My main goal in writing for Grid Chicago is to get more people interested in improving conditions for sustainable transportation in Chicagoland. That first starts with education and awareness. I tell you what’s up. This post features several bicycling issues I’ve recently been bothered by. Which bike issue concerns you most?

Is it people driving in protected bike lanes, like these Chevy Malibu and BMW drivers on 18th Street this past week?

Watch this video on Vimeo.

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Or something else?

Biking ninjas

Too many people bike at night without lights; not only is against the law, but not having lights in a crash case that goes to court could hurt your chances of being successful in receiving damages from an injurious driver. I’ve started the Get Lit campaign to help with that, and donations to buy lights are slowly rolling in.

Navy Pier flyover

The City, State, and Federal governments will spend $40 million to build the Navy Pier flyover for the Lakefront Trail when another solution might exist that costs 90% less. And it’s a solution that CDOT was able to build in less than 48 hours* after a piece of the Lakefront Trail bridge deck broke. The photos below only show one part of the needed change on the Lakefront Trail between south of the river and Oak Street beach. They show a solution to the congestion around the two Lake Shore Drive bridge houses, but not a solution at the Grand Avenue and Illinois Street intersections that provide too little room for the mixing here of people running, cycling, walking, and visiting Navy Pier. An overhead bypass isn’t the only way to conveniently travel on the Lakefront Trail through this segment.

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The broken bridge deck. 

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Detouring the Lakefront Trail onto lower Lake Shore Drive.

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A protected path on lower Lake Shore Drive (at the north end of the bridge), wider than the path it temporarily replaced. And for much less than $40 million. I don’t recall how Lakefront Trail users re-entered the path at the south end.

No consideration in construction project detours

I’ve covered this issue over and over and over.

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Bike lanes are for bikes, not for sign storage.

Little progress on the Bike 2015 Plan

I created the Bike 2015 Plan Tracker to better understand the status of the great objectives and strategies of the Bike 2015 Plan, and to get a grip on all of the different agencies and partner organizations (and individual Chicagoans) that are needed (required?) to implement them. Is upgrading the code and database behind that, and keeping the information current the best use of my time?

I’m sorry if I sound like a crank. I’m trying to figure out the best ways to build a bicycle culture in Chicago (something that would likely happen if the strategies and goals of the Bike 2015 were positively implemented and sustained). If there’s something you really care about, post it in the comments below and then call your alderman. Find the existing and new alderman for any location on the Chicago Tribune’s Boundaries website.

* It might have taken CDOT less than 24 hours to build an alternate route.

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  • http://twitter.com/saandstorm George Lara

    I work at Navy Pier and that part of the bike path that merges on to the sidewalk under LSD is a nightmare. There are two blind corners on either side of Lake Point Tower where I’ve had many near misses with peds, cars and other cyclists.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      My idea (which I haven’t fully designed or drawn because I’m always working on 5 stories at once) involves building a two-way protected bike-only path on the east-most lane of lower Lake Shore Drive crossing Illinois Street to Grand Avenue. At Grand Avenue, to get cyclists onto the Lakefront Trail at Jane Addams Park, the east side of the intersection would be redesigned to continue this two-way path from lower Lake Shore Drive to the curb at the park. This would include removing the slip lane and “steak island” at the northeast corner of the intersection.
      This plan would fully separate pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, as they navigate the different ways to, from, and around the Navy Pier entrance and exit roads.

  • http://twitter.com/aka60643 AKA60643

    I think the problem of drivers driving at speed in protected bike lanes could become a significant problem, especially as we get closer to summer and more people are riding.  I wonder if the city will take this seriously NOW, or whether it will take a fatality or two to get their attention.  I hope it’s the former and not the latter.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      This came at a time when people are cycling in both directions on the eastbound lane. The westbound lane is closed for bridge joint repair and there is no official detour (for travelers of any mode). I think that riding westbound in the eastbound lane is acceptable because of the lane’s width. However, while I was observing traffic there (on Tuesday, March 20th), I also witnessed a westbound cyclist almost get clobbered by someone driving eastbound in the eastbound bike lane.
      Without good detour signage to advise them on the best option, some people cycling westbound cycled on the sidewalk past the construction area, or cycled *through* the construction area (thankfully the bridge was all there). Most people cycled westbound in the westbound bike lane and when they reached the construction area, they crossed to the eastbound bike lane to continue west.

  • http://theprudentcyclist.com/ Will

    Regarding the signs in the bike lanes, why not just scoot them over into the motor vehicle lane? One lane is the same as the others, right? So if it’s ok to block bikes it must be ok to block cars.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      On one street last year, my friend and I moved one to do just that.

