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Work has finally started to make Clark in Edgewater truly bikeable

The start of the construction work on the southbound lanes on the west side of Clark. Photo: John Greenfield

Update 12/7/22, 8:15 PM: This evening Ald. Vasquez tweeted out a new video of the corridor showing workers building the concrete curbs. He also said the City Council's transportation committee will discuss his proposed ordinance to allow towing of bike lane blockers during its meeting on Thursday at 11:00 AM. Streetsblog Chicago will cover the hearing.

More @clarkstbikelane updates and we have the Bike Lane Tow Ordinance on the agenda in the Committee on Transportation tomorrow at 11am! Check it out! #safestreets #bikegridnow #40thWard #WeDoThis pic.twitter.com/BMWQMAUhSz

— Ald. Andre Vasquez, Political Account 🌹 (@Andrefor40th) December 8, 2022

There's reason to be optimistic that the Clark Street protected bike lanes in Edgewater, previously one of Chicago's most disappointing bikeway projects, may finally live up to their potential to be a safe, comfortable cycling route, with perks for pedestrians and bus riders as well.

The Chicago Department of Transportation originally installed the bike lanes in summer of 2020 on Clark Street between Hollywood Avenue (5700 North) and Devon Street (6400 North.) But the bikeways, which are delineated with flexible plastic posts, have been only semi-functional, because drivers constantly park in them.

A car parked in a flexi-post delineated bike lane on Clark this evening. Photo: John Greenfield
A car parked in a flexi-post delineated bike lane on Clark this evening. Photo: John Greenfield
A car parked in a flexi-post delineated bike lane on Clark this evening. Photo: John Greenfield

In December 2021, the sustainable transportation advocacy group Better Streets Chicago launched an email campaign that resulted in more than 200 letters being sent to CDOT and local aldermen Andre Vazquez (40th) and Harry Osterman (48th), asking them to fix the lanes. Not long after that, Vasquez announced that the transportation department had agreed to add more of the flexi-posts in the short term, and install concrete curb protection and bus boarding islands later on.

A year later, that promise is coming to fruition, as CDOT crews have been cutting up the west side of the street in preparation for installing the new infrastructure, with the work slated for completion sometime next year, according to a department spokesperson. Vasquez celebrated the milestone in a widely-shared tweet, later adding that the southbound lanes should be completed this month.

Here in the #40thWard, we walk the talk! Check out the @clarkstbikelane work in progress! Protected bike lanes, anyone? pic.twitter.com/2HYmLhUwgA

— Ald. Andre Vasquez, Political Account 🌹 (@Andrefor40th) December 5, 2022

CDOT previously presented the new design elements at a community meeting. In addition to concrete curbs to help protected bike riders, new crosswalks and pedestrian islands will be installed.

The bus boarding island (green circles) and pedestrian island (red square) locations. Image: CDOT
The bus boarding island (green circles) and pedestrian island (red square) locations. Image: CDOT
The bus boarding island (green circles) and pedestrian island (red square) locations. Image: CDOT

Nine new concrete bus boarding islands will prevent bus drivers from cutting off people on bikes when picking up passengers, stop drivers from illegally parking in bus stops, and help buses drivers operate more efficiently, because they won't have to leave the travel lane for pickups. In addition, a short stretch of southbound bus lane will be installed between Ridge (5930 N.) and Glenlake (6100 N.) avenues.

Image: CDOT
Click to enlarge. Image: CDOT
Image: CDOT

Private car drivers will still generally get access to two travel lanes in each direction, but the new street layout will better organize the street. And hopefully the concrete curbs will do a better job of keeping drivers out of the bike lanes than the flimsy bollards currently are.

The southbound bike lanes are largely impassible right now. Photo: John Greenfield
The southbound bike lanes are largely impassible right now. Photo: John Greenfield
The southbound bike lanes are largely impassible right now. Photo: John Greenfield

One caveat is that southbound Clark is fairly unbikeable right now in the project area, and northbound will be soon as well. While the work is going on, you can detour two blocks east to the Glenwood Avenue Greenway (1400 W.), or two blocks west to Ravenswood Avenue (1800 W.)

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