Photos of Chicago plowing sidewalks and the Kinzie Street bike lane


Plowing the LaSalle Street bridge sidewalk. 

The Chicago Department of Transportation posted several photos to its Facebook page showing crews working at 5 AM Friday morning using a SW-4S tracked vehicle to clear snow from the Kinzie Street bike lane, and the sidewalk on the LaSalle Street bridge.

I asked about the use of the Ford F550 and accompanying plow that Advil donated to Chicago: CDOT responded that it would be used for the wider bike lanes (like Jackson Boulevard and 18th Street).


Plowing the Kinzie Street bike lane. 

What has been your experience traveling today: Did you cycle or walk downtown? What about in the areas where the City has typically been a snow flake?


38 thoughts on “Photos of Chicago plowing sidewalks and the Kinzie Street bike lane”

  1. I rode into work yesterday at around 4:30pm.  I ride from Logan Square to the South Loop. My route is usually Milwaukee to Desplaines, but I figured with the snow and the condition of Milwaukee at the time (not very clear)  that I should take the Kinzie bike path (because they’ve got a plow for that, right?) to Clinton (because there is a bike path on that street, right?).
     By 5pm it seemed as though the Kinzie bike path had not been plowed once since it started snowing and to make it worse, the buildings on the south side of the street were shoveling their sidewalk snow into the bike lane as I was riding down it.
     I should have known that riding down Clinton was going to be a horrible idea given it being rush hour, but I usually feel safer if there is a bike lane so I took it.  I guess during rush hour bike lanes do not exist.  There were so many cars using it as just another lane.  There were so many buses (“The Freedom Express” and others like it, not really CTA busses)  letting off riders where ever they felt like.  They’d stop right in the lane they were traveling and let people off. At the train stations the buses were sometimes three across!  Pedestrians were getting off and weaving their way through traffic  to get to the train station.  
      It was a complete nightmare.
     My ride home from work at 2am was much better.  It looked as though the bike path had been plowed maybe once and was covered in snow again, so I opted to take the car lane.   This made me wonder, are protected bike lanes just a hinderance for snow removal equipment?  I guess the positives of these protected lanes outweigh the negatives (as more people ride when it’s nice out), but as someone who commutes by bike all year long, I’d rather have a plowed street with a painted bike lane than a protected snow dumping area.

    1. Here are my thoughts on what’s happening in that route you took:

      1. Kinzie. Kinzie is not an arterial and is plowed after arterials. What’s an arterial? I have that data in GIS somewhere on my computer. It’s a classification of roads and it usually includes the 1 mile streets (Halsted, Ashland, Western, Kedzie). Then there are collectors, the half mile streets (Racine, Damen, California). Kinzie is probably a local street. However, I’m not 100% sure on its classification. 

      Currently, and this is not ideal, the Plow Tracker website only shows where a truck is driving and not what it’s accomplished (it doesn’t tell you if a street has been plowed or not – if you knew which streets were plowed, you may have chosen a different route). 

      2. Clinton. There is a bike lane on Clinton (a one-way, southbound street). Your observation about there being a lot of non-CTA buses is accurate. These are privately operated shuttle buses for either corporations’ workers, or workers in a specific building (like the Aon Center). 

      What I think is happening in this situation is that the snow physically narrows the street width and also influences how people are using the roadway. The new behaviors and maneuvers are a reaction to a different environment. And they obviously didn’t work out well for you. I believe there’s a way (through education and design) that streets can tell us how to use them, and they can be adaptable and continue telling us how to use them in a variety of situations. 

      CTA bus operators are only allowed to drop off and pick up passengers at designation CTA bus stops. I believe they can also do this at other locations if they deem it’s safe to do so, but they’ll mostly be conservative and not do it. I don’t know about the policies of the shuttle operators. 

