Protected Bike Lane Love!

I recently biked along the city’s first protected bike lane. It happened to be the most direct route to get from work to the bar where I was meeting Ash for drinks. And it was amazing – all I hoped for and more.


These pictures really don’t do the lane justice. Most of the lane is next to the curb and separated from moving car traffic by flexible bollards and parked cars. It is wide and comfortable and felt totally safe. Not having to worry about how close drivers were passing on my left or watch out for opening car doors on my right was… I’m at a loss for words, I don’t know, it was pretty much the best thing ever. I biked this street a couple of times before the lane and the experience was extremely stressful and unpleasant. The difference the protected lane made is like night and day.

Here are two ladies who want more protected bike lanes:

Ash and Me

This particular stretch is only .5 miles, but the city plans to install 25 miles of protected bike lanes by May 2012 and 100 miles by the end of the mayor’s first term.  Cheers to Chicago’s new and growing bike infrastructure!

I plan to record a video next time I ride the lane, if I can tape my little digicam to my basket. You all gotta see this awesomeness in action.

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62 thoughts on “Protected Bike Lane Love!

  1. Inspiredcyclist says:

    Your radiant smile tells all! So happy for you and all of the citizens of Chicago! Enjoy!

  2. MAS says:

    Congrats!! the bike lane looks amazing. i wish the bike lane love would spread over the entire midwest!!!

  3. Thirdwig says:

    On which street is this?

  4. OldBikeRider says:

    Hooray for the Windy City!
    Does a STOP sign printed backwards mean go?
    Or has Rahm taken the town through the looking glass?
    Please…..Do The Video!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hooray for Chicago and all the cyclists who win with this infrastructure!! Thanks for being such a great cycling ambassador!

  6. Vanessa Allen says:

    love the protection in the first pic!!

    • LGRAB says:

      Yeah, I love how they extended the protection across the bridge. Those bridges are awful to cross because cars always squeeze by too closely and the grates are unnerving.

  7. cycler says:

    Wow!

    Just out of curiosity, what’s the plan for plowing with those bollard things? Those get discussed around here, and dismissed out of hand because of the plowing issue. It seems like there are two options- 1 remove them in December and replace them in March, or 2) somehow plow around them with mini-plows. I suppose you’re about to find out in the next couple of months :)

    There are lots of rumors of protected bike lanes coming here, but not many actual ones yet (there’s one at MIT that runs about 1/2 mile). There’s plans for a cycletrack along a long road in Cambridge, but it’s going to be a long time before it comes because it is part of a big sewer replacement project.

    • LGRAB says:

      I *think* the plan is to remove the bollards during winter, which sucks and should only be a temporary solution until they can invest in a better way to clear snow. I don’t think that would work for the sections that are separated by parked cars, so I hope they’re shopping for mini plows. I hope they know that lots of people DO BIKE IN THE WINTER!

      • pdxcommuter says:

        OK, so the mini plow goes down the protected bike lane. The big plow goes down the general purpose lane. If the snow is deep enough, or its dark enough, or visibility is poor enough, the big plow is going to side-swipe the bollards. How are they going to bounce out of the way when the hinge they swing around on is encrusted with snow and ice? I guess you’ll find out how well these work in a month or two.

        Does Illinois have a bottle bill, yet? Even with a bottle bill that covers many but not all containers, I still see glass in the bike lane in Portland, Oregon. What about leaves and other debris? The city will need to buy and run a separate bike lane street sweeper. Have they signed up for that, yet?

        Also expect more motorists to complain at you with variations of, “Get back in your bike lane!” when you try to make a left turn.

      • pdxcommuter says:

        OK, so the mini plow goes down the protected bike lane. The big plow goes down the general purpose lane. If the snow is deep enough, or its dark enough, or visibility is poor enough, the big plow is going to side-swipe the bollards. How are they going to bounce out of the way when the hinge they swing around on is encrusted with snow and ice? I guess you’ll find out how well these work in a month or two.

        Does Illinois have a bottle bill, yet? Even with a bottle bill that covers many but not all containers, I still see glass in the bike lane in Portland, Oregon. What about leaves and other debris? The city will need to buy and run a separate bike lane street sweeper. Have they signed up for that, yet?

        Also expect more motorists to complain at you with variations of, “Get back in your bike lane!” when you try to make a left turn.

    • Ash L says:

      This was updated by Gabe Klein at the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council earlier this month. The city has already purchased some smaller plows (that I guess they use for park paths/LFP?) that can fit into the 7ft wide space. They’ll have four lanes to take care of by then; Kinzie, Jackson, 18th and Elston. Gabe also brought in an example bollard and showed that they are not damaged if run over. They display a weeble wobble technique of popping right back up so I’m not sure that a regular plow could destroy them if they find that it’s easier to just put up signage telling motorists not to park if there’s been more than and inch of snow.

      • LGRAB says:

        That’s great news!

      • cycler says:

        They put some of these in at bus lane near me, and they got completely trashed. I don’t know how long it took to get to the mangled, snapped off state they were in, but they were pretty useless. Even if the shaft wobbled and popped up, I would think it would be really easy for a plow to shear off the mounting base, even if the bollard part was removed.
        It sounds like they’re on it, but I’ll be interested to see how it all works. FWIW, they use a pickup-truck mounted plow here for MUPs, and it fits in less than 7′ wide, so it shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge.

  8. Great post! More protected bike lanes in Chicago please!

  9. Anonymous says:

    We also just recently had our first segregated (+ protected by concrete slabs, plastic poles, parked cars and planter boxes) bike lane installed in the downtown sector of Ottawa, Ontario. I think it’s a great initiative by the city to encourage more people to get out and cycle, just as I’m sure it is in Chicago.

