CDOT unveils draft Streets for Cycling plan, but there’s still time for input


On Tuesday at the first of several community input meetings before the Streets for Cycling 2020 plan is finalized, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled a draft map of locations for the 110 miles of protected bike lanes (PBLs) and 40 miles of buffered lanes to be built during Rahm Emanuel’s first term.

However, the meeting focused on a new concept, the Citywide 2020 Network, a comprehensive plan for 640 miles of bikeways to be created over the next eight years – more details on this in a minute. CDOT also unveiled a draft map of this larger network at the event, held at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence in Jefferson Park.

Although the Streets for Cycling community input process is nearly complete, there’s still time to provide feedback before the final plan is unveiled at the Bike to Work rally on Friday, June 15. After you finish reading this post, take some time to study the two maps. If you have suggested edits to the proposed bikeway locations, see the bottom of the post for several ways you can make your voice heard.

Below is a snapshot of the draft map of the Citywide 2020 Network.
A PDF is available here. Note that the map does not show specific locations for PBLs and buffered lanes.


Below is the draft PBL and buffered lane map. Existing and proposed PBLs and buffered lanes are shown in blue; the rest of the proposed Citywide 2020 Network is shown in brown. Click here for a larger map.


Getting back to the Citywide 2020 Plan concept, in a nutshell, the 640 miles of bikeways would be divided into three classifications:

Four Star Bike Routes (60 miles). CDOT is also considering calling these Bicycle Superhighways and Spoke Lines, and is asking for other name suggestions. Shown in dark blue on the Citywide 2020 Network map, these would be the most direct routes in and out of the Loop for cyclists. Routes would include South Chicago Avenue, Vincennes Avenue, King Drive, Archer Avenue, Lake Street, Milwaukee Avenue and Clark Street.

These would be “red carpets” for bikes, offering the best possible bike facilities, including innovative street design and branding to alert cyclists and others to the streets’ function. Ideally these streets would feature protected bike lanes with well-maintained, colored pavement, as well as intersection improvements, bike traffic signals, on-street bike parking and special signs and banners. At the very least these routes would get conventional bike lanes or marked shared lanes.


Four Star Bike Routes AKA Bicycle Superhighways.

Crosstown Bike Routes (260 miles). Shown in medium blue on the Citywide 2020 Network map, these long, continuous routes would connect neighborhoods and major destinations. These would feature a simpler bikeway design than the Four Star routes but could possibly include protected lanes, or at least conventional bike lanes or marked shared lanes.

Neighborhood Bike Routes (320 miles). Shown in light blue on the Citywide 2020 Network map, these would be residential streets connecting Four Star and Crosstown routes. Some of these would be set up as “neighborhood greenways” with traffic calming and possibly traffic diverters and/or contra-flow bike lanes. Others might get treatments ranging from PBLs to simply bike route signs.

At the meeting, longtime CDOT bike coordinator Ben Gomberg explained that the Streets for Cycling Plan would establish bicycle facilities within half a mile of virtually every Chicago resident. The goal is to raise the local bike mode share, currently about 1%, to a Portland-esque 5%. The missing link is making people feel safe riding on the streets, Gomberg said. “In the 16 years I’ve worked with the City of Chicago coordinating the bike program, day in and day out I hear people say, ‘I’m terrified of bicycling on the city streets,’” he said. “So the bottom line is we’re looking to establish streets that people will be comfortable riding on.”

Streets for Cycling project consultant Mark de la Vergne from Sam Schwartz Engineering outlined the reasoning behind the 640-mile Citywide 2020 Network. “We started to look at a map of all these destinations and quickly saw that 100 miles of protected bike lanes isn’t going to get us to where we want to go to build this citywide network,” he said. “There needs to be a more comprehensive approach to addressing bicycle infrastructure in the city.”


During the Q & A session, I asked CDOT bikeways project manager Mike Amsden why Lake Street was chosen as the Four Star route to the West Side. Washington Boulevard has long been the main western bike lane street, while until recently Lake Street, which is lined with ‘L’ pillars, wasn’t even a recommended route.

“That was probably the toughest decision to make,” Amsden responded. “There’s a lot of streets going west that we could have chosen: Lake Street, Washington, Warren, Madison. There are some wide streets, Jackson, that used to be heavily trafficked, now not so much. We heard from people that they use all the streets but Lake Street kind of kept rising to the top. And we know we can do things on Lake Street.”

I also asked about future plans for Milwaukee Avenue, which is not slated for a PBL or buffered lane north of Division Street. “You’ve probably had a huge demand for improving Milwaukee,” I said. “Are you looking at doing any other treatments north of [Division] on Milwaukee?”

