Tagbike lane

#Space4Cycling: Chicago needs intuitive bike lanes and other street markings

Two bicyclists take different routes around this driver blocking the bike lane with their car

In this case at Milwaukee and Green, space was made and well-marked for cycling but no space was outlined for driving. The driver of the black car must pull up this far to see beyond the parked silver car. In the Netherlands they’ve come up with a solution that would work here: shift the green bike lane toward the crosswalk so that the motorist crosses the crosswalk and bike lane at the same time and has space to wait to turn left between the bike lane and the travel lane.

What does an intuitive bike lane or other street marking mean?

It means that the street user can reasonably (yeah) guess, and guess right, what they’re supposed to do.

For bicyclists in Chicago, the lack of bike lane markings that continue to the edge of an intersection (often demarcated at the stop bar) creates an unintuitive bike lane design.

At intersections, an intuitive bike lane design would mean that the bicyclist and the motorist know where and how to position their vehicles in respect to the other, even if there isn’t a car there yet, or there’s not a bike there yet. Many intersections in Chicago that have protected bike lanes do this; especially the ones with separate signal phases. And these intersections work really well for bicyclists: they stand safely away from motorists, and motorists don’t attempt to occupy these spaces.

Inverted sharrow

The “sharrow before and after the intersection because the city dropped the bike lane” is the most common “didn’t make space for cycling” problem. There was plenty of space to make for cycling here, and nearly every other “sharrow…” situation: it’s along the curb and it’s subsidized, curbside parking for drivers.

But currently at dozens, if not hundreds, of Chicago intersections where the bike lane drops before the intersection, you’ll see bicyclists behave and maneuver in several ways, none of which are accommodated by the street’s design.

Some people will bike between two lanes of cars to the front of the line, and when they get there, lacking a bike box or advanced stop line, they’ll stand with their bike in the area between the crosswalk and the stop bar. If the first car is over the stop bar, then people will usually stand with their bike on the crosswalk.

Riding north on Damen towards Fullerton-Elston

The sharrow painted on the pavement, and an accompanying sign saying, “shared lane – yield to bikes” are unintuitive because no one can occupy the same space at the same time, and the symbols don’t communicate who gets first right to a specific part of the road space. In the end, though, in a situation like this, I’ve never seen someone wait back this far on their bike, and many will consider riding on the sidewalk to get to the front. When they get there, though, they won’t find any #space4cycling.

Others will bike between a lane of cars and the curb to get to the front of the line.

New buffered bike lane on Halsted just ends

This is another version of the “sharrow before and after the intersection because the city dropped the bike lane”. Why’d they drop it in this instance? To make space for Halsted Street drivers turning right, and to push more drivers northward through its intersection with Clybourn Avenue.

Others will wait to the side of drivers, and other still will wait behind a line of cars, putting themselves at a major time disadvantage as the people who biked up to the front. Not to mention they’ll choke on more fumes.

Then, when the light turns green, motorists behave differently. Some will follow behind the first bicyclist, while others will try to pass but closely because they’re essentially sharing a lane side-by-side – this exerts a lot of mental stress on the bicyclist.

Where the city has built space that’s absolutely not to be shared (meaning it’s for the exclusive use by people bicycling), then the designs are substandard because they still allow or seem open to driving. Otherwise, though, space for cycling that’s “part time” is only usable space for those holding the most power and not for the people riding bikes who need it.

frankling at washington bike lane (composite image)

In this new design that built a “protected intersection” for bicyclists going north on Franklin and east on Washington Street, the bike space is still a drivable area. (Top photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz; bottom photo by Skip Montanaro)

These deficiencies in Chicago’s bike lane network are often the result of failing to make, or make well, space for cycling from space used for parking or turn lanes.

Bicycling on the Dearborn Street bike lane

Three years after the City of Chicago built the novel and well-used two-way cycle track on one-way Dearborn, this situation north of the track still exists. And somehow they expect drivers on a 4-lane road to travel at 20 MPH.

This is 2015 and we continue to “not make space for cycling” despite every policy that calls for making bicycling in Chicago safe and convenient so that more people will do it. It’s just that in the unwritten policies it says that you can implement that policy if it doesn’t impede driving*.

