Friday, August 17, 2012

Protected Bike Lane coming to Dearborn Street in the Loop!

by Michelle Stenzel

This news is really huge: Mayor Emanuel announced that the first protected bike lane in the Loop will be in place by the end of this year! One year ago, the Loop got its first bike lane of any sort on Madison Street (see our review of that lane in this prior post), and now we’re about to get an actual protected lane.

Here’s part of the official announcement:
By the end of this year, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will install 34 miles of new bike facilities, including: 
  • A two-way north-south protected bike route through the Loop on Dearborn Street from Polk Street to Kinzie Street.  The City will also extend the Kinzie bike route east to meet up with this new route.  The Dearborn bikeway will separate bicyclists from high-speed traffic and include bicycle signals to separate bicycle and motor vehicle conflicts.
Here’s my map with the Polk-to-Kinzie stretch marked. I measured for you: It’s 1.2 miles long:
Map showing the stretch of Dearborn that will receive a protected bike lane, from Polk Street in the south to Kinzie Street on the North.
I’ve got lots of experience riding on Dearborn already, since it’s part of my northbound bike commute home, and let me tell you, it’s the worst part of my commute. 

South of the Chicago River, there’s no bike lane of any kind. 

Google screen shot of Dearborn at Madison.
People on bikes have to choose between riding in the right “bus only” lane, which irritates the bus drivers of the seven CTA routes that run up Dearborn, or riding on the left, mixing it up with cars, cabs and SUVs. It’s pretty much horrible.
This is the view from my bicycle on Dearborn Street close to Madison, as I ride my bike home every afternoon. Not fun. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
North of the River, a skinny little bike lane appears on the left side, along parked cars. It’s better than nothing, but still very little comfort. 
Dearborn Street bike lane in River North. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Dearborn Street bike lane just north of the river. Squeeze between truck and parked cars? Or merge into car traffic that moves 40 mph? You decide. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The new protected bike lane will be two-ways for bikes while Dearborn remains one-way for cars. There will be left turn arrows for motor vehicles and bike-specific signals to eliminate motor vehicles turning in the path of bicyclists!

Here’s a rendering of what these typically look like. This one’s on the right side, but I'm pretty sure the Dearborn Street PBL will be on the left side.

Two-way cycle track, with bollards and row of parked cars. Rendering taken from NACTO guide.
For people who think this could never work in a busy, congested area like the Loop, think again. Guess where it’s already been in place for a year or two already? New York, and not just in some backwater neighborhood in Queens, either: Manhattan. On Broadway. THE Broadway. 

Google screen shot of Broadway near 55th in Manhattan. Notice the bike lane to the left, the bollards, and the row of parked cars? Beautiful.
If they can do it in New Yawk, we can do it in Chicahgo.

Are you as excited about this as we are? SIGN THIS PETITION TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!! The Active Transportation Alliance petition closes on August 19, 2012. Include a sentence to personalize your statement, and express how excited you are to see the city move toward making everyday cycling a reality.  

(If you're reading this after August 19, 2012, sign up on this Active Transportation page to get future updates on new bikeways and related news.)

We’re on Twitter @BikeWalkLP - are you following us yet??


  1. This is very exciting (and yes, I signed the petition). The only thing better--especially for you, I would think--would be if it is at some point extended north of Kinzie. Although it is a little easier riding on Dearborn north of Kinzie, it is still not pretty.

    1. Hi Lisa, improvements on Dearborn will extend further north from Kinzie, according to the Streets for Cycling 2020 draft map. You're right, it's not pretty on the next few blocks. How about when the lane "floats" between straight-going cars on the right, and left-turning vehicles on the left, at Ontario? That block may be the worst of the worst of my commute. Thanks for chiming in! -- MS