Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Video: Morning commute on Clark Street

by Michelle Stenzel

Recently, we filmed a morning bike commute down Clark Street through Lincoln Park, from Diversey to North Avenue.
Clark Street looking north from Wrightwood. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
One mile of that route is designated as a Bus/Bike Only lane. Surprised? Even if you're a Lincoln Park regular, you may not even be aware that Clark Street from Diversey to Dickens is a designated Bus/Bike Only lane every weekday morning, from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM. These rush-hour lanes are designed to help the flow of people down a busy corridor.  (more -->)

Yellow marks the 1.6 mile route seen on our video. Orange is the Bus/Bike Only lane section. 
I noticed a while ago that this designation was largely ignored, and the lane was chock full of parked cars during the restricted hours. It wasn't until Shaun Jacobsen of the blog Transitized highlighted the problem on this post that Michael Reynolds and I were spurred into action.

Why did we focus on this? Clark Street is an important public transit corridor and bicycle route. The #22 Clark Street bus and the #36 Broadway buses run on this stretch, carrying thousands of passengers, and if we can do anything to help give them a faster, smoother ride, we should certainly support that. (How many people ride the buses on this exact stretch of Clark Street is hard to know, but the #22 Clark bus carries about 22,000 passengers per weekday on its route, and the #36 Broadway carries more than 16,000.) Creating a clear path for buses helps car drivers, too, since buses don't have to weave in and out of the lane to pull to the curb. Also, Clark Street is a designated Spoke Route on the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan; if bicyclists have a clear path that doesn't require them to weave in and out of traffic, it's much safer for them. 

At the end of September, we alerted Alderman Michele Smith's office of the illegal parking issue and asked why there wasn't enforcement. Turns out there wasn't any reason, and her office requested it. The Department of Revenue promptly initiated a two-week enforcement effort, ticketing parked vehicles that were blocking the Bus/Bike Only lane. 
This car had a ticket issued. Notice how it's parked right next to signs that say "BIKE LANE/ No Parking. 7AM-9AM Mon-Fri, TOW ZONE". (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Bus/Bike Only lane on Clark Street near Wrightwood,
blocked by a truck. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
After just one week of the Revenue folks issuing $90 tickets, there was a noticeable reduction of illegal parking, with only a dozen or so vehicles parked over the one-mile segment. By the time we filmed on October 4, 2013 at 8:00 AM, there were only four illegally parked private vehicles, all with tickets on their windows. Unfortunately, there were also two enormous trucks parked and unloading, and I don't believe they were ticketed, even though they were blocking the buses just as much as parked cars were. We'll work on that.

In the mean time, on behalf of the thousands of bus riders, bicyclists and drivers whose morning commute is now a little smoother and faster, we extend thanks to Alderman Smith and her staff!

In the video, you'll see that the first 2/3 of the ride is pretty nice in the Bus/Bike Only lane. However, after we cross Armitage Avenue, where there are no bike lanes at all, and where we are advocating for Complete Streets improvements for everyone, the riding is more treacherous.

We filmed the ride using Michael's helmet-mounted GoPro camera and my handlebar-mounted Contour, and the seven-minute video below (I know, a little long!) contains footage from both. Shaun from Transitized joined us for the ride, so you'll see him throughout. 

Enjoy the video, and we welcome your questions or comments below!
Michael and Shaun before the ride. Thanks for
joining us, Shaun!
Michael and Michelle after filming wrapped up.



  1. Great video! I like that it showed the near-right hook as well, which is a real problem when approaching intersections.

    I hope to be able to do another one of these rides!

    1. Thanks for being a model bicyclist and for inspiring us into acting on this! -- MS

  2. Nice shot of the Weiner's Circle sign. Best cheese fries in the city!

  3. Michelle you should be wearing a helmet.

  4. You guys are awesome. Thanks for doing this.

  5. "...not for beginner cyclists" is spot on. This is part of my daily commute on Clark from Irving Park to the loop. There are a few more common issues that I've had on a weekly basis- including lots of loading/unloading (mostly taxis) in the center of designated lane - that I didn't spot in the video.

    1. Thanks for commenting. Taxis actively loading or unloading aren't quite as bad, in my view, given that they're just there for one minute or so, and the chances are lower that they'll block a bus' progress. -- MS

    2. Understandable. That US Foods truck (1:20) is still there very regularly. I think I saw the unloader with a dolly going around the corner going West. Maybe someone could contact the distributor and ask them to use the space around the corner?