Plan drawings show lack of bicycle accommodations.
Last year I requested from the city plan drawings for the bridge replacement and road reconstruction at Halsted Street and the north branch canal (near Division Street). Included in the response to my FOIA request were plan drawings from the Department of Transportation’s Division of Engineering for a complementary project, the reconstruction of Division Street between Cleveland Street (east) and the railroad viaduct by the McGrath Lexus dealer (west).
So no one is caught off guard like some felt in regards to the Fullerton Avenue/Lake Shore Drive project, I wanted to give a heads up for a project that I think lacks consideration of the principles of complete streets and Chicago’s Complete Streets policy. In other words, what is proposed is not a complete street.
A bridge to Goose Island.
The Division Street plan calls for replacing the bridges on the east and west sides of Goose Island with wider ones (and presumably without “cheese grates”). It also shows slightly widened sidewalks, two lanes of traffic in each direction (there is currently striping for just one lane in each direction), left turn lanes at intersections (and a new signalized intersection at Hickory Avenue). It also lacks bike lanes. Each lane on the existing bridges is currently wide enough to host a bike lane and cyclists pass by easily during congestion (see video or scroll down). Unfortunately, the narrow bridges mean few drivers can pass through each light.
The plan drawing is probably outdated in at least two aspects: the bike lane design on northbound Halsted Street approaching Division Street is not congruent with the bike lane design indicated in the Halsted Street bridge plans. The Division Street plan shows a curb side bike lane while the Halsted Street bridge plans show a centered bike lane (the attributes of such a design I’ve already discussed). The second discrepancy is that the Division Street plan does not reflect the upcoming Elston Avenue protected bike lane, designed before November 22, 2011 (the date on the plan drawing).
One of the most frequent complaints I noticed on the bike maps at various Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 meetings was the lack of cross town connections over the expressways and river (see them below). This project represents an opportunity to address the need for a safe, comfortable route over two parts of the Chicago River. The project scope should be expanded to include Division Street west of the Kennedy Expressway in order to make cycling and walker through there a safer journey.
This graphic shows the concerns about Division Street expressed by attendees of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 open house in December 2011. Read our review of the event.
Carolyn Koonce lives in Humboldt Park near Division and Rockwell and works in Old Town near Wells and Division. On a bike, that’s a straight shot of just 3 miles. But she only rode to work once last summer because she doesn’t feel safe passing under the Kennedy viaduct and over the bridges. Alternative routes (on North Avenue and Chicago Avenue) are less efficient and don’t feel any safer. The Google Maps bicycling directions feature suggests three routes for this trip, none of them a “straight shot”. The shortest is 3.4 miles and the longest is 4.4 miles.
Carolyn and her bicycle in Humboldt Park. Photo by Joshua Koonce.
From 2005-2010 there have been 12 pedestrian and bicycle crashes near the highway and railroad viaducts. Additionally, there have been automobile-bicycle crashes at every one of the 11 intersections in this project (from Cleveland Street to Elston Avenue). The street is calling for a convenient, safe bikeway.
A map showing the 12 bike and pedestrian crashes at Division Street and Kennedy Expressway.
What I find most interesting about the plan drawing is that it proposes a block-long bike lane from Crosby Street to Howe Street and then a half-block-long bike lane between Cambridge Avenue and Cleveland Avenue. Did you know that a bike lane existed on westbound Division Street between Wells Street and Orleans Street? It didn’t last long. Google Earth historical imagery shows it installed in 2002 and mostly disappeared by 2007. You can see remnants of it today on the ground.
A crop of the plan showing the curious block-long bike lane.
What I wish this plan would address is the 9-lane wide and 775-feet long “intersection” (if you can call it that) at Division Street, Clybourn Avenue, Orleans Street, and Sedgwick Street where people driving and cycling have a tough time navigating and maneuvering towards their destination.
Does the street need to maintain 4 lanes for automobiles? What other options are there for Division Street? Will relieving congestion (which I presume is one of the goals of this proposal) come at the cost of keeping roads unsafe for cycling? The time to make the hard choices on how livable the city will be has come. Complete Streets is not about ensuring conditions don’t become worse for the transportation modes called out in the policy but seeing to it that circumstances are improved.
See the full plan drawing (pdf).
Watch Cycling on Division Street between Orleans and the Kennedy on Vimeo.