Cars are currently being parked in the Desplaines bike lane, but probably not for long. Photo taken just south of Madison Street.
This is an exciting moment for cycling in Chicago as the department of transportation races to meet its goal of reaching a total of thirty miles of protected and buffered bike lanes before it gets too cold to lay thermoplastic. As Steven wrote yesterday, CDOT began installing new traffic signals last weekend for the eagerly awaited, two-way protected lane slated for a 1.2-mile stretch of Dearborn Street between Polk and Kinzie streets.
Since Mayor Emanuel himself declared the lane would be built this fall, if the weather holds up it’s likely this “game-changing” facility will soon be completed. As the first protected lane in the central Loop and the first two-way protected lane, Dearborn will probably draw some criticism from the anti-bike crowd. But the 4,500 signatures the Active Transportation Alliance recently collected in support of the lane prove that plenty of Chicagoans are looking forward to getting a first-class downtown bike commuting route.
Grid Chicago readers alerted us that CDOT also began striping new protected bike lanes on Desplaines Street in the West Loop last weekend, so yesterday afternoon I pedaled downtown for a look-see. From Kinzie to Fulton Street, a two-way section, the department is putting in “enhanced” shared lane markings, the same type that were recently installed on Wells Street south of the river. These markings encourage cyclists to ride in the middle of the lane; presumably “Bikes may use full lane” signs will be installed, as they were on Wells.
Enhanced shared lane markings, still awaiting bike symbols and signs, on Desplaines near Kinzie.
South of Fulton on Desplaines, the facility switches to a buffered bike lane.
Southbound on Desplaines, between Fulton and Lake Street.
Protected lanes are going in from Randolph Street to Harrison Street. Yesterday cars were still parking next to the curb, on top of the half-finished bike lanes, instead of in the parking spaces marked to the left of the bike lanes. But once the lanes are delineated with flexible posts and marked with bike symbols, and police begin ticketing cars parked in the bike lane, motorists will learn to park in the correct place, as they did when protected lanes went in on Elston Avenue.
Photo taken just south of Randolph Street.
Since there are several on-ramps to the Kennedy Expressway just west of this stretch of Desplaines, CDOT has striped dedicated right-turn lanes for cars at some of the intersections. Although the turn lanes are marked “Yield,” to warn drivers to look out for cycles as they cross the bike lane, Steven is concerned that they won’t.
Madison Street right-turn lane.
Overall, Desplaines should be a nice addition to the bike network since it connects to Milwaukee Avenue and the Kinzie protected lanes. It will also serve as a useful alternative for cyclists who are used to heading downtown via the Wells Street bridge, which is currently closed for construction.
During my reconnaissance yesterday I also saw that the Clinton Street bike lanes are being re-striped on fresh asphalt. Although conventional bike lanes seem to be going out of style here, the new Clinton lanes appear to be the same configuration as before, simple parallel lines striped to the left of the parking lane.
400 block of South Clinton Street.
The Wacker Drive reconstruction project is wrapping up and the Jackson Boulevard bridge recently re-opened. Yesterday I was pleased to see that the metal-grate bridge deck now has bike-friendly strips of concrete on the sides. Once Wacker is reopened Franklin Street, which was converted to a two-way during the rehab, will revert to a one-way northbound street. Active Trans reports that CDOT has decided to stripe a new buffered lane on Franklin from Harrison Street to Wacker, which will link up nicely with the existing lane on Orleans Street north of the river.
The Jackson Boulevard bridge.
In other bikeways news, buffered lanes were recently striped on Halsted Street from Division Street to North Avenue in Lincoln Park. Buffered lanes are also in on Clark Street from Wrigley Field to Diversey Parkway in Lakeview. Local alderman Tom Tunney is also looking into the possibility of creating new bikeways on Roscoe and School streets through the 44th Ward, perhaps neighborhood greenways.
A Marking Specialists crew on Desplaines at Jackson Boulevard.
On the South Side, CDOT originally proposed building protected lanes on King Drive from 31st Street to 51st Street in Bronzeville but local clergy opposed installing the lanes on the historic boulevard. Instead, crews began striping buffered lanes on King earlier this month, and the city plans to eventually build protected lanes nearby on State Street.
So many bikeways projects are currently in the works that it’s hard to keep track of them all. For example, I still haven’t had a chance to check out the network of protected lanes under construction along the West Side boulevards. But that’s a good problem to have. Hopefully the relatively warm weather will hold out and CDOT will hit thirty miles of protected and buffered lanes by snowfall, a nice punctuation mark to a memorable year of bike improvements.
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.
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