Bicycling in Chicago, a view from the south side – part 1

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Bicycling on 76th Street, a recommended bike route under the Skyway and several railroad viaducts, and some of the poor conditions described below. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

Editor’s note: Anne Alt writes about cycling on the south side of Chicago, in two parts. -SV

Five years ago, I moved from Rogers Park to Beverly when my husband and I bought a house. I’d spent a fair amount of time riding on the south side, but didn’t fully appreciate how much more difficult it would be to ride to other south side destinations until I started doing it from here on a regular basis.

What’s different about riding on the south side?

We have many bike friendly areas within neighborhoods. The south side also has dozens of major interruptions to the street grid: expressways, rail lines, intermodal freight yards, industrial parks and waterways. The growth of cheap imports in freight containers has led to an increase in truck traffic on local roads. Traveling safely from one bike friendly area to the next can be difficult, especially south of Hyde Park or west of Western Avenue, because the few streets that connect them may be anything but safe for bikes.

Viaducts

South side viaducts are often much longer than those on the north side, due to large rail yards. They create a special set of hazards for cyclists, as illustrated by pair of viaducts at 83rd and Vincennes (previously mentioned on The Chainlink). One of the viaducts is long enough to be very dark, even in the brightest sunlight. Artificial lighting is inadequate. The picture below, taken around noon, shows how it looks while riding through on a bright day, when my eyes haven’t yet adjusted to the dark conditions.

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The sidewalks are usually full of broken glass, so few people consider them a workable alternative. On the street, it’s difficult for drivers to see cyclists unless their tail lights are on. Pavement conditions are rough, and our eyes may not adjust quickly enough to see potholes before we hit them. There may be standing water or black ice.

A friend from my neighborhood took a bad fall under this viaduct a few years ago, when he hit a patch of black ice that he could not see. He was lucky that there was no approaching traffic so he was not run over, otherwise it could have been a fatal fall. He is a strong, experienced rider who rides all over the south side. Many similarly experienced riders who are used to north side conditions refuse to go through this viaduct, because the conditions scare the hell out of them. The viaduct at 89th Street & Vincennes Avenue has been under construction for several months and was just completed, so Vincennes Avenue has been unusable as a through route from 83rd Street to 91st Street for most of this year.

This selection of viaducts further illustrates what we face (using Google Street View):  76th Street at Wallace Street, 37th Street at Canal Street (two blocks north is a longer viaduct at 35th Street), 28th Street at Stewart Avenue (two blocks north is a viaduct with a bike lane), Colfax at 94th Street, 79th Street at Wallace Street, and Union Avenue at 75th Street.  This section of 71st Street at the Skyway, with its smooth pavement, bike lanes, good lighting conditions and clear sightlines, looks beautiful in comparison. This long viaduct on 51st Street is better than most, because the builders created light wells, which keeps the underside from being a pitch-black tunnel. I wish that the builders of this monster on Damen Avenue between 16th and 14th Streets (just over 1/4 mile long; see video) and 83rd Street & Vincennes Avenue could have followed a similar example and provided more light and ventilation.

Viaducts that are long enough to be dark tend to have standing water longer than adjacent areas. In winter, that water turns to ice. It’s not just a slip-and-fall risk. It also breaks up pavement, creating killer potholes.  Once potholes form, standing water hides those holes from unsuspecting cyclists.

From a recent conversation with Gabe Klein, I learned that viaducts are now on the Chicago Department of Transportation‘s radar. That’s a good start. Many of our viaducts are owned by freight railroads, so getting their cooperation will be essential in developing long-term solutions. I hope that CDOT will be able to do a full assessment of the city’s viaducts soon, and that they’ll be able to get funding allocated to deal with all the viaduct-related issues. I suspect that getting railroads to deal with long-neglected maintenance issues may be the most difficult part of the process.

How do we get around?