Amsden responded that although Milwaukee north of Division is too narrow for protected lanes, CDOT will be giving this street special attention as a Four Star route. “The big thing will be focusing on intersections, making them as safe as possible,” he said. “And we’ll be branding and marketing these facilities to really draw attention to them and say, ‘There’s a lot of people out here riding and we all need to be aware of each other.’ So it’s more than, what can we do with 44’ of roadway. It’s how can we make the situation better for bicyclists, how can we brand or market this street so people realize that this is a street where you’re going to have a lot of bicyclists.”

J. Harry Wray, author of the book Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life, asked about what he termed “bike lane evaporation.” “Everywhere you look there are ruts cut into the bike lanes and the lanes are disappearing,” he said. “In many places you can barely see them. So is there any thought being given to maintaining what we already have?”


De la Vergne and Amsden.

“Over the past two or three years we’ve been very successful in starting to rehab our bike network,” Amsden responded. “A lot of it is reaching the end of its useful life. It’s been in place for ten or fifteen years. So we’re refreshing pavement markings all over the place.” De la Vergne added that the published bike plan will include maintenance strategies. “It’s not the most sexy stuff,” he said. “But we’re all very cognizant of that issue as well, and we don’t just want to build new stuff and watch it crumble down.”

Amsden concluded the meeting by noting that CDOT hopes to have the majority of this network in place by the end of the decade, and while the streets chosen now may not turn out to be absolutely perfect in the future, the plan should have a transformative effect on the city. “We’re talking about a lot of stuff but we think it’s stuff that can get done,” De la Vergne added. “Our tagline is ‘boldly feasible.’”

How to provide input on the Streets for Cycling Plan

View the Streets for Cycling presentation that is being shown at the upcoming community meetings.

Email your suggestions to the CDOT bike Program at

Post on the Streets for Cycling Facebook page.

Comment at one of the upcoming meetings or webinars:

Gary Comer Youth Center – Exhibition Hall, 3rd floor
7200 S. Ingleside Ave.
Thursday, May 31st, 2012
4 – 8 p.m., presentation with Q&A at 4:30 & 6:30p.m.

Douglas Park Cultural and Community Center – Ballroom
1401 S. Sacramento Dr.
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
4 – 8 p.m., presentation with Q&A at 4:30 & 6:30p.m.

Open House
77 S. Dearborn – Building Lobby
Saturday, June 9th, 2012
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Webinar #1
June 11th
12 – 1 p.m.
Reserve your Webinar seat.

Webinar #2
June 13th
6 – 7 p.m.
Reserve your Webinar seat.

Published by

John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

30 thoughts on “CDOT unveils draft Streets for Cycling plan, but there’s still time for input”

  1. Thanks for the info, guys.  I ride east on Diversey and Belmont regularly and there lots of cyclists who do the same.  While I don’t expect that this plan is going to cater just to me, I just have to shake my head in bewilderment that there doesn’t seem to be on single east-west arterial street that has been selected to get west-siders to the LFP.  I sent this to the contact address:

    “Hello – I chair the Field Museum’s green team, which rolled out the first-ever shared bike program for a museum.  I listen to our staff explain why they do and don’t bike to work on a regular basis.  I have also been biking on north side streets since the early 80s, and I am looking at this 2020 plan and do not see any improvements to east-west arterial routes that will get cyclists more safely through the danger zones of the expressway overpasses and the river.

    These are the streets that go from 2 to 3, or 2 to 4 (or more) lanes, then quickly reduce back to 2, then a block or later expand again to 4 before again contracting.

    This is IMO a major oversight and this project cannot be considered a holistic success and improvement for bike commuters without addressing these “red zones” for cyclists.  Why not at least take one major north side street like Diversey and give a protected bike lane a shot from at least California to Damen?  There are already bike lanes on Diversey west of Kimball, and with the Green Exchange on Diversey at the expressway and the Milwaukee Avenue Green Corridor at Diversey, Milwaukee & Kimball, you have an opportunity to really make a statement that bikes are indeed welcome on Chicago streets.


    Carter O’Brien”

      1. I know all of the folks working on this plan are super sharp, so I have to assume there are just loads of issues with those streets (competing jurisdiction with IDOT is one I’ve heard specific to highway embankment areas).

        Anyway, the larger plan is a great sign of progress regardless, and I hate to complain as the Navy Pier flyover alone will indeed be the greatest thing since sliced bread.  But boy howdy would it be nice to get just one dedicated E-W street on either side of Madison Ave for cyclists, you know? 

        1.  dangit, hit post too soon – for example, biking east on Belmont this morning I watched as both lanes of Belmont EB traffic came to a halt while a semi truck turning east (from the off-ramp on the south side of the street) worked its way on to Belmont.   You couldn’t have a protected lane there, as trucks wouldn’t be able to make that turn without running over the bollards (and in this case, the truck was running over the sidewalk to make the turn). 

