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Protected Bike Lanes

Eyes on the Street: Milwaukee Avenue protected lanes are taking shape in Bucktown

Streetsblog's Steven Vance checked out the latest developments on Milwaukee earlier this week.

Combination sidewalk extension and raised bike lane on the west side of Milwaukee Avenue, looking southwest towards Moffat Street. Photo: Steven Vance

This post is sponsored by Boulevard Bikes.

When it comes to building a citywide, connected, protected bike lane network, Chicago is falling behind bike-friendly peer cities like [checks notes] New York? (More on that next week.)

That said, this has been a pretty good year for PBL construction in our city. Scroll down to the bottom of the Chicago's Bike Network webpage for a spread sheet detailing where dozens of miles of bikeways, many of them physically protected, have been installed this year.

That's thanks in part to former mayor Lori Lightfoot's update of the Chicago Works infrastructure plan last year, which included $238M for Complete Streets traffic safety projects. And this afternoon ex-Uptown alderperson James Cappleman floated the interesting idea of creating a citywide fund dedicated to building PBLs.

That would further relieve pressure for alders to use discretionary ward "menu" funds to pay for the new infrastructure. That's a big reason why local PBLs tend to only be built in districts with representatves who are progressive on transportation issues. "That would allow for greater ease with extending the routes further," Cappleman noted.

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

As things stand, however, it's worth giving the Chicago Department of Transportation a little credit for installing good biking (and walking and transit) infrastructure, even if the project runs for less than a mile. That's the case with the protected lanes, raised crosswalks, and bus islands currently under construction on Milwaukee Avenue between Armitage (2000 N.) and Western (2400 W.) avenues and North (1600 N.) and Damen (2000 W.) Avenues. However, it will connect with another sub-one-miles segment of plastic curb-and-bollard- and/or parking-protected lanes on Milwaukee from Western to California (2800 W.) avenues. 

Bus platform in front of the ALDI on the east side of Milwaukee, east of Leavitt Street (2200 W.), looking southeast. Photo: Steven Vance

The speed limit is also being lowered from our city's current default 30 mph to 20 mph. That's a change that more than doubles the likelihood of survival for a person struck by a driver .

Curb extension at Wabansia Avenue (1700 N.) and Hoyne Street (2100 W.), just south of the Wicker Park-Bucktown Libary, looking southeast on Milwaukee. Photo: Steven Vance

This initiative, which is being done as part of a street resurfacing project is a step towards CDOT’s Chicago Cycling Strategy, which includes an uninterrupted low-stress biking route on all of Milwaukee. That is, from the northern city limits at Devon (6400 W.) and Nagle (6400 W.) avenues to the Milwaukee's southern terminus at Desplaines (630 W.) and Kinzie Avenue (400 N.) in the West Loop.

A mid-block northbound bus stop island with a raised bike lane section on the east side of Milwaukee north of Concord Place, looking northwest. (1630 N.) Photo: Steven Vance

Streetsblog's Steven Vance checked out the latest developments on Milwaukee earlier this week. Note that the street was still torn up for resurfacing, but eventually the bike lanes will be curbside and largely protected by concrete curbs, plastic bollards, and/or parked cars, with some short raised sections.

But the concrete sidewalk extensions seem to be largely complete. "It seems like an improvement," Steven said. "Not wholesale, though. I think I can see water pooling spots since the grade of the road didn’t change except where there’s new concrete, and it appears that many utilities (namely drains) didn’t get moved."

But hey, when it comes to street design, Steven's kind of like Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials. If he likes something at all, most of us will probably be satisfied too.

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