The further south you go in the city, the more difficult it is to safely ride between neighborhoods. There is only ONE street south of 67th Street/Marquette Road that is totally uninterrupted from Cicero Avenue (4800W) to the lakefront: 95th Street – the biggest east-west commercial street on the south side. Most of it is unsafe for cycling, due to its combination of traffic volume and speed, lane width, and heavy truck and bus traffic.  To put this into perspective, we’ve got about 8.5 miles of city south of 67th Street, going all the way to 135th Street. At 95th Street, the lakefront is at approximately 4000E on the city grid – 8 miles east of Western Avenue (2400W).  That section of the south side is over 64 square miles, equal to most of the north side, with a fraction of the north side’s rideable streets.

(I use 135th St. as an approximation of the southern border, which varies from 119th St. at the southwest corner of the city to 138th St. at the southeast corner.)

In my explorations, I learned that 83rd Street is rideable all the way across the city – from Cicero Avenue to the lake – with a few minor interruptions.  It connects with many north-south routes, offering bike access between residential areas, schools, shopping, jobs, transit and recreation.

One of those connections is Vincennes Avenue* where fast traffic scares some cyclists. Some ask: “Why ride there at all?”  From 71st Street to 87th Street, Vincennes Avenue and Loomis Avenue are the only north-south streets between King Druve (400E) and Damen Avenue (2000W) that are rideable, uninterrupted and have stoplights or all-way stops at all major streets. That’s right – only TWO north-south routes in 3 miles. State Street and Ashland Avenue have a scary combination of fast traffic, lots of cross traffic and frequent bus traffic.

This section of Halsted (view on map) is actually designated as a recommended bike route on the City bike map. I don’t feel safe riding it because it’s a busy commercial street with too many opportunities for collisions due to cross traffic. Other streets are interrupted, or do not offer safe crossings at all major streets. From the northeast (Woodlawn, Hyde Park, South Shore, etc.), Vincennes is much more direct and allows for faster riding than any alternative streets because it has fewer intersections and much less cross traffic.

These sections of the city bike map illustrate the some of the gaps in our south side bike route network.

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Morgan Park, Roseland, West Pullman. No bike lanes or marked-shared lanes, but one multi-use trail (Major Taylor Trail). 

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Pullman, South Deering. No striped bikeways. 

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Marquette Park, Scottsdale, Ashburn. A single bike lane, on Marquette (67th Street). 

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McKinley Park, Canaryville, Bridgeport. A few bike lanes and a marked-shared lane. 

Compare to Hyde Park (below).

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Hyde Park, Kenwood, South Shore. Many bike lanes, one marked-shared lane, and a multi-use trail (Lakefront Trail).

Then compare to this section of the north side.

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Lincoln Park, Lakeview. Many bike lanes, many marked-shared lanes, and a multi-use trail (Lakefront Trail).

From 83rd Street to 130th Street, we have only a few east-west routes that are rideable from Halsted (800W) to Lake Michigan or the Indiana border.  Most of them are partial routes where we have to improvise to get across the gaps.  The City bike map shows only one – a very indirect route using 111th – Doty – Stony Island, 122nd – Torrence – 126th. Portions of it are hazardous enough, due to heavy truck traffic and poor pavement conditions, that very few cyclists would ride it alone, or at rush hour. On a weekend morning, it can be a great route for fast, confident cyclists, but it’s daunting for more casual riders. Right now there are gaps in that route, due to extremely poor pavement conditions on Doty Avenue and bridge reconstruction on Torrence Avenue.

Construction, bad pavement or a major crash in a critical location can make a through-route unrideable. Reconstruction of railroad crossings and bridges is as likely as street construction to interrupt our bike route network. The nearest detour may add 3-5 miles or more to our trips. Sometimes interruptions to those few routes can make getting to our destinations by bike impossible, unsafe, or just make the trip ridiculously long.  If those destinations aren’t served by public transit, a car may be the only option. It’s not easy to get a cab down here – if you can even afford the fare for the distance you need to travel.  Car sharing is available at three I-Go locations south of 59th Street. Those who don’t have cars may be out of luck.