* The City of Chicago has built many road diets (a reduction in the number of travel lanes) in the last four years, and some before that. A few of these have worked well for bicyclists, like on 55th and Vincennes where they built protected and buffered bike lanes, respectively (and Dearborn through the Loop).

I put road diets in a note after “impede driving” because they’re only done where they also won’t make local traffic more congested on that street or an intersecting streets.

On the face of it, that’s exactly what many people believe they’ll do because a road diet removes or converts lanes and that’s seen as the same as reducing car capacity which will shift that car traffic to other streets. That pretty much doesn’t happen and the city only implements road diets on streets that have MORE capacity than is used.

The City of Chicago should implement filtered permeability immediately at Green Street and Milwaukee Avenue

This is not a bikeable block

The multiple threats to bicyclists, to pedestrians, and to motorists, are pervasive in the depicted scene. There is low visibility for turning motorists which in turn causes them to encroach on the right of way of other street users, including other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

This single image shows everything that is inefficient and dangerous to bicyclists and motorists about the intersection between north-south Green Street and diagonal Milwaukee Avenue in River West. Motorists should be physically blocked from entering or exiting Green Street at this point because of the danger inherent in the current intersection design. The block of Green Street south of Milwaukee Avenue is so insignificant to the driving network that no other design intervention should be implemented.

The situation depicted in this photograph demonstrates why the City should implement filtered permeability and close this entrance of the Green Street/Milwaukee Avenue intersection to motor vehicle movement. While motorists would be barred from entering or exiting Green Street here bicyclists would still have access to Green Street as part of the low-stress bicycling network of which Green Street is a part, between Milwaukee and Van Buren Street in Greektown.

I first wrote about this problematic intersection in June on Streetsblog Chicago and it remains an issue. One of the two motor vehicles ahead is blocking part of the bike lane while the second threatens to enter it. The bus on the left prevents the bicyclist in the bike lane from maneuvering around either vehicle. The photo below shows the situation from a different angle, that of the motorist wanting to turn left.

The vehicle operator on the left – a bus driver, in this case – has stopped the vehicle because they can occupy the intersection with the vehicle, or leave it open. Essentially, the bus driver has stopped to “let” the motorists on Green Street proceed across Milwaukee and further north into Green Street or turn left onto Milwaukee. Their movements would, again, put the bicyclist in danger, and put themselves and other motorists in danger because they are making nearly-blind turns into faster moving traffic.

The threats to the motorist are as limitless as the ones to the bicyclist (although the bicyclist will experience much greater injury if the threat is realized). As the motorist is paying attention to other motor vehicle traffic the bicyclist is coming down this bike lane – yep, I took the photograph – and is additionally obscured by the line of parked cars on the bicyclist’s right, and is in the shadow of the bus and the buildings. It’s like there’s a perfect storm of blind spots.

The quickest way to implement a system of filtered permeability and raise the significance and safety of the Green Street and intersecting Milwaukee Avenue blocks within the low-stress bicycling network would be to install a series of large planter boxes that prevent motorists from entering or exiting Green Street but allow bicyclists to filter through the planters.

And skip any traffic impact study. Not a single parking space will be lost or be made inaccessible with the implementation. A traffic study is not an experiment, but has practically been a foreboding document that has only ever said “things will be different”. (A good plenty of them have also suggested adding multiple $300,000 traffic signals.)

I read on Streetsblog USA recently about Pittsburgh’s new protected bike lanes:

“Instead of asking people to judge the unknown, the city’s leaders built something new and have proceded to let the public vet the idea once it’s already on the ground.”

Chicago maintains a Silver bike-friendly commenting ranking, yet my initial analysis shows that our metrics are below average among other Silver communities after which I’m led to believe we’re undeserving of the medal. Safety is a citizen’s number one concern when considering to use a bicycle for transportation and it will take an expansion of the low-stress bicycling network – currently not a priority – to deserve the current ranking or achieve anything higher.

