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Fifth and Final Day of SBC’s Bike Lane Week: Near Northwest Side, Far West Side, Near West Side, Near North Side

I have ridden a heck of a lot of bike lanes, and had the pleasure of visiting many of our city's diverse neighborhoods.

9:56 PM CST on December 8, 2023

Upgraded PBLs on Jackson in Columbus Park, looking east. Photo: John Greenfield

This post is sponsored by The Bike Lane.

Check out Day One: Mid-South Side here.

Check out Day Two: Far Southwest Side here.

Check out Day Three: Near Southwest and Near South Side here.

Check out Day Four: Mid-North Side here.

I'm a cowboy
On a steel horse I ride...
I've been everywhere, still I'm standing tall (OK, about 5'8")
I've seen a million bikeways, and I've biked them all

With apologies to Jon Bon Jovi, I have ridden a heck of a lot of bike lanes, and had the pleasure of visiting many of our city's diverse neighborhoods, for Streetsblog Chicago's Bike Lane Week, which wrapped up this evening. Below is SBC's map of 2023 finished and underway projects.

My goal was to stop by every bikeway the Chicago Department of Transportation has built in 2023, or is currently constructing, that SBC hasn't really covered yet. (If you don't see a project you're curious about below or on one of the four other Bike Lane Week posts, Streetsblog probably previously wrote about it, so do a Google search or write me at jgreenfield[at]streetsblog[dot]org and I'll send you a link to the story.) I didn't ride the entire length of every route, but I think I got a decent sense of what shape they are in.

This excerpt from Streetsblog's map of all 2023 Chicago bikeway projects basically shows all the bike routes I visited today (a few of these, like curb upgrades to downtown PBLS, SBC had already covered, so I didn't visit them today.) Check out CDOT's new map of all bikeways installed in Chicago in the modern era to the existing routes these new bikeways connect with.

I covered a lot of territory today, so I'll keep things concise. However Streetsblog may do some deeper dives into some of these projects in the future. Here's an interactive map of the 37.6-mile route I took from Uptown and back today. Feel free to use this map to visit some of these bikeways yourself. But keep in mind that a few of the non-bikeway streets are not particularly bike-friendly, and therefore only suitable for so-called "strong and fearless" riders. (I worked as a bike messenger in Chicago for years, so heavy/fast motor vehicle traffic doesn't faze me much, although perhaps it should.)

Here are a few quick takeaways I have from this week's experience:

• CDOT bike and pedestrian project staffers, especially Complete Streets program manager David Smith deserve a tip of the helmet for the massive amount of bike lane mileage they created or improved this year. (I'm working on getting the exact numbers.) Do these people even sleep? Hopefully they've all got some kind of warm-weather vacation planned for late January or early February, when it's generally impossible to install bikeways in Chicago.

• That said, there's a bit of a quality-over-quantity issue at play. If we're going to invest in protected bike lanes, they need to be safe, pleasant to use, and difficult for motorists to misuse. We also need the routes to run for several miles between important and popular destinations, without safety gaps. As the old saying goes, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." When someone asks me for non-dangerous, lower-stress biking directions, I want to be able to give them something as simple as a Chicago driving route, not a complex stair-step of half-mile bikeway segments.

• CDOT should hire people who care about good bike lane maintenance, perhaps graduates of local youth bicycle ed programs, to remove trash, broken glass, snow, etc. from the many miles of protected lanes, ideally using bike-powered gear. For example, I've noticed recently fallen leaves sometimes gather in the new curb-protected lanes, which discourages use and makes it less safe.

We need better-maintained protected bike lanes than this.

Note that not all 2023 projects seem to be be fully completed yet. So let's have a little patience with CDOT if these bikeways are not currently perfect when we check them out. But not too much patience – if any of them are still only half-finished by next summer, let's make a fuss.

Without further ado, here's what I visited today. I shot all these photos and videos.

Non-protected bike lanes (NPBLs) on California in Logan Square

Non-protected bike lanes on California in Logan Square, looking south.

NPBLs on Armitage in Logan Square

NPBLs on Armitage in Logan Square, looking west.

NPBLs on Central Park in Logan Square

NPBLs on Central Park in Logan Square, looking north.

(Partially completed) protected bike lanes on Wrightwood in Hermosa

(Partially completed) protected bike lanes on Wrightwood in Hermosa, looking west.

PBLs on Laramie in Belmont Cragin (heading south)

Neighborhood Greenway (NG) on Lavergne in Austin

Neighborhood Greenway on Lavergne in Austin, looking south.

Upgraded PBLs on Lake in Austin.

Upgraded PBLs on Lake in Austin, looking west.

Neighborhood Greenway on Menard Avenue in Austin

Neighborhood Greenway on Menard Avenue in Austin, looking south.

New concrete protection on Homan PBL in Garfield Park

New concrete protection on Homan PBL in Garfield Park, looking north.

PBLc at the Garfield Park Conservatory

PBLs at the Garfield Park Conservatory, looking south.

PBLS on Independence and Douglas boulevards in North Lawndale

PBLs on Independence and Douglas boulevards in North Lawndale, looking south.

Upgraded PBLs on Lake in Garfield Park

PBLs on Lake in Garfield Park, looking east.

New PBLS on Grand in West Town

PBLs on Grand in West Town, looking northwest.

New PBLs on Polk in the Illinois Medical District

New PBLs on Polk in the Illinois Medical District, looking east.

New non-PBLs on Loomis on the Near West Side

New non-PBLs on Loomis on the Near West Side, looking south.

New PBLs on Blue Island on the Near West Side

New PBLs on on Blue Island on the Near West Side, looking southwest.

Concrete PBL upgrade on Jackson in the West Loop

Concrete PBL upgrade on Jackson in the West Loop, looking east.

New PBL on Dearborn in River North

New PBL on Dearborn in River North, looking north.

NPBL on Dearborn in Old Town

NPBL on Dearborn in Old Town, looking north

NG under construction on Dickens in Lincoln Park

NG under construction on Dickens in Lincoln Park, looking west.

PBLs on a block of Racine in Lincoln Park

PBLs on a block of Racine in Lincoln Park

Thanks for participating in Streetsblog Chicago's 2023 Chicago Bike Week by reading this, and be sure to check out some of these new routes yourself. Have you ridden any of them already? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Check out Day One: Mid-South Side here.

Check out Day Two: Far Southwest Side here.

Check out Day Three: Near Southwest and Near South Side here.

Check out Day Four: Mid-North Side here.

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