A variable message sign on Wells Street at Hubbard directs traffic to LaSalle Street. There was no sign directing bicyclists, which is odd because this route on June 26, 2012, saw 679 riders from 7-9 AM at Chicago Avenue.
The Wells Street bridge closed on Monday, November 5, to all traffic (the sidewalks were open in the morning) so that the bridge can be rebuilt; a new concrete deck will be constructed providing a safer surface for bicycling. The Chicago Department of Transportation estimates construction will finish by December 1, 2013. To reroute traffic, CDOT posted a map and plan showing different detour routes for different transportation modes: one each for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and bus operators.
Information on the street, however, doesn’t match the plan. People on bikes are directed by the map to turn left from Wells Street onto Kinzie Street and then use Clark Street to cross the river. Yet a variable message sign on Wells Street directs Wells Street traffic to use Illinois Street. One Grid Chicago reader told us that changing lanes on his bicycle, during morning rush hour, from the bike lane on Wells Street to make a left onto Kinzie Street was difficult because many drivers were not turning left onto Illinois Street; in the subsequent days he took Clark Street from the north but found traffic to be worse.
Once a bicyclist is on Kinzie Street, a sign before LaSalle street tells them to use Clark Street, but this sign seems more directed to cyclists who came from eastbound Kinzie Street west of Wells Street where a variable message sign says to use LaSalle Street.
The road traits on Clark Street have changed. I thank CDOT for its tactful response to our request to repair the pavement north of the Clark Street bridge. I specifically asked that it be repaved instead of patched, and it was repaired well (see photo below). CDOT has also added 4-feet wide plates on the open metal grate bridge, to better match the conditions on the Wells Street bridge. This essentially creates a narrow bike lane on the bridge, but leaves bicyclists in the lurch at the intersection of Clark Street and Wacker Drive (see photo below).
Last week, CDOT striped the words “BIKE LANE” before sharrows of atypical dimensions but this was quickly removed (the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, MUTCD, requires a longitudinal striping to create a bike lane). In its place are now disproportionately sized bike symbols. They appear to be painted which likely means they’ll wear soon.
Before: Poor quality pavement in an area where hundreds of cyclists are expected to ride from north Wells Street to downtown.
After, showing the new pavement. The odd marked shared lane symbols of an atypical dimension is visible. I am positioned very high on a bike, where my eye level is at about the height of a small SUV: from this point of view the bike symbol is incomprehensible.
I left a voicemail for CDOT’s spokesperson on Tuesday asking for a comment about the discrepancy between what road users on Wells Street are advised and what their plan states; I’ve yet to hear back. However, we were advised via a user on Twitter that “Construction signs around Wells St bridge are starting to show separate bike detour via Clark vs auto detour via LaSalle/Clark.” Preparations for the detour were not made for an emergency so appropriate accommodations from day one are expected.
The variable message sign at Franklin Street and Kinzie Street was updated Thursday morning to include messaging for bicyclists. CDOT emailed this photo to me, citing an “engineer’s oversight”.
This detour plan is somewhat “enhanced” over other detours I’ve written about, but its design is lacking the attention to details that creates streets in the “8 to 80″ vein the department has been proposing; the many guidelines and plans CDOT has published over the years (several in the past year) call for bike and pedestrian-friendly construction detours. Instead of business as usual, this detour, here for the next 13 months, could better represent Commissioner Gabe Klein’s and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goals and aspirations for Chicago to be the most bicycle friendly city in the United States.
No room or visibility for cyclists at Wacker Drive and Clark Street who take the path marked by plates on the bridge. This was mentioned by one of the Twitter users below.
Chicagoans who’ve used the detour are talking about it on Twitter with the #bikeCHI hashtag (in order by recency):
So far this week instead of Wells, I rode Clark, State and LaSalle: all horrible. Acres of asphalt, nearly nothing for bicyclists. #bikeCHI— Michelle K Stenzel (@MichelleStenzel) November 8, 2012
Clark St. detour is okay, but really bad pinch point south on Wacker where construction pushes sidewalk is. Bike box would help. #BikeCHI— Tim Jeffries (@_timjeffries_) November 6, 2012
Updated 16:05 to add a photo of the variable message sign at Kinzie/Franklin.
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011. We switched to writing at Streetsblog Chicago in January 2013.
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