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Eyes on the Street: New bus stop islands on Milwaukee Avenue on Near Northwest Side

3:00 PM CST on November 20, 2022

A bus boarding island that doubles as bike lane protection under construction at Milwaukee and Haddon Avenue (1130 N.) earlier this month, looking south. Photo: Steven Vance

This post is largely adapted from commentary by Streetsblog Chicago cofounder Steven Vance from early November, with his permission. The infrastructure has likely been completed since then.

As part of the Chicago Department of Transportation's current project to add concrete protection to all of the city's "protected" bike lanes (many of which have lacked physical protection from drivers), CDOT has installed a number of new bus boarding islands on Milwaukee Avenue in River West and Logan Square, with the islands doubling as bikeway protection. Let's take a look at the designs.

Looking northwest on Milwaukee at Elston. Photo: Steven Vance
Looking northwest on Milwaukee at Elston. Photo: Steven Vance

Milwaukee and Elston Avenue (1130 W.): Despite the presence of a bus island to the left of the northwest-bound bike lane here, there is inadequate protection of bike riders from right-turning drivers. If this is due to a lack of available road width, then it seems that CDOT could have freed up space by narrowing the southeast-bound bike lane, which is a generous eight-feet-wide.

As of early November, the two bus islands at Milwaukee/Racine were a barrier to crossing Milwaukee. Photo: Steven Vance
Milwaukee/Racine looking southwest. As of early November, the two bus islands at this intersection were a barrier to crossing Milwaukee. Photo: Steven Vance
As of early November, the two bus islands at Milwaukee/Racine were a barrier to crossing Milwaukee. Photo: Steven Vance

Milwaukee and Racine (1200 W.) avenues: On the northwest-bound side, the curb ramp to get down to the bike lane level has not been installed and it's not clear if that is part of the plan. Additionally, there is no path for a crosswalk along Racine across Milwaukee because the islands are blocking such a route. As shown in the above photo, a couple was walking their dog and went around one of the islands in the middle of the road. That's not a good situation, so Steven notified a CDOT staffer about the issue.

Loving this new barrier at Division. Right turning cars always encroached the lane here. pic.twitter.com/4M1mEjWUN2

— Jeremy @jgrantglover@urbanists.social (@JGrantGlover) November 4, 2022

Milwaukee and Division Street (1200 N.): The new curb between the northwest-bound mixed-traffic lane and the bike lane approaching Division Street is a nice addition.

Milwaukee and Washtenaw, looking northwest. Photo: Steven Vance
Milwaukee and Washtenaw, looking northwest. Photo: Steven Vance
Milwaukee and Washtenaw, looking northwest. Photo: Steven Vance

Milwaukee and Maplewood Avenue (2530 W.): Here the bike lane rises a bit to meet up with the sidewalk and bus island level, essentially making the crossing from the sidewalk to the island a raised crosswalk. According to a CDOT staffer, this more pedestrian-friendly layout was implemented here because there was more lead time for the design. The other islands, which are less convenient for people on foot or in wheelchairs, and less aesthetically pleasing, Steven is referring to as "discount models."

A few more thoughts from Steven

    • "The bus stops at Noble (1400 W.) and Division streets are too close together."
    • "Going southeast, there's no protection for bike riders between Noble and Augusta Avenue (1000 N.), which is inexplicable."
    • "Going southeast between Elston and Chicago Avenue (800 N.) there is no protection or barrier to keep pickup and delivery drivers from parking in the bike lane."
    • "Generally the quality of construction detours and signage was pretty bad north of Augusta. There was a sign that said 'Bike Lane Closed Ahead' and a sign that said 'Share the Road,' but there was no indication as to where a bicyclist should merge into the travel lane. If you didn’t merge at the right time, then you were going to encounter a pile of rocks."
The "pile of rocks" at Milwaukee/Noble Steven was referring to. Photo: Steven Vance
A "pile of rocks" at Milwaukee/Noble, looking northwest. Photo: Steven Vance
The "pile of rocks" at Milwaukee/Noble Steven was referring to. Photo: Steven Vance

What do you think of the new concrete infrastructure? Tell us in the comments.

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