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The Wabash Avenue bike lanes, now classified as “buffer-protected.” Photo by John Lankford.

2012 was a banner year for bike lanes in Chicago. According to the Active Transportation Alliance’s Bikeways Tracker, by the end of the year the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) had completed or was in the process of building a total of 12.5 miles of protected bike lanes and 14.5 miles of buffered bike lanes. When Rahm Emanuel took office in last year our city had no protected or buffered bike lanes, but nineteen months later we’re now the national leader in providing enhanced on-street bikeways. That’s a huge achievement.

One issue that has come up is CDOT’s recent adoption of the terms “barrier-protected” and “buffer-protected” lanes to refer to what the department formerly called “protected” and “buffered” lanes. This change in terminology also seems to indicate a shift in goals.

Emanuel’s Chicago 2011 Transition Report, released in May of that year, announced the bold objective of building one hundred miles of protected bike lanes within the mayor’s first term. The document defined “protected lanes” as “separated from traveling cars and sit[ting] between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars that shield cyclists from street traffic.” As Grid Chicago readers know, buffered lanes are instead located to the left of the parking lane, with additional dead space striped on one or both sides of the bike lane to distance the bike lane from motorized traffic and/or opening car doors.

However, in recent months CDOT staff began using the new terminology, which redefines “protected lanes” to include buffered lanes. The press release for the terrific new two-way protected bike lane on Dearborn Street confirmed that the agency is now counting “buffer-protected” lanes towards the hundred-mile target. This means that instead of building one-hundred miles of physically separated lens by 2015, the new goal is to build a total of one hundred miles of “barrier-protected” and “buffer-protected” lanes.

I certainly don’t blame CDOT for changing their target. Building one hundred miles of physically separated lanes, plus dozens of additional miles of buffered lanes, within four years always seemed a bit unrealistic. It took a Herculean effort by the department’s small bike program staff to install the current number of protected lanes, often working far more than a nine-to five schedule. And I for one would be delighted if Chicago reaches, say, sixty-five miles of protected lanes and thirty-five miles of buffered lanes by 2015. It would make a huge difference in the city’s bike-ability.

The question is, would it have made more sense for CDOT to simply acknowledge the shift to a more realistic goal, rather than redefining buffered lanes as “protected” lanes just so that the city will be able to claim they met the hundred-mile goal? Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly graciously took time out on last Saturday to share his perspective on the issue with me.

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Scott Kubly discusses Chicago’s upcoming bike share program at a public meeting last fall.

“I think the goal of 100 miles of protected lanes stays the same but the reality is we’re working with varying infrastructure,” he says. “The physical conditions vary by roadway and by block. So we’re going to put in as high a level of protection as possible.”

“Both barrier-protected and buffer-protected lanes provide protection,” Kubly adds. “Buffer-protected lanes provide protection from dooring, slow cars down and delineate space for bicycles. Our first choice is barrier-protected, then buffer-protected, then standard lanes. But if a road is fifty-one feet wide instead of fifty-two feet, or if there’s an abundance of church parking we might not be able to do a protected lane. We want to do the best we can with the situation we’ve got.”

“You look at a facility like Elston Avenue,” he says. “In some place there’s parking to the left of the bike lane, in some places it’s just bollards, and in some places it’s a protected lane. That’s determined by the width of the roadway, the geometry of the intersections and unique uses like factories, schools and churches.”

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The Elston Avenue “barrier-protected” bike lane. Photo by Dave Schlabowske

My blogging partner Steven Vance and I have no problem with CDOT classifying a facility like Elston as a protected lane, even though it includes short stretches where cyclists are not separated from traffic by parked cars. But Kubly confirms that sections like Clark Street between North Avenue and Oak Street, which has buffered lanes for the entire stretch, are now being counted as “protected” lanes. I ask him whether this waters down the concept of “protection.”

“I don’t think it does,” he responds. “If it means we’re doing one hundred miles of barrier-protected lanes, that’s fantastic. If it means we’re doing sixty miles of barrier-protected and forty miles of buffer-protected lanes that’s still great. Ultimately barrier-protected and buffer-protected lanes are substantial improvements over what’s currently out there. It’s up to the individual to decide if they want to count them both as protected, but that’s what we’ve chosen to do as a department.”

