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Protected Bike Lanes

A sneak peek at the new Clark Street protected lanes between Montrose and Irving Park

It appears people on bikes can look forward to a more relaxing, protected ride on this stretch of Clark, maybe as early as next week.

A partially completed concrete-protected bike lanes on the west side of Clark, just north of Irving Park. Photo: John Greenfield

This piece incorporates earlier Streetsblog reporting by Courtney Cobbs.

Although the surprise snowstorm on Halloween Tuesday suggested that the Chicago Department of Transportation's bikeway construction season has ended, during Thursday's nice weather I saw that's not the case. Yesterday afternoon workers were building the new concrete-protected bike lanes on Clark Street between Montrose Avenue (4400 N.) and Irving Park Road (4000 N.) That's on the border of the Lakeview and Uptown community areas, next to historic Graceland Cemetery.

CDOT has previously noted that the project, which is taking place on the border of the 46th and 47th wards, is a Complete Streets redesign that will make conditions safer for all road users. Department staffers once observed that 1,600 out of 13,000 drivers during a 24-hour period on this stretch were speeding, with a top recorded speed of 55 mph.

Studies show that if a motorist strikes a vunerable road user at 40 mph the victim will almost certainly die. However, if the driver hits the pedestrian or bicyclist at 20 mph, the victim almost always survive. Data from a National Traffic Safety Board report.

That greatly increases the chances that if a driver strikes a person walking or biking, the victim will die. But it also makes it more likely that a motorist crash will result serious or fatal injuries. It addition to shielding cyclings and shortening crossing distances for pedestrians, protected lanes make a street appear narrower, calming traffic.

The plan for the project. Image: CDOT

To make way for the new curb-protected lanes, CDOT is stripping parking from the east side of Clark, by the cemetery. There are 100 car parking spaces along Clark between Irving Park and Montrose, but the department observed that fewer than 50 percent of the spots are used during a typical day. While charter buses have long been parked on the east side of Clark near Irving Park during Cubs games at Wrigley Field, located a few block south, the bus parking area is now being moved to Irving Park.

The project also includes bus-boarding islands, which will eliminate the need for bus drivers to pull over to the curb, prevent conflicts with bike riders and help speed bus service. The islands are being built at Cullom (4300 N.) and Belle Plaine (4200 N.) avenues. There will also be a designated standing zone for the #9 Ashland bus just south of Belle Plaine, the northern terminus of the route.

A crew working on the east side of Clark Thursday afternoon. Photo: John Greenfield

When I passed by yesterday afternoon, the work seemed to be going nicely. The crew was working on the east side of Clark near Berteau, possibly building the bus facilities.

New curbside bike lane protection on the west side of Clark south of Berteau. Photo: John Greenfield

And the concrete-protected bike lane on the west side of Clark near Irving Park appeared to be almost ready to ride. The pavement next to the sidewalk curb is a little messy right now, but I assume that will be cleaned up soon.

Josh Hehner noted on Twitter that as part of this project, CDOT has removed the much-hated pedestrian-and-bike island at Clark/Berteau, the eastern terminus of the Berteau Greenway side street bike route, installed a decade ago. "Passed this on my way to work this morning and got a HUGE smile when I saw the cement median just north of Southport was gone!" he wrote.

The recently-removed pedestrian-and-bike island at the east end of the Berteau Greenway. Image: Google Maps

"Yeah, let's chalk that island down as a rare example of Chicago bike-ped infrastructure that was well-intended, installed as part of the otherwise-great Berteau Greenway project," I replied. "But [it] did more harm than good by squeezing bike riders on Clark between vehicles and the curb."

"Not to mention the always-reappearing sinkhole," Hehner responded. "God I hated that stretch."

While, last I checked, that sinkhole on the east side of the island had been repaired, removing that structure will give bike riders a little more breathing room. And it appears people on bikes can look forward to a more relaxing protected ride on this stretch of Clark, maybe as early as next week.

The concept for protected lanes on Clark north of Montrose. Image: City of Chicago

Moreover, as part of Clark Street Crossroads study for the corridor between Montrose and Foster (5200 N.) avenues in Uptown, the city may choose to extend the protected lanes north to Andersonville. That would also involve converting some car parking spaces to bikeways. That is, if the car-centric folks at the anonymous Uptown Update neighborhood news website don't succeed in pouring water on that idea.

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