Railroads: up close and personal

Viaducts are not the only way that railroads impact cycling on the south side. We have dozens of grade crossings, especially in far south and southwest neighborhoods. If I want to ride from Beverly to Pullman to visit friends (a distance of less than 5 miles), I have to cross 3 railroad grade crossings and I-57. One grade crossing has only Metra trains (Rock Island District), one has limited rush hour Metra service (same line) and heavy freight traffic, and the third has freight at all hours. Following the route mapped below, I have an easy crossing of I-57 on the Major Taylor Trail. If I’m lucky and don’t encounter any trains, I can easily make the trip in less than half an hour.  If I am unlucky enough to find trains at all three crossings, that can add half an hour or more to my trip. I have to allow extra time if I need to arrive by a specific time, in case I have to wait for trains. Over the last five years, I’ve spent a lot of time chatting with people doing yard work at homes next to the tracks and with people in cars waiting next to me, while trains rumbled by.

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A bike route from Beverly to Pullman. At-grade train crossings are identified by green and red markings. 

The combination of expressways and rail lines makes this area of the city very tricky for cyclists. To travel north-south, there are only a couple of bridges across I-57 or I-94 that an average cyclist may find rideable: Parnell Avenue (600W) and King Drive (400E). Aside from major streets, only 97th Street offers a crossing over the rail line that runs parallel to Eggleston Avenue (400W). I’ve spent more time waiting at crossings on that line than all the others combined.

If you want to go all the way to Lake Michigan or the Indiana state line, there are a total of 4 bridges south of 95th Street that cross the Little Calumet River. Three of those bridges have voluminous traffic, including many trucks. 100th Street is the easiest of those bridges, and it offers a cool view of the Skyway.

In spite of all these challenges, cyclists in neighborhoods across the south side are determined to keep working for better conditions and promoting cycling for transportation and recreation. In Part 2, I’ll discuss who’s riding now, other issues we face, and ideas for overcoming some of our obstacles and getting more south siders riding bikes.


View a larger map of all viaducts mentioned here

*Editor’s note: A bike lane on Vincennes Avenue from 89th Street to 107th Street was removed in 2006 to accommodate an automobile detour related to Dan Ryan expressway construction. The bike lane was never reinstalled. A bike lane on Vincennes Avenue from 70th Street to 76th Street was installed in 2011. -SV

Published by

Anne Alt

lifelong Chicago cyclist who has lived in several neighborhoods from one end of the city to the other.

29 thoughts on “Bicycling in Chicago, a view from the south side – part 1”

  1. Take a look at this map: http://g.co/maps/3gnx9 You’ll see there is no bikable way over or around the tracks near Midway airport. I’ve heard talk of extending Central through though.

    Coming from the Southwest of the city is a nightmare on a bike. My other option is riding east as far as I can and meeting the lakefront path to avoid that messed up part of the traffic system.

    1. Southwest is definitely the most difficult section of the region to cycle through.  Within the city, it is nearly impossible to cross the Chicago Belt Railway.  I occasionally commute from Hyde Park to Argonne National Lab. I take Marquette as far as I can, then cross the railway at Columbus, and take it down to 83rd St.  There is a plan to grade separate this crossing, which I’m afraid will greatly increase the amount of traffic on Columbus, which is already an inadequate route.

      Mind you, the most difficult section of my commute is in trying to cross the IHB, I-294, LaGrange Rd., and the Des Plaines river along 87th.

      1. Southeast is pretty tough, too, but I hear you.  I’ve used the same route you’re describing – Marquette, neighborhood streets, SW on Columbus, and 83rd.  I hadn’t heard about a plan for grade separation at Columbus.  I agree that removing the possibility of waiting on those long, long freight trains could bring a lot more traffic to Columbus.

