A great day in Chicago: protected lanes open in the heart of the Loop


See more of John’s photos from the ribbon cutting and inaugural bike ride, as well as Steven’s photos from the event.

This afternoon when Mayor Rahm Emanuel opened the new two-way protected bicycle lanes on Dearborn Street, it was the exclamation point to a memorable year of bike improvements. Dozens of advocates gathered at the south end of the 1.2-mile greenway for the event, which also celebrated Chicago’s reaching a total of thirty miles of protected and buffered lanes citywide, plus the release of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020.

The “game-changing” lanes on Dearborn, running the length of the Loop central business district, create a car-free route that even novice cyclists will feel comfortable on. They also make a statement that the city is serious about getting more Chicagoans on bikes. Building the lanes involved converting one of the three car travel lanes on the northbound street, which has the additional benefits of reducing speeding and shortening pedestrian crossing distances. Car parking was moved to the right side of the bike lanes, providing protection from moving vehicles, and dedicated bike stoplights, a first in Chicago, guide southbound cyclists and prevent conflicts between cycles and left-turning autos.

Continue reading A great day in Chicago: protected lanes open in the heart of the Loop

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See you there? Dearborn Street cycle track opens Friday


The barriers are coming down. Photo by Shaun Jacobsen.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will officially open the protected bike lanes on Dearborn Street on Friday afternoon, Chicago’s first two-way bike route with dedicated bicycle traffic signals.

CDOT will also formally release the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which calls for a 645-mile network of bike lanes to be in place by 2020 to provide a bicycle accommodation within half-mile of every Chicagoan. The plan sets forth a strategy to achieve Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of making Chicago the best big city for bicycling in America.

Please join us for the grand opening of the Dearborn Protected Bike Lane and the release of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020! A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday 12/14.

When: Friday, December 14 at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Park/Plaza located at approx. 700 S. Dearborn (just north of Polk)

We look forward to celebrating Chicago’s first two-way protected bike lane with our vibrant cycling community!

Thanks for all of your support,

CDOT Bike Program

Note: Information combined from a press release and an email to the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council mailing list. 

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CDOT cuts ribbon on greenest street in America


Looking east along Cermak Road at the Benito Juarez Community Academy along the “greenest street in America”. 

Okay, we first need to discuss the hyperbole in the headline. “Greenest street in America”. Really? At a press conference on Tuesday, October 9, in front of the Benito Juarez Community Academy, politicians and city staff described the features and collective effort to get to this point. I talked to David Leopold, project manager for the Cermak/Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to understand how Cermak Road and Blue Island Avenue in the Pilsen neighborhood could be considered the greenest street in America.

Watch the press conference on Vimeo.

My first question, “What’s the second greenest street in America?” He replied, “We don’t admit that there is one”.

All kidding aside, it really is, he explained. CDOT has been experimenting with sustainable landscaping, construction, and pavement techniques for more than half a decade. Its green alley program is probably the most well-known. It also operates the sustainable backyards program. Another project is the permable pavement parking lot at Desplaines and Polk Streets at the new location for Maxwell Street Market. Next to the parking lot is a bioswale (landscaping that naturally absorbs water, keeping it from our sewers that combine waste water and runoff) with underground monitoring tools.

In 2009, to start off the project, CDOT installed monitoring tools along Cermak Road, before visible construction began. Then came a bioswale at the high school (1450 W Cermak Road), smog-fighting bike and parking lanes on Blue Island Avenue, and multiple bioswales along both streets to divert runoff from the sewers. To cap it off, information kiosks with street lighting powered by wind turbines and solar panels were added as well as new sidewalks and crosswalks.

Back to it being the greenest street in America, Leopold said that they couldn’t find any other street that used as many sustainable techniques in a single project. The leaders in sustainable street design are in the Pacific Northwest (Portland and Seattle, specifically), but those were more focused on plantings and water diversion while Cermak/Blue Island has transportation elements as well.


After the ribbon cutting. View all photos from before, during, and after construction.

Updated October 14 to add links and refine narrative. 

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Chicago’s first pedestrian plan includes great ideas, lacks some information


A press conference was held last Thursday at the southeast corner of Dearborn Street and Madison Street to announce the city’s first pedestrian plan. Present were commissioners of transportation and public health, Gabe Klein, and Bechara Choucair, respectively, Metropolitan Planning Council vice president Peter Skosey, and various CDOT staff.

After 20 minutes of speeches from Klein, Choucair, Skosey, and Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke, CDOT pedestrian program coordinator Suzanne Carlson and Klein applied a diamond shaped decal to a sidewalk corner across Madison Street. The bright yellow “sticker on the street” says, “Be Alert. Be Safe. We’re all pedestrians.” It’s part of the Pedestrian Safety Campaign launched last year that also included 32 mannequins scattered around Wacker Drive and then to other sites, as well as orange flags at certain crosswalks, and a somewhat grotesque ad campaign on trash bins and buses.

The Pedestrian Plan has its merits and faults. The document is nicely designed, easy to read, informative (it does a great job introducing people to “pedestrian safety tools” that are mentioned later in the plan), but still speaks to the car-centric profession of traffic (transportation) engineering exhibited in Chicago. Continue reading Chicago’s first pedestrian plan includes great ideas, lacks some information

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


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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Green Lane Project to accelerate better bike lane development across the country


Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) director Victor Mendez speaks to the audience with Bikes Belong president Tim Blumenthal. Photo by David Schalliol

A soirée and a press conference in Chicago two weeks ago (May 30-31), bookended the launch of the Green Line Project, an initiative of the Bikes Belong Foundation and its six grant cities. The Green Lane Project is a sharing and technical assistance effort to build “better” bike lanes, to “propagate them faster across the country”, as Martha Roskowski, project manager, put it.

What is a Green Lane? From the project website, “A Green Lane is a statement about how we experience our communities,” but from an infrastructure sense, a green lane is a European-style bike lane “adapted to meet the unique needs of American streets”.

Continue reading Green Lane Project to accelerate better bike lane development across the country

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