On Tuesday at the first of several community input meetings before the Streets for Cycling 2020 plan is finalized, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled a draft map of locations for the 110 miles of protected bike lanes (PBLs) and 40 miles of buffered lanes to be built during Rahm Emanuel’s first term.
However, the meeting focused on a new concept, the Citywide 2020 Network, a comprehensive plan for 640 miles of bikeways to be created over the next eight years – more details on this in a minute. CDOT also unveiled a draft map of this larger network at the event, held at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence in Jefferson Park.
Although the Streets for Cycling community input process is nearly complete, there’s still time to provide feedback before the final plan is unveiled at the Bike to Work rally on Friday, June 15. After you finish reading this post, take some time to study the two maps. If you have suggested edits to the proposed bikeway locations, see the bottom of the post for several ways you can make your voice heard.
Below is a snapshot of the draft map of the Citywide 2020 Network.
A PDF is available here. Note that the map does not show specific locations for PBLs and buffered lanes.
Below is the draft PBL and buffered lane map. Existing and proposed PBLs and buffered lanes are shown in blue; the rest of the proposed Citywide 2020 Network is shown in brown. Click here for a larger map.
Getting back to the Citywide 2020 Plan concept, in a nutshell, the 640 miles of bikeways would be divided into three classifications:
Four Star Bike Routes (60 miles). CDOT is also considering calling these Bicycle Superhighways and Spoke Lines, and is asking for other name suggestions. Shown in dark blue on the Citywide 2020 Network map, these would be the most direct routes in and out of the Loop for cyclists. Routes would include South Chicago Avenue, Vincennes Avenue, King Drive, Archer Avenue, Lake Street, Milwaukee Avenue and Clark Street.
These would be “red carpets” for bikes, offering the best possible bike facilities, including innovative street design and branding to alert cyclists and others to the streets’ function. Ideally these streets would feature protected bike lanes with well-maintained, colored pavement, as well as intersection improvements, bike traffic signals, on-street bike parking and special signs and banners. At the very least these routes would get conventional bike lanes or marked shared lanes.
Four Star Bike Routes AKA Bicycle Superhighways.
Crosstown Bike Routes (260 miles). Shown in medium blue on the Citywide 2020 Network map, these long, continuous routes would connect neighborhoods and major destinations. These would feature a simpler bikeway design than the Four Star routes but could possibly include protected lanes, or at least conventional bike lanes or marked shared lanes.
Neighborhood Bike Routes (320 miles). Shown in light blue on the Citywide 2020 Network map, these would be residential streets connecting Four Star and Crosstown routes. Some of these would be set up as “neighborhood greenways” with traffic calming and possibly traffic diverters and/or contra-flow bike lanes. Others might get treatments ranging from PBLs to simply bike route signs.
At the meeting, longtime CDOT bike coordinator Ben Gomberg explained that the Streets for Cycling Plan would establish bicycle facilities within half a mile of virtually every Chicago resident. The goal is to raise the local bike mode share, currently about 1%, to a Portland-esque 5%. The missing link is making people feel safe riding on the streets, Gomberg said. “In the 16 years I’ve worked with the City of Chicago coordinating the bike program, day in and day out I hear people say, ‘I’m terrified of bicycling on the city streets,’” he said. “So the bottom line is we’re looking to establish streets that people will be comfortable riding on.”
Streets for Cycling project consultant Mark de la Vergne from Sam Schwartz Engineering outlined the reasoning behind the 640-mile Citywide 2020 Network. “We started to look at a map of all these destinations and quickly saw that 100 miles of protected bike lanes isn’t going to get us to where we want to go to build this citywide network,” he said. “There needs to be a more comprehensive approach to addressing bicycle infrastructure in the city.”
During the Q & A session, I asked CDOT bikeways project manager Mike Amsden why Lake Street was chosen as the Four Star route to the West Side. Washington Boulevard has long been the main western bike lane street, while until recently Lake Street, which is lined with ‘L’ pillars, wasn’t even a recommended route.
“That was probably the toughest decision to make,” Amsden responded. “There’s a lot of streets going west that we could have chosen: Lake Street, Washington, Warren, Madison. There are some wide streets, Jackson, that used to be heavily trafficked, now not so much. We heard from people that they use all the streets but Lake Street kind of kept rising to the top. And we know we can do things on Lake Street.”
I also asked about future plans for Milwaukee Avenue, which is not slated for a PBL or buffered lane north of Division Street. “You’ve probably had a huge demand for improving Milwaukee,” I said. “Are you looking at doing any other treatments north of [Division] on Milwaukee?”
Amsden responded that although Milwaukee north of Division is too narrow for protected lanes, CDOT will be giving this street special attention as a Four Star route. “The big thing will be focusing on intersections, making them as safe as possible,” he said. “And we’ll be branding and marketing these facilities to really draw attention to them and say, ‘There’s a lot of people out here riding and we all need to be aware of each other.’ So it’s more than, what can we do with 44’ of roadway. It’s how can we make the situation better for bicyclists, how can we brand or market this street so people realize that this is a street where you’re going to have a lot of bicyclists.”
J. Harry Wray, author of the book Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life, asked about what he termed “bike lane evaporation.” “Everywhere you look there are ruts cut into the bike lanes and the lanes are disappearing,” he said. “In many places you can barely see them. So is there any thought being given to maintaining what we already have?”
De la Vergne and Amsden.
“Over the past two or three years we’ve been very successful in starting to rehab our bike network,” Amsden responded. “A lot of it is reaching the end of its useful life. It’s been in place for ten or fifteen years. So we’re refreshing pavement markings all over the place.” De la Vergne added that the published bike plan will include maintenance strategies. “It’s not the most sexy stuff,” he said. “But we’re all very cognizant of that issue as well, and we don’t just want to build new stuff and watch it crumble down.”
Amsden concluded the meeting by noting that CDOT hopes to have the majority of this network in place by the end of the decade, and while the streets chosen now may not turn out to be absolutely perfect in the future, the plan should have a transformative effect on the city. “We’re talking about a lot of stuff but we think it’s stuff that can get done,” De la Vergne added. “Our tagline is ‘boldly feasible.’”
How to provide input on the Streets for Cycling Plan
View the Streets for Cycling presentation that is being shown at the upcoming community meetings.
Email your suggestions to the CDOT bike Program at email@example.com.
Post on the Streets for Cycling Facebook page.
Comment at one of the upcoming meetings or webinars:
Gary Comer Youth Center – Exhibition Hall, 3rd floor
7200 S. Ingleside Ave.
Thursday, May 31st, 2012
4 – 8 p.m., presentation with Q&A at 4:30 & 6:30p.m.
Douglas Park Cultural and Community Center – Ballroom
1401 S. Sacramento Dr.
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
4 – 8 p.m., presentation with Q&A at 4:30 & 6:30p.m.
77 S. Dearborn – Building Lobby
Saturday, June 9th, 2012
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
12 – 1 p.m.
Reserve your Webinar seat.
6 – 7 p.m.
Reserve your Webinar seat.