Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Long Winter and the State of Bike Lanes in Chicago.

By Jim Freeman

Last year I think we were all pleasantly surprised to see the City do a good job with snow and debris removal from the protected and buffered bike lanes.  I was one of the early naysayers who predicted the Kinzie Cycletrack would be a good place to pile snow in the winter, and I was glad to be proven wrong.  Having said that, last winter was pretty easy.

This winter, however, is a different story.  Now we're seeing how the City handles snow removal during a real winter.  The old folks I talk to admit that the beating Chicago has taken this winter has been the worst since 1979, and it shows in the bike lanes.  Some bike lanes have been maintained, while others are a mess. 

The pictures here were taken this morning on Lake Street just west of Damen.  Not only is there a lot of ice in the bike lane, there are garbage cans blocking the bike lane the whole distance between Damen and Western.  I suspect that the cans were left in this position by Streets and Sanitation only becuase there is such uniformity to their position.  In the background of the top photo you can see a garbage can and taxi almost completely blocking the bike lane.

I've heard people opine that at some point this winter the City just gave up on clearing the bike lanes.  While I don't think they gave up, I have noticed that some bike lanes are maintained better than others. 

On Washington between Ashland and Halsted the bike lanes are clear, but only becuase the bike lane is on the traffic side of parked cars.  The curbside is still cluttered with piles of hard packed snow and ice.  As a result, many cars are parked away from the curb so that they end up obstructing the bike lane.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who is still commuting to the West Side or Oak Park.  Lake Street was a street transformed by the installation of bike lanes, but I suspect the commute this winter is a rough one.


  1. I don't typically ride west, but I can say the 31st st eastbound lane has been lousily maintained this winter. There are 3 specific spots that have never been plowed, and in fact, one is a dump pile for plows from somewhere that created a huge mound that has been there since the first big snow of the season. The snow (now ice) pile is the area under the green line on 31st. The other two areas are 31st and Rhodes on the southwest corner and the entire overpass for Metra electric, neither of which have been cleared of snow since the beginning of the season and now are home to impassible icy mounds that won't be gone until everything melts. Despite numerous postings about the problem and emailing CDOT directly, nothing has changed.

    1. Yeah, I predicted that protected bike lanes would be seen as a convenient place to pile snow in the winter months. It seems that some neighborhoods get different treatment when it comes to bike lanes. Thanks for sharing. Send a pic if you get a chance.

  2. Just rode Elston this morning (3/10/2014) from N. Central Ave. to Milwaukee; 80-90% of the parked cars are completely or partially blocking the bike lane due to snow not being plowed to the curb. The protected lane is full of debris.


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