by Jim Freeman
I know I've ragged on the City in the past about their bicycle infrastructure, but man, I'm loving the stuff they are doing right now. Sure, there could be better surfacing in some places, and they need to fix some drainage and signage problems, but overall my commute has improved 100% over the last two years.
I love that the new bicycle lane on Milwaukee Avenue has a passing lane on the hill over the expressway. The Kinzie to Dearborn protected bike lanes have reduced the number of driver conflicts I experience going into the Loop. My personal favorite small thing CDOT is doing is installing left turn boxes. Every time I use a left turn box on Dearborn I smile a satisfied smile.
For years I've been asking people who are "in the know" why we can't get a bike lane or at least a Shared Lane Yield To Bikes sign for Logan Boulevard at Western under the expressway. My girlfriend rides through there frequently. It's a death trap, but Logan Boulevard is one of the most direct east-west routes to and from Logan Square. There is a bike lane on the east side of the expressway... What's up?
I've been told for years that IDOT won't allow the installation of signage or bike lanes there. That stretch of Logan Boulevard is under the control of IDOT. So are a lot of roads in Chicago... Clybourn, North Avenue, and others. It is often the case that when a road crosses an interstate, IDOT is another level of bureaucracy that City planners must negotiate to get bicycle infrastructure installed.
Consider why the Madison Street bike lane sucks so bad... It is largely because it ends in the middle of interstate chaos. Cyclists riding west from the Loop get dumped out into the mess that is IDOT's expressway jurisdiction with no signage or indication to drivers or cyclists how they should go about negotiating the dangers present at that location.
The left turn box on Jackson at Dearborn was a good idea. I love left turn boxes. They make navigating intersections much safer and effortless for bicyclists. Did you notice that the left turn box on Jackson was blacked out? Wonder why? Jackson is an IDOT road.
For years I thought Logan Boulevard at Western was just a fluke, but now I realize that IDOT is confounding Chicago's efforts to install bicycle infrastructure all over the city. To me the most irritating things about all of this is that the most dangerous intersections to negotiate on a bicycle are the ones IDOT controls. They offer excuses: There isn't enough space... We can't make room for bike lanes... We'd like to see three years of data... The excuses seem like bunk at this point. I don't believe that a Shared Lane Yield To Bikes sign under the expressway is something that can't be done. I rather suspect that IDOT views transportation as nothing more than moving cars. At this point we are paying the price in blood... Bobby Cann, Alicia Frantz, Tyler Fabeck, and others were all killed in places where there is an IDOT interruption to Chicago bicycle infrastructure.