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Protected Bike Lanes

Check it out: Now it’s safer to get on and off the 312 RiverRun from Belmont Avenue

One of the coolest new things on the on-street route is the treatment of Belmont near and over the Chicago River, by the southern trailhead of the north-south path.

Riding west on the Belmont protected lanes, approaching the river and the south entrance of the 312 RiverRun. Photo: John Greenfield

This post is sponsored by Ride Illinois.

If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend checking our the new Belmont Avenue (3200 N.) protected bike lanes in the Avondale community in the 33rd and 35th wards. The PBLs run about a mile between the Belmont Blue Line station at Kimball Avenue (3400 W.) and the Campbell Avenue protected lanes (2500 W.)

The Belmont protected bike lane corridor, plus other bike routes in green. Image: Google Maps

As Streetsblog's Sharon Hoyer noted in an August 30 post, the Belmont lanes are a "game changer" because they make what used to be a fairly bike-hostile street a much more comfortable place to ride. That's due to the bikeways being moved curbside, with protection from moving traffic via parked cars, flexible posts, and lots of concrete curbs and islands near intersection.

Belmont and Albany Avenue, looking west. The new layout also makes crossing the street safer for people on foot. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation also found some clever solutions making it more safer and less stressful to get ride under the Metra Union Pacific Northwest Line and past Kennedy Expressway access ramps. And the Belmont lanes connect with several north-south bikeways, a few of them protected or off-street routes, spaced every two blocks.

Belmont near Kedzie, looking west last Friday. Curb protection makes getting past the Metra Union Pacific Northwest Line (right) and the Kennedy Expressway safer. Photo: John Greenfield

Last Friday I rode Belmont for the first time since Sharon's article came out, and it seems like it's even better now. I saw a lot more concrete, bollards, and green paint highlighting the bike route then, although the lanes still weren't 100 percent complete.

A crew paints a protected lane on Avondale Avenue, a northwest-southeast diagonal route next to the Kennedy Expressway that now serves as a shortcut between the eastbound Belmont PBL and the north-south Kedzie Avenue (3200 W.) protected lanes, last Friday. Photo: John Greenfield

One of the coolest new things I saw was the treatment of the section of Bemont near and over the Chicago River, by the southern trailhead of the 312 RiverRun. That trail runs 1.5 miles through parks to Montrose avenue (4400 N.)

The Belmont pedestrian crossing at Rockwell just west of the river as it appeared in September 2022, before the bike lanes and pedestrian island were installed, looking west. Image: Google Maps

Previously it was always a little sketchy to cross Belmont when heading to or from Rockwell Avenue (2600 W.) to the south. It was hard to find a gap in the de-facto four lane road traffic, and to see drivers coming from the bridge, located just east of Rockwell. It also made it tricky to access the RiverRun from the west.

The new pedestrian island at Belmont/Rockwell. Photo: John Greenfield

The protected lanes narrow the street, calming traffic. On Friday CDOT crews were installing new Qwick Kurb plastic curbs and bollards to protect the lanes on the bridge. (Yes, they're not as durable as concrete, but the department says concrete isn't an option for some bridges.) Best of all, there's a new pedestrian island at Rockwell. That allows you to cross one lane of traffic when there's a gap in drivers, safely wait on the island for another opportunity, and then cross the second lane. There are are also curb cuts near the trail and Rockwell to make it easier to transfer from the sidewalk to the street.

Heading south at the south trailhead of the RiverRun to Belmont Avenue, west on Belmont to the Rockwell Avenue pedestrian island, and crossing Belmont.

Check out the virtual ride from the RiverRun to Rockwell in the video above, and let us know what you think of the setup in the comments.

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