        I like Columbus in off-peak hours when it’s relatively empty, but it’s not for the faint of heart in terms of traffic speed.  I suspect I’d like it a lot less if I was trying to ride it at rush hour.  I’d love to see bike improvements to make Columbus more rideable ALL the time. 

        I’m not sure of the lane widths there, but the road would probably need to be widened to accommodate bike lanes, which would be expen$ive.  With that huge intermodal yard and all the trucks it brings, losing traffic lanes certainly wouldn’t be an option.  If bike lanes could be added from Campbell to 83rd Pl/Lawndale, it would be a huge improvement to the SW side bike route network.

        The western section of your commute sounds hair-raising at best. I don’t envy you that part of the trip.

  2. In part 2, the area around Midway is one of the problem areas I mention.  IDOT is currently developing plans for an underpass to take Central under the railyard.  As far as I’m concerned, it can’t happen soon enough.  I attended a public meeting about this proposal last year.  If they build it on the proposed schedule, within a few years there will be a road with multi-use sidepaths under the railyard, and a road with improved sidewalks and bike lanes south of the underpass.  This will include safer intersections near 2 schools.

    I agree that the southwest side is exceptionally difficult for cyclists.  I hope you’ve heard about Mayor Emanuel’s plan for 100 miles of protected bike lanes – Streets for Cycling.  Stay tuned for public meetings and other opportunities to speak up for better bike routes on the southwest side.  Yes, there will public input to help determine where protected lanes and other improvements will go.  Watch for more news on this over the next few months.

    1. There would need to be substantial lane reconfiguration on portions of each street.  Both are closer to bike friendly east of the Dan Ryan.  From Damen to Cicero, 87th is more like a highway, and 79th is smaller but similar.  These are among the few east-west routes that aren’t interrupted or miserably slow. 

      As much as 87th and 79th (west of Damen) frustrate me as a cyclist, we have so few through-routes down here, that I’m not wild about the idea of eliminating the 2 of the few that offer reasonable travel times west of Western.  They are the check valves that keep 95th St. from being absolutely hellish.

      I would like to see some speed enforcement on both streets, which is rather lacking now.  On 79th west of Western, lane widths are not generous in most areas, especially considering the truck traffic.  With truck and bus traffic, pinching this one from 2 lanes down to 1 in each direction would not work.  If bike lanes were to be added, the median would have be reduced and some addl. road width would be needed.  This would be difficult in places where commercial buildings are built right up to the sidewalk, which is at the curb. 

      87th has more lane width in some sections, but it also abuts Evergreen Park and Hometown, where bike improvements are a tougher sell.  It has a lot more commercial development and cross traffic than 79th.  Because we have 83rd St., I don’t have any great desire to fight for 87th as a bike route.  However, I would like to see it improved for pedestrians.  Pedestrian refuge islands, more visible crosswalks and bulb-outs could make a big difference for those walking in their neighborhoods or trying to cross 87th to/from a bus stop or store.

      West of Halsted, 83rd is really much more suitable as a bike route.  Parts of it need work, but it’s really a lot closer to being a good bike street now.  There are narrow sections, and areas with bad pavement.  That can be remedied. It offers good access to 79th and 87th in most areas.  None of it is commercial, except at major intersections.  It’s all residential, parks, schools and forest preserve.  The biggest problem with 83rd is the interruption between Halsted and Vincennes due to freight rail.  The detour on Kerfoot and Vincennes is uninviting at best, especially at night.  If those streets were improved (pavement, lighting and bike lanes), they’d be more welcoming.  I end up detouring north to 81st to cross those rail lines instead.  Given the choice between riding on a quiet residential street that offers access to the commercial streets and riding next to trucks, buses and LOTS of cars, I like 83rd a whole lot better.  East of Vincennes, it could use a little improvement, but it’s a decent bike street.

      Traveling east from the Ryan, both 79th and 87th get easier for bikes as they get narrower and slower.  There are more through-routes east of the Ryan, so the major east-west streets north of 95th aren’t anywhere near as big and fast as they are west of Western.

