone who bikes this route regularly, I can report that the protected lane right before the intersection and the painted bike lane up to the light have done wonders to calm and clarify the flow of traffic, especially for cars turning right on Elston and bike riders continuing east on Logan.
East of Elston, where the road curves north to meet Diversey Parkway, the eastbound lane is parking protected, and no notable changes have been made yet. However, it is now all the more jarring that a bike route separated from fast moving traffic all the way from Kedzie Boulevard abruptly ends at Diversey, which doesn’t even have non-protected bike lanes. That’s OK if you’re not planning to ride east of the Diversey River Bowl, but the lack of bikeways may be a dealbreaker for some people who would otherwise like to cross the river to locales east. It’s a prime example of how Chicago needs to build a connected, protected bike lane network across the city to encourage less confident riders to make trips by bicycle.
Returning west on Logan from Diversey, parking protection disappears just east of Elston, with paint-only bike lanes running past Xport Fitness to a couple hundred feet east of Western Avenue. Westbound bike riders crossing Elston should be wary of right-turning drivers, many of whom tend to speed around the curving downhill stretch of Logan from Diversey to the high-traffic intersection at Elston.
Happily, the portion of this route that passes through the viaduct – once the most dangerous and stressful stretch, which motivated cautious riders like myself to use the sidewalk – now feels the most safe, since it has the most concrete protection.
As I was taking photos of the road that passed under the Metra tracks, a pedestrian passing by said to me of the bike lanes, “Isn’t this just great?”
“Yes,” I replied. “It’s a huge improvement.”