I also asked Steven to provide his take on the terminology issue. “Mayor Emanuel’s transition plan said that ‘Beginning in the first year, twenty-five miles of protected bike lanes will be built each year to create bikeways that are comfortable for all ages and abilities,’” he writes. “The plan defined ‘protected bike lanes’ as being separated from traffic by a physical barrier. This is the well-defined standard, the one National Association of City Transportation Officials uses (CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein is the treasurer of this organization), the one Active Transportation Alliance uses, and the one used internationally.”

“CDOT’s redefining ‘protected bike lanes” to now include buffered lanes, which lack the protection parked cars provide, means some bikeways will be counted towards the goal of ‘100 miles of protected bike lanes’ that are not actually comfortable for all ages and abilities,” Steven adds. “The city’s Bike 2015 Plan set goals of reducing bike injuries by fifty percent, and increasing the bike mode share for short trips to five percent. This change may make it harder to achieve those goals.”

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  • John Sigurjonsson

    Wow! We should all have such problems!
    As noted, the original definition of “protected” was unrealistic.
    Comfort of all users depends not only on physical design, but also on education and familiarity.Don’t think a buffered lane is “comfortable”? Try it,you’ll like it.

    • Erik Swedlund

      The buffered lane on Roscoe isn’t comfortable, unless you like bone-jarring potholes. As it’s only buffered on the right (buffered slightly from parked cars), I’m riding just as close to moving cars as any other street, and swerving erratically to avoid bad pavement.

      • Adam Herstein

        You’re more likely to get doored than hit from behind, so I tend to ride to the left of the bike lane regardless of where the buffer is. You’re right about the potholes, though. It’s like riding on the surface of the moon.

  • Val Remark

    Yes, what a sneaky cop-out. CDOT shouldn’t change internationally recognized definitions to meet their ambitious goals. As evidenced perfectly by the top photo, buffered lanes are not protected. Even though the little guy is probably younger than 8 (8-80 rule), the adult is providing the physical barrier.

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

      It would be fine to change the goal, but it’s not fine to change the definition.

  • Adam Herstein

    This is not surprising at all, but hopefully this is not the beginning of a trend to build buffered instead of protected bike lanes.

  • Doug G.

    “Our first choice is barrier-protected, then buffer-protected, then standard lanes.”

    If we’re talking about changing definitions and using different language to describe bike lanes, I would suggest we dispense with the notion that an on-street, unprotected lane is a “standard” bike lane. It is “standard” only in the sense that it is what Americans are used to seeing on streets because it has typically been all that is politically feasible over the past few decades.

    Typically, something that is “standard” would be your first choice. Moving forward, fully protected bike lanes should be the “standard” where possible. On-street, unprotected bike lanes should be the lanes of last resort.

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

      I’ve been calling them “conventional” (what has generally been installed) bike lanes. Does that terminology pass this test?

      Er, I don’t think it does. Calling them “unprotected” bike lanes is accurate.

      • Doug G.

        Yeah, almost everything is problematic. Traditional, conventional, normal, typical, standard… all imply “the way they should be.”

        Maybe you’re onto something in calling them “unprotected.” It takes some of the value judgment out. I sometimes call them “painted” versus “parking protected” or “physically separated” bike lanes.

        Let’s just call things what they are and let people vote with their tires.

  • J

    Problem: Goal for “protected bike lanes” was unrealistic
    Solution: Change the definition of “protected bike lane”

    Ugh. This sets a terrible precedent for national bicycling policy. Instead of setting a national standard in high-quality bicycling facilities, Chicago is now watering down the very definitions of those facilities. Now other cities can build buffered lanes and, citing Chicago, call them protected lanes.

  • http://transitized.com/ Shaun Jacobsen

    If the original goal wasn’t reachable they should have modified the goal, not changed the definition. I go out of my way to avoid Clark St on bike and will continue to do so even with the buffered lane. Some paint does not “slow cars down.” Cars/taxis/delivery vehicles routinely block all forms bike lanes but the protected ones are the only lanes that actually prevent cars from driving in them (theoretically, at least…). By “driving in them,” I mean either using the whole lane or part of the lane to drive on (without an physical barrier there’s really nothing stopping a driver from veering into the lane).