      3. Protected snow dumping area. I’m with ya! That is definitely a “snow flake” move. I pointed that out in my earlier article, shovel it, in which I posted a photo of two guys shoveling snow into the street. If you can, document that happening. Then sent it to me as well as the management company. That is not acceptable. 

      1. Bikers should start paying for things like license plates and registration. Then you can start complaining. You currently get to use 25 percent of the road for free. Shut up and follow the traffic laws.

        1. If you think the world should revolve around you and your car, just say so instead of using weak and tired arguments. Most people who bike do pay for license plates and registration — you can, in fact, own both a car and a bike in Chicago. And let’s not forget our property taxes and other taxes that also pay for roads.

          So I won’t shut up, but I’ll gladly continue following the traffic laws as I always do. I’d appreciate if more drivers would do the same.

          1. Property taxes and all the taxes I pay to use the roads of our city are two different things. Bikers feel they are entitled to the roads free of charge and yet most never obey stoplights or common sense laws needed to ensure the public safety. I saw a biker blow through a stop sign the other day and almost run down a pedestrian. If bikers are going to be allowed to use a significant amount of a public street they ought to have license plates and city stickers just like every other moving thing allowed to use a public street. This way a biker could be found if they hit someone or caused an accident and they would be contributing to the streets that they use on a daily basis.

            Any argument against this simply advocates that a biker should not to have to pay for thei for share of the road that is used, paved, plowed, and salted for said bikers on a daily basis.

            In addition, if a biker commits a crime they should be tracked. Bikers should have licenses just like everyone else and the irresponsible ones should not be allowed on the road.

            I pay taxes and follow the rules. I am courteous to bikers but see too many of them break laws and assume that the road belongs to them even though their bikes are untaxed and unregulated.

            Enough is enough.

          2. You say a cyclist blow a stop sign and almost hit a pedestrian– serious? Meanwhile I suspect you choose to ignore the thousands of motorists who break traffic laws, often resulting in the death of innocent pedestrians, motorists and cyclists. Consider this– number of deaths and emergency response needed because of stupid motorist vs number of deaths and emergency response needed because of stupid bicyclist.

            And I think, though I could be wrong, motorists pay to maintain the road because they deteriorate the streets and cost the city money.

            And I think, though I could be wrong, motorists need licenses because they operate machines that are dangerous and can  kill.

            Anyone, feel free to correct me because I know very little on this front.

          3. Every day I see drivers blow through stop signs and nearly run down pedestrians. Occasionally I see a driver blow through a stop sign and actually run down a pedestrian. Once I was that pedestrian. The driver, who was licensed, got off scott-free, and the driver’s insurance company denied my claim. Tell me how this outcome would have differed if it had been a bicycle that hit me.

            There are perhaps thousands of drivers in this city alone who don’t even bother with licensing, registration, and/or insurance. Many of them injure, kill, and cause costly amounts of destruction. Every. Single. Day.

            Steve has data on these things, although that probably doesn’t matter to you, given your insistence that a few anecdotes about cyclists “blowing” stop signs and “almost” running people down should be enough evidence to have unlicensed and unregistered cyclists banned from public roadways.

            In which case, you’d still have to deal with us, because (1) none of those reckless scofflaws you see committing all those egregious traffic infractions all the time would be the least bit morally hindered by yet another set of rules (just like all those unlicensed and uninsured drivers), and (2) those of us who indeed already HAVE our driver’s licenses (I just got a certificate from the Secretary of State’s office for being such a good driver, in fact) and city registration stickers on our bikes, and who always take pains to ride in a careful and lawful manner, would still be permitted to ride on the road, bike lane or no bike lane.

            Now, since both the problem you present and the solution you propose are pretty much invalid, and since in the midst of all your safety talk you still harp on these mysterious, unspecific “taxes” that we cyclists don’t have to pay, I can only conclude that your real problem with cyclists on the roads has more to do with jealousy stemming from the costs of car ownership, especially in the city. If this is the case, then please note that many of us, myself included, took up bike commuting precisely so that we could reduce or even avoid those costs.

