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


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.


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.


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


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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Highlights from December’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting


Bicycle signals on Dearborn Street at Madison Street were turned on as of Wednesday. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz. 

Meeting minutes for the September 2012 can be downloaded (.pdf); read our recap of it.

Streets for Cycling Plan 2020

Download now (.pdf).

A few months late, the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 will be released today, including a Bicycle Facilities Guide designed for all Chicagoans that shows the new facility types being installed on Chicago roadways and how to use them (no matter your transportation mode).

Bike sharing

The current focus is on finalizing the contract with Alta Bicycle Share. Chicago Bicycle Program coordinator Ben Gomberg said they would finish selecting the sites for bike sharing stations in January or February. Gomberg mentioned that Alderman Pawar is using menu funds to purchase 5 stations for the 47th Ward; Bill Higgins, a transportation planner in Pawar’s office, said that the “shortening” of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) 11-Lincoln bus route (eliminating it from a 3 mile stretch between Western/Lawrence and Fullerton Avenues) was a basis for buying the stations. Alderman Moreno is also using menu funds to purchase 2 stations for the 1st Ward. DePaul University, Gomberg said, was interested in purchasing 3 stations.

No mention was made of the investigation by the Chicago Inspector General. Jane Healy, an activist from Blue Island, Illinois, and a board member for Active Transportation Alliance, asked if there was a timeline. Luann Hamilton, Deputy Commissioner of Project Development at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), replied that there wasn’t one.

The cost of purchasing an additional station (there will be 300 purchased by the City in the first year an additional 100 kiosks in the following year) is $56,000, which includes 19 docks and 15 bicycles; there’s a discount if you buy more than one. CDOT will not be charging an operating fee to those entities who purchase kiosks, a policy in place at the Washington, D.C.-centered Capital Bikeshare program.

CDOT is looking for an organization to sponsor the bike sharing program. Citibank paid $41 million for the naming rights in New York City: “Citibike”.  Continue reading Highlights from December’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting

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Business as usual: Wells Street bridge closure detour falls short of “8 to 80” bike planning


A variable message sign on Wells Street at Hubbard directs traffic to LaSalle Street. There was no sign directing bicyclists, which is odd because this route on June 26, 2012, saw 679 riders from 7-9 AM at Chicago Avenue. 

The Wells Street bridge closed on Monday, November 5, to all traffic (the sidewalks were open in the morning) so that the bridge can be rebuilt; a new concrete deck will be constructed providing a safer surface for bicycling. The Chicago Department of Transportation estimates construction will finish by December 1, 2013. To reroute traffic, CDOT posted a map and plan showing different detour routes for different transportation modes: one each for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and bus operators.

Information on the street, however, doesn’t match the plan. People on bikes are directed by the map to turn left from Wells Street onto Kinzie Street and then use Clark Street to cross the river. Yet a variable message sign on Wells Street directs Wells Street traffic to use Illinois Street. One Grid Chicago reader told us that changing lanes on his bicycle, during morning rush hour, from the bike lane on Wells Street to make a left onto Kinzie Street was difficult because many drivers were not turning left onto Illinois Street; in the subsequent days he took Clark Street from the north but found traffic to be worse. Continue reading Business as usual: Wells Street bridge closure detour falls short of “8 to 80” bike planning

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Wells Street bridge to close next Monday, November 5, with bike detour on Clark Street


Clark Street now has bridge plates for bicycling and is part of CDOT’s recommended detour for bicyclists who travel south on Wells Street to south of the Chicago River. Photo taken October 30, 2012. 

The Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) jointly announced in a press release today the yearlong closure of the Wells Street bridge. The press release detailed the two, short duration closures in the spring of the CTA Purple and Brown Lines to repair Tower 18. CDOT published an accompanying map of the detours that will go in place which include a route for bicyclists to travel south on Clark Street where new bridge plates have been installed. According to Alderman Brendan Reilly’s newsletter, the project completion date is no later than December 1, 2013.


Photo of poor quality pavement taken September 4, 2012. 

Grid Chicago has contacted CDOT to ask that the potholes, cracks, and uneven pavement on Clark Street in the right-most lane before the bridge be repaired. Dan Burke, deputy commissioner of the division of engineering at CDOT said over the phone they would send paving crews to the spot within a week.

View this rapidly created Google Maps of the Wells Street detour in a larger screen. The thick blue line represents the recommended detour for bicyclists; LaSalle Street is another option but lacks bridge plates (about half of the bridge has a concrete deck). It was adapted from a CDOT-issued map (.pdf).

Updated October 31 to include the information about potholes and completion date. 

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CDOT responds to our questions about the Streets for Cycling plan


John and Mike Amsden at a Streets for Cycling public meeting last winter. Photo by Serge Lubomudrov.

For many months now Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) project manager Mike Amsden and his team have been working hard preparing the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. The plan now calls for creating 110 miles of protected bike lanes and 40 miles of buffered lanes by 2015, and a 640-miles bikeway network by 2020. A revised map of the network, based on input received at recent public meetings, will be unveiled on Wednesday June 15 at the Bike to Work Rally, 7:30-9 am at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington. The final map will be officially released with the rest of the bike plan at a later date. You can read more details about the plan here.

I had some of my own questions about the plan, and I’d also seen and heard comments from others in the comment sections of Grid Chicago and The Chainlink, and in conversations with other cyclists. Mike took some time out from his busy schedule to sit down with me at the CDOT offices, look at maps and respond to my inquiries, based on my own questions and concerns I’d heard from others. We discussed whether the plan is too ambitious, or not ambitious enough; whether the West and South Sides will get their fair share of facilities; whether the protected bike lanes offer enough protection; and what CDOT is doing to fix metal-grate bridges.

Our conversation will make more sense if you take a look at a map of the proposed 640-mile network – here’s a link to a PDF of the map. The current Chicago Bike Map is available here. Below is a map of the proposed locations for the first 150 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes – click on the image for a larger view.


Continue reading CDOT responds to our questions about the Streets for Cycling plan

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Does the new “tied arch” bridge on Halsted encourage speeding?


Approaching the new bridge from the south. Here there are two travel lanes, bike lanes and parking lanes.

When new bridges are built in Chicago, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) generally requires that they be built to accommodate projected traffic demands. The assumption is that in the future there will be more people driving than ever before, although most of us hope this won’t be the case.

So when the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) rebuilt the North Damen Avenue bridge over the Chicago River in 2002, IDOT insisted that the old two-lane bridge be replaced with a four-lane, although Damen is generally only a two-lane street. But as a rule, if you give Chicago drivers the opportunity to speed, they will.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that as soon as the new bridge opened, motorists took advantage of the new half mile of wide open space between stoplights at Fullerton and Diversey to put the pedal to the metal. The speeding cars, plus the fact that bike lanes weren’t included in the project, turned a formerly bikeable bridge on a recommended bike route into a hostile environment for cyclists.

Continue reading Does the new “tied arch” bridge on Halsted encourage speeding?

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