Bike With Me: Elston Separated Lane

Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting across town, which led me to a different route for the commute home.  I was able to take advantage of the newish separated bike lane on Elston Avenue.  I first wrote about this lane in the fall, but have not had occasion to bike it since.

Riding in this lane is like butter.  The separation from cars makes all the difference, of course. Other benefits are not being placed in the door zone and the relatively small number of cross streets, alleys and parking lot exits.  I would love a set-up like this on the busy streets that connect my neighborhood to downtown, where I often feel like a hunted animal during open season.

You can see previous videos of me biking along Chicago’s protected bike lanes here:

Dearborn protected lane  - two-way bike lane in the Loop

18th Street protected lane - the most similar to Elston’s bike lane

Kinzie protected lane - Chicago’s first separated bike lane

 

  • http://twitter.com/bikingheels Biking in Heels

    Ah, some infrastructure porn first thing on a friday! Thanks!
    One question, how did snow removal work over the winter? When advocates here propose bollards, they always get shot down because of concerns about plowing. I know the city has at least one small plow- is that enough to clear the protected routes?
    It’s one of the things that VC’s always throw up against both cycletracks and bollard buffered lanes, and I’d love to hear your (or other Chicagoans’ )experiences.

    • http://letsgorideabike.com/blog Dottie

      Unfortunately, I’m not able to use the separated lanes enough to see how this works. I do know that the city has two mini plows for bike lanes now, although I’ve heard some grumbling about how effectively they are used. The Lakefront Trail – which I use much more often – is actually plowed much more quickly and completely, I think, but that is done by the Parks Department.

    • Scott Sanderson

      I rode this lane all winter, and it was never blocked due to snow. I never saw it, but the city does have a narrow plow for the bike lanes. As was noted elsewhere, there was not much snowfall in Chicago this winter.

  • David P.

    BiH,

    Snow removal was sort of passive… There wasn’t a lot of plowing generally over the winter, and lighter snowfalls that would allow for automotive traffic to keep the main travel lanes clear tended to leave snow on the PBL since there was much less traffic. This usually was not a problem since it did not have a chance to turn hard and icy, but it was certainly not as clear as the auto lane, so a bit of attention was sometimes required. I did see evidence of the city plowing the Kinzie PBL after some of the bigger snowfalls, but I don’t think I ever noticed the same on Elston. Plowing is not a technical problem since the city does have equipment that can clear it. My office is a block or two from the northern end of the Elston lane and I ride downtown regularly for meetings, so I do get good use out of it…

    • R. Effub

      Which way did they move the snow from the bike lane? To the sidewalk or to the bollards? One could have a really buffered lane with a few feet of snow as a buffer…

      • David P.

        I’m not sure I ever noticed it having been plowed. This winter was not a good one for evaluating plowing, since we got no snow at all (!) until February, and then a handful of snowfalls from then through early March. Every time I rode it when it was snowy, it got cleared (or not) by traffic. It might have been plowed on some days I didn’t happen to ride it.

      • David P.

        I’m not sure I ever noticed it having been plowed. This winter was not a good one for evaluating plowing, since we got no snow at all (!) until February, and then a handful of snowfalls from then through early March. Every time I rode it when it was snowy, it got cleared (or not) by traffic. It might have been plowed on some days I didn’t happen to ride it.

        • Julia

          Same here – if there was a lot of accumulated snow, I probably didn’t ride that day. The only trouble spot I’ve noticed over the winter is the bridge right where Dottie started – it collects water, and was icy for quite a while this winter. It actually required leaving the PBL and merging into traffic to avoid.

  • Stephen Hodges

    Not many bicyclists out there…does it get more traffic as the seasons change?

    • http://myaudienceisowls.blogspot.com/ Dottie

      I hope so! I don’t take this route often enough to know, but I think part of the issue is Elston is sort of an off-street – it cuts between two neighborhoods but does not really go into either of them and there are few destination-type businesses on Elston (except the amazingly affordable Stanley’s fruit and veggie mart!).

    • http://letsgorideabike.com/blog Dottie

      I hope so! I don’t take this route often enough to know, but I think part of the issue is Elston is sort of an off-street – it cuts between two neighborhoods but does not really go into either of them and there are few destination-type businesses on Elston (except the amazingly affordable Stanley’s fruit and veggie mart!).

      • David P.

