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Open house on proposed new Milwaukee PBLs on 6/26, “Small but loud anti-bike crowd have been raising hell”

There's no excuse for not building protected more bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue in order to prevent future fatalities.

4:39 PM CDT on June 21, 2023

Riding in the protected bike lane on Milwaukee east of California Avenue in Logan Square. Photo: John Greenfield

Milwaukee Avenue is Chicago's busiest biking street, but sadly this shortcut between the Northwest Side and the Loop is also one of the city's worst corridors for bike fatalities. At least six cyclists have been killed there in the past two decades. But only a relatively small portion of the lengthy corridor has protected bike lanes to help shield bike riders from traffic and prevent more tragedy.

The Chicago Department of Transportation is planning on improving the situation somewhat in Ald. Scott Waguespack's 32nd Ward, with new concrete curb-protected lanes on Milwaukee between North/Damen avenues and Western avenues. That's about a mile-long stretch in West Town and Logan Square, which would meet up with existing protected lanes between Western and California avenues in the 1st Ward.

The stretch of Milwaukee between North/Damen and Western that would get protected lanes. Image: Google Docs

If the plan goes through, roughly a mile of Milwaukee in Wicker Park south of North would still lack protection. But the avenue basically has protected lanes for its entire length between Division Street and its southern terminus at Kinzie Street and Milwaukee Avenue. The new protected lanes, which would be part of a repaving project planned for later this year, would also provide access to the Bloomingdale Trail, AKA The 606, near Leavitt Street.

CDOT is holding an open house about the new protected lane plan next Monday, June 26 from 6-8 PM at the Wicker Park Bucktown Library, 1701 N Milwaukee Ave. "The intent is to augment the capacity for all Chicagoans to feel safe and comfortable riding their bike on this important bike route," said a flier for the event. "This improvement would extend protected bike lanes currently
located north and south of this segment."

Flier for the upcoming open house.

"We want your input! Learn more about the plans and provide input on safety, parking, maintenance, and how best to improve this vital corridor," CDOT added. The flier stated that if you can't attend the open house, you can sign up for additional info on the project from Waguespack's office at info@ward32.org. CDOT did not immediately respond to a request for details about the bike lane plan.

However, the alderman did get back in touch with us about the project today. "The concept calls for concrete curb separated lanes and will necessitate the removal of on-street parking on one side of the street," he said. "[I] requested that CDOT hold a public open house... prior to finalizing the plans so that businesses along this corridor and nearby residents could learn more about the proposal, ask questions, and raise any concerns."

Recently installed concrete protection for the Milwaukee bike lanes (also an island bus stop) at Racine Street, where art student Lisa Kuivanen, 20, was killed while cycling in August 2016.

That's where some trouble could come up, according to the advocacy group Chicago Family Biking. "We've gotten word that the small but loud anti bike crowd have been raising hell on this one," they tweeted yesterday. "It's important that our [government] leaders know this is important!!" Cofounder Rebecca Resman confirmed this info to Streetsblog.

Chicago Family Biking is urging supporters of the new protected lanes to come to the open house, email info@ward32.org to voice support, and spread the word about why the project in important to other residents.

There was also some backlash to the 1st Ward protected lane installation, which also involved converting some car parking to create safer biking conditions. But, especially on a stretch like North/Damen to Western, which sees limited car parking spot use, there's no excuse for not building protected more bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue in order to prevent future fatalities.

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