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.
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.
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.