        And the Hideout! :)

        • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

          Of course! How could I forget The Hideout? :)

        • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

          Of course! How could I forget The Hideout? :)

    • Julia

      I can vouch that it gets used year round! I generally ride this route around 8am and 5pm each day. There are a quite a few other cyclists that also use it around the same times each day, but summer definitely brings an increase.

  • Adam Herstein

    If by butter, you mean butter mixed in with broken glass and nails, then I agree.

    • Julia

      getting better! It’s pretty gritty right now, but I did notice that it was being swept more regularly last fall. I think someone also spoke to the business owners that were sweeping their sidewalks into the protected lanes as well.

  • Adam Herstein

    If by butter, you mean butter mixed in with broken glass and nails, then I agree.

    • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

      Granted, I do not take this route regularly, but I did not have that problem yesterday. In fact, it seemed quite clean compared to other regular bike lanes on busy streets.

    • Scott Sanderson

      Elston is an industrial area, and it has always had a lot more broken glass and gravel than other city streets.

      Since may of last year, I have been riding elston daily. It really is very nice, but sometimes people still park in the lanes. There is a guy with a nissan armada who parks outside Stanley’s on the southbound side every day, and sometimes completely blocks the lane. There’s also the occasional truck that will run over the plastic dividers and block the lane.

      Overall though I love Elston; I think it shows you can put in protected bike facilities on a street like this without really changing the flow of traffic for cars.

      • Julia

        “There is a guy with a nissan armada who parks outside Stanley’s on the
        southbound side every day, and sometimes completely blocks the lane.”

        I’m really surprised no one has ticketed this guy. That’s an easy spot to make $150 on a stop/stand in a bike lane ticket – and he’s always there!

    • Julia

      getting better! It’s pretty gritty right now, but I did notice that it was being swept more regularly last fall. I think someone also spoke to the business owners that were sweeping their sidewalks into the protected lanes as well.

      • Adam Herstein

        That’s good to hear. I haven’t ridden Elston since last year, am I’m fairly certain that a good amount of my flats were from the bike lanes there. After I switched to kevlar tires, I haven’t had a flat since!

  • Kellie Stapleton

    Interesting having the lane ALL the way on the right of the roadside and car parking on your left. Never seen it that way before.
    DummyDiva

  • http://www.bikewalklincolnpark.com/ Michelle Stenzel

    Nice video, Dottie! I love the graphics and music, too. Elston from North Avenue to Cortland is scheduled to get upgraded infrastructure (hopefully separated lanes as much as possible!) between May 2012 and May 2013, according to the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. I hope that will indeed happen, if not by May 2013, soon thereafter, and your video shows how badly it’s needed.

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  • Megan B

    Glad you got to experience this. I take Elston for my work commute, and this is certainly the least stressful part of my 9 mile commute. It helps that much of the protected bike lanes are newly paved.

    Elston isn’t as visually interesting as Milwaukee or the lakefront, but it’s absence of bus, lower amount of cars and pedestrians, and wider lanes makes it ideal for biking. I hope more and more NW siders use this as a safe alternative to Milwaukee.

    • David P.

      Even though it is slightly out of the way, if you have to get past Wicker Park ,Elston is a great way to avoid the hot mess that is Milwaukee near North & Damen on weekend nights.

      • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

        Good point! Milwaukee in the center of Wicker Park is the worst.

  • http://teavelo.tumblr.com/ Pojdi kolesa!

    Wow, just watching it it felt like way scarier once the bike lane ended, and I say that as someone who likes playing in traffic.

    • David P.

      After she crosses North Ave., there actually is a normal bike lane there, but you can’t see it because the markings are almost gone. Nonetheless, drivers are generally aware of it.

  • mk

    Next stop the new bike lane on Jackson Ave, near Whitney Young HS and through the West Loop. They put the lane on the LEFT side of the street, which seems to confuse a lot of cyclists and drivers (especially the turning ones).

  • Brenda

    My little town in Iowa is starting to put buffered bike lanes in some of the busier streets. I won’t ride in them—I have seen too many confused SUV drivers using it as a lane just for them. It really gets hairy when they get to the intersections. You see them sitting in the middle of the street, not in any proper lane for a car, trying to figure out how to make a left turn while the other cars are passing them on either side.

  • Petar

    That’s a separated lane?

  • Petar

    That’s a separated lane?

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.voyercaravona Karen Voyer-Caravona

    Very good video Dottie. I’m reposting on my FB for our local efforts in Phx to get more money for bike infrastructure.