    There is a new buffered lane on Franklin in the Loop. I cross it every day while walking to work on Adams and have seen one person use it. I would not feel safe biking on that street and wouldn’t consider it a “protected lane” by any means.

    • http://transitized.com/ Shaun Jacobsen

      To follow up quickly: the buffered lanes would work better if the design of the street ensured that drivers didn’t use it or endanger cyclists using it. Unfortunately far too many drivers are undereducated in this regard and don’t know how to interact with people on bikes.

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

        Hmm, I think that design is a protected bike lane on between parked cars and the curb!

        • http://transitized.com/ Shaun Jacobsen

          But, but, the street is one foot too narrow!

    • anon

      Lincoln Avenue has an existing painted shared bike lane that is heavily used, but also heavily driven in by impatient drivers who routinely veer into the bike lane somewhat blindly at high speeds to get around stopped traffic (or drive in it for long stretches as if it’s a second driving lane). It’s only a matter of time before a cyclist is plowed into, and I fear the chances have only increased with the removal of the “middle” of the #11 bus. The only real protection for cyclists on that stretch (and everywhere else, IMO) is a physical barrier, but I suspect that street is far too narrow for that.

      • http://transitized.com/ Shaun Jacobsen

        Shared lane, like sharrows? That’s not technically a lane so I suppose that drivers would be driving in it.
        Lots of sections of Clark, like near where I live, have sharrows. They don’t do much but maintain the width of the road lane for cars to go too fast. A lot of them are worn out/barely visible anymore anyway.

        • anon

          The City of Chicago bike map refers to Lincoln as a “marked shared lane,” which is an oxymoron if it’s really just sharrows. Can a shared lane really be called a type of bike lane?

          • http://transitized.com/ Shaun Jacobsen

            In my opinion shared lanes just reinforce what is already legal (bikes can be on streets) as a reminder to drivers. Or they’re an alternative for streets that are too narrow for a bike lane. Either way they don’t really do anything at all and shouldn’t be considered a “lane.”

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

            Every lane is a shared lane. Only some of these shared lanes are marked, thus identified in the Chicago Bike Map (produced by CDOT and Active Trans) as a “marked shared lane”.

            There’s so much at stake in words here!

          • http://transitized.com/ Shaun Jacobsen

            I usually like the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide (http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/) but it classifies what a (truly) protected bike lane is as a “cycle track,” a term I really don’t like because it sounds too much like something you’d find at an Olympic venue…

            For what it’s worth, Merriam Webster defines “protected” as “Keep safe from harm or injury.” I guess Chicago now has a different view of what that means than some of us!

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

            When I worked at CDOT, there was a debate on how “marked shared lane” should be punctuated: should it be called a “marked-shared lane” or a “marked shared-lane”? Was it a shared lane being marked, or a marking that made it a shared lane?

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

          Lincoln Avenue has varying facilities: no facility (sharrows, marked shared lane) and bike lane.

        • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

          Marked-shared lanes are not bike lanes. They are travel lanes that are marked with “sharrows” and often a line to indicate the left side of the parking lane. When there’s not enough road width for even the narrowest conventional bike lanes, this has several benefits. It advertises to cyclists that the road is a recommended route. When placed correctly, the sharrows encourage cyclists to ride out of the “door zone.” The parking line encourages drivers to park closer to the curb, which helps keep car doors away from bikes. The sharrows also encourage drivers to keep to the left side of the travel lane, away from bikes. A study by the San Francisco DOT confirmed most of these benefits.

      • Adam Herstein

        Technically, since there is no bike lane on Lincoln, motorists are allowed to drive in it. Hence why it is a shared lane and not a conventional bike lane (or unprotected lane if you will).

        It is for this reason, that I avoid riding down Lincoln whenever possible. Ride too far to the right and you risk getting doored. Ride in the center of the lane and you get aggressively tailgated and honked at by motorists.

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

          Parts of Lincoln Avenue (in various, non-connected segments) have a bike lane.

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

        The part of the #11 Lincoln bus removed ran on only short stretches of an unprotected bike lane, between Fullerton and Diversey.

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

      “If the original goal wasn’t reachable they should have modified the goal, not changed the definition.”

