Bridges update: Halsted now fully open, Chicago Avenue to be reconstructed, one lawsuit settled so far

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Photo of the reconstructed Halsted Street bridge at Chicago Avenue (looking north) by Ian Freimuth. 

John’s interview with Lorena Cupcake on Monday generated some new chatter about open grate bridges on Twitter. We’ve written about the dangerous bridges several times before and called for them to be fixed, even offering to trade 25 miles of Mayor Emanuel’s 100 miles of protected bike lanes for 25 safe bridges. Since then I’ve heard nothing but support for the idea from people who want truly safe connections across the Chicago River even if it meant fewer cycle tracks and buffered bike lane – the sentiment is based largely on the desire to maintain and fix what exists, rather than build anew.

Halsted Street

You can now continuously ride (in the street, no sidewalk jumping necessary) on Halsted Street from Chicago Avenue to Division Street, over Goose Island. The bridge at Division Street was replaced and opened in December 2011, while the bridge at Chicago Avenue had its deck replaced (among other changes). On the edges, a concrete surface was made in a new bike lane to make the bridge more comfortable for cycling.

The pavement marking design on Halsted Street going northbound approaching Division Street uses the centered bike lane design we panned in the article, How Danes make right turns. The bike lane is in between a 10 feet and 11 feet wide travel lane, for about 500 feet, so cyclists will be passed by buses and trucks on both sides. For over 300 feet of the 500 feet section, the bike lane has only dashed lines, possibly reducing its overall visibility. This situation is found on several other streets around Chicago. Dan Ciskey told us, “I hate getting passed by people going 40 MPH on both sides of me on Roosevelt Road”. Roosevelt Road between State Street and Canal Street has a collection of different bike lane designs: There’s a centered bike lane in each direction for hundreds of feet, then the bike lane is shared (again in each direction) with an ambiguously marked bus lane for hundreds more feet. 

18th Street

Protected and buffered bike lanes were built on 18th Street between Canal Street and Clark Street in November 2011. The Chicago Department of Transportation announced that plates would be installed over the open grate bridge deck there to make the surface more comfortable for cycling. That was 7 months ago and the decks are still not in place. CDOT replied to our request for a status update, saying they anticipate delivery on June 11, with “installation shortly thereafter”.

As for the phenomenon of driving and parking in the protected bike lane over the Chicago River, Grid Chicago emailed 25th Ward Alderman Solis’s office on April 6, 2012, comments from two people who have witnessed this several times. In a follow up call this week, the office asked the email to be resent. We will post the Alderman’s response. While this issue is largely one for the police to deal with, the Alderman can hopefully ask the Chicago Police Department and CDOT to find ways to prevent this dangerous driving behavior, as well as enforce the laws that make it illegal.

Bridge lawsuits

We’re aware of three lawsuits against the City of Chicago regarding injuries sustained while cycling over open grate bridges. One has been settled (the amount is currently unknown); the City filed a motion to dismiss in the second (it also filed a motion to dismiss in the settled suit); the third begun in March 2012 and has had no change in its status since the initial filing.

Chicago Avenue

The City will be replacing the Chicago Avenue bridge at Kingsbury Avenue, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s capital expenditure plan. CDOT is also planning to install a buffered bike lane on this segment of Chicago Avenue, from Milwaukee Avenue to Lake Shore Drive. Given that the street is wider than most, people drive very fast on it, and it connects to the Lakefront and thousands of jobs and destinations on North Michigan Avenue and in River North, the department should be planning for a protected bike lane.

Of note: a sign to encourage drivers to share the road was installed sometime this year in the eastbound direction of Chicago Avenue across from the Chicago Tribune plant. We critiqued the detour’s lack of bicycling accommodations in A tale of five bridges. This sign should have been there at the beginning of the detour, in 2010. This or similar signs (or better accommodations) must be installed for all roadway projects through which people are allowed to bicycle.

Previously written

Updated May 30, 2012, 09:37, to add status update on 18th Street bridge plates. 

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