John and Mike Amsden at a Streets for Cycling meeting at the Sulzer Library in Lincoln Square – photo by Serge Lubomudrov
Last May during the community input process for the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, Steven and I attended one of the public meetings at the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park. At the open house Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) staff unveiled a map of potential locations for 110 miles of protected bike lanes and 40 miles of buffered lanes as part of a 645-mile bike network. Both of us left the meeting with the impression that CDOT was upping their goal from the 100 miles of physically separated protected lanes Rahm Emanuel had promised to install within his first term. Since then we’ve been reporting CDOT plans to install 110/40 by 2015, and we’ve never gotten feedback from CDOT that this was inaccurate.
In December, the press release for the Dearborn Street two-way protected lanes made it clear that CDOT is now referring to physically separated protected lanes as “barrier-protected” and calling buffered lanes “buffer protected,” and their current goal is to install a total of 100 miles of the two different types of lanes by the end of the mayor’s first term. In the wake of this terminology shift and apparent change in plans, I asked CDOT bikeways planner Mike Amsden for some clarification about what happened to the 150 miles of proposed lanes shown on the map.
Map of CDOT’s potential protected and buffered lane locations unveiled last May. Existing and proposed protected and buffered lanes are shown in blue; the rest of the proposed 645-mile bike network is shown in brown. Click here for a larger map.
“Thanks for the question,” Mike wrote. “The map showing 150 miles of buffer- and barrier-protected bike lanes is based solely off roadway width. It was produced to show there are enough streets throughout the City that are wide enough for protected lanes, but it was not intended to change the mileage goal set forth in the Mayor’s Transition Plan. You may notice that while there are 150 miles of streets identified, those streets do not necessarily create the most connected bikeway network. In fact, several of the streets in the 150-mile network were left off the final Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 network due to lack of connectivity or redundancy in certain areas.”
“And roadway width isn’t the only determining factor as we move forward with our designs,” Mike added. “Community, aldermanic and state approvals are needed before we can install protected lanes. These 100 miles will consist of the best accommodation we can provide block by block – be it barrier- or buffer- protected – based off of roadway width, traffic characteristics, context within the community, and aldermanic and state approvals where jurisdiction is an issue.”
De la Vergne and Amsden at the Jeff Park open house.
Although Steven and I interpreted the map and comments made at the meeting by Mike and Streets for Cycling project consultant Mark de la Vergne to mean CDOT intended to install all 150 miles of lanes by 2015, it makes sense that they never expected to get approval for all the potential locations they proposed. And, as I’ve written before, even if this means there will only be, say, 65 miles of protected and 35 miles of buffered lanes installed by 2015, that would still make an enormous difference in the city’s level of bike-friendliness.