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.

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

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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.

Continue reading Concerns from locals about protected lanes on the West Side boulevards

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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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Halting words: Klein and Smith discuss the new “Stop for Pedestrians” signs

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CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein and 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith. Photo by Steven.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently began the process of installing hundreds of signs citywide in an effort to educate motorists about the state law requiring them to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. The signs cost $400 each, sited and installed, a relative bargain for infrastructure that will raise awareness of pedestrian safety, calm traffic and possibly save lives.

At a press conference yesterday in Lincoln Park by the Brown Line’s Diversey station, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein and 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith discussed the benefits of the signs. They also crossed Diversey several times to demonstrate the signs’ effectiveness, with drivers usually, but not always, stopping for them without being prompted. The event was particularly timely because the previous night a young girl named Monet Robinson was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the West Side. Here’s a transcript of Klein’s speech:

Continue reading Halting words: Klein and Smith discuss the new “Stop for Pedestrians” signs

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Fatality tracker: 5-year-old girl killed in hit-and-run crash

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“It’s up to you”, an image of a mannequin t-shirt’s pedestrian safety message from fall 2011. It’s hard to tell if this message is directed at people walking along and across the street, or at those who can inflict traffic harm against them. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz. 

2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 7 (6 have been from hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 0
Transit: 5

Be on the lookout for a green, four-door Pontiac Grand Am with extensive damage to the passenger side front headlight that the Chicago Police Department said was involved in a crash with a 5-year-old girl named Monet Robinson, who died at Mount Sinai Hospital less than 30 minutes after the collision (on Monday, July 2). Police officer Daniel O’Brien said that they are searching for a male driver in his 20s, according to CBS Chicago.

The crash occurred in the 1500 S Millard Avenue block in the North Lawndale neighborhood. Below is a Street View image of the block. According to our tracking for 2012, this is the eighth pedestrian traffic fatality, and the sixth hit-and-run pedestrian fatality. In 2010, the last year for which compiled data is available (from the Illinois Department of Transportation), there were 22 pedestrian deaths until July 2, 2010.

At a press conference in Lincoln Park today to highlight new “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” signs, transportation commissioner Gabe Klein offered his condolences and mentioned that automated speed enforcement cameras might have been able to film the collision. He said that the crash location was between two schools; speed cameras are only allowed to be placed within 1/8 mile of schools and parks.

Huffington Post has additional info, links, and a video.

View 1500 S Millard Avenue in a larger map

* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time and includes only people who died in the Chicago city limits. View previous Fatality Tracker posts. Updated 16:02 to add the victim’s name, a link to Huffington Post, and a quote from CDOT commissioner Gabe Klein.

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