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Thanks for the Damen bike lane CDOT, but umm…

Moving the southbound painted bike lane on Damen between Elston and Fullerton east of the lane for west-turning car drivers would make conditions safer for all road users.

Looking south on Damen at Elston. A driver turning right on red from Elston onto Damen blocks the bike lane. Photo: Julie Shermin

My almost daily cycling trip on Damen Avenue (2000 W.) has me at times frustrated and concerned. While I am happy to see the green painted bike lanes from Diversey Avenue (2800 N.) to Fullerton Avenue (2400 N.), there are some points on the course that  demand improvement. 

These are from my observation and use of the bike lane south bound coming to the Elston/Fullerton area. From Elston, drivers legally turning right on red often block the bike lane. Once the southbound light on Damen at Elston changes to green, there is nowhere for cyclists to safely advance.

That's especially true when all the right hand lane cars are sitting waiting for other southbound bike riders to clear Fullerton. As we approach Fullerton, a short distance from the Damen/Elston intersection, cyclists are asked to stay to the right of drivers who are almost all turning right from Damen onto Fullerton. For all road users it gets confusing and dangerous as cars straddle the bike lane or swerve in front of cyclists to make that right turn. This short-yet-congested stretch is a tragic crash waiting to happen. 

Let me suggest an easy solution that only needs some paint to make this passage safer.

Aerial view of the Fullerton/Damen/Elston intersection. Image: Google Maps

Going southbound on Damen at the Elston intersection, the bike lane should feature a painted bike box (similar what exists at Damen/North/Milwaukee in Wicker Park) so bike riders can get a little ahead of the stopped drivers. And the painted green bike lane needs to shift to between the left and right lanes, so that the vast majority of southbound drivers who are turning right onto Fullerton don’t get in conflicts with the cyclists and keep traffic flowing. Make the right hand lane a turn-only lane because drivers continuing south have to move left anyway due to the parking lane on Damen south of Fullerton.

Many cyclists are already riding between the drivers because it’s safer than trying to play dodgeball or the “do you see me” game for the right-turners. Cars turning from Elston southbound onto Damen would minimize interference with the bike lane and cyclists could easily continue south bound on Damen where the bike lane begins again between the mixed-traffic lane and the parking lane. 

This easy to make change would improve conditions for all road users and reduce the risk of a right-turning driver clipping a cyclist. It’s a bad intersection that can easily be made safer. 

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