            Some of us, myself included, are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can avoid car ownership entirely. However, many are not. Hence, many of those cyclists on the road whom you accuse of being freeriders already DO pay exactly the same taxes, fees, insurance premiums, and fuel charges that you pay; it all just happens to be on vehicles that they aren’t using at the moment. The amount may be smaller, to be sure, but that’s the benefit of riding instead of driving. Once biking is as much of a pain in the butt as driving, many bike commuters will likely say “Screw it.” Surprise—they’re still in your way, only this time they’re back in their in cars, so they’re using 50% of the street, and now you can’t even pass them. Is that what you really want? More cars?

            I also say, enough is enough. Fewer cars means fewer chances of dying every time I walk across the street.

            Please make some other argument, because refuting the same ones every time is getting tedious. My street finally got plowed and I have a bike to ride.

          4. There is no tax in Illinois that gives you the right to use a road, nor a tax that, if you didn’t pay it, would disallow you from using the road. 

            There are no road taxes, and there are no taxes to use a road. When it comes to using roads, there are only taxes on goods (i.e. vehicles) and taxes on commodities (i.e. fuel, oil, electricity).

            All Illinoisans pay taxes (property, income, sales) that go to build and maintain roads, regardless of how, when, and where they use them. 

            tl;dr: There is no road tax and no “entry fee” to use the road. 

        2. We pay plenty in taxes, so we don’t use the road “for free.”  We also don’t spew pollution and create immovable traffic jams.

          There are plenty of scofflaws on both sides of the fence, so there’s room for improvement all around.  And that has NOTHING to do with trying to ensure clean pavement so that bikes are more viable as transportation, and for reducing the amount of car congestion on the roads.

    2. Related to my previous comment, Kinzie is a CLASS 3 and CLASS 4 route. There’s no proper description of the data that I’m aware of but I created my own a long time ago. 3 is arterial routes that are not 1 mile and includes diagonals, and 4 is neighborhood streets. 

      Clinton is only CLASS 4. 

      Granted, the Streets and Sanitation route planning system may have nothing to do with the city’s streets classification data. I predict that their ranking and prioritization will be revealed soon, either through observations of the plow tracker data, or publishing internal policy. 

  2. Weather like this (and last year’s Snowmageddon) makes me glad that I live on one of the half-mile streets, so we usually get plowed within a reasonable time frame.

  3. The fact of the matter is that cars have plates so that police can find a person that breaks the law if need be. Some drivers are bad drivers, and that’s why the system is in place.

    I have lived in the city for 30 years and I can’t tell you how many times bikers ignore traffic laws. It seems as though bikers feel that stop signs and traffic lights do not apply to the, because they are on a bike.

    To say that a similar system should not be in place for bikes is crazy. Bikers that follow the rules should not have a problem with it. In addition, helping out the city financially should be desirable since bikers seem to always demand more daily in terms of road real estate and other special bike lanes.

    I am not saying we should not allow it, but I am saying that it would be nice to see bikers following traffic laws and assisting with the roads they are using on a daily basis. The argument that bikers pay other taxes and that most of the, have cars is silly. It assumes most bikers have cars. Assumptions like that only really dodge the issue that most bikers get bikes to avoid the cost of car ownership in the first place.

    1. God, this argument is stupid.

      Do you understand how roads are funded in Chicago? Your license plate and sticker fees are not the sole (or even primary) source of funding for roads in Chicago. The taxes that fund the roads (property, sales, etc.) are paid for by all city residents.
      Second, most of the bike infrastructure that’s gone up is federally-funded. Again, not coming from your special pot of car sticker fees. Also, this infrastructure generally doesn’t hurt drivers and actually makes them better off by pulling more cars off the road (thus, less congestion).