      This is what I meant to say but never ended up saying it. I kept skirting around this by saying “changing the definition isn’t acceptable”.

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  • http://www.bikewalklincolnpark.com/ Michelle Stenzel

    A buffered lane is somewhat better than an old-style lane of just one stripe of paint because it gives a small amount of extra width, but it’s definitely not a protected lane. A millimeter of paint does not provide any protection. It provides no protection from motor vehicle drivers parking, double parking, swerving or just plain driving on the lane, and swiping or hitting the person riding a bike in it.

    One of my tests for how safe a bike lane feels is asking myself the question whether I’d feel safe riding with my 8- to 10-year-old daughter on her own bike in the lane. (She’s now older.) Although the picture of the Wabash St buffered bike lane is very sweet in some ways, the answer is still no, that I wouldn’t ride with my young daughter on it.

    The other thing that I think is important to note is that the Wabash lane depicted above is the widest buffered lane I’ve ever seen. I’ve ridden on the Roscoe Ave BBL, Wells St BBL, Clark St BBL and Halsted BBL, and I don’t think any are as wide as that one on Wabash. I’ve uploaded a few pictures I took while on the Halsted and Clark St BBLs to the Grid Chicago Flickr group to help illustrate the wide variety of widths that fall under the “buffered bike lane” category.

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

      This is extremely important. CDOT needs to be more transparent about how it selects certain streets to have certain treatments. Consider the following information:

      Clark Street between Diversey and Addison, which received a buffered bike lane in 2012, is 51 feet wide. That’s 1 foot too narrow to receive a protected bike lane. But the required width for a street with bus transit, which Clark Street has, is greater.

      Wabash Avenue, in the two-way segment between Harrison Street and Roosevelt Road, is 64 feet wide. This segment received a buffered bike lane in 2012, after it received a streetscape project and resurfacing in 2009-2010.

      Wabash Avenue, in the two-way segment between Roosevelt Road and Cermak Road, is 58 feet wide. This segment received the city’s first buffered bike lane, in 2011, during a routine resurfacing project. It has no bus transit and the leftover width was turned into a very useless center turn lane.

      CDOT has gone on record, twice now, with Mike Amsden at the December MBAC and Scott Kubly in this article, saying it will install the safest facility type possible on each block. It must explain why Wabash Avenue didn’t receive the safest facility possible.

    • Adam Herstein

      Technically, bollards provide no protection either as someone could still drive their car though/over them. They just serve as a more obvious reminder to motorists to stay out. The parked cars provide protection, but they are not guaranteed to always be there.

      • Mark Twain

        The only protection they provide is that motorists are too afraid to damage their own vehicles. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again… CDOT doesn’t care about your safety. They’re playing games with the money they have and only want to have data to speak about at conferences.

  • Jennifer

    Until motor vehicles are completely prevented from driving/parking in so-called “protected” lanes, such lanes will still fail.

    • Adam Herstein

      I saw cones placed in the middle of the Dearborn cycle track at the intersection of Randolph last night. I’m not sure if the theatre placed them there or CDOT, but it was nice to see and seemed to prevent people from driving in it.

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

        The cycle tracks in Washington, D.C., have two bollards are the “entrances” to serve this purpose.

        I spotted them in this photo when I was browsing Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mvjantzen/8341416114/in/photostream

        • Adam Herstein

          This is what we need in Chicago, in addition to the bollards being placed closer together. I was a bit annoyed when CDOT removed half of the bollards from Kinzie. Plastic columns can’t be THAT expensive, especially compared to other types of road work.

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

            Remember that the removal reasons was “aesthetics”.

  • joejoejoe

    A One Act Play About Chicken Wings.

    scene – Gabe’s Chicken Shack, a famous eatery not from Chicago, outside a sign advertises “a dozen chicken wings for $5 – to get a better piece of chicken you’d have to be a political appointee”

