On my way to work yesterday morning, I spotted a road crew laying down paint to buffer the existing Wells Street bike lane. In the photo below, parked cars are usually next to the curb, the bike lane was already to the left of the parked car area, and the addition is the striped area to the left of the bike lane.
This new “buffer” is nice to see, but not so much when considered as part of Chicago’s overall bike plan. I first heard that Wells would be getting a buffered bike lane one year ago and I expected something more – something that would actually protect cyclists from moving traffic and from opening car doors. This new painted buffer is better than nothing, but not a big step forward. More painted lines are not going to get new people on their bikes. Considering Wells is a hugely popular route for bikes (seems to me there are more bicyclists than cars during rush hour), I would like more to be done to ensure bicyclist safety.
I feel like I should not complain, because the new mayor is taking bicycling seriously and accomplishing a lot and seeing progress is exciting. But if he is serious about making Chicago a first-class bicycling city, safe for citizens aged 8 to 80, painted stripes are not going to cut it. If actual protection is not feasible with the space and budget, at least fill in the lane with green paint, put up more signage, and ticket drivers who park in the bike lane.