      Third, the people arguing against you have repeatedly pointed to FACTS on how many people are killed/injured by cars each year in the city. If bikes are such a menace, please point to the relevant data that show this. I’m sure you have tons of it, and you’re not just relying on anecdotal evidence from your “30 years of living in the city.” 

      I love the fact that the city is becoming more and more bike friendly, and I look forward to the day when arguments like yours disappear as new generations of more enlightened and informed residents gain a bigger foothold in Chicago.

  4. And ps.. I will not even go into the little stunt bikers pull with purposefully blocking traffic on waker and michigan.

  5. Clark, how about using your eyes? Camp out by any stop sign in the city and count how many bikes blow through it in a day.

    I am for expanded bike lanes in the city, but most bikers assume they need not follow the rules in place to ensure the public safety.

    Your comments reflect the attitude that most bikers have. I think cars are dangerous. I am for dangerous drivers being taken off the road.

    To imply that all bikers are safe on the road is idiotic. The problem will take care of itself as the city realizes that all commuters need to be subject to the same safety standards.

    1. I don’t agree that all commuters need to be subject to the same safety standards. The safety standards that people are subject to should be related to the level of damage they cause, and their own vulnerability. A person walking is the most vulnerable traveler in the street. All rules and laws, and our societal obligations, should be set up to make this mode (walking) paramount and the safest.
      Within each mode there are differing levels of vulnerability. A person who takes a long time to cross the street will be more exposed to potential dangers to someone who walks quickly across the street. There are also people waiting for the bus who are “targets” for drivers who “exit the roadway” (curbs still can’t stop cars from mounting sidewalks).

      1. So by your logic, a biker going 20 to 30 mph through a pesterian walkway without stopping at the applicable stop sign is completely fine and we should not worry about it…. Even if an innocent person gets hurt in the process, Correct?

        1. Nope. 

          People should follow the laws that apply to their behavior and their locomotion device. And the laws that should be in place should be the right laws. 

          The way laws are enforced should make sure that those who are vulnerable are protected and that driving or cycling into someone who is walking, and injuring them, do not walk away with $200 fine. 

          1. I think that you and I both want the same thing: safe streets.

            I believe that street conditions should be made so that cycling becomes a safer activity, attracting more people to do it. The more people that bike, the safer streets become (see the effects of “safety in numbers” in NYC and Portland, as cycling trips rise, injuries decrease), and the less car-congested roads become. The health of a city’s citizens improves and as health improves, so does productivity, life satisfaction, and costs of health care decrease. 

            All of that is my desire. 

          2. On my way home from work today I saw a biker blow through an intersection and almost get hit by a car. The car that almost hit the biker almost got hit by another car. There was a baby in the car that almost hit the douchebag biker that looked up at the light on Monroe and kept peddling like he owned the street.

            How is that for data, Clark?

            That biker is cool though. Let’s not ticket him or anything. He was on a bike, so if someone gets hurt who cares, right buddy?

          3. On my way home from work today I saw a biker blow through an intersection and almost get hit by a car. The car that almost hit the biker almost got hit by another car. There was a baby in the car that almost hit the douchebag biker that looked up at the light on Monroe and kept peddling like he owned the street.

            How is that for data, Clark?

            That biker is cool though. Let’s not ticket him or anything. He was on a bike, so if someone gets hurt who cares, right buddy?

  6. Steve, I agree with your comment on safe streets but think more needs to be done about bikers that break the law. I do not mind law abiding bikers and do not have a problem with the ones that follow the rules.

    1. Clearly you’re unfamiliar with the definition of data, based on your post below… And I’m quite sure your example is totally made up. 

      But to respond to your point, I don’t disagree that there are some bicyclists who break the law. I DO disagree that this is a huge problem, especially relative to other dangers on the road. 

      As others have pointed out below, if your goal is to make streets safer, you want to encourage more cycling. Your proposal of licensing bikes would do just the opposite (basic economics: when price goes up, demand goes down), working against your stated goal of safer streets.

