TagChicago Avenue

Destination streets are rarely the best places to bike

This family took to riding on the sidewalk of Division Street instead of in the bike lane. They’re riding the stylish workhorse WorkCycles Fr8. Once I saw them riding the blue one, I had to get a different color. 

My friend Calvin Brown, a circumstantial urban planner, is always giving me Jane Jacobs-style observations about how citizens use their cities.

“Destination streets are the ones I avoid biking on because there’s so much car traffic there. Traffic must be balanced between streets that are good for biking and ones that aren’t currently good.”

In other words, because it’s a destination street (a place where there are a lot of retail outlets, venues, points of interest) it induces a lot of car traffic. Lots of car traffic discourages people from riding bikes, and makes it difficult for those who already are.

To me, a great example of this is Division Street. There’s a bike lane there from Ashland to California Avenues, and has tons (tons!) of restaurants and some night clubs. Yet that causes a lot of taxi traffic, people driving their own cars, looking for parking, jutting into the bike lane to see why traffic is going slow or backed up (um, because there are ton of cars!), and valet and delivery drivers blocking the bike lane.

It’s exactly this traffic, though, that keeps these places vibrant, desirable, and healthy (from an economic standpoint). The solution for bicycling is easy: swap the car parking with the bike lane so that bicycling isn’t affected by a majority of the aforementioned traffic maneuvers.

Calvin’s “destination streets” examples were Grand Avenue and Chicago Avenue. Neither has bike lanes, and both have 2 travel lanes in each direction. Grand has destinations from Racine Avenue to Ashland Avenue and Chicago has destinations from Ada Street to Western Avenue. I’d wager that if you narrowed those roadways by installing a protected bike lane you’d get slower traffic and higher business receipts.

Chicago Avenue at Hoyne Avenue is a particularly stupid part of Chicago Avenue: The Chicago Department of Transportation installed a pedestrian refuge island here. After several years and at least 4 replaced signs due to collisions of automobiles with it, the design hasn’t been modified. The island in and of itself did not change the speed of those who drive here, as the roadway’s width remained static.

I am not your representative

This guy showed up. Why didn’t you?

I’ve struggled inviting friends and peers to the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 public meetings and open houses. A couple of said something along the lines of “I don’t need to go if you’re going”.

That’s not my job.

My job is to tell you what happened. But you have to show up. You have to increase the numbers of people who are demanding changed streets. I am one person, with a blog. When I put my name on the sign-in sheet, or leave a comment, I am only signing my own name, not the names of my blog’s readers, or my friends and neighbors.

There are 4 more meetings. The draft network will be presented there. This is basically your last chance to affect what the final plan will say. What kinds of things will it say? It will make recommendations as to which type of bikeways will go where. Want a protected bike lane and road diet on Chicago Avenue, because there’s so much retail and services you want to visit, but people are driving too fast? Yeah, go to the meeting and make sure it’s on there.

These people showed up. Were you there? Photos are from the Sulzer Library event on February 1, 2012. 

© 2014 Steven Can Plan

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