At a recent community meeting at Intuit arts center, the Chicago Department of Transportation discussed its vision for innovative bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue, connecting existing protected lanes on Kinzie Street and Elston Avenue. The plan, which is actually much more ambitious than what was outlined on the CDOT website prior to the meeting, involves removing about half of the car-parking spaces along Milwaukee to make room for buffered and protected lanes on the entire segment. To really wrap your head around what’s being proposed, be sure to check out the department’s presentation on the plan.
Nearly all of these parking spaces could potentially be replaced by reconfiguring parking on side streets, CDOT staffers said. The project will also include street resurfacing, high-visibility crosswalks, countdown pedestrian signals and narrower travel lanes, which will deter speeding, so it would make conditions safer for people on foot and in cars as well. The street is scheduled to be repaved this month; pending continued community outreach and final approval, bike lane construction is slated for June.
CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein kicked off the presentation by discussing his hopes that the street rehab will give an economic boost to the area. “To me this is not just about creating a world-class bike facility but it’s also showing what making a street into a really complete street can do for the economic vitality of that street,” he said. “I’m personally very interested in measuring how retail stores are doing before and how much their business improved afterwards.”
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s being proposed, from south to north.
Kinzie to Hubbard: On the east side of the street a buffered lane delineated with flexible posts will be added and parking would be removed. A viaduct just north of Kinzie would get better lighting and possibly a mural.
Hubbard to Ohio: Buffered lanes would added. Due to business uses here, most parking and loading zones would be retained.
Grand/Halsted: Bike lanes would be striped through the intersection and bike boxes will we added. While a nearby business owner complained about the proposed removal of a dedicated lane for cars turning right from Milwaukee onto Grand, CDOT staffers said traffic counts showed few drivers make this move during peak hours.
Ohio to Erie: On this one-block stretch on a bridge over the Ohio Feeder to the Kennedy Expressway, existing bike/bus lanes will be converted into nine-foot-wide buffered bike lanes with flexible posts, with two bike lanes marked in each direction to allow faster cyclists to easily pass slower ones.
Erie to Carpenter: A parking-protected lanes would be installed on the east side of Milwaukee, a buffered lane with flexible posts would be added on the west side, and parking would be stripped from the west side. On-street bike parking corrals may be added.
Carpenter to Ogden: This would be the opposite of the previous segment. A parking-protected lane would be installed on the west side of Milwaukee, a buffered lane with flexible posts would be added on the east side, and parking would be stripped from the east side. Bike corrals could be added here as well.
Chicago/Ogden: Bike lanes will be striped through the intersections. A bike box will be added on Milwaukee south of Ogden.
Ogden to Elston: Curbside buffered bike lanes will be installed and parking will be stripped from the east side of Milwaukee. To mitigate an existing conflict point at Milwaukee/Elston between right-turning drivers and northbound cyclists, a dedicated right-turn lane for cars will be added, as well as a dedicated bike signal and right-turn signal for motorists.
Articles by the Chicago Sun-Times and DNA Info have focused on negative comments from local residents and business owners about the prospect of narrower lanes and parking removals. However, I recognized many of the attendees as being bike commuters. Unfortunately few chose to speak up during the Q & A session.
One exception came after a business owner complained about lawless bicyclists and told Klein that bike riders should be required to get licenses. “As non-cyclists we should know what we can expect from the cyclists,” he said. “Right now they think they own the streets. I’ve been hit twice by a cyclist.”
“I’ve been hit three times by a car and I almost broke my arm,” fired back a young man. “I was completely doing legal things each time I got hit, by people who are doing illegal things in things that are two tons and can kill me.”
Hopefully the negative feedback from the drivers present won’t result in this innovative project being watered down, as was the case with the Berteau Greenway. After all, last year over 2,800 people signed an Active Transportation Alliance petition in support of protected lanes on Milwaukee. Chicagoans who live, work or spend money in the 27th Ward, are encouraged to contact Alderman Walter Burnett to show support for reconfiguring car parking to make Chicago’s busiest bike street a safer, more vibrant roadway.
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