  10. Megan says:

    I go a bit out of my way to ride Kinzie when I get a chance now. I don’t even mind the big uphill climb heading to Milwaukee! If only we had a few complete east-west, north-south and diagonal streets with these.

    • LGRAB says:

      I would go out of my way quite a bit, for the opportunity to ride a protected bike lane most of the way to work. I would enjoy a protected lane even more than a quiet side street. I hope they bring some to the northside soon.

  11. Donnarino says:

    I’m so jealous of Chicago right now. Toronto needs these so badly in the downtown core especially but our mayor is not the opposite of what one would call progressive.

    • LGRAB says:

      I haven’t been to Toronto (yet) but I hear it’s similar to Chicago in many ways. If so, I’m sure it’s ripe for protected bike lanes, once you get a good mayor in there. I hope things turn around soon for you.

  12. Donnarino says:

    sorry, I didn’t mean to write “not the opposite..”

  13. Kara says:

    Jealous! What a thing of beauty.

  14. Old Knotty Buoy says:

    I’m very impressed with the rapid upgrading to the Chicago Bike Infrastructure. Bravo Chi-town! A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

    NOTE: I think the first picture is flipped horizontally. The Stop sign is reversed and the cars seem to be driving on the left side of the road rather than the right side (correct side?) of the road… I can’t quite make out the licence plates to see if they are reversed also.

    • LGRAB says:

      The photo’s not flipped. I just turned around after crossing the bridge and took the photo of the direction from whence I came. I still can’t figure out what the deal is with the stop sign.

    • LGRAB says:

      I retract my first reply. The photo is flipped – you’re right! The lab must have reversed the photo somehow when scanning the negative. Mystery solved. :)

  15. Strathspeyreels says:

    To me it looks…blissful. I usually feel pretty comfortable in all kinds of traffic. Or, I think I do…until the nagging worry of cars passing too close is lifted and I can just focus on the fun of cycling and enjoying the scenery. So restful.

    • LGRAB says:

      I know what you mean. I am fine riding among heavy car traffic, but only because I often have no choice. After biking in a protected lane like this, I realize how barbaric cycling in the city usually is.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Did they have a warning sign about the manhole cover right in the middle of the lane in the top picture? Wet or slippery weather and it could easily throw a cyclist past the bollards into the main traffic lane. Not everyone has an Oma. I have fallen due to manhole covers and my bike handling skills are better than average. I guess that is one reason I notice them so much now.

    • LGRAB says:

      That’s a good point. I try to avoid manholes in the rain, too. I did not see a warning, but the type of manhole in the photo is designed with texture to be less slick, I think.

  17. Sue says:

    I’m so happy for you Dottie. Someone as dedicated as you are to riding your bike certainly deserves these bike lanes. May all the cyclists in Chicago enjoy as well.

  18. Marcus says:

    Oh, for the video, I used this to mount a camera on my front handlebars when I took a 5 day bike tour in Michigan with my 2 daughters this past summer. Worked pretty darn well. Also, a great piece of design in action.

    http://joby.com/gorillapod/original/

    • LGRAB says:

      Thanks for the tip! Funny, I was actually looking at that today at the camera store. I wasn’t sure how well it worked, so I didn’t buy it, but now I’ll probably go back. It was only $15.

  19. Frits B says:

    Just curious: do you ever read David Hembrow’s blog A View From The Cycle Path (hembrow.blogspot.com)?

  20. Frits B says:

    Just curious: do you ever read David Hembrow’s blog A View From The Cycle Path (hembrow.blogspot.com)?

  21. Steven Vance says:

    I made a before and after video of the Kinzie Street bike lane showing some traffic congestion and how it negatively affected cyclists.

  22. Frits B says:

    About your age, same predilection for fattening stuff, and an American living and cycling in Holland: http://cyclingwithoutahelmet.blogspot.com/

  23. Frits B says:

    About your age, same predilection for fattening stuff, and an American living and cycling in Holland: http://cyclingwithoutahelmet.blogspot.com/

  24. [...] much to the collective disappointment of the BikeDC Community and Dottie already has two recent entries on the new bike lanes popping up in Chicago. Safer city cycling is on the [...]

  25. Kristen says:

    Yay for bike lanes! I’ve recently started cycling regularly in Chicago – I’ll have to check this out!

  26. Kristen says:

    Yay for bike lanes! I’ve recently started cycling regularly in Chicago – I’ll have to check this out!

  27. It’s wonderful that cities like yours are trying to make traveling by bike easier and safer. It’s interesting to see how cycling fits into the culture of various US cities. Some cities are making great strides to encourage their residents to ride their bikes.

  28. [...] the web last weekend I ran across a post on “Let’s Go Ride A Bike” about new protected bike lanes in Chicago.  Many thanks to Dottie for letting me repost her write-up – I enjoy reading her blog.  Also [...]

  29. Karen says:

    I am so envious. I love protected bike lanes since they take so much anxiety and hostility out of the ride. One hundred miles of protected lanes is a huge undertaking and I am pleased to know Chicago is making the investment.

  30. ilike bikes1035 says:

    That looks really awesome. The infrastructure in Boston isn’t that good yet…so I don’t ride all the way to work – there are some places (like going over the bridges) that are super sketchy for me. What I’ve taken to doing is basically driving until I’m over the bridge, then I park, get on my bike, and ride the rest of the way (most roads are decently passable). Luckily for me, I’ve got a folding bike, so the car -> bike switch is fast and easy.

  31. [...] After Elson I turned onto Kinzie Street, which has the city’s very first separated bike lane installed in the spring.  I wrote about this beautifully designed and implemented lane earlier this year. [...]

  32. [...] ride on the Elston Avenue protected bike lane My ride down the Kinzie Street protected bike lane The importance of protected bike [...]

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