Milwaukee from Ashland to Paulina construction timeline

As I try to better understand construction timelines and processes in Chicago, I’m going to keep track of this project that annoyed people cycling for six months.

Project: Underground utility construction [not sure what kind]

Location: Milwaukee Avenue between Ashland and Paulina


February 2011 – Construction project begins (I’m not certain it started in February, but I took my first photo of the project this month).

Sometime here the construction project ends and the surface is replaced with rough concrete. Two points to make here: The construction crew could have floated the concrete more to make it smoother; the concrete only needs a week to cure, and can then be removed and replaced with asphalt.

July 25, 2011 – Rough concrete is replaced with asphalt.

August 2011 – Center and parking lines are striped.

August 13, 2011 – Bicycle shared-lane markings still don’t exist.

September 21, 2011 – Bicycle shared-lane markings added, but incorrectly: they’re too close to the parking stripe.


Someone riding a bike rolls in and out of construction zone barriers, presumably to avoid the car traffic and the little room between the cars and barriers. 

Unanswered questions

  • Who is responsible for this project?
  • What is the city’s policy on “floating” temporary construction concrete?
  • Do construction projects like this have deadlines?
  • Why aren’t people cycling accommodated better in road construction projects?


A Chicagoan riding her bike in the construction zone waits for the light at Ashland Avenue to turn green.

What is floating concrete?

Draft: Floating concrete, or to float the concrete, means to drag flat objects over the concrete to push aggregate downwards and bring liquid upwards. The more times this is done, depending on the float tools, the concrete surface will become smoother. A concrete floor in a restaurant has been “finely floated” to create a smooth, shiny finish.

Sidewalks are floated more than road surfaces. After a sidewalk is floated, it is often brushed to create a texture.


Using a brush to float concrete and add texture. 


Hand floating the concrete. 

Making construction areas and detours bike-friendly

Updated June 28, 2011, to add link and photo about how citizen cyclists are accommodated in Copenhagen, New York City, and San Francisco (at end of post). Updated July 8, 2011, to add a section about “shared responsibility.”


When roads or bridges are reconstructed, bike lanes and people riding in them lose. The photo shows where a section of the bike lane has been removed and the remainder of the bike lane has been closed, without notification.

I wanted to renew my driver’s license Monday and I had two choices: downtown or northwest side. I looked at the map to find that the Illinois Secretary of State’s Drivers Services Facility called “Chicago North,” at 5401 N Elston Avenue, was only 4 miles from my house. It’s about 4 miles to downtown, but I believed going north would be easier and faster on my bike.

It was. Aside from an infrastructural design issue on Elston Avenue that makes right-hooks really easy, almost inviting, and a bike-unfriendly construction detour, I got there in great time. Going to downtown would mean more lights, more traffic.

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