Video: Chicago’s 18th Street Protected Bike Lane

Yesterday I was in the Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s southside for the Women-Who-Bike brunch.  I decided to take the Lakefront Path for the 10 mile ride home, which I could reach by taking the new protected bike lane on S. 18th Street from Canal to Clark Streets, connecting the Pilsen and Chinatown areas.  This protected bike lane is one of three in Chicago and exists in part thanks to Alderman Solis (read more about his Ward’s projects and his recent trip to the Netherlands here).

Here is a quick video I made of the entire half mile long lane, sped 250%.

Grid Chicago reported on the construction of this bike lane in November.  Progress has been made since then, but I assume (hope) that the lane is not finished because there is no protection on the grated bridge and not much treatment for the intersections.  The riding experience for new bicyclists could be stressful at those points.  Overall, the protected bike lane was a pleasure to ride and certainly an improvement, although not as thoroughly executed as the Kinzie protected bike lane.

  • http://www.robertlinthicum.com Robert Linthicum

    I envy you. I share narrow roads daily, with un-narrow vehicles. Would be nice to have such a “roomy” commute for a change.

    Does the city there keep this lane clear of snow, broken bottles, and such?

    • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

      Well, there’s no reason to envy me, as this is not part of my normal commute which is more along the lines of the narrow path with un-narrow cars that you describe. :) The Chicago government’s current focus on creating safe bicycle infrastructure is great, though.

    • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

      p.s. The protected lanes have been clear every time I’ve ridden through. I heard that the city recently purchased a mini snow plow to use on the lanes during the winter.

  • Ian Brett Cooper

    I’d rather ride on the road than on that. The more we’re separated from traffic, the more invisible we are to drivers. This sort of treatment is virtually guaranteeing right hooks. At least it doesn’t have a line of parked cars further obscuring and endangering (or as DoT calls it – ‘protecting’) cyclists.

    • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

      I don’t agree. Having a bike lane that takes up as much road space as the car lane and is marked with bollards certainly makes the possible or actual presence of bikes more visible.

    • http://www.robertlinthicum.com Robert Linthicum

      The few bike lanes I have actually experienced myself were in the United States, and I recall they were strewn with obstacles, broken beer bottles, bags of rubbish for pickup, and parked vehicles.

      The lane in the video would be a treat by comparison.

      That said, most bike lanes were indeed designed by motorists primarily to prevent delay to motorists. They do tend to confuse (everyone), and I would bet the figures would support your assertion regarding the right hooks.

      Truly effective bicycle lanes, such as the ones I have seen in Belgium, Northern Germany, and parts of France, were “baked in” by city planners. Cycling is part of the culture.

      Retrofitting lanes, such as was attempted in Washington DC, is frought with risk, and I have read that the “motorist community” (har har) was actually successful in taking back most of the lane space.

      Car is King, here, and there . . .

    • Audeamus

      You’re welcome to ride in the road, Mr. Cooper. In fact, that’s your only choice in most urban areas and virtually all rural and suburban ones. As a commuting bicyclist who is comfortable taking the road when necessary, I’ll take a protected bike lane like the one in the video, especially with the long line of cars speeding past a few feet away, and file opinions like yours under “U” for unsubstantiated.

    • Stephen Hodges

      You’re welcome to ride in the road, Mr. Cooper. In fact, that’s your only choice in most urban areas and virtually all rural and suburban ones. As a commuting bicyclist who is comfortable taking the road when necessary, I’ll take a protected bike lane like the one in the video, especially with the long line of cars speeding past a few feet away, and file opinions like yours under “U” for unsubstantiated.

  • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

    I created a before and after construction video for Grid Chicago.

    According to CDOT, the bridge plates are being manufactured in Texas and can be installed at any time, even in the winter. I’ve asked so be present at the installation so I can make a video of how they are installed.

    I like the extreme width of the “fatty” bike lane, but this make it even easier for people to drive their automobiles in it. I received a message on New Year’s Eve that a person holding a party in the loft/storage building on the southwest side of the bridge was valet parking cars in the fatty bike lane. The sender wasn’t able to get a photo.

    This installation is considered “easy”, and that is in part because there was no parking that had to be “adjusted” (removed, traded, or “bought back”). That is why the fatty bike lane ends where it does (Canal on the west, Clark on the east).

  • http://twitter.com/bikeyourlife Bike Your Life Green

    I might be in the minority- but that lane is amazing!!! I think it’s fabulous that they give you such large space on the road. We have NOTHING like that in our city. We have a few pathetic bike lanes that are littered with leaves so thick you can’t even see the lane, or full of parked cars. Good on ya, City of Chicago! :)

  • http://twitter.com/bikeyourlife Bike Your Life Green

    BTW- can they paint the lane on the grated bridge? Just paint it right on the surface?

  • E A

    I dread the intersections where we lose the lane as it narrows to accommodate turning lanes for cars (usually). The “squeeze” as I call it … plus the drivers then have that much more opportunity to right hook cyclists, too. Still – I like the improvement over no lane, especially on busy arterial roads.

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