    Patron: Sounds good to me! I’ll have a dozen wings please. Yum, I can’t wait.
    —gets order—
    Patron: Hey, what is this?!? You gave me 6 chicken wings and 6 pigeon wings! Hey Scott, do you want a bite of my wings?
    Scott Kubly: Sure.
    Patron: –gives Scott the pigeon—
    Scott Kubly: —takes bite—vomits—Tas-raht-bleech—vomits again—
    Patron: What’s that? It’s tastes like rat?!? Not at all! It’s pigeon!
    Scott Kubly: –shakes fist, continues wretching—
    Patron: You are looking at it the wrong way, Scott. After all, the reality is these wings are all ultimately bird wings. A dozen bird wings is a substantial improvement over being hungry! It is YOUR choice as an individual to take issue with eating pigeon, Scott. Why should I have a problem with Gabe’s at all? This place is great! After all, there is SOME chicken in my order.
    Scott Kubly: —doubled-over, continues to vomit—
    Patron: Are you forgetting some of the wings actually were chicken? Your standards are too high! What do you want to order next time? This place is fantastic! I’m sure all the other items on the menu are exactly as advertised.
    Scott Kubly: If they served pigeon in place of chicken, how can you trust anything that is written on the menu?
    Patron: You worry too much!

  • Dennis Hindman

    Chicago doesn’t seem to be lacking money to install higher quality bikeways. I read that CDOT spent approximately $4 million installing 30 miles of bike lanes in 2012. They still have $40 million set-aside to complete bikeway projects through 2015. That’s an average of about $15 million for 2013, if you go by when mayor Emanuel’s term in office is complete. If Chicago installs 30 miles in 2013, then there is an average of $500,000 a mile available in funds. Barrier protected Dearborn St. bike lanes cost $375,000 a mile to install. Perhaps, that also includes building bike paths in that time period.

    In comparison, Los Angeles is spending less than $2 million a year to complete an average of 40 miles of on-street bikeways a year. With the exception of one cycle track, the remaining projects in 2013 will just involve some form of striping.

    Montreal has about 62 miles of cycle tracks, the most in North America. Chicago could quickly have not only the most protected bike lanes in the U.S., but also in all of North America.

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

      The cycle tracks in Montréal use a concrete barrier to separate them from traffic. Concrete hasn’t been used yet in Chicago but it’s been hinted at by Gabe Klein.

      • Jennifer

        Double painted paint lines are not protected. Michelle –did you let your child, when she was younger than ten, ride in traffic in Chicago on her own bike? Did you ride in traffic when your child was younger than ten?

        I don’t imagine you letting your older child use this lane but am interested in if you have.

        I would ask Steven or John to ask CDOT point blank who took the photo they use to promote these lanes. As Doug and I have mentioned before in comments the photo does not accurately describe riding these lanes with a young child. I would ask you to note the height of the child’s bike in terms of where a drover can spot him. WE do not use these lanes with our children on their own bikes and avoid them with our kid carrying bikes as drivers no not pay attention to the lines and push us into the door zone fairly relentlessly. We don’t let our children use these lanes and discourage anyone who asks us about using them as well.

        Chicago can move the goal posts but it will not result in safer cycling for anyone. Or in a larger ride share.

        Pictures are worth a thousand words. Who at CDOT is responsible for this picture and are they ready to stand up for how safe these lanes are in the current climate of drivership?

        • Jennifer

          sorry for all of the typos. ”
          Really. It is very frustrating to see this picture used so often especially in light of the kinds of accidents happening in Chicago right now. I can’t ride unless I have my kids with me.
          Actually riding with children is very different from conceptually imagining riding with kids. Any parent can tell you the ultimate goal is to come home with as many kids as you took out. These lanes are just not family “friendly” in the least.

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

            I fixed your typos.

            What do you mean by this statement?
            “I can’t ride unless I have my kids with me.”

            I’d say this photo of you and your kids bicycling on the sidewalk is more representative of “family cycling”. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeybrick/8001985936/in/set-72157631398802614

            The discussion about where parents should ride with their kids is frequent. Adults are not allowed to bicycle on the sidewalk, but their children are. So where should the parent ride?? is the question.