      I’ll worry about bikers rolling stop signs when we’re done helping the 3,000 Chicago pedestrians injured in car crashes each year. 

      1. Spoken like a true jerk. Here is hoping some of your karma does not come back and to haunt you one of these days.

        As for your 3000 biking accidents, I wonder out loud how many of those accidents were caused by the idiot on the bike in the middle of the icy street while ignoring the stop signs you do not seem to care about.

        1. I don’t think asking for facts is being a jerk, so I’m not too worried about karma. 

          I’m just trying to get you to understand how I evaluate things (based on actual data) and set priorities (based on the real size of the danger). Based on the facts, I think that bikers rolling stop signs should be pretty low on the city’s priority list. And for you to complain that bikers want the street cleared of snow (as tax-payers themselves) seems way out of line. 

          Finally, note that the number I posted above referred to pedestrians. I’d guess very few were caused by “idiot bikers.”

          1. The number of collisions between people cycling and people walking is not collected in any crash data that I know about (and certainly not the crash data I constantly reference in articles here on Grid Chicago, or Steven Can Plan</a). 

            I did ask the Chicago Police Department for information on the number of collisions between people cycling, and between someone cycling and a fixed object (like a curb or pole). They replied that they did not have such data. 

            I think the only source for such data would be records of hospital visits.

          2. I really am pro snow removal for streets including bike paths. That’s not the point. The point is that it’s hypocritical to complain about one group of people who break the law but advocate that it should not be a priority that all laws ought to be enforced equally.

            Your argument is not ethically sound.

    2. As the Tribune pointed out two Sundays ago, the number of citations that the Chicago Police (and many other departments around the state) are issuing to drivers is decreasing. According to the article, and comments on the Second City Cop blog (anonymously written), this is because of lower numbers of beat cops (mostly due to attrition). 

      Enforcement of these issues is a job mostly taken on by the police, but is also addressed through education and outreach that the City of Chicago itself funds, with the Chicago Bicycling Ambassadors, and Junior Ambassadors. The Active Transportation Alliance also has outreach efforts. These issues are not well-addressed where they best could be: driver’s education programs in high schools. 

      That’s about it. And I guess peer pressure is another way to encourage people cycling to abide the law.

  7. Steve, I agree with your comment on safe streets but think more needs to be done about bikers that break the law. I do not mind law abiding bikers and do not have a problem with the ones that follow the rules.

  8. Steve, I agree with your comment on safe streets but think more needs to be done about bikers that break the law. I do not mind law abiding bikers and do not have a problem with the ones that follow the rules.

    1. Frankly, I’ll worry more about bikers who break the law when drivers like that lying bitch who crippled me for half a year are more routinely brought to justice.

  9. I’d be more worried about motorists who break the laws. They’re the ones who kill and maim. 40,000 traffic deaths in America each year caused by motorists and people are whining about cyclists?

  10. The dedicated bike lanes have created all sorts of new issues. In the last week, i passes numerous cars parked in the Kinzie bike lane by Blommers. Another issue are cars who turn thru the bike lane to avoid traffic when turning right. The driver usually punches it because they know they are doing something illegally. Add the downhill speed from bikers and the slippery surface of the bike lane and it gets ugly fast. With non protected bike lanes a rider can sit in the view of the drivers right side exterior mirror, and if a driver makes a turn to the right, the biker can yell, wave or even place a hand on the car to alert the driver. They dont want to hit you, bikers just need to be noticed. All intersections are more dangerous than any on my 10 mile Elston route. Another issue is the use of the bike lane on the east bound Kinzie lane by the Mart as a new side walk for pedestrians. I saw someone walk into a biker as they crossed into the lane and many strolling right in the middle of the lane as bike after bike pass them on the right and left.

    Sure mail trucks have stopped parking in the lanes but other delivery trucks and cars feel free to use the space.

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