Lincoln Parkers who commute by bike to downtown jobs may have witnessed bicycling history in the making this week: The very first bike lane within the Loop was installed on Madison Street from Michigan Avenue to Wells Street.
The same number of lanes remain for motorized vehicles, but the lanes have been narrowed. The bike lane is on the right of the moving lanes, but to the left of the bus/right turn lane.
|The Chicago Loop's first bike lane begins at Madison Street and Michigan Avenue. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
|New bike lane on Madison Street, between Michigan Avenue and Wabash. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
Of course we took it for a test ride. How does it rate?
No risk of dooring because there are no parked cars on either side.
It's decently wide, and the stripes are shockingly bright and clear, especially against the new black asphalt underneath.
The narrowing of the remaining moving lanes will theoretically have the effect of slowing down motorized vehicles, making the street safer for all users. (However, a casual observation during lunch hour reflected that a good number of taxicab drivers were resisting the reality of their newly narrowed driving space, and speeding just as fast as always.)
|This cyclist appeared quite comfortable in the new bike lane. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
THE NOT SO GOOD
This one's huge: Cyclists in the new bike lane are exposed on both sides, effectively "wedged" between moving traffic on their left and buses/right turners on the other side. This configuration is definitely not as safe-feeling as a lane that runs on the curb, much less a protected lane like the one on Kinzie.
The bus/right turn lane will be very busy, as there are numerous bus routes on Madison, and many streets heading north, so there will be constant crisscrossing of vehicles behind and in front of cyclists.
|Heavy motorized vehicle traffic surrounding the Madison Street bike lane at State Street. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
The oft-cited goal of creating bike infrastructure that serves cyclists from 8 to 80 is not reached with these lanes. You would not bring your young child nor aging grandmother on this route, no matter how enthusiastic they are about cycling. Similarly, we're not sure this will feel safe enough for use by tourists who rent bikes. You may have noticed them proliferating lately, and this will only increase when the city implements its plan for a large-scale bike sharing program.
So there are some pluses, some minuses. It's certainly better than what we had before, which was zilch. We'll be riding it regularly, will you?