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CDOT is extending Avondale’s popular Belmont protected bike lanes west to Milwaukee

New PBLs, crosswalks, sidewalk extensions, and island bus stops will be installed on a 0.6-mile stretch of Belmont between Milwaukee and Kimball.

The 3700 block of West Belmont in Avondale. This week’s Chicago Ride of Silence honoring fallen cyclists was followed by a social gather at Sleeping Village tavern. It’s part of the streth that will get protected bike lanes this summer. Image: Google Maps

This post is sponsored by Boulevard Bikes.

Update 5/20/24, 1:30 PM: The Chicago Department of Transportation has posted a "Belmont Avenue: Milwaukee to Kimball" project page with a pdf of Thursday's Belmont Avenue presentation. (Scroll down to Events, then click on Community Meeting: May 16, 2024, then Meeting Presentation.) We've added some renderings to this post.

On Thursday, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Ald. Ruth Cruz (30th), and Ald. Carlos Rosa (35th) hosted an online discussion of planned walk/bike/transit upgrades on Belmont Avenue (3200 N.) in Avondale.

Flier for the meeting. Image: CDOT

Last year CDOT installed concrete protected bike lanes and other amenities on Belmont for 1.25 miles between the eponymous Blue Line station at Kimball Avenue (3400 W.) and Western Avenue (2400 W.) The current plan, dubbed the Belmont Avenue Arterial Resurfacing and Complete Streets Project, is to expand the improvements 0.6 miles further west from Kimball to Milwaukee Avenue (3840 W.)

A concrete-protected bike lane on Belmont at Kedzie Avenue (3200 W.), between Metra's Union Pacific NorthWest line and the Kennedy Expressway . Photo: CDOT

"As you all have seen, the surge in ridership across Chicago has been increasing, especially among young people," Cruz said at the beginning of the online meeting. According to a recent CDOT analysis, bicycling rose by 119 percent from autumn 2019 and spring 2023, the greatest increase of any of the ten largest U.S. cities.

Image: CDOT

"And as ridership grows, we need to continue to prioritize safety," Cruz added. "Alderman Carlos Rosa and I encourage and support this trend. It is a responsibility we take very seriously."

The need for safer conditions for cycing was made more obvious in Cruz's ward last October, when a driver fatally struck Joshua Anleu Buendia, 16 while he was biking at Waveland (3700 N.) and Long (5400 W.) avenues. The alder spoke at the ceremony for the installation of his white-panted "ghost bike" memorial.

Joshua's mother Karen Buendia speaks at his memorial ceremony last November. Photo: Cameron Bolton

CDOT Complete Streets Director David Smith was there to walk attendees through the project, which is slated to begin early this summer. A number of safety measures are planned.

The plan at Milwaukee (3840 W.), including a (non-camera-enforced) westbound bike/bus lane on the north side of Belmont, and a concrete-protected eastbound bike lane on the south side.

This stretch currently has rush hour parking bans, which allows drivers to use the curb lane as a de-facto travel lane, encouraging speeding. Under the new street design, curbside parking will be permitted at all times, and the travel lanes will become narrower, which will help calm traffic.

The plan at Ridgeway (3730 W.) with car parking on the north side of Belmont converted to a concrete-protected westbound bike lane. There will be a parking-and-concrete-protected eastbound bike lane, plus a short raised bike lane / bus boarding island, on the south side.

There will be new crosswalks at Hamlin (3800 W.), Ridgeway (3730 W.), and St. Louis (3500 W.) avenues, with curb ramps for wheelchair users. This stretch of Belmont will also get sidewalk extensions to shorten pedestrian crossing distances.

The plan at St. Louis (3500 W.), with car parking on the north side of the street and a westbound parking-and-concrete-protected bike lane, plus a combination raised bike lane / island bus stop. The eastbound bike lane on the south side of the street will be partially concrete-protected.

The existing protected bike lanes on Belmont will be extended from Kimball to Milwaukee.

The plan at Kimball (3400 W.), by the Belmont Blue Line station. The westbound bike lane on the north side of Belmont will be semi-concrete protected. On the south side of the street there will be a (non-camera-enforced) bus/bike lane.

Smith said bus travel will be improved as well. As with Belmont east of Kimball, there will be island bus stops, which allow bus operators to pick up passengers without pulling out of the travel lane, shortening transit travel times.

An island bus stop, which doubles as bike lane protection, on Belmont east of Kimball. Photo: CDOT

"What we’ve seen [on Belmont] east of Kimball is that it’s working. It’s making the street safer," Smith said. "It’s making the street more accessible."

However, Smith noted that on Belmont west of Kimball, it's currently a different story. "From a traffic safety data standpoint, it’s very clear that we need to do something." Kimball-to-Milwaukee is a high crash corridor, he noted, with 423 crashes over the past five years. That’s a 72 percent higher crash rate than Belmont's citywide average. People walking and biking on Belmont between Milwaukee and Kimball are involved in only 8 percent of all crashes here, but 38 percent of all injury crashes, and a troubling 57 percent of all serious injury collision. In addition, CDOT counted 590 speeding drivers on this stretch of Belmont in a single day.

"The reason we’re really intensely focused on this is because speeding is such a critical issue when it comes to the safety of our families and our friends," Smith noted. "For an individual outside of a vehicle who’s hit at 20 mph, you have a 90 percent chance of survival, whereas if you're hit at 40 mph, you have about an 80 percent chance of being killed."

Image: CDOT

Smith said the project is aligned with the Avondale Neighborhood Plan, a collaboration between the Avondale Neighborhood Association, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and the Chicago Department of Planning. One of his slides described the initiative as “A vision for Avondale to become a more livable, walkable, and resilient community."

"Everything we’re talking about here is really reflective of the traffic safety issues that we see out there, that we hear, that you experience every day," Smith said. “It’s reflective of the recommendations from the Avondale Neighborhood Plan. It’s really focused on addressing dangerous speeding and making sure that the street is more organized and predictable for everybody, trough the prioritization of those that are most vulnerable: people walking, people biking, people getting into transit. Children, families, senior citizens, people with disabilities. So, this really embodies what we are talking about when we say 'Complete Streets.'"

"We really thank CDOT for all of their work on this,” said Ald. Rosa at the end of the meeting. "And we really thank all of tonight’s attendees. You care about our city, you care about the community, and it’s active residents that are at the heart of all of the wonderful things that we’re able to accomplish together."

View the "Belmont Avenue: Milwaukee to Kimball" project page here.

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