Letter from advocacy groups calls for protected bike lanes on Lincoln Ave. in Lincoln Square
There’s a growing sentiment among Chicago safe streets advocates that anytime a main streets gets an overhaul – certainly on a retail strip in a part of town where there’s already plenty of cycling – the project must include bike lanes with robust physical protection. That philosophy was evident on September 7, when about 180 people showed up for a protest against the Chicago Department of Transportation’s plans to repave Belmont Avenue in Lakeview without installing fully-protected bikeways that connect to the Lakefront Trail.
Today multiple advocacy groups made that argument once again with an open letter to local decision-makers calling on them to include physically-protected bike lanes along as part of the upcoming Lincoln Avenue Streetscape and Plaza project in Lincoln Square, along the entire corridor. The streetscape covers the stretch of Lincoln, a useful northwest-southeast cycling route, between Catalpa Avenue (5500 N.) and the Ainslie Arts Plaza (4900 N.) Much of the plaza’s street furniture was destroyed on August 1 when a reckless driver crashed into the site and wasn’t even ticketed.
A city official told Streetsblog this afternoon that the current Lincoln Avenue plan includes a one-block-long stretch of protected bike lanes between Berwyn (5300 N.) and Foster (5200 N.) This will connect with the recently-installed contraflow (“wrong-way”) bike lane on Berwyn between the North Shore Channel Trail and Western Avenue (2400 W.)
You can now bike in both directions on Berwyn between the N. Shore Channel Trail and Western. CDOT wants to extend the greenway east, so maybe one day it will be a 2-way, low-stress route between the lake and channel. It already works WB from the Red Line.https://t.co/ahBNEgEWgO pic.twitter.com/cxIMbNNc8T
— Streetsblog Chicago (@streetsblogchi) August 8, 2022
The letter was drafted by Better Streets Chicago and co-signed by the Active Transportation Alliance; Chicago, Bike Grid Now; Chicago Family Biking; the progressive community group Indivisible Lincoln Square; and On the Route Bicycles owner Joanne McSweeney.
It’s addressed to local alderpersons Andre Vasquez (40th) and Matt Martin (47th), although the project is only located in Vasquez’s district. Other officials cc-ed on the document include state senator Mike Simmons, (7th) and state rep Greg Harris (13th); staff from the Chicago and Illinois transportation departments; and representatives of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce and the local Special Service Area.
The advocates point out in their letter that the 2019 Lincoln Square Master Plan called for significantly improving bike and pedestrian safety in the area. Noting that Vasquez and Martin have been supportive of Complete Streets projects, the advocates call on the alders to convey their demands to CDOT, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the chamber and other stakeholders.
“PBLs are essential to improving safety and mobility in Lincoln Square and surrounding neighborhoods,” the advocates write. “They will make it safer and more comfortable for more people to bike, reducing congestion and improving street safety.”
They note that The Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, released a decade ago, classified Lincoln from Bryn Mawr Avenue (5600 N.) to its intersections with Wells and Clark streets (1800 N.) as a Crosstown Bike Route that should be prioritized for bikeways, with protected lanes mentioned as being the “preferred treatment.”
The advocates write that the city’s transportation department has claimed protected lanes can’t be built on the entire stretch north of Foster because that section is under IDOT jurisdiction, and state officials wouldn’t allow them. “CDOT must advocate on behalf of Chicago residents and push IDOT to accept design standards appropriate for urban streets and transportation systems. IDOT cannot continue to force highway design standards on urban communities.”
The letter notes that space could be created for protected lanes on Lincoln, which is 66-feet-wide here, by converting one of the curbside parking lanes. It points out that this approach was taken two years ago on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, which is the same width.
The advocates call on CDOT and IDOT to provide a detailed explanation for why protected lanes were ultimately excluded the final Lincoln Avenue designs.
“We are living through a series of crises, from cost-of-living and traffic violence, to congestion and the climate crisis,” the letter states. “Building a network of PBLs is essential to address these challenges, allowing more people to take advantage of low-cost transportation options, reducing congestion and emissions, and increasing safety by reducing the number of people who drive.”
A CDOT official told Streetsblog, “CDOT is in close communication with Ald. Vasquez about this project and ways to make Lincoln Ave safer for people walking and biking.”
IDOT spokesperson Maria Castaneda told us, “The Illinois Department of Transportation is aware of the project and reviewing proposals, working with CDOT on this city-led project.”
Ald. Vasquez told Streetsblog, “I think it’s great that urbanists, cyclists, and other neighbors are organizing in support of multimodal infrastructure, as it brings safety and a healthier environment for all of us.”
47th Ward director of development and infrastructure also praised the advocates’ efforts, but said Ald. Martin is not involved in the planning because the corridor lies outside of his district.