Details on CDOT’s 150 miles of potential locations for enhanced lanes

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John and Mike Amsden at a Streets for Cycling meeting at the Sulzer Library in Lincoln Square – photo by Serge Lubomudrov

Last May during the community input process for the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, Steven and I attended one of the public meetings at the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park. At the open house Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) staff unveiled a map of potential locations for 110 miles of protected bike lanes and 40 miles of buffered lanes as part of a 645-mile bike network. Both of us left the meeting with the impression that CDOT was upping their goal from the 100 miles of physically separated protected lanes Rahm Emanuel had promised to install within his first term. Since then we’ve been reporting CDOT plans to install 110/40 by 2015, and we’ve never gotten feedback from CDOT that this was inaccurate.

In December, the press release for the Dearborn Street two-way protected lanes made it clear that CDOT is now referring to physically separated protected lanes as “barrier-protected” and calling buffered lanes “buffer protected,” and their current goal is to install a total of 100 miles of the two different types of lanes by the end of the mayor’s first term. In the wake of this terminology shift and apparent change in plans, I asked CDOT bikeways planner Mike Amsden for some clarification about what happened to the 150 miles of proposed lanes shown on the map.

Continue reading Details on CDOT’s 150 miles of potential locations for enhanced lanes

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Why Clark Street in Lakeview wasn’t a protected bike lane: it’s 1 foot too narrow

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Clark Street buffered bike lane just north of Diversey Avenue. Photo by Adam Herstein. 

CDOT responded today to my inquiry asking why Clark Street between Diversey Avenue and Addison Avenue received a buffered bike lane and not a protected bike lane. Bikeways planner Mike Amsden writes:

Clark Street (Diversey to Addison) was striped as a buffer protected bike lane, and not a parking protected bike lane, because it is a 51′ roadway throughout the project limits. As you might know, the minimum roadway width for installing barrier protected bike lanes on roadways with one travel lane and one parking lane in each direction is 52′, and the preferred minimum width is 58′. A 52′ roadway allows for a 5′ bike lane, a 3′ buffer zone, an 8′ parking lane and a 10′ travel lane in each direction. However, even when a roadway is 52′, other roadway characteristics and operational considerations must be assessed before installing parking protected bike lanes. These characteristics include the amount of bus, truck and bicycle traffic, loading and delivery needs of local businesses, emergency vehicle access and maintenance requirements.

These standards come from the NACTO* Urban Bikeway Design Guide. If you have not read this guide I recommend doing so as it will likely answer many other questions you may have. The guide can be found here. http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/

To answer your final question, if we were to recommend a parking protected bike lane on a 51′ roadway, all curbside uses (parking, standing, loading, valet, etc.) would have to be eliminated on one side of the roadway for the entire stretch in order to do so.

1 foot is all it takes, it seems. You can see the relevant NACTO standard in this image. Notice items 4, 5, and 6, that describe the minimum widths for the bike lane, buffer area, and parking lane, respectively.

One-Way Protected Cycle Tracks
Design guidance for One-Way Protected Cycle Tracks in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

Update: Why can’t certain lanes be narrower?

Someone asked in the comments this question, which Amsden anticipated: “We can’t go with a 7′ parking lane because then you’d have a 7′ parking lane next to a 10′ travel lane. People wouldn’t be able to get out of their cars, buses/trucks wouldn’t be able to maneuver, emergency vehicle access would be restricted, etc. That’s why even a 52′ roadway (with a 8′ parking lane next to a 10′ travel lane) is considered really tight.”

* National Association of City Transportation Officials, the yin to American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials yang (AASHTO).

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Wells Street gets better with time: new signs appear

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At the June 13, 2012, Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, we asked Mike Amsden if the Wells Street “enhanced” marked shared lane would be accompanied with signs that say “bikes may use full lane”. He said “no”.

Things changed, as photo contributor Adam Herstein noticed this morning. He says this sign is posted at each intersection (from Wacker Drive to Van Buren Street, we presume, which is the length of the “enhanced” marked shared lane).

A larger version of this sign exists, but the unique situation of the ‘L’ track colums might prevent objects from exceeding the column width, unless they were higher up to avoid being smashed by trucks.

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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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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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CDOT responds to our questions about the Streets for Cycling plan

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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.

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

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