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Dickens Greenway

Great expectations: Dozens of riders turned out for Bike Jam to support controversial Dickens Greenway

And the old, fear-mongering anti-greenway website Friends of Dickens has been transformed into Friends of the Dickens Greenway.

The Bike Jam gathers at the traffic diverter plaza at Dickens Avenue and Stockton Drive. Image: Chicago, Bike Grid Now!

This post is sponsored by Keating Law Offices.

Streetsblog Chicago has written at length about the brouhaha over the Dickens Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (DANG) in affluent Lincoln Park. The Chicago Department of Transportation, local alderpersons, and bike advocates faced 4.5 years of ridiculous Not In My Back Yard opposition from some neighbors, but the pedestrian and bike safety project finally debuted in January.

The 1.4-mile route runs between Clybourn Avenue and the Lincoln Park Zoo. It includes a "contraflow" bike lane that allows two-way travel on the largely one-way westbound street, providing a handy, low-stress cycling link between the Bloomingdale Trail and the Lakefront Trail. Changes to make walking safer include sidewalk bump-outs, raised crosswalks, bike-friendly speed humps, and lowering the speed limit from 30 to 20 mph.

The DANG bike route. Image: CDOT

But some car-centric Lincoln Parkers hate the changes. SBC has done a deep-dive into local attorney Edward C. Fitzpatrick's rather obsessive efforts to kill the initiative. We ran a two-part series on good, bad, and ugly coverage of the bikeway published by NBC Chicago and the Chicago Tribune.

And in late January a few cranks protested the Churros and Chill bike ride to the greenway's traffic diverter plaza near the zoo. A couple of them held signs reading things like "Bike Lanes Are Elitist." That's a little ironic in Lincoln Park, where the median household income is about twice the city's average.

Protesters at the Churros and Chill Ride. Here's an explanation on of why requiring a bicycle "liscense" (SIC) is a bad idea. Photo: John Greenfield

But maybe the most impressive show of support for the new bike-ped-friendly corridor since it opened was the recent Dickens Greenway edition of the regular "Bike Jam" series hosted by the advocacy group Chicago, Bike Grid Now! The ride assembled last Wednesday, February 21 at 5:30 p.m. at the traffic diverter plaza at Dickens Avenue and Stockton Drive. According to Bike Grid cofounder Rony Islam, about 70 people showed up.

The Bike Jam heads west on Dickens. Photo: Chicago, Bike Grid Now!

The ride traveled west on Dickens to Oz Park, and then returned to the plaza via Armitage Avenue, a block south, and completed this loop twice. This highlighted why, while Armitage has non-protected "door zone" bike lanes, Dickens is a now a much safer and more comfortable two-way cycling route, especially for what bikeway planners call "Interested but Concerned" riders.

"A Bike Jam... is a rolling protest that calls attention for safe streets in Chicago," Islam explained. "Two years ago, after Lincoln Park neighbors requested an action, we hosted a bike jam on Dickens because of the lack of movement on the greenway project which kept getting delayed. We returned after the installation was complete to applaud the progress made in the neighborhood and also highlight how much more needed to be done, both in Lincoln Park, but more importantly, across the entire city."

The invite for the ride, posted on social media.

"As long as we approach street safety in a piecemeal way, the safety improvements to our city will only be marginal," Islam added. "Chicago needs a network of connected, safe, and slow residential streets that prioritize people who are walking and rolling."

In Chicago bikeways are typically only installed in wards where the alderperson happens to be bike-friendly.

Islam said the great turnout was despite the fact Bike Grid only announced the event 24 hours in advance. "This highlights how much desire there is for safe streets and how willing people are to come out and support it. Our elected officials have and should continue to take notice of that because these [Bike Jam riders] are their constituents and safe street policy and action is top of mind during elections."

Islam concluded by reporting that during the Bike Jam several onlookers asked ride marshals and organizers what the riders were doing. "They were also incredibly supportive. As we always say, a majority of motorists, pedestrians, and transit riders want safe streets too. It is our city's responsibility to give people safe access to mobility options that don't saddle them with auto loans, insurance payments, the cost of gas, and the deadly consequences of traffic crashes."

Were there any protesters this time? "No response, but someone did call the police beforehand." Ah, NIMBYs are gonna NIMBY!

You can learn more about the Dickens Greenway at the new website Friends of Dickens Greenway. The website URL,, formerly hosted an anonymous, fear-mongering anti-greenway website called Friends of Dickens that warned "Stop a Dangerous Plan Before It's Too Late". (View the old site here.)

Screenshot of the old Friends of Dickens website.

Hilariously, the web address was recently taken over by bike advocates, and the site is now pro-greenway.

Screenshot of the new Friends of Dickens website. (SBC granted permission to use one of our photos of the Churros and Chill Ride.)

Now just think of how much great use the Dickens Greenway will get when nice spring weather sets in. Although 72F on February 26 in Chicago is pretty pleasant for biking as well!

Does today's balmy Windy City weather make you concerned about global warming? It's reassuring that building infrastructure like the Dickens Greenway that helps make walking and biking safer and more pleasant alternatives to driving is one of the most effective ways we can fight climate change.

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