The City of Chicago this week announced plans to add 20 miles of bike lanes to city streets this summer. The new lanes will be spread throughout the city and are all part of Chicago’s overall plan to become a more bike friendly city. Five miles of the 20 will be completely protected. The city is also in the planning stages of an additional 30 miles of other various bike lanes to be completed by the end of this calendar year or early 2015.
“We are really excited to see the continued commitment to build on the really remarkable build-up that Chicago has seen in next generation bike infrastructure,” Active Transport Campaign Director Jim Merrell said. “The fact of the matter is Chicago is building bike lanes faster than other cities.”
The protected lanes will be installed on the North side along Broadway from Montrose to Foster, in the Loop on Harrison from Desplaines to Wabash and on the West Side along Lake between Austin and Central Park. The remaining 15 miles will be what the city is calling “buffer-protected” lanes. These kinds of lanes are painted along the street to notify both cyclist and driver but have no physical separation. The buffer lanes will be on the northwest side on California from Augusta to North and on the southside from 56th to 63rd on Stony Island and 26th to 31st on Halsted.
Merrell said that he hopes the buffer lanes begin to draw out more cyclists which will eventually get the city to turn them into protected lanes. The buffered lanes cater to those who already plan on riding their bikes and make it easier for them, Merrell said, but if the city wants to see new riders out there it will need more protected lanes. The buffered lanes also give the city the option to experiment with new forms of protected or partially protected lanes, Merrell said. Some of these ideas have been put in place by other cities already. Merrell said these include installing rumble strips or small domed dots along the road so drivers can feel when they begin to cross over into a bike lane. It also could look into installing lights or reflectors that would light up in the night to illuminate where the lane’s location.
As more lanes are installed and planned in the city’s overall bike friendly goal, Merrell said there are many factors that go in to deciding where and when the new lanes will be constructed. Merrell said that Active Trans is always looking to push plans that fill in gaps in the city where cyclists desire more lanes. While the city takes that into consideration, it also tries to be as resourceful as possible. Sometimes stretches of road are selected for bike lanes because repavement was already planned and would give an easy opportunity to also install the new lanes.
As happy as Active Trans is with the growing number of bike lanes in the city, Merrell said the group is always looking for opportunities to bring new riders to the street. To do this the city will need to connect long stretches of bike lanes allowing cyclists to easily go from point-A to point-B. This would bring in cyclists who use their bike for commutes or errands. Fitting in to that structure would be the proposed bike lanes on the far north side connecting the Edgewater neighborhood to suburban Evanston. The proposal asks for a protected lane along Glenwood, Pratt and Greenview from Devon going north.
Alderman and activists alike are working on making that stretch safer for cyclists even if the lane is buffered instead of protected. Along with the lanes they could potentially install roundabouts to replace stop signs that interrupt the flow of traffic. This would connect the lakefront path into Rogers Park. Plans are still far from approved and according to a DNAinfo.com article may not be a possibility for 2014, but the conversation has begun.