Construction update: CDOT readies Dearborn Street cycle track with bicycle signals


There are four new signal heads in this photo. The worker I talked to said that one is for left-turning drivers, one is for northbound bicyclists, one is for northbound drivers, and one is for southbound bicyclists. 

Chicago Department of Transportation Bureau of Electrical Operations workers were out in force on Saturday and Sunday installing new traffic signal poles and signals. The Dearborn Street cycle track project, a two-way bike lane on the left side of the one-way road, includes bicycle signal heads pointing north and south. Also new are signal heads for northbound Dearborn Street traffic that will turn left across the cycle track.


CDOT is using 12-inches diameter bicycle lenses, the same size as non-bicycle lenses. Amsterdam and Copenhagen use much smaller bicycle signal heads. 

I talked to one worker and asked about the construction timeline. He said, “Rumorville says ASAP. First the striping needs to be done, and that has to wait for several 50 degree days”. He also explained that the signal programming is still be designed.

This being fall, there aren’t many of those days left before the end of the year, before which Mayor Emanuel said the cycle track would be complete. The 5-day forecast shows all 50+ degree days, including a high of 61 on Friday.

One of the features of the project that the worker pointed out to me were sensors embedded in the roadway that communicate wirelessly to the signal operations. The three black dots detect the presence of automobiles positioned to turn left onto westbound roads.


Embedded sensors at Dearborn Street and Wacker Drive. 

By 12:35 PM Sunday, crews had completed or made good progress on a majority of intersections in the project extents, Kinzie Street to Polk Street, where Dearborn Street ends (just under 1.2 miles long).

See all 13 photos in the set.

(The number one new referral search, bringing people to this site, has been “dearborn bike lane status”.)


When the lights are off it’s hard to see the bicycle symbol. 

29 thoughts on “Construction update: CDOT readies Dearborn Street cycle track with bicycle signals”

  1. Steven, on the first photo did you mean that the fourth was for “southbound cyclists” rather than “northbound cyclists”?
    I was quite excited to ride on Dearborn yesterday and see them working on those signals. Let’s hope CDOT is able to take advantage of the next few warm days. Unfortunately, one of them is Thanksgiving–I don’t think we can expect them to work on striping then.

  2. yay! this is fantastic news!!!
    “…a two-way bike lane on the left side of the one-way road, includes bicycle signal heads pointing north and south. Also new are signal heads for northbound Dearborn Street traffic that will turn left across the cycle track.”

  3. Two-way bike traffic on a one-way street? This is just going to lead to more chaos, confusion and accidents. As things are now, cyclists ignore all stop signs and lights, what good will these bike signals do? What a waste of money.

    1. The lanes will be separated from car traffic by flexible bollards, and bike-specific traffic lights will be installed. This will help reduce “chaos” and other traffic conflicts.

    2. Barry – check out how London does it. When there are structured routes for cyclists, like these being installed on Dearborn, they bring awareness to cyclists and drivers can learn to expect cyclists in these locations. The signals for cyclists are one of the biggest benefits – normal traffic lights aren’t meant for us and can be more dangerous (clearing a 6-way intersection in less than 3 seconds is impossible!!). All in all, I think you’ll see that Dearborn will provide a clear route through the loop for cyclists, and that in turn will reduce some of the chaos we all face when there aren’t marked bike lanes or clearly laid cycling routes.

      London’s Barclays Cycle Superhighways:

        1. Thanks Steven! That’s a much better example. I knew they were in London somewhere in the video, but this does a much better job of explaining them and showcasing everything!

  4. Saw paint for what looks like a protected bike lane on southbound Desplaines this morning from Lake to Adams. Parking looked to be separated from the curb like on Kinzie. Anyone heard about this?

    1. Did you happen to snap a photo?

      Just Googled it and found that Active Trans has reported on this:

      “This past weekend, striping started on a new southbound protected bike lane on Desplaines Street, from Fulton Street to Harrison Street. The two-way segment of Desplaines between Fulton and Kinzie Street/Milwaukee Avenue will also be updated with improved bike lanes. Desplaines can provide a great alternative route south into the Loop for northwest side residents — particularly important during the Wells Street bridge closure.”

      1. Hmm, “improved bike lanes”. If it was going to be a cycle track of some kind, I’m sure they would mention it. So it’s probably going to be a conventional lane. It can support protected or buffered bike lanes, at the cost of a travel lane (there is currently 2 travel lanes in each direction, plus a middle lane that’s used for left turns).

      1. This is exactly where I had a “nice conversation” with an angry driver; she wanted me to get out of the way so she could turn right on red (allowed) and get on the expressway. She thought I wouldn’t move because I’m a “d**k”.

        I wasn’t responding to her derisive talk until she said, “I hope you crash and die”. At that point I thought she was going to be the one to make me crash so I took her photo, for evidence.

        1. Sorry that happened to you Steven. I try to avoid conflicts (and earn Brownie points) with right-turning drivers at stoplights by checking behind me for vehicles with their right turn signal on and, if there are any, moving to the left, out of their way.

          1. I identified the photo wrong. That’s Madison, and my incident happened at Randolph.

            I am not looking forward to this setup at Madison. There are a lot of people who want to turn right here, to get into the highway. And we are expecting them to yield to cyclists here? I think it should be a turn-controlled intersection, where right turns are permitted only on the arrow. However, I wouldn’t expect that to work either because drivers in Chicago don’t respect right-turn arrows (it’s rare and unexpected so they’re not even looking out for it). It doesn’t work at Elston and Milwaukee.

        2. Love these lanes, but this is exactly what I’m nervous about too. I probably get annoyed horn 1/2 the time I’m stopped for red in a turn lane or right-side bike lane. You’re welcome for obeying traffic laws?

          Also, who says “I hope you crash and die” to a stranger on a bike?!?! What is wrong with people??

          1. Note that this wasn’t a turn lane. If it was a turn lane, then I would have likely been wrongly positioned there.
            A person whose only goal is to get somewhere else as quickly as possible says things like that…

  5. Off-topic: I rode on the West Side Boulevards, Lake St., and 31 St. this Saturday. The West Side lanes are almost done, except for the last bit of Independence Blvd. However, cars are still parking in them in large numbers. The Lake St. lane (which has been there since May or June) has a lot of trash in it. 31st is still not striped outside of the stretch from just past King Dr. to Moe Dr. right before Lake Shore Drive — i.e. not all the way to the lakefront as promised.

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