State of Independence: The protected lane will change to a buffered lane

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The city has placed barricades in the protected bike lanes on Independence Boulevard to discourage cycling in them until they are converted to buffered lanes. 

View more photos of the Independence Boulevard bike lanes here.

In December Red Bike and Green’s Eboni Senai Hawkins notified me that residents of Lawndale, an underserved community on Chicago’s West Side, were “up in arms” about the new protected bike lanes on Independence Boulevard. This roughly mile-long stretch connects the Garfield Park green space with Douglas Boulevard and is part of a new 4.5-mile network of protected and buffered lanes leading from the park to Little Village. I interviewed Hawkins for her perspective on the situation.

Hawkins, a Lawndale resident, told me the locals had a number of complaints. After the new lanes, which move the parking lane from the curb to the left of the bike lane, were striped but not yet signed, dozens of motorists who parked curbside were ticketed. Those tickets, and all subsequent tickets were eventually dismissed. Independence is home to several churches and the pastors felt that the new lanes made it difficult for members of their congregations to park.

Although the lanes are designed to reduce speeding and shorten pedestrian crossing distances on the wide boulevard by narrowing the travel lanes, drivers said they felt uncomfortable parking in the new “floating” parking lanes. They said the new configuration made them feel more exposed to the still-speeding traffic as they exited their cars. They found the new street configuration, which incorporates sections of protected as well buffered lanes, to be confusing. And they objected to the removal of some parking spaces as part of the design.

Residents complained to 24th Ward Alderman Michael Chandler. Although Chandler had signed off on the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) plans for the lanes a year earlier, at a couple of recent community meetings the alderman blasted the new design and asked CDOT to bring back curbside parking. The department has agreed to use paint to convert the protected lanes to buffered lanes later this winter at an estimated cost in the low $10,000s, according to deputy commissioner Scott Kubly.

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Concerns from locals about protected lanes on the West Side boulevards

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Cyclist on Douglas Boulevard in the 24th Ward before protected lanes were installed.

Eboni Senai Hawkins, founder of the local chapter of the African-American cycling group Red Bike and Green, recently emailed me that some local residents are “up in arms” about the protected bike lanes being built along the West Side boulevards. This 4.5-mile route leads from Garfield Park to 24th Street in Little Village. 24th Ward Alderman Michael Chandler has asked the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to suspend construction of the lanes on Independence Boulevard, which runs south from Garfield Park, until these issues are resolved. I called Eboni last night for more info and her perspective on the situation.

So what are people’s concerns?

Basically they’re creating a protected bike lane on one side [of Independence] by moving the parked cars to the middle on [the southbound] side, and on the other side going north they’re just doing it as a buffered bike lane, with the bike lane to the left of the parked cars. So essentially they started implementing this particular design for these bike lanes and then there was ticketing that wasn’t supposed to happen that all of the sudden happened because people didn’t know where to park. The lanes are half constructed. So all these tickets were issued and everyone’s up in arms in this particular community, which is mostly Lawndale. [The tickets have since been dismissed.]

A special concern is the number of churches that are along this corridor. They’re concerned about their congregation and their ability to park. And there’s also this concern about safety. Basically people kept saying at the meeting, you have to get out of your car in the middle of the street.

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Fall bike lane construction update

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A Marking Specialists work truck in the Marshall Boulevard bike lane it just helped create (they work on weekends, too!). 

Chicago Department of Transportation staff and its contractor Marking Specialists have been busy this summer and fall, striping miles of conventional, buffered, and separated bike lanes in Chicago. This post documents all of the new bike lanes we haven’t yet featured prominently, some of which are likely still under construction as the photos were taken between 1 and 4 weeks ago.

Sacramento Boulevard, 24th Boulevard, Marshall Boulevard

Still to come on this project through Little Village, Lawndale, North Lawndale: Douglas, Independence, and Hamlin Boulevards. It connects with a short, separated bike lane on Jackson Boulevard between Independence Boulevard and Central Park Avenue. The Central Park Avenue bike lane then connects north to separated bike lanes on Lake Street and Franklin Boulevard. Collectively these bike lanes are called “West Side Boulevards”. I like how this new separated bike lane “goes places”: through and to residential neighborhoods, past schools and parks.

People parked their cars in the bike lane, which we’ve found to be typical for under-construction separated bike lanes. The pavement quality issues that Franklin Boulevard suffers from are present on this project as well, in multiple locations (there’s a small bush growing in the bike lane a few feet before your reach a large pothole). I look forward to seeing the ultimate design created at the intersections and high-speed curves in Douglas Park and the pavement issues corrected. This project is likely still under construction.

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A separated bike lane on Marshall Boulevard, looking south at a Pink Line viaduct. It’s parking-protected in some locations. In this photo, new parking spaces are created where none previously existed.  Continue reading Fall bike lane construction update

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Are the upcoming Streets for Cycling projects in good locations?

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The Garfield Park fieldhouse, along the upcoming West Side Boulevards bike route

After attending the West Side and South Side meetings for the Streets for Cycling plan to install hundreds of miles of protected bike lanes and other innovative bikeways, I confess I was a little concerned about the city’s initial plans.

At the meetings, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) staffers announced that a 4.1-mile network of protected bike lanes (PBLs) will be built along the West Side segment of the Boulevard System. Another 1.5-mile segment will be built along Garfield Boulevard (5500 S.) from King to Halsted. CDOT also announced that the city’s first neighborhood greenway (AKA bike boulevard), a traffic-calmed, bike-and-ped-prioritized side street, will be created on a .9-mile stretch of Berteau Avenue (4200 N.) from Lincoln to Clark.

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CDOT handout outlining the West Side Boulevard PBL route

I became more nervous about these locations after I learned that the West Side route and the Berteau greenway were first proposed by aldermen, and that one of the main motivations for putting PBLs on the boulevards is traffic calming. It reminded me of how, when I used to work for the city getting bike racks installed, aldermen would sometimes ask us to install racks at the end of a cul-de-sac to keep cars from driving over the curb, not because anyone would actually want to park a bike there.

Continue reading Are the upcoming Streets for Cycling projects in good locations?

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