Sunday, July 27, 2014

Clybourn Avenue would benefit from protected bike lanes

by Michelle Stenzel

Last week, the public was given its first glimpse of the changes being proposed to Clybourn Avenue from Division Street to North Avenue. You can read media coverage of the meeting on DNA Info Chicago and on Streetsblog Chicago.

As you know from our prior post, Clybourn north of North Avenue received buffered bike lanes last year; however, the southern section still has no bike lanes at all. 

Here's a map that shows in red the section of Clybourn that's in the current project area (it also includes one block of Division):
Red shows the parts of Clybourn and Division that are in the project area. Purple lines are existing buffered bike lanes. This screen shot was taken from the Active Transportation Alliance's Bikeways Tracker.
This project is not in Lincoln Park, but we're writing about it because every improvement for bicycling on nearby streets is important for the entire bicycling network, and in this case, it could greatly benefit Lincoln Parkers who ride on Clybourn to get to Larrabee or Halsted to head northbound. 

Here's what Clybourn currently looks like in the first blocks north of Division:
(Google Street View)
Here's what Clybourn currently looks like in the blocks between Larrabee and Halsted:
Plenty of room for protected bike lanes here! (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
As you can see, Clybourn's southernmost section has some storefronts and condos right against the street, forming a nice street edge. That area often has some parked cars. The next section, northwest of Larrabee, is completely wide open, windswept, and a blank slate on which to begin creating something better!

It's exciting that Illinois Department of Transportation and Chicago DOT have studied this corridor carefully in terms of motor vehicle volumes, speed, and parking utilization rates, and that they've determined there's an excellent opportunity to install curb-protected bike lanes. 

Actually, for the first few blocks at the southern end, it's still being decided whether buffered or curb-protected should be installed, so both designs were presented, along with the pluses and minuses.

(CDOT/IDOT presentation)
Bike Walk Lincoln Park strongly supports the installation of curb-protected bike lanes for the entire corridor. 

Buffered bike lanes are better than no bike lanes, but the design of barrier-protected bike lanes is superior in numerous ways: 1/ moving cars cannot encroach on the bicyclists, which raises the level of comfort of the bicyclist astronomically; 2/ the risk of dooring is eliminated; and 3/ intersections are designed with much better protection for the bicyclists. 

That third point is not as widely known, so it bears discussing just a little. For a barrier-protected bike lane to work, parking spots are often relocated nearby to create room for the curbside bike lane. When parked cars are fewer, there's room for protected bike lanes to continue all the way up to and through an intersection, instead of disappearing like they do with buffered bike lanes. You can see our video of the experience of riding on the Clybourn buffered bike lane here.
The buffered bike lanes on Clybourn north of North disappear at each intersection, and bicyclists must "share the lane" with cars. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The condition shown above doesn't produce the kind of low-stress bicycling that will help more people ride bikes for commuting and short neighborhood trips! 

In addition to the benefits of creating a calmer and safer environment for bicycling, we think that the section of Clybourn in the current study area will benefit economically from barrier-protected bike lanes. When those curb-protected lanes are installed, the bicyclists' numbers will increase with new ridership, traffic will calm down, the street will be a nicer place to spend time in, and the corridor will become much more lively with people walking and biking and spending money. (I'm not going to quote any study here on how this has happened in other cities: Just read the fantastic book Bikenomics by Elly Blue for all the details. If your budget doesn't allow you to purchase it, ask me and I'll lend you my copy.)

CDOT and IDOT are looking for input on the proposed designs for Clybourn. Please drop them an e-mail with your opinions! It doesn't have to be complicated. We're planning to write to simply say that we strongly urge them to install barrier-protected lanes for the entire corridor. Yes, they do read each one, and yes, these e-mails do make a difference. Write them at:

Follow us on Twitter @BikeWalkLP

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