    2. To continue that thought, I like the idea of 79th as a bike route east of the Ryan, or even east of Halsted.  I need to take a more detailed look at 79th east of Damen and Halsted between 71st and 87th.  If we could improve that section of Halsted to make it more bike friendly, that could connect 83rd west of Halsted with 79th east of Halsted. 

      The boulevard section of 87th (Halsted to Eggleston) is nice, but once you get beyond the viaduct east of Eggleston, it’s hellish until you get east of the Ryan.  The volume of all types of traffic from the viaduct to the Ryan is huge barrier to bike access and would require some very creative ideas.

      Adding bike lanes along Holland from 83rd to 87th would give us a connection between the 83rd St. bike lanes and the huge retail complexes on 87th – easier and less expensive than trying to tackle this difficult section of 87th.

      I’ll give a little more thought to 79th and 87th east of the Ryan and revisit later.

    3. Did you guys know that 79th Street has the most “high pedestrian crash” intersections? 

      “79th Street contained three of the top twenty-two intersections for overall pedestrian crashes and two of the top twelve corridors for fatal and serious injury crashes”. From the Chicago Pedestrian Safety Analysis. It had the highest “crash index”, determined by the number of fatal and serious injuries per mile. 

      Why is that?

      It also has one of the busiest bus routes. The 79/79th bus had 30,015 average weekday boardings in August 2011. The 8/Halsted had 20,613, and 151/Sheridan had 21,905.

      1. Are those 79th St. pedestrian crash intersections west of Western, from Western to the Ryan, or east of the Ryan?  Without knowing the answer to that question, I’d bet that one of those 3 top intersections is Western, one of those corridors is Cottage Grove, and vehicle speed is the number one reason.

        I’d also bet that many of those crash locations are around bus stops.  There are plenty of places where there are long gaps between stoplight or stop sign-controlled intersections and pedestrians will cross where they can rather than walking to the nearest controlled intersection.  Lack of driver respect for crosswalks is certainly a factor. 

        As a cyclist and a driver, I’ve had lots of close calls when a
        pedestrian jumped out mid-block, often from between parked cars, and expected me to stop instantly.  This has happened at various hours of the day throughout the year.

        In winter, ice and snow on sidewalks also contribute to this problem.  I’ve seen plenty of places on the south side where a crew clears the bus stop itself, but the sidewalk leading to the bus stop is buried deep.  In spots like that, I’ve seen pedestrians cross in some of the most hair-raising places because the sidewalk was unsafe and they were opting for the most direct, least icy route.

        There are so many contributing factors, that there’s no simple solution.  However, reducing driver speed would seem to offer the most bang for the buck.  It would reduce the fatality rate and possibly reduce the number of crashes.

  3. Thanks for writing this, Anne.

    I used to commute up Ashland from 35th to Chicago once or twice a week. I was always particularly perturbed by motorists who would honk at me and recommend I use the bike path on Damen. What’s not show in the Google Street View or the video of the 1/4 mile monster viaduct are the ghost bike and hand-painted “Motorists watch for bicycles” sign at the north end of the south-bound lanes – at least they used to be there.

    For cyclists who are not afraid of commercial traffic, I recommend taking Ashland from Archer to about Lake. This will get you around United Center traffic was well as the death-tunnel. The road is silky smooth and nearly flat the whole way.

    I would love to see Ashland’s road surface south of Archer improved and bike lanes added. I travel to Beverly every couple months, and I would love to bike there. As it is, I usually bike to the Metra, take my bike on the Metra, and then bike around Beverly.

    1. I think the sign is on the south side of the northbound lane. I don’t know if it’s still there. I think the viaduct issue represents two issues:
      1. We don’t do small fixes. We only design and build new bike lanes. Read my maintenance article for why bike lanes aren’t repaired, even when 50% of the stripes have disappeared. There’s no “problem intervention”.
      2. The City government doesn’t have sufficient influence over railroads to force fixes to crumbling infrastructure, or even to add more lighting (which the city would probably have to pay for). 