          • Jenn

            Hi Steven!
            Thanks for fixing my typos. I think family cycling is about riding with your kids on or off the bike to get places. I mean by saying I can’t ride without the guys that I don’t really have much of a choice but to ride with them to get around. I can take a car or ride with them on my bike or with me with some on my bike and some on their own. AS their main caretaker I usually have at least one along.
            Like most families here we use pretty much a guerilla approach. A little on the street, some on the sidewalk. Mostly whatever it takes to get around.
            I find the photo at the top of the this post frustrating because I see it as essentially false advertising. It looks like a set up photo that CDOT uses to justify those extra painted lanes. I have used those lanes and take my kids off the street instead of letting them riding on their own bikes much because of the disregard motorists show for the extra paint. Note my kids know their way around the city traffic on the streets here.
            Where do parents ride is a good question and not an infrequent one for parents talking about riding. Is a policeman gong to ticket families on the sidewalk? In some cases moving from the sidewalk to the street through intersections is much less safe than staying on the street.( we have a post about that
            )I’m really glad that you took up this topic with CDOT. Moving the goalposts isn’t going to improve riding conditions in Chicago. It just won’t. I doubt Mayor Emanuel wants to get into an “the emperor has no clothes” posture on good lanes. Changing language to meet the needs of pr instead of good streets won’t play in other more competitive cycling cities.
            It isn’t fooling anyone here either.

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

          The photo author is listed under the photo. It was taken by John Lankford, who was Active Transportation Alliance’s Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign manager at the time it was taken.

          In another thread, Michelle and I discuss the width of Wabash Avenue (and other streets). The part of Wabash Avenue in the photo is more than sufficiently wide for a protected bike lane like Kinzie. CDOT must be more transparent in describing proposed projects on how or why their proposal is the “safest for that block”.

        • http://www.bikewalklincolnpark.com/ Michelle Stenzel

          Hi Jenn, She was in an over-the-wheel bike seat or on a trailer hitch to age 8, and I rarely rode on the street when she was with me, meaning I went through the park on trails either for recreation or to get somewhere. After she outgrew the hitch, she was in the street on her own bike only when there was one parent in front, one behind (on our own bikes), on marked lanes like Armitage or Wells. When there was only one parent available, we sometimes did the kid rides on the sidewalk/parent in the street/meet up at intersections thing (mostly side streets but also down Lincoln). She is now a teenager and not interested in riding a bike generally, and I’ll leave it at that. :)

      • Dennis Hindman

        A significant observation of a report from the Mineta Transportation Institute is that to attract the widest proportion of the population to bicycle, a network must have routes where none of its links exceed a persons tolerance for stress and involves a minimal amount of detours. Whatever the highest stress level is of any link in the route, then that is the level of stress for the entire route:

        http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1005.html

        The researchers very cleverly mapped out a network of routes–that have a stress level which most adults would tolerate–by connecting the already existing low-stress islands of residential streets and bike paths in San Jose California. The biggest expense to complete this would mainly involve installing signalization to get past busy streets and constructing a handful of cycle tracks. You can see what they came up with on pages 47-49 of the report.

        Although not as extensive a network of bicycle routes as would be contained in most bike plans, its a very fast way to get a lot more people bicycling.

        An achilles heel of most cities bike plans is that they don’t focus on creating complete routes of low-stress cycling. They also tend to not figure out where a path or cycle track would be vital to complete the routes, and then stick to the plan to install it no matter what the level of resistance.
        A comparison of this is the Orange Line BRT bike path that runs for several miles across the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles and the cycling at the University of Southern California just south of downtown LA.
        I’ve taken the Orange Line bike path hundreds of times traveling to work and I assumed it was a low-stress route with a high rate of women cyclists. I was wrong. Traveling to and from the path is very stressful for most people and also a connection along the path that crosses two arterial streets diagonally. The rate of women cyclists is only slightly higher than the overall average for Los Angeles.
        Hoover St, just north of the University of California has the most cycling of any street in Los Angeles. It also has by far the lowest rate of helmet use and by far the highest rate of women cycling out of 33 intersections that the LA County Bicycle Coalition did counts on in 2011.
        The reason for this might seem obvious–college students. But, there is also another, even bigger University in another section of town–UCLA, and the situation is quite different in that area. Its a lot more comfortable to cycle on arterial Hoover St because it dead-ends at USC compared to UCLA, which is surrounded by some of the most congested, fast moving and busiest streets in LA. Just south of UCLA is Wilshire Blvd, which is up to ten lanes wide in a nearby section and has approximately120,000 vehicles move through one of its intersections per day. Nothing less than a cycle track with a buffer to reduce the noise of traffic would attract very many people to cycle on Wilshire Blvd. Its considered a death-trap by several very experienced cyclists.

