Active Trans takes an active role in supporting the growth of green lanes

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Lee Crandell in the Kinzie Street protected bike lane. This photo and Jackson bike lane image are by John; all others are by Steven.

[This piece also runs on the website of the Green Lane Project, an initiative that is promoting protected and buffered bike lanes nationwide, sponsored by the national advocacy group Bikes Belong. The term “green lanes” refers to protected and buffered lanes and other innovative bikeways.]

After a lull earlier this fall, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is moving full speed ahead expanding the city’s bikeway network. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has committed to building 150 miles of green lanes (110 miles protected and 40 miles buffered) by 2015. Earlier this year CDOT bikeway project director Mike Amsden told me he hoped to reach a total of thirty miles of green lanes before construction season ends this year.

The department recently striped several new stretches of buffered lanes on Chicago’s North, South and West sides. Crews are currently finishing a 1.3-mile section of protected lanes on 31st Street, as well as a continuous 3.5-mile network of protected lanes along the city’s historic boulevard system. Another ten miles of green lanes are still on the table for this fall, including a “game-changing” two-way protected lane on Dearborn Street through the heart of downtown. With the current flurry of activity it’s very possible CDOT will win its race against time.

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What do Hyde Parkers really think of the 55th Street protected bike lanes?

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[This piece originally ran on the website of the Green Lane Project, an initiative that is promoting protected and buffered bike lanes nationwide, sponsored by the national advocacy group Bikes Belong. The term “green lanes” refers to protected and buffered lanes and other innovative bikeways.]

Bike planners and advocates get excited when green lanes appear on city streets, but how do regular folks feel about them? To get a better idea, I pedaled to 55th Street in Chicago’s Hyde Park community, where the city recently built new protected bicycle lanes.

A square-mile of land on the city’s South Side, surrounded by parkland to the west and south and Lake Michigan to the east, Hyde Park is famous as the home of the University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Obamas. A dense, ethnically diverse college neighborhood, it naturally boasts a high bike mode share.

Continue reading What do Hyde Parkers really think of the 55th Street protected bike lanes?

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Can Chicago reach 30 miles of “green lanes” before the snow flies?

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Amsden in Amsterdam on a fact-finding trip with U.S. politicians and planners organized by Bikes Belong. Photo courtesy of Bikes Belong.

[This piece originally ran on the website of the Green Lane Project, an initiative that is promoting protected and buffered bike lanes nationwide, sponsored by the national advocacy group Bikes Belong. The term “green lanes” refers to protected and buffered lanes and other innovative bikeways.]

No one can accuse Mike Amsden of being lazy. Amsden, project director with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) bicycle program, has the job of implementing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan of building 150 miles of green lanes (110 miles protected and 40 miles buffered) by 2015. This first struck me as a Herculean task, but the CDOT team has made significant traction already and Amsden says that if all goes well, by the end of the year they’ll be on track to meet their target.

The first 150 miles will be part of the city’s grand scheme to create a 645-mile network of various types of bikeways within the decade, which would ensure that every Chicagoan has a route, lane or trail within a half mile of his or her home. The proposal, called the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan, is the product of a robust public input process, with two rounds of community meetings held on all sides of the city. The final plan should be released in October.

Amsden took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to give me an update on CDOT’s progress installing the lanes, and what’s on the horizon, including the two-way protected lane on Dearborn Street in the heart of the Loop downtown business district that promises to be a game changer.

Continue reading Can Chicago reach 30 miles of “green lanes” before the snow flies?

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Getting ready for the protected bike lane “breakthrough”

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The Kinzie Street protected lanes. Photo by Josh Koonce.

[This article also appears on the Green Lane Project‘s website.]

Last month dozens of transportation professionals from across the Chicago area converged on the Sears Tower to learn about protected bike lanes and other new developments in bike facility design. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the region’s official planning organization, hosted the workshop “Designing for Bicycle Safety,” led by veteran transportation engineer John LaPlante.

The Green Lane Project’s Martha Roskowski flew in from Boulder to deliver the keynote address, helping to get the audience excited about the brave new world of protected lane design. And Randy Neufeld, former head of of the Active Transportation Alliance and current director of the SRAM Cycling Fund, gave an update on efforts to build the lanes here in the Windy City.

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Green Lane Project to accelerate better bike lane development across the country

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Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) director Victor Mendez speaks to the audience with Bikes Belong president Tim Blumenthal. Photo by David Schalliol

A soirée and a press conference in Chicago two weeks ago (May 30-31), bookended the launch of the Green Line Project, an initiative of the Bikes Belong Foundation and its six grant cities. The Green Lane Project is a sharing and technical assistance effort to build “better” bike lanes, to “propagate them faster across the country”, as Martha Roskowski, project manager, put it.

What is a Green Lane? From the project website, “A Green Lane is a statement about how we experience our communities,” but from an infrastructure sense, a green lane is a European-style bike lane “adapted to meet the unique needs of American streets”.

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Bike sharing delays, bike lane designs, and other highlights from Wednesday’s MBAC meeting

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CDOT staffer Mike Amsden describes the city’s commitment to bicycling in a presentation about the progress of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. 

Yesterday’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC) meeting was the first in a new format we reported on back in December. There was a meeting in March, but its schedule wasn’t announced. The new format resembles the original format in 1992, when Mayor Daley started MBAC, with formally defined membership. It’s now modeled on the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council, according to Luann Hamilton, deputy commissioner of project development at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). She expounded:

We’ve added so many issues. When we started, biking in Chicago wasn’t a health issue, it was a recreation issue. Once it was linked to health, it brought in a whole new group of people that needed to be connected. Bring more voices, more diversity. Modeled after our MPAC which was formed in 2006 (also has technical and stakeholders committees). Some represent agencies, others are advocates, community members, all who want to make streets safer and usable by all travelers.

The council can be active again, vote, carry motion, write a letter. I think we were instrumental in creating changes, like at CTA and Metra [getting them to allow bicycles on buses and trains]. I think this Council can have a powerful voice. All the folks who have come over the years can still come and make presentations.

The first hour is for members to speak and present. The remaining half hour is for public comments and discussion. Hamilton answered affirmatively to Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke’s question about whether or not she anticipates the council being able to make recommendations. Continue reading Bike sharing delays, bike lane designs, and other highlights from Wednesday’s MBAC meeting

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