    2. I think the sign is on the south side of the northbound lane. I don’t know if it’s still there. I think the viaduct issue represents two issues:
      1. We don’t do small fixes. We only design and build new bike lanes. Read my maintenance article for why bike lanes aren’t repaired, even when 50% of the stripes have disappeared. There’s no “problem intervention”.
      2. The City government doesn’t have sufficient influence over railroads to force fixes to crumbling infrastructure, or even to add more lighting (which the city would probably have to pay for). 

      1. The last few times I was there, I saw a sign on the north side of the southbound lane, but I think I remember them on both sides a while back.

        Lack of ongoing maintenance bites us in the collective butt in so many areas – bike lanes, roads in general, viaducts, transit, bridges, etc.

        I think that light wells would be a more effective solution than adding more artificial lighting, since they would also add ventilation and help standing water to evaporate.  But that brings us back to the roadblock of railroads’ lack of maintenance. 

        There’s no easy fix here without a major restructuring of priorities.

      2. Interestingly, the bike lanes on South Shore Drive south of 71st (not sure how *far* south) have just been restriped.  Given the state of the pavement, this is a real head-scratcher to me.

        1. It was most likely paid for by the alderman. (The money the City uses to pay for new bike lanes cannot be used for maintenance.)

          I hate it when new stripes are put on bad pavement. This was just done on Lincoln Avenue between Diversey Avenue? and Wells/Clark Streets. 

          1. This is a head-scratcher for me, too.  It makes no sense to restripe when the pavement within those stripes is so bad that no one wants to ride there.

      3. I might be wrong about #2.
        I thought the railroads owned the viaducts’ undersides, but a commenter  on the Part 2 of this series pointed out that’s not the case: the city has jurisdiction there. 2. 

    3. Riding up Ashland from Archer to Lake – yowza!  I’ve been on that section many times in a car and not envied the few cyclists I’ve seen there.  Too many trucks, too many psycho leadfoot drivers.  The road surface definitely could use a LOT of improvement south of Archer.   This street should be high on the city’s list for speed enforcement.

      In many sections, I think there may be enough lane width to squeeze in bike lanes.  The downside – too many drivers on Ashland can’t seem to stay in their wide lanes now.  Pavement conditions are a factor, but a lot of it is just plain bad driving.

      Except for a few sections, I prefer Damen to Ashland.  The death tunnel and the huge bridge over the Stevenson and the Canal are both formidable.  South of 47th and north of Roosevelt, I like to use Damen when it connects well to my destination.

      I haven’t been through the death tunnel in a while, but I’ve seen the hand-painted signs and ghost bike.  They are reminders to turn on my lights and make myself more visible.

      Going from the north side to Beverly, I have 2 routes I like better.  The western route is Archer to California to Marquette or 71st to Damen to the Major Taylor Trail (at 87th).  The eastern route is Cottage Grove to 71st to Vincennes.  If not for the mess south of 83rd, I’d take Vincennes all the way south.  Now I usually take 81st west a bit (to Morgan or thereabouts), then go south to 83rd and west to the Major Taylor Trail.

      Can’t blame you for taking Metra on your trips to Beverly.  I sometimes use the red line, but the ride over to the Ryan has its challenges.  I hope that we have more and better options a few years from now.  That will be a team effort.

    4. Ashland and Damen are both bad for different reasons. If Western is closer I’d look into that to get to Oakley. If you are coming from anywhere near Ashland, Archer to Lock->Eleanor->Loomis->Blue Island. That route has a lot of bike lane and is a lot less hair raising than either Damen or Ashand.

      1. That Lock to Blue Island route is one of the best alternatives to the Damen death tunnel, IMO – a lot less traffic, more room, and bike lanes.  I think Western is just as bad as Ashland, due to traffic volume and speed.

