CDOT responds to our questions about the Streets for Cycling plan


John and Mike Amsden at a Streets for Cycling public meeting last winter. Photo by Serge Lubomudrov.

For many months now Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) project manager Mike Amsden and his team have been working hard preparing the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. The plan now calls for creating 110 miles of protected bike lanes and 40 miles of buffered lanes by 2015, and a 640-miles bikeway network by 2020. A revised map of the network, based on input received at recent public meetings, will be unveiled on Wednesday June 15 at the Bike to Work Rally, 7:30-9 am at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington. The final map will be officially released with the rest of the bike plan at a later date. You can read more details about the plan here.

I had some of my own questions about the plan, and I’d also seen and heard comments from others in the comment sections of Grid Chicago and The Chainlink, and in conversations with other cyclists. Mike took some time out from his busy schedule to sit down with me at the CDOT offices, look at maps and respond to my inquiries, based on my own questions and concerns I’d heard from others. We discussed whether the plan is too ambitious, or not ambitious enough; whether the West and South Sides will get their fair share of facilities; whether the protected bike lanes offer enough protection; and what CDOT is doing to fix metal-grate bridges.

Our conversation will make more sense if you take a look at a map of the proposed 640-mile network – here’s a link to a PDF of the map. The current Chicago Bike Map is available here. Below is a map of the proposed locations for the first 150 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes – click on the image for a larger view.


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Bike facilities don’t have to be “the white lanes of gentrification”


The new buffered bike lanes, still under construction, in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.

[Update: on Friday 5/11 The Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Jose Lopez provided his organization’s perspective on the Paseo Boricua bike lanes. Click here to read Lopez’s comments.]

Bicycling doesn’t discriminate. It’s good for people of all ethnicities and income levels because it’s a cheap, convenient, healthy way to get around, and a positive activity for youth and families. So it’s a shame that cycling, especially for transportation, is often seen as something that only privileged white people would want to do. And it’s unfortunate when proposals to add bike facilities in low-income communities of color, which would be beneficial to the people who live there, are viewed as something forced on the community by outsiders.

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Roscoe Street gets buffered bike lanes


On my way from Logan Square to Lincoln Square yesterday I stumbled upon a crew striping a new buffered bike lane on Roscoe Street (3400 N.), between Western Avenue (2400 W.) and Damen Avenue (2000 W.) on the Roscoe village business strip. Along with a snippet of buffered lane coming on Campbell Avenue (2500 W.) between Belmont Avenue (3200 N.) and Roscoe, this might make a useful route for cyclists coming from Logan to parts northeast, and vice versa. Here’s a map of the route via Active Transportation Alliance. Roscoe could use repaving, and in places there are some serious ruts right in the bike lane, so hopefully these will be patched with asphalt soon.

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Chicago bike sharing: Where is it now? and other conversations


A woman rides a bike sharing bike in Seville, Spain. Women may be an exclusive target market for bike sharing in Chicago where, as a portion of trips to work, make up only 25%. Photo by Claudio Medina. 

We’re expecting a bike sharing announcement very soon, within 1-2 weeks. I thought it would have happened by now, as the City gave itself a deadline of the new year. I can only guess how this delay will affect the launch. Before the announcement comes, though, I wanted to discuss a few ideas and concerns. So this isn’t much of an update but more like, “Hey, bike sharing’s still a thing even though you last heard about it in October!”

What is bike sharing?

It’s a new transit system, using durable bicycles that have lights, a few speeds, quality brakes, and a cargo basket, taking you from where you are to anywhere in the network, just like the CTA. You pick up a bike from Station A and drop it off at Station B. You pay a small membership fee for a month or a year, and all trips under 30 minutes are free*.

“Unless you walk to work, there’s simply no cheaper way to go,” said Josh Stephens, 37, of Adams Morgan [in  Washington, D.C.]. “The cost savings have been ridiculous.” Washington Post

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Streets for Cycling concerns: What about Logan and Western?



You ask, I answer. Or, really, the Chicago Crash Browser (super beta draft version) and automobile collision data from the Illinois Department of Transportation answers. James Baum asked on The Chainlink:

From an engineering point of view I am very interested in how they plan on “fixing” the mess that is the Logan Blvd underpass. I feel that this area definitely fits under the “do the easy stuff first and the hard stuff last”  category on the hard side. The intersection is dangerous enough for motor vehicles and I’d like to see some crash statistics for autos there.

I agree that cycling through here is a problem; it seems that getting through here regardless of mode is a problem, though. The Moving Design group of design activists, of which I took part, created a large visual to raise awareness (“LOOK!”), using stencils, hair spray, and a fire extinguisher.  Here are all the pedestrian and “pedalcyclist” crashes. Notice how few pedestrian crashes there are within 250 feet of the center where Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue meet. That might be because few people actually walk here, avoiding it like the plague our streets are: Continue reading Streets for Cycling concerns: What about Logan and Western?

Are the upcoming Streets for Cycling projects in good locations?


The Garfield Park fieldhouse, along the upcoming West Side Boulevards bike route

After attending the West Side and South Side meetings for the Streets for Cycling plan to install hundreds of miles of protected bike lanes and other innovative bikeways, I confess I was a little concerned about the city’s initial plans.

At the meetings, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) staffers announced that a 4.1-mile network of protected bike lanes (PBLs) will be built along the West Side segment of the Boulevard System. Another 1.5-mile segment will be built along Garfield Boulevard (5500 S.) from King to Halsted. CDOT also announced that the city’s first neighborhood greenway (AKA bike boulevard), a traffic-calmed, bike-and-ped-prioritized side street, will be created on a .9-mile stretch of Berteau Avenue (4200 N.) from Lincoln to Clark.


CDOT handout outlining the West Side Boulevard PBL route

I became more nervous about these locations after I learned that the West Side route and the Berteau greenway were first proposed by aldermen, and that one of the main motivations for putting PBLs on the boulevards is traffic calming. It reminded me of how, when I used to work for the city getting bike racks installed, aldermen would sometimes ask us to install racks at the end of a cul-de-sac to keep cars from driving over the curb, not because anyone would actually want to park a bike there.

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