Construction update: Jackson buffered bike lane installed after 1.5 year delay

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At Ogden Avenue, where the bike lane ended but continues 1.5 years later. 

One of the first protected bike lanes to be installed was Jackson Boulevard, back in 2011. Although the Jackson ptoected lane was originally slated to extend from Western Avenue to Halsted Street (1.5 miles), with some buffered bike lanes within that section, construction stopped at Ogden Avenue while the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) finished design negotiations with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The state transportation department has jurisdiction over the segment from Ogden Avenue to the end of Jackson at Lake Shore Drive (Route 66), and IDOT wanted more info about the proposed lane from CDOT.

More than 1.5 years after the original bike lane installation on Jackson, the missing segment got its buffered, instead of protected, bike lane in December.

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The segment between Ashland Avenue and Laflin Street, an historic district, is too narrow to have a bike lane without removing a travel lane so CDOT installed shared lane markings instead. If more people start riding bikes at the intersection of Jackson and Ashland, I foresee many conflicts at two points: drivers must turn left from the left-most lane across the bike lane path or from the bike lane itself; drivers and bicyclists going through will meet each other on the opposite side of Ashland as they head straight to the middle of the same lane on Jackson.

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As is often the case in Chicago, some drivers are using the new buffered lane on Jackson as a parking lane.

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Where people riding bikes need a dedicated lane most on Jackson is east of Halsted, approaching Union Station, past the Chicago River, and towards the Financial District, State Street, and Wabash Avenue. Aside from the addition of new bike-friendly concrete infill on each side of the metal grate bridge, there are no plans to extend the Jackson bikeway east of Desplaines Street (the first street east of Halsted). The one-block extension to Desplaines Street, which has some semblance of a protected or buffered bike lane where it meets Jackson, is listed in the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 as a “Crosstown Bike Route” to be installed between May 2013 and May 2014.

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Jackson Boulevard bike lane downgraded to buffered, to possibly be installed in spring 2013

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The street has lacked lane markings and a bike lane (a conventional bike lane existed prior to repaving) since it was repaved in October 2011.

A year and a half after one segment was completed, the Jackson Boulevard bike lane project may be finished, but with a lesser bike lane. Short of submitting a Freedom of Information Act for communications between the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Transportation and other recipients, here’s what I’ve been able to gather so far.

The Jackson Boulevard bike lane between Ogden Avenue and Halsted Street “will likely be extended to Halsted in Spring 2013 as a buffer protected bike lane”, CDOT public information officer Pete Scales emailed me yesterday.

He means a buffered bike lane.

Only CDOT views a buffered bike lane as protected. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), of which Chicago is a member and Gabe Klein its treasurer, defines a buffered bike lane:

Buffered bike lanes are conventional bicycle lanes paired with a designated buffer space separating the bicycle lane from the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane and/or parking lane.

Klein told me in an email after I questioned the labeling practice, “The City of Chicago views ‘protected bike lanes’ as the master category, and within that there are ‘buffer protected’ and ‘barrier protected’ bike facilities. On some streets we will be going back and forth depending on the right of way, and potentially multiple times in a block as we get into more complicated installations.”

Conversely, a “protected bike lane”, or “cycle track”, is defined by NACTO as:

One-way protected cycle tracks are bikeways that are at street level and use a variety of methods for physical protection from passing traffic. A one-way protected cycle track may be combined with a parking lane or other barrier between the cycle track and the motor vehicle travel lane.

The second part of Klein’s statement is understandable: a project like Elston Avenue is considered a “protected bike lane” even though parts of it have no protection (between North and LeMoyne and between Augusta and Milwaukee). This new definition isn’t in line with the publications and communications so far published by the department or with NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Any street to receive only a “buffered bike lane” has strictly been labeled as such, and not with “buffer protected bike lane”. There’s nothing protective about 2-feet wider bike lane when riding between moving traffic and parked cars.

IDOT’s response to my inquiry was ambiguous: “That is certainly one of the issues we have discussed with CDOT and are working with them on, in terms of gathering data about safety impacts, traffic impacts and other operational issues.”

Active Transportation Alliance’s design guide follows NACTO’s definition. I recommend being as clear as possible and describing each project as a “bikeway” with certain various bikeway types within that project having names that are easily distinguishable (see page 103 in this PDF from the Active Transportation Alliance design guide). “Buffered protected” and “barrier protected” are unnecessary classifications for bikeway types already well-defined.

The federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) doesn’t define different bikeway types nor restricts the use of “buffered bike lanes” or “protected cycle tracks”.

Updated December 3 to fix tags and add link to MUTCD reference. 

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Streetfilms publishes their Kinzie cycle track video, and bike lane updates

In this video published by New York City-based Streetfilms and producer Elizabeth Press, you’ll hear from me, Gabe Klein, David Gleason, Bradley Topol, Brandon Gobel, Alderman Solis, and Lorena Cupcake. We’re all talking about the coolness of Chicago’s first protected bike lane. Continue reading Streetfilms publishes their Kinzie cycle track video, and bike lane updates

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Project watch: 18th Street and Jackson Boulevard protected bike lanes

Two Grid Chicago Bike Lane Correspondents have sent photos and videos that show the few-days old construction of a protected bike lane on 18th Street between Clark and Canal Streets, a half-mile stretch between South Loop/Chinatown and Pilsen. It’s in the very early stages of construction and it looks to have a design very similar to existing Kinzie Street and fellow, in-progress cycle track, Jackson Boulevard. As we noted before, plates to cover the open metal grate bridge will come in 2012.

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Continue reading Project watch: 18th Street and Jackson Boulevard protected bike lanes

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“Waving” hello to Jackson, a protected bike lane that undulates

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Jackson bike lane at Crane Tech High School, 2245 W. Jackson

Back when Chicago’s first protected bike lane (PBL) on Kinzie Avenue was a work in progress, I was a little skeptical of how well it would function.

But, aside from motor vehicles – especially mail trucks – occasionally parking in the lane, I think Kinzie has been a big success. It’s usually a pleasure to ride and it’s definitely gotten local cyclists excited about Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner Gabe Klein’s plan to build 100 miles of protected lanes citywide by the end of the Emanuel’s first term. Continue reading “Waving” hello to Jackson, a protected bike lane that undulates

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Construction has begun on the Jackson protected bike lane (photo gallery)

Crews from Marking Specialists started installing pavement markings on Wednesday, October 5, 2011, continuing on Thursday and Friday. The project’s western extent was pushed to Western Avenue, making it 0.5 miles longer – now at 2 miles long. There are many aspects of this facility that differ from the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, Chicago’s first. John will have a more in-depth article about this project on Tuesday or Wednesday – this is just a photo gallery.

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West of Damen, the eastbound protected bike lane is on the south side of the street. At Damen, it switches to the left side. It’s unclear how bicyclists are expected to make this “crossover”. Continue reading Construction has begun on the Jackson protected bike lane (photo gallery)

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