        1. They just repaved Wood St. this summer between 18th street through the Med district.  In my opinion this is now the best gateway to/from Pilsen.  They even resurfaced below the viaduct (a rarity from my experience). 

          I have a bad feeling that ice might be an issue in the winter though.  The are between 16th and Roosevelt is undeveloped so I doubt that snow will be removed quickly.

          1. Thanks for the update on Wood.  That is a nice connector when pavement is good.  They actually resurfaced under the viaduct?  Wow!  That is rare.

          2. That is a big rarity. And I thought it was because the railroads owned the viaducts’ undersides, but a commenter  on the Part 2 of this series pointed out that’s not the case: the city has jurisdiction there. 

  4. Anne hits the nail on the head regarding the barriers to riding on the S. side.
    Even recommended bike routes have serious flaws that you just don’t see reflected in the plethora of N. side routes.  There’s not much you can do about RR lines, but updating the lighting under the viaducts would be a *big* improvement.  Street maintenance (aka fixing potholes!), street sweeping, garbage removal…  these go without saying.

    I would love to see the Vincennes bike lane reinstated, as it is an excellent SW to NE route.  However, the old bike lane had some serious flaws–all reflecting back on dangerous car traffic.  Every time I rode that bike lane, I would see multiple lead foot drivers using the bike lane as a right hand passing lane.  Obviously, that is a highly illegal maneuver on multiple fronts.  It’s also freaking terrifying to be riding the bike lane while some insane driver practically runs you down at 60 miles an hour attempting to pass the motorist in front of them (who is merely driving 10 miles over the speed limit).  I continue to ride Vincennes–bike lanes or no bike lanes–despite the speed of traffic because quite frankly, it is the best of the available options.

    Vincennes is a prime candidate for a PROTECTED bike lane or cycle track.  With barricades in place, riders would be protected and car traffic would be forced to become more law abiding.  My guess is that maintaining the speed at which the road was designed will have the additional upside of *improving* commute times as well as improving gas mileage (fewer jack rabbit starts and stops for drivers).

    Right now, my favorite into-the-city commute has been negatively impacted by all the viaduct work going on along Vincennes.  I am grateful for the future improvements, but losing this transit route in the meantime sucks.

    p.s. the photo is of the Cal Sag Cycles youth bike group riding on Vincennes at roughly 12400 S. Vincennes.

    1. Well said, Jane!  You describe the traffic issues on Vincennes accurately.  I think that a big part of the speed problem there is lane width and striping.  Lane width tends to be generous on Vincennes.  North of 83rd, there’s a centerline and two striped through lanes in each direction.  South of 83rd, there are no individual striped lanes in most places, even though each side of the roadway is 1.5 to 2 lanes wide.

      When traffic is light, most drivers just zoom past me – not very close.  When it gets heavier, especially at intersections like the 87th/Halsted triangle or 83rd, it’s like the Wild West – anything goes.  Driver speeds of 40-50 mph are very common on this street, which is signed for 30-35 mph.  

        1. When I’m driving a car on Vincennes and going 30 mph, I’m regularly passed by drivers who are going 10-20 mph faster.  I know that Jane’s had the same experience.

          I often ride at 15-20 mph on streets like Vincennes when conditions allow (or faster on my recumbent).  I find it a bit easier to estimate vehicle speed when my own speed is closer to theirs. 

          Also, cars moving at faster speeds create a lot more air turbulence.  Even if you’re not looking at it, you can feel the difference between a car passing at 40 or 50 mph vs. one passing at 30.  It’s certainly not an exact measure of speed, but it can give a ballpark idea.

          When I lived in NH, much of my riding was on country roads where the speed limits and driver speeds were in the 40-55 mph range.

          I would love to see accurate speed readings to get a sense of how many drivers are going 40 mph or faster on streets like Ashland, Vincennes, Western, 87th, Stony Island and others.  If we had those numbers, I think they’d be rather scary.

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