Two bicyclists take different routes around this driver blocking the bike lane with their car

This photograph depicts a nearly identical situation but from the perspective of the motorist on Green Street approaching Milwaukee Avenue. Two bicyclists have taken two routes around the motorist blocking the bike lane with their vehicle.

I think Chicagohenge came early this year

This was my bike scare of the week. I was in the Madison Street bike lane between two buses and the sun was staring down at us, blocking our vision.

Or at least my vision. Bus drivers tend to have visors. I had my hand. Adler Planetarium describes it:

This phenomena occurs as the Sun sets right in the middle of Chicago’s East-West streets – which only occurs during the vernal and autumnal equinox. If you are viewing the sunrise or sunset downtown, it will be framed by Chicago’s beautiful architecture along these streets – hence, “Chicagohenge.”

Chicagohenge should occur on September 25, 2013.

What abysmal pavement quality on a brand new bike lane means

Approaching the intersection and bike lane minefield. 

I find it very embarrassing that Chicagoans are supposed to ride their bicycles in this. I feel embarrassed riding my bike in this. I rode my bike on this pavement of abysmal quality and then felt ashamed and uncomfortable that I exited the bike lane and rode elsewhere.

The bike symbol succumbs to flooding which occupies half the bike lane’s width. 

I felt like a person in a wheelchair given an “accessible” theater seat behind a column that blocks a majority of my view of the stage. I felt like I was a reporter at a newspaper given a new computer where the keyboard was missing 42 keys. The bike lane was unusable, I was the butt of a cruel joke. This felt like a pittance, throwing crumbs to the masses.

2013 April Fool’s Day came early, in fall 2012. 

The photos in this post show a bike lane in Douglas Park against the curb, with a painted buffer, running in a minefield of patches and potholes on asphalt pavement. The bike lane was installed in the fall of 2012, as part of Mayor Emanuel’s efforts to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes. The goal has since been reduced after the definition of a protected bike lane was surreptitiously changed. The change was revealed by Grid Chicago.

You can find this at the intersection of Sacramento Boulevard and Douglas Boulevard in Lawndale on the Near Southwest Side of Chicago. View more photos of this and the other West Side Boulevards bike lanes on my Flickr. They’ve probably been the most controversial: there were complaints because of ticketing cars parked in the under construction bike lane on Marshall Boulevard; then there were complaints about the “decreased safety” of the protected bike lane on Independence Boulevard which has prompted CDOT to agree to remove it and replace it with a buffered bike lane. The Independence Boulevard debacle started because of ticketing cars parked in the under construction bike lane – I doubt it would have become an issue if cars weren’t ticketed.

Franklin Boulevard at Kedzie Avenue, taken on the same day. Thankfully it’s wide enough that you can bike around it while still being in the bike lane. 

Driving in the protected bike lane, eh

Updated 4/5/12 to add links to other discussions on this topic, my response to one of the discussions, and a link to my tweet mention this issue to 25th Ward Alderman Solis. 

I was hanging out on 18th Street on Tuesday, watching traffic as I often do, and interviewing Alyson Fletcher about her bike count project. I captured this driver of a Chevy Malibu casually driving in the protected bike lane.

Aside from emailing this to Alderman Solis and the Chicago Department of Transportation, I have no idea what to do about this (I haven’t done either of those things yet – maybe you, as a resident, should do that; I tweeted to Alderman Solis on April 4, 2012). I think the design could be modified to physically prevent automobile traffic here (except, perhaps, emergency vehicles). Other things could be added to make this more apparent as a bike lane, by adding more color and doubling the size of the pavement bicycle symbols.

I also photographed two other people driving in the bike lane. Is there not a place where people can cycle without the danger of drivers impeding their space?

Kia Forte driver.

BMW driver.

Follow the discussion elsewhere:

  • The Expired Meter – Author poses question about possible lack of clarity in the signage, symbols, or road design that sends the message that the curbside lane is for cycling only. I haven’t investigated this part. I don’t know if there are signs at the entrances to the lane that describe it as “right lane bike only” (I’m not sure if this sign is acceptable to the MUTCD – I can’t find it there – but there are many instances of it being used in Chicago). However, that sign’s posted restriction is further than what’s necessary. A sign that says “bike lane” (R3-17) is sufficient to cause that any driving in said lane is a citable offense under Municipal Code of Chicago 9-40-060.
  • EveryBlock – I posted it here.
  • Grid Chicago – I posted this about this topic later on Grid Chicago asking which bike issues most concerns readers.