  • Fbfree

    I’d like to see design standards applied to all bicycle merging points in the city.  If a car lane has to merge, there is generally signage, and good visibility.  On a bicycle, the lane may just end, or swing wildly laterally.  This applies to bike lanes, shared lanes, and undesignated lanes, for instance EB at 55th under the CN(IC)/Metra Electric tracks or Canal St near Union Station or Congress Parkway.

  • Howard

    What is your opinion about contraflow bike lanes?  I think they are exceptionally dangerous especially on one way streets where drivers are not looking in your direction.  They are proposing to put these on the Berteau Greenway in the 47th ward.  Which is the bike path to nowhere.  Whats everyone’s opinion?

    • http://twitter.com/aka60643 AKA60643

      The 1-block contraflow lane on Ardmore near Sheridan has worked well for years.  I’ve used it many times over the years and had minor problems only on rare occasions..

      I disagree about Berteau being a “path to nowhere.”  Having a good east-west connection from Clark to Lincoln is useful, especially since it provides “back door” access to businesses on Irving Park and Montrose via intersecting north-south streets.

    • Erik Swedlund

      I think the contraflow bike lane on Aardmore Ave is great. The signage and lane markings make it very obvious. It’s the only one in the city at the moment, yet despite the rarity I’ve never had any conflicts with motorists while using it.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      Chicago currently has one contraflow bike lane, for one block. It’s on Ardmore Avenue between Kenmore Avenue and Sheridan Road. It’s to connect people cycling northbound on the Lakefront Trail to northbound Kenmore (although this is a dumb connection as Kenmore dead ends at an east-west part of Sheridan Road that’s very fast and uncomfortable). 

      I looked at the crash data for this one block section and I found the following: a single automobile-bike crash in 2006 (from data that includes 2005-2010). And curiously, in the crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, it’s noted that the automobile driver (driving a taxi) was traveling south prior to the crash. The location of the crash is right in the alley. This leads me to believe that the driver was not traveling eastbound (the direction of the one-way street). 

      In Amsterdam, where I cycled for four days in January 2011, all one-way *neighborhood* streets (except those signed excluding it) allow two-way bicycle traffic. I believe accommodating two-way bicycle traffic on a one-way street is something Chicagoans can learn to do safely and without a dangerous learning curve.

      • http://twitter.com/aka60643 AKA60643

        Over the years, when I’ve ridden that section of Ardmore, or when I lived nearby, I found that intersection with the southbound alley was usually the only conflict point, because there’s a lot of parking off that alley.  Most drivers seem to do a good job of looking for approaching traffic, so I’ve rarely seen any type of collision there.

        You might think there would be a conflict between westbound traffic crossing Sheridan (to access the lane) and eastbound left-turning traffic, but drivers seem to co-exist with other road users pretty well there.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      Chicago currently has one contraflow bike lane, for one block. It’s on Ardmore Avenue between Kenmore Avenue and Sheridan Road. It’s to connect people cycling northbound on the Lakefront Trail to northbound Kenmore (although this is a dumb connection as Kenmore dead ends at an east-west part of Sheridan Road that’s very fast and uncomfortable).
      I looked at the crash data for this one block section and I found the following: a single automobile-bike crash in 2006 (from data that includes 2005-2010). And curiously, in the crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, it’s noted that the automobile driver (driving a taxi) was traveling south prior to the crash. The location of the crash is right in the alley. This leads me to believe that the driver was not traveling eastbound (the direction of the one-way street).
      In Amsterdam, where I cycled for four days in January 2011, all one-way *neighborhood* streets (except those signed excluding it) allow two-way bicycle traffic. I believe accommodating two-way bicycle traffic on a one-way street is something Chicagoans can learn to do safely and without a dangerous learning curve.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/8432336@N08/ BlueFairlane

    I’m not at all surprised to see people driving in the bike lanes. It seems to me, though, that this is one problem with the things easily fixed. Just stick a couple of those little poles in the middle of the lane at the entrance and at every intersection. Make it so that any driver in the lanes has to hit something, so that it’s absolutely clear they’re not supposed to be there.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      It probably is that easy to keep out cars!

  • Erik Swedlund

    I am most irked by the lack of consideration in construction detours, because it is widespread, random in that you never know when or where you run across it (just expect that you will), will only become more prevalent as more cycling facilities are installed, and seems so easily avoidable: just a little consideration!

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      I think the link between presence of cycling facilities and construction detours is irrelevant. Construction detours are problems on any street a person is legally allowed to cycle (that is, all streets except for highways). It’s state law, city policy, city regulation, etc… that construction detours are designed for cycling in mind. This. Doesn’t. Happen.
      I really want to move these signs out of the bike lane and into the non-bike lane to the left. But I’m too scared. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/6854620450/

      • Erik Swedlund

        You’re right, it’s a problem on every street. It just especially irks me when a street DOES have facilities, and those facilities are used to store signs.

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