Going postal again: CDOT replaces bollards along the Kinzie bike lanes


Spring 2011: original post configuration as seen from the top of “Fudge Hill” – photo by Josh Koonce.


Early May 2012: CDOT has taken out most of the bollards.


June 1, 2012: Some of the bollards have been reinstalled.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently removed more that half of the flexible posts along the Kinzie Street protected bike lanes. Last month CDOT Project Manager Mike Amsden explained to me that this was done partly because of complaints from nearby residents about the appearance of the bollards.

In addition, Amsden said that CDOT was planning on moving away from using so many posts anyway, since it’s the parked cars that actually provide the protection, and using fewer posts lowers installation and maintenance costs. Therefore the agency removed about half of the bollards on Kinzie in locations with no parking, and removed almost all of the posts in sections where there is parking, leaving a few in at either end of the parking lane. The labor cost for the removals was $4,500.

So last week I was surprised to see that some of bollards along the parking lanes had been re-installed. Mike explained the situation to me once more:

We put in twenty bollards earlier this week. I think it’s going to be a give-and-take. We’ve done observations out there every day. We haven’t seen too much parking in the bike lane, actually none at all, when we’ve been out there, but we’ve gotten reports and some photos of people parking in the bike lane.

So we figured if we add a few more bollards – I think we did like two mid-block – kind of splitting the difference on every block where there’s parking, we’ll see if that will improve behavior. I think enforcement and education is the ultimate solution. Because as we all know, people were parking in the bike lane with the bollards, and parking in the bike lane without the bollards. So hopefully it will be resolved here in the near future.

So the motivation for you guys putting some of the posts back in was that it seemed like parking in the bike lanes had picked up?

We received a few reports, just a couple photographs sent to us. We’ve had photographs sent to us, throughout the past year, of people parking in the bike lane. So we’re just trying to reach a compromise here.

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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.

16 thoughts on “Going postal again: CDOT replaces bollards along the Kinzie bike lanes”

    1. No need to Curb Your Enthusiasm for curbs here!

      While most of the country is watching “Jersey Shore,” Grid Chicago readers are more interested in Jersey walls.

    2. Seriously, this. People are complaining about the appearance of bollards, but removing too many causes more people to park/drive in the bike lane. A simple curb would solve both these problems.

  1. Biggest lesson here: if you see a violator, take a picture and send it to CDOT! They are listening!

    1. I thought it funny that they didn’t notice people parking there.

      At a Green Lane Project press conference last Thursday morning (which lasted about an hour), people were constantly blocking the bike lane within 200 feet of the press conference. Kind of ironic.

    2. So along that line, perhaps Steven & John could suggest the best way to pass along such photos?  I imagine CDOT folks probably need a certain amount of information with a photo (like graffiti blasters), the date, time, a sentence or two of narrative, etc.

      Chicago’s murder rate has skyrocketed in the past year, but the aesthetic appeal of bollards is what lights a fire under some people’s rear ends?   Yeesh.

      1. Bollards next to a chocolate factory with trucks running in an out all day, and a rail yard with trains coming and going all day

  2. “…this was done partly because of complaints from nearby residents about the appearance of the bollards.”

    That is so weak, CDOT.  Not impressed.

  3. Does CDOT have any data on what it costs to plow the various configurations of streets / bike lanes / bus lanes? I understand the value of lane segregation for efficiency and safety but I’m curious what the difference maintenance costs are for each configuration and the drawbacks for each configuration if there are cutbacks to maintenance. It’s one factor that should be considered when selecting the best configuration. My impression is that curbs look best at first glance but have a bunch of hidden costs for cold weather cities.

    From the Transportation Association of Canada:

    -In an existing urban environment, little can be practically done to reduce snow accumulation, as roadway rights-of-way are constrained and adjacent lands typically built-up; accumulated snow is removed as per the municipalities’ snow removal program.

    -Many traffic-calming measures, such as speed bumps, curb bulbs or chokers, raised crosswalks and platform intersections can create difficulties for snow removal equipment and can affect roadway drainage, and as such, their use should be carefully considered.

    -Channelization in the form of raised medians and islands can also create difficulties for snow removal equipment.

    1. CDOT and Streets & Sanitation are using existing equipment to plow. It’s being plowed just like any other street with a curb side bike lane, though (like Halsted between Harrison and Roosevelt).
      Not sure if they’ve collected data.

      1. I understand that it’s possible to plow any configuration, I was more thinking about the labor costs. If there are no bollards, no curb, and only striping marking a lane then a plow does not have to respect any barrier and can make the mininum number of overlapping passes to clear the street. If you have barriers of some type you have to plow from barrier-to-barrier making additional passes, and remove snow from the edge of the two barriers that intrudes on a lane, like from a sidewalk to a bike lane or to a curb barrier separating a bus lane.

        There are some very cool bike lane snow removal pics from Copenhagen at the link below. I’d love to see snow removal like this in Chicago but it costs money for equipment and labor. I was just curious if CDOT factored in operating costs in different scenarios (heavy snow, reduced maintenance budget) when picking a design.


        Photo credit: http://www.copenhagenize.com

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