Another new buffered bike lane has been installed in Chicago, this one in my neighborhood along the business district. Notice that with this lane the buffer zone is next to parked cars, while with the lane heading into downtown, the buffer zone is next to moving traffic. Even with the buffer, cyclists still need to bike in the outer portion of the bike lane to avoid opening car doors.
There is a buffered lane on the other side of the street, too, and visually the bike lanes make up a big portion of the roadway. This street has always been very bike-friendly with slow and light traffic, but the new buffered bike lanes make it even more so. I consider this low-hanging fruit for CDOT, so while I am happy to see the improvement, I anxiously await improvements where they are most needed – on major routes.
Earlier this week, I posted a video of my commute along quiet side streets. To show how different the ride is along a busy route, on Friday morning I took Lincoln Avenue, a popular street for both bikes and motor vehicles. I considered this taking one for the team, because I hate this route during rush hour.
A few notes before moving on to the video:
Lincoln Avenue is a major bikeway, with either bike lanes or sharrows along the length of it. As I discussed previously, it’s a pathetic set-up for such a popular bike route. Nevertheless, most bicyclists would take this street from my neighborhood to downtown.
This route takes about 25 minutes to my work, while the side streets route takes about 40 minutes. Lincoln is faster because it is diagonal, a straight shot to downtown.
The bicyclist who happens to be in front of me for most of the video is carrying a child on the back, very cool. I position myself a little further in the street and away from the parked cars than she, to avoid the door zone.
There’s a lot of traffic during rush hour and I generally filter on the right to get in front at stop lights. This is the safest place to wait, but it’s important to position yourself in front of cars and trucks, not next to them. Also, I know the light cycles well and go ahead only when I have enough time to do so safely.
The video is sped up by 250% and shows only 1/3 of the ride. My memory card got full right before I passed three solid blocks of traffic-jammed cars. That’s always smugly fun.
Without further ado, I present another low-budget LGRAB production:
It’s too bad that so many New Yorkers still complain about the bike lanes’ contribution to the inconvenience of urban driving instead of promoting them for their obvious role in helping solve the city’s transportation miseries, and for their aesthetic possibilities. I don’t mean they’re great to look at. I mean that for users they offer a different way of taking in the city, its streets and architecture, the fine-grained fabric of its neighborhoods…On a bike time bends. Space expands and contracts.
Reading a glowingly positive article about bike infrastructure in the mainstream media was refreshing and a lot of the author’s optimism can be applied to Chicago or any other city that’s beginning to take bikes seriously. I was especially interested to read that “London has lately turned into a bike capital too.” I’d love to hear what any Londoners out there think about that statement.
Speaking of New York, I found a little bit of NYC in downtown Chicago yesterday. There is a new Magnolia Bakery on State Street.
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, Chicago already has lots of delicious cupcake bakeries and doesn’t need New York’s second-hand ideas. On the other hand, CUPCAKES! :)
The Loop is the very center of downtown Chicago, filled with courthouses, office buildings, theaters and shopping. Unfortunately, biking in the Loop anytime between 7:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. is very stressful. Bicyclists have to take the lane and haul ass. The wide, one-way streets are a free-for-all of buses, speeding cabs, personal vehicles of those with enough money to pay for parking, police SUVs, and pedestrians. I dislike biking in the Loop so much, When I have to go to court, I park my bike at my office and then walk the last mile into the Loop.
The complete lack of safe infrastructure is the reason biking in the Loop is so awful. No bike lanes at all, let alone protected bike lanes.
That is, until this month, when the city finally installed the first bike lane in the Loop on Madison.
I biked the lane on my way to an evening meeting and it’s a big improvement, in my opinion. Although cars passed closely, they did not drive in the bike lane, unless crossing over into the right turn lane, and they seemed more aware of the possible presence of bikes. The bike lane is to the left of the turning lane, which I liked, because the turning lane is usually jammed with waiting cabs and buses – I would not want to ride to the right of that mess.
Another improvement is that this lane extends into the intersection with dotted lines, which was never done in the past. Since the beginning of the summer, I have noticed several more areas where existing bike lanes have been extended into intersections like this whenever a street is repaved.
Overall, I am happy about this lane as a very small but hopeful start. But this really could have been a fully protected bike lane, if installed on the other side of the street. I want the city to install some of those protected lanes on at least four Loop streets: north, south, east, and west. I hope that this is part of their long-term plan.
Check out The Grid Chicago for a detailed analysis of the lane and a great conversation in the comments section.
Do any Chicago readers out there bike in the Loop? What do you think about this lane and what do you want to see next?
Rahm Emanuel has been elected the next mayor of Chicago!
Here is a bit of what our new mayor has to say about bicycling in Chicago:
Rahm supports full implementation of Chicago’s Bike Plan and will initiate a review of its goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation.
Chicago’s 125 miles of bike lanes cover a small portion of the city’s 5000 miles of roads. Rahm wants to dramatically increase the number of miles added each year – from 8 to 25 – and prioritize the creation of protected bike lanes. His plan is based on a simple premise: create a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan – from kids on their first ride to senior citizens on their way to the grocery store – to feel safe on our streets.
Under the plan, Chicago would be a pioneer in the creation and expansion of protected bike lanes, which are separated from traveling cars and sit between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars that shield cyclists from street traffic. He will prioritize the lanes on major thoroughfares that link communities to downtown and each other.
I was surprised and impressed by the specificity of these campaign promises, especially the emphasis on protected bike lanes, which the city so desperately needs to encourage more people to ride a bike.
Mayor Daley has done a lot for bicycling in Chicago, but I’ve seen very little progress in the last couple of years. I’m excited for a fresh start!
You can read more about Emanuel’s transportation plans here, with sections on public transportation, bicycling and high speed rail.
When I get on my bike I become much more assertive than usual. I don’t worry about being too pushy because I’m confident in my skills and understand the danger of someone screwing up. At the same time, the super polite manner that my mom instilled in me is hard to kick. The result is me speaking up often, but in a feigned sweet tone. Two circumstances always make me speak up: when a driver opens a car door in my path and when a cyclist passes me in traffic without any warning. These things happen all the time riding in Chicago.