TagThe Chainlink

Are protected bike lanes going in the right places?

Bike crash map of Ogden, Milwaukee, Chicago

Common bike-car crash locations in West Town. The bottom blue circle identifies Ogden/Milwaukee, where there is a yellow trap for northbound, left-turning motorists (from Milwaukee to Ogden) that makes them run into southbound bicyclists who have a green light.

My contribution to a discussion on The Chainlink, Are protected bike lanes going in the right places?

Kelvin, Milwaukee/Ogden/Chicago is the intersection along Milwaukee Avenue with the highest number of bicycle crashes. I created this table and map to show them, using data from 2007-2009.

The blue rings on the map are called, in GIS parlance, “buffers” and are circles used to select things (in this case, bike crashes) within a certain distance of the circle center. In this map I used 50 feet radius buffers (100 feet diameter). While this distance encompasses the intersection from center to all four curbs, it doesn’t encompass the crashes that happened just outside the buffer that were still most likely influenced by the intersection (like drivers’ turning movements).

I am working on a project with three friends to create a better map and “crash browser”. I mentioned it in the last story on Grid Chicago in this post. For this project, we are using 200 feet radius (400 feet diameter) buffers to ensure we encompass the entire intersection and the area in which it still has an effect. This also grabs the bike lane “pinch points”, places where a bike lane doesn’t start until 100-200 feet beyond the intersection.

I am also concerned with the strategy and approach CDOT is using to choose locations. It’s not transparent; at MBAC, CDOT said they were choosing locations “without controversy and that could be implemented quickly”.

Read more about Kinzie Street, Chicago’s first protected bike lane, and my other thoughts on protected bike lanes

Milwaukee Avenue versus Elston Avenue

I moved to Avondale (north of Logan Square) in the final weekend of January 2011. I didn’t want to abandon Bridgeport but I didn’t want to find a new roommate and a great opportunity opened up. I miss Bridgeport.

So now my daily riding to friends’ houses, bars, clubs, UIC, or the library, happens most often on Milwaukee Avenue. Both are diagonal streets but I live 1.6 kilometers from Milwaukee Avenue and 350 meters from Elston Avenue. To be more efficient, I should more often ride on Elston Avenue.

So why do I prefer Milwaukee Avenue? In response to a thread on The Chainlink, “Milwaukee v. Elston,” I posted a photo essay with each photo documenting and describing problems that collectively are unique to Elston Avenue. The series starts with a photo of the Ashland/Elston/Armitage intersection and moves northbound through the Elston Avenue Strip Mall Zoo* ending at Diversey and Western Avenues.

Riding through this intersection is like being a gazelle in a savannah with hungry lions. At least for 340 feet. There are so many opportunities to get hit by a car, especially going northbound right before reaching Ashland Avenue (not pictured).

View the rest of the photos in “Why I don’t like riding on Elston.”

*Strip malls are terrible urban design. They’re inhospitable to everyone, even those who drive. At some point every visitor will be walking through a parking lot to get to the front door, risking life and limb, breathing fumes, and walking through leaked automobile oil.

Afterword: The Chicago bike crash map shows few crashes on Elston Avenue relative to Milwaukee Avenue. But the number of people cycling on Elston Avenue is unknown – we cannot make a comparison.

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