          But some form of road diet or even just better lane markings would be a huge improvement, it really is those brief periods where the E-W streets add extra lanes and then a block later lose them which seems to encourage reckless behavior by drivers (who then seem to blame cyclists for some reason!).

          1. Addison is even worst in that regard.  Going west, it goes to 4 lanes from Western to California, then 2 for a block or 2, then back to 4 in front of Target, back to 2 until Kedzie, then 4 again from Kedzie to the Kennedy.

        1.  and here we go – I am following up as I don’t see these streets mentioned on the pdfs at the link, but this is some slammin’ good news:

          Hi Carter,
          for the feedback.  One of the biggest concerns we heard throughout the
          project was the lack of existing east/west routes across the Kennedy and
          the Chicago River.  The following streets on the north side were
          identified in the 2020 Network as Crosstown Bike Routes or Neighborhood
          Bike Routes across one or both of these barriers:
          –          Montrose (Kennedy)
          –          Addison (Both)
          –          Diversey (Both)
          –          Logan (Kennedy)
          –          Webster (Both)
          –          Cortland (Both)
          –          Division (Both)
          –          Chicago (Both)
          –          Grand (Both)
          –          Kinzie (Both)
          As you’ll see in the overview handout on our website (,
          all of these streets will be considered for protected bike lanes
          through the implementation of this plan over the next 8 years.  If
          protected bike lanes are not feasible for whatever reason, we will then
          look at buffered bike lanes, bike lanes or marked shared lanes.  Your
          suggestion of Diversey, from California to Damen, will ideally have
          protected bike lanes by 2020 but there are several challenges that need
          to be addressed in the design and outreach stages before we can
          confidentially say protected bike lanes are feasible.   
          map of 110 miles of protected bike lanes and 40 miles of buffered bike
          lanes you may be looking at that does not show Diversey (or most of the
          other routes) is a map of protected/buffered lanes we are confident can
          be installed over the next three years.  This map was produced to ensure
          we meet the Mayor’s goal of installing 100 miles by May 2015.  Other
          streets included in the entire 2020 Network but not shown on this map
          will likely have protected bike lanes by 2020, as we’ll hopefully be
          adding protected bike lanes on several of the Crosstown and Bicycle
          Superhighway routes.
          I hope this clears things up.  If you have any further questions please let me know.
          Thanks again, it’s great to get feedback from someone who’s been riding for so long!
          – – –
          Mike Amsden, AICP
          CDOT Bikeways Project Manager
          T.Y. Lin International, Inc. Senior Planner

          1. Note that most of the business streets Mike listed here are not designated on the Citywide 2020 Network map as continuous E-W routes to the lakefront. Rather, a few miles of these business streets are designated as bike routes, as part of longer designated routes to the lakefront.

            Most of the designated E-W routes seem to leave the business streets for residential streets whenever possible and zigzag quite a bit. I’ll try to get more info about why this strategy was chosen so often, instead of designating more continuous, direct E-W routes to the lakefront. Lawrence Avenue and Division Street on the Citywide 2020 Network map are examples of the latter approach.

          2. Once you get close to the lake, a lot of those arterial streets are very narrow without any extra room.  Some of the one way streets that parallel the arterials, however, are plenty wide to have at least a bike lane in addition to the travel lanes and parking.

  2. Amazing news! Thanks for the coverage.

    Is there a reason the draft map of 110 miles of PBLs and 40 miles of buffered lanes includes Kedzie north of Peterson, but the Citywide 2020 Network map does not? Another difference I see is Torrence south of 106th. Am I right in my understanding that this draft map is the more concrete plan for bikeways to be constructed during Emanuel’s first term, while the Citywide 2020 Network is a further-out plan? Shouldn’t the latter include all of the former?

    1. Sure thing Erik.

      Correct, the draft map of 110 miles of protected bike Ianes and 40
      miles of buffered bike lanes shows bikeways that should be built by
      2015. The draft map of the Citywide 2020 Network shows the entire
      proposed 680-mile network to be built by 2020, which should include all
      of the former. I noticed the Kedzie omission as well. I’m guessing this
      was an error, but I’ll look into this.

  3. Sure thing Erik.

    Correct, the draft map of 110 miles of protected bike Ianes and 40 miles of buffered bike lanes shows bikeways that should be built by 2015. The draft map of the Citywide 2020 Network shows the entire proposed 680-mile network to be built by 2020, which should include all of the former. I noticed the Kedzie omission as well. I’m guessing this was an error, but I’ll look into this.

  4. Was there any discussion about completing the Boulevard circuit?  Are there any improvements slated for the Humboldt, Western, or Garfield segments?

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