CDOT fast to build new bikeways, but needs to rectify existing ones

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A properly installed sharrow, 11 feet from the curb. 

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An improperly installed sharrow, 9 feet from the curb, that hasn’t been rectified in over a year. 

A year ago I notified the Chicago Department of Transportation about some mistakes that were made in the installation of new bikeways. They replied October 25, 2011, with a description on how but not when they would be fixed. A year has passed and the fixes aren’t in. The first issue is “shared lane markings” (better known as “sharrows”) that were installed too close to parked cars after a construction project. The second issue is the case of bike lane signs far from any bike lane. Additionally, there are new (but longstanding) issues that are in need of resolution.

Sharrows too close

In the 2011 Chicago Bike Map, printed by CDOT, “marked shared lanes” are “usually established on streets with lots of traffic that are too narrow for bike lanes”. They consist of “special pavement markings [to] direct bicyclists to ride outside the ‘Door Zone'”. (The 2012 Chicago Bike Map omits these statements but they remain on the city’s bike map website and are printed in the federal manual of traffic control, MUTCD.) Continue reading CDOT fast to build new bikeways, but needs to rectify existing ones

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Should I reconsider my support for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection plan?

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An overhead view of the new design. View all images and site plans

Ed. note: In the spring of 2011, I suggested friends and readers of my blog Steven Can Plan write letters to the Chicago Department of Transportation about the distinct lack of bicycle infrastructure in the plan to redesign the intersection and streets at Damen Avenue, Fullerton Avenue, and Elston Avenue. It’s more than an intersection overhaul.  I then reported that it appears the letters you and I sent were positively received and bicycle infrastructure was added to the plan. The project, now set forth, will have three separated intersections (which should reduce the complexity of traffic signal cycles and automobile turning movements) all connected by roads with four travel lanes. Elston and Damen Avenues will have protected and conventional bike lanes, respectively. A Grid Chicago reader emailed us three weeks ago to ask us to reconsider our support for that design.

Tony Horvath lives in Lakeview and is a business analyst for Merrill Corporation. He doesn’t own a car but remembers the intersection from when he used to own a car and drove through it often. He commutes by ‘L’ but has also biked through the intersection and in the area. -Steven Continue reading Should I reconsider my support for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection plan?

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Not every bike lane is cause for a celebration

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The Grand Avenue bike lane is less than 2 years old and came with destroyed pavement. This photo was taken between Clark and LaSalle Streets. 

The addition of a bike lane on any given street is not necessarily a victory for citizen cyclists. In order to to be a worthy expansion of the cycling network, bike lanes should be installed (with appropriate contextual modifications) on streets where such an addition makes the roadway more conducive to comfortable cycling. Grand Avenue isn’t one of these streets. The addition of a bike lane between Orleans Street and Navy Pier in 2010, when no other changes were made to the street environment and design, did not make the street better to cycle on. There were preexisting issues that have remained long after the lane was striped.

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A right-turn lane would likely have fit at LaSalle Street, but instead drivers use the bike lane to prepare for their turn.  Continue reading Not every bike lane is cause for a celebration

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Photos from day 2 of Elston Avenue cycle track construction

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The northbound section reached Division Street. 

The design reveals itself hour by hour (see day one). Today I visited at 10 AM. One Twitterer had this reaction to the project: “@gabe_klein As a daily Elston bike commuter I thank you and all of @ChicagoDOT for expanding these facilities. cc @gridchicago @thetrolusk”.  Continue reading Photos from day 2 of Elston Avenue cycle track construction

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Elston Avenue bike lane returns in upgraded form

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Riding in the cycle track southbound towards the Magnolia Avenue “Y”. 

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Riding in the cycle track southbound next to Elston Materials’s property. The parking space and wide area in this photo are for a tanker truck as seen in this photo

After seven months without them because of neighbor and weather delays, pavement markings make their return today to Elston Avenue between North Avenue and Magnolia Avenue. The difference now is that buffered bike lanes and a cycle track replace last year’s conventional bike lane. The full project limits are North Avenue to Milwaukee Avenue, a distance of 1 mile. The enhanced bikeway should definitely bring cyclists back to Elston Avenue, after what I perceived was a period of avoidance. A cycle track at the “Y” intersection of Elston and Magnolia Avenues should reduce the incidence of high-speed, northbound passes.

At 12:42 PM today, only sections between North Avenue and Magnolia Avenue had been striped.  Continue reading Elston Avenue bike lane returns in upgraded form

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Making construction areas and detours bike-friendly

Updated June 28, 2011, to add link and photo about how citizen cyclists are accommodated in Copenhagen, New York City, and San Francisco (at end of post). Updated July 8, 2011, to add a section about “shared responsibility.”

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When roads or bridges are reconstructed, bike lanes and people riding in them lose. The photo shows where a section of the bike lane has been removed and the remainder of the bike lane has been closed, without notification.

I wanted to renew my driver’s license Monday and I had two choices: downtown or northwest side. I looked at the map to find that the Illinois Secretary of State’s Drivers Services Facility called “Chicago North,” at 5401 N Elston Avenue, was only 4 miles from my house. It’s about 4 miles to downtown, but I believed going north would be easier and faster on my bike.

It was. Aside from an infrastructural design issue on Elston Avenue that makes right-hooks really easy, almost inviting, and a bike-unfriendly construction detour, I got there in great time. Going to downtown would mean more lights, more traffic.

Continue reading Making construction areas and detours bike-friendly

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