        • Dennis Hindman

          I should have said that Hoover St connects to the University of Southern California and not the University of California. There is a much lower rate of cycling at UCLA compared to USC.

  • http://twitter.com/efeesq efe

    I wish they would have just stated the truth: Mayor Daley’s (and our wonderful City Council’s) lease of our parking meters has made it impossible for Rahm/CDOT to install 100 miles of protected bike lanes without removing street parking and paying millions to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC. It’s frustrating to imagine all of the bike lane possibilities without those parking meters standing in the way of progress. Sigh.

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

      I want to agree, but I haven’t seen the evidence of anyone working for the city, including city council members, attempting to “deal” with the street parking and meter lease in order to install a bike lane. I don’t doubt that it’s happened, or is happening, but they surely don’t make public these efforts.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.presslak Scott Presslak

    Personally, I feel safer — as a cyclist, motorist, and pedestrian — on a street with a “buffer-protected” bike lane over a “barrier-protected” bike lane. If you have a long stretch of roadway without any major intersections — eastbound Kinzie between Canal and Wells comes to mind — a barrier-protected lane makes a lot of sense. However, as soon as intersections start getting thrown into the mix, barrier-protected bike lanes become more of a liability. Cyclists are not as visible to drivers, as they have been riding along behind a wall of parked cars and greater than 10 feet away from the vehicular through lane. Furthermore, turning vehicles need to creep out further into the intersection for better sight lines around parked cars, which can often block the through cycle lane. Cyclists, for whatever reason, also seem to be more prone to committing rolling stops at stop signs and stop lights in this configuration as well (see Kingsbury at Kinzie), possibly because they become accustomed to the protection of the cycle track and do not expect other conflicting movements at intersections.

    Barrier-protected lanes are a pleasant ride mid-block, but in a city like Chicago with a strict rigid street grid filled with repeating intersections (as many as 16 in a mile), they can be a liability. Personally I’d rather see CDOT take a more proactive approach to using the street grid to its full potential, diverting more bike traffic off the heavily-traveled arterials onto lower-speed, lower-volume parallel facilities, such as the Berteau “neighborhood greenway”. Of course, these are not considered protected facilities at all (even if they are safer), so who knows how much of a priority they are.

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

      In northern European cities like Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen (and even some of their suburbs), “side streets” (as we Chicagoans like to call them) eschew facilities in favor of designations, laws, and cultural norms. A street may be designated a bike street (fahrradstraße in German, or fietstraat in Dutch) which means that an automobile driver cannot drive faster than a cyclist on the same street (which means the cyclist cannot be passed).

      • Jennifer

        In my experience living in Munich, drivers in Northern Europe are far, far more often cyclists as well. Few people use their cars to commute the way they do in Chicago as the trams and buses are excellent options though not cheap.

        In addition to the quieter side streets made such by strict speed laws there are excellent separated lanes that encourage a good clip when riding. The only people who walked into the bike lanes in Munich were drunk American tourists and they usually only do it once.

        We also found that many of our friends did commute by bike across the city and not for less than 2 miles as we have heard planners say here in public forums. Often friends would commute across the city and back with kids to day care or school. The innenraum of many a European city is very expensive for families and students to afford. Often they live in the outer rings of a city like Munich and commute by bike to school or work. Few kids in Germany were on their parents bikes at my children’s ages due to the solid separated lanes.

        Penalties for hitting a cyclist are also very high. Drivers can lose their right to drive for running stop signs or passing incorrectly on the right (especially for passing on the right on the Autobahn) If you don’t lose your pass you can run up such a high rate of insurance that you effectively cannot drive.

        We would benefit from planners with experience living for a long enough time in good cycling environments to take the feeling for granted. The surprise comes when one has to relocate to a transit dark ages to begin again!

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  • http://twitter.com/softleaf m.

    We have over 9400 lane miles & lots of long-run residential and narrow commercial streets. I wonder if CDOT’s ever considered giving over some streets to bikes & pedestrians, with resident, ADA, & specified-hour delivery traffic as needed as a means of increasing safety & flow for all modes. It’s a pretty common strategy in Europe.

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