Looking north at Dearborn and Monroe streets.
These are definitely exciting times for Chicago cyclists. I pedaled downtown this afternoon to see how the “game-changing” Dearborn two-way protected bike lane is progressing. I was expecting to see a few blocks of striping work completed. I’m pleased to report that by 4 pm this afternoon striping work seemed to be largely complete on almost the entire corridor from Polk Street to the Chicago River, less than 24 hours after work started.
One reason the work is going so fast is that it’s being done by Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) crews using paint, rather than contractors using molten thermoplastic, which might be worth considering for all bike lanes. Thermoplastic lasts much longer, but paint is a whole lot cheaper. My friend Dave Schlabowske, former Milwaukee bike coordinator, tells me that city crunched the numbers and found that it was cheaper to repaint their bike lanes every year than to stripe them with thermoplastic once every few years. This also might help with the “disappearing bike lane” problem.
But that’s a debate for another day. For now, let’s celebrate the lightning-fast progress of this pioneering facility, which CDOT says will be completed, including striping, signage, bollards and traffic signal timing, by mid-December, if the warm weather holds up. The bike-specific traffic signals will be crucial for guiding southbound bike traffic and preventing conflicts between northbound bike traffic and left-turning cars.
Since there are no bollards or signs up yet, many drivers were, understandably, parking in the bike lane, but the lane really won’t be completely safe to ride until the signals are activated anyway. One benefit that has already resulted is that, with the removal of one of the three travel lanes, Dearborn already feels calmer and more civilized, like a bustling neighborhood retail street rather than a typical downtown speedway. The following images provide a virtual tour of the new lanes heading northbound; more photos can be viewed here.