So that bike lane enforcement

Where is it?

This is beginning to make me angry.

The Chicago Police Department has issued 5 citations so far this year to drivers parking in the bike lane (well, as of October 11, 2011). I’ve taken photos this year of more than 5 drivers parking in the bike lane. Here’re frequencies from all the years I asked about*:

  • 2007 – 2 citations
  • 2008 – 6
  • 2009 – 8
  • 2010 – 2
  • 2011 – 5

At the September 2011 Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said that he’s working on an enforcement plan. I’d like that plan to start with more frequent enforcement of Ordinance 9-40-060 – Driving, standing or parking on bicycle paths or lanes prohibited.

A blocked bike lane can make cycling more uncomfortable and dangerous, especially for inexperienced cyclists who often don’t change lanes in a visible and safe way.

*I’m only asking for 2007-2010 because I want it to coincide with the crash data I have.

More letter writing

I’m two for two on writing letters and getting the results I intended to see.

First, there was getting the bike rack at Dominick’s in Bridgeport.

Then there was getting parking spaces removed so a pinch point in the Halsted Street bike lane at 15th Street was less “pinchy.”

Now I’m trying to get the United States Postal Service to stop parking and driving in bike lanes, especially the Kinzie Street protected bike lane.

I mailed out letters to six recipients on Wednesday.

My protected bike lane drawing from 2007

I was looking through my most popular bits on Flickr and came across this drawing I made in January 2007.

Notice how I put a bike rack in the street. Portland starting on-street bike parking corrals in 2002, I believe.

It looks surprisingly like the Kinzie Street bike lane 😉

I cannot remember from where I got the inspiration to draw this. I hadn’t yet traveled to New York City or Portland; I probably saw a drawing of this on Streetsblog for a facility that would soon be built in New York City (9th Avenue cycle track popped up later in 2008).

I don’t remember my obsession with bicycle planning beginning that early.

The bollards are in – ’nuff said

Update June 15, 2011: The Chicago Bicycle Program has uploaded 22 photos and videos today. Here’s a video of workers painting the bike box at southbound Milwaukee. Also, I’ve been wrong about a bike-friendly bridge treatment on Kinzie – I don’t have evidence to support this assertion. We’ll see what happens.

Protected bike lane? Yep.

It should be 100x more clear now that cars are not allowed here. But I’m sure we’ll still seem some goof in the bike lane at least once in the next few days.

Crews installed the base, getting ready to install the pole.

And the bridge has bollards as well! No more double-driving on the bridge. Now it’s time for the new bike lane bridge deck!

Brandon Souba took the photos. Thank you so much.

Take a look at Day 7 construction on Kinzie Street

This must be the fastest project ever accomplished by city government – or at least this City’s government. The funding source makes a huge difference: The city is using its own money, using “mini capital project” funding that was budgeted but not yet allocated. If the city was using grant money from the state or federal governments, a four-week turnaround time for a protected bike lane would not be possible.

The pace continues at breakneck speed!

On Tuesday, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) crews were working on both the eastbound and westbound directions on the west side of the Kinzie Street bridge.

Crews work on the eastbound Kinzie Street at Canal Street, right before the bridge. It does not appear there’s a buffer here (guide lines painted before the stripes aren’t seen).

Painting stripes on eastbound Kinzie Street at Canal Street, right before the bridge.

CDOT workers inspect the stripes at the stop bar and crosswalk at eastbound Kinzie Street at Canal Street. It appears the stop bar is further from the crosswalk than at most intersections in Chicago.

photo of bike lane

Photo of workers (from StreetPrint?) applying green paint to a bike box and left turn lane on southbound Milwaukee at Desplaines/Kinzie. Photo by Thomas Gonzales.

© 2016 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