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Protected Bike Lanes

Patience is a virtue: Parking situation on Clark PBLs between Montrose and Berteau is a hassle right now, but will soon improve

It appears that in the future we can expect 3-D infrastructure, not just paint, any time CDOT says they're installing protected bike lanes.

9:23 PM CST on November 27, 2023

The car-clogged, but only partially completed, protected bike lanes on Clark Street at Pensacola Avenue (4330 N.) last week, looking south. Photo: John Greenfield

As I discussed earlier this month, the upcoming concrete-protected bike lanes on Clark Street between Montrose Avenue (4400 N.) and Irving Park Road (4000 N.) are on-deck to make the stretch one of Chicago's hottest new bikeways. Granted, it will be a short one at only half a mile, although there's talk of extending it a mile further north to Foster Avenue (5200 N.) as part of the Clark Street Crossroads Plan.

Read this post for the nitty gritty (as far as had been made public by then) on what the current Clark PBL project involves. In brief, the Chicago department of Transportation is converting the little-used car parking spaces on the east side of Clark next to Graceland Cemetery for the initiative. Wrigley Field charter bus parking are being relocated to Irving Park, and bus islands and a bus standing zone are being added.

The plan for the project. Image: CDOT

Last time I wrote about the initiative on November 8, CDOT was installing concrete-protected and/or raised bike lanes lanes on both sides of Clark between Irving Park and Berteau Avenue (4200 N.) CDOT was about to repave the northern half of the corridor, but it wasn't clear exactly what protected bike lane design was planned that section.

Concrete protection on the west side of Clark near Irving Park, looking south. Photo: John Greenfield

After the fresh pavement was in, by November 18 CDOT had striped the new curbside parking-protected bike lanes north of Berteau. But there wasn't any physical protection yet, and drivers were confused about where they were supposed to park. They often used the new curbside bike lanes instead of using the parking lanes marked to the left of the bikeways, which helps prevent protect people on bicycles from moving traffic.

Incorrectly parked cars on Clark at Hutchinson Street (4230 N.) last week. Photo: John Greenfield

Soon after those lanes were striped, Twitter user @Viktorinho captured how dysfunctional the lanes were in the video below. As things stood, it definitely wasn't a particularly safe or pleasant bike route.

But it was important to remember that the protected lanes weren't completely finished yet. I guessed they would eventually get flexible plastic posts, concrete curbs, concrete end caps, and/or pedestrian islands that would make it obvious to drivers that they shouldn't park in the bikeways, and make it more difficult to do so.

Belmont (3200 N. and Albany (3100 W.) avenues after PBLs were installed, looking west. The new layout also makes crossing the street safer for people on foot. Photo: John Greenfield

That was how things were done this year on popular new protected lanes like Belmont Avenue in Avondale, and seems to be how CDOT will generally be building PBLs in the future. But I didn't want to make any assumptions, so I asked for confirmation from CDOT and local alderperson Matt Martin (47th), who has spearheaded the project. (It's also located in recently-elected alder Angela Clay's 46th Ward.)

Riding on one of the new Augusta protected bike lanes in West Town earlier this month. Photo: John Greenfield

Unsurprisingly I didn't get any responses during the short work week before Thanksgiving. But today I heard back from Martin's chief of staff Josh Mark, after he double-checked my question with CDOT Complete Streets manager David Smith.

One of the recently completed Kedzie Avenue (3200 W.) protected bike lanes in Logan Square.

"Confirmed, bollards and precast concrete," Mark texted me. He indicated that he was referring to flexi-posts and ready-made concrete curbs. "It's all the same as on Augusta and Kedzie."

Well there you have it, Streetsblog readers. The northern half of the new Clark protected bike lanes will be getting additional protection in the near future, and will surely become safer and more orderly after that. And it appears that in the future we can expect 3-D infrastructure, not just paint, any time CDOT says it's installing PBLS.

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