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City to Set up First Protected Bike Lane Downtown

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 6, 2011 2:48PM

Here's an example of a protected bike lane along Flushing Ave. in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo Credit: John del Signore/Gothamist)

In good news for cyclists commuting into and out of downtown, a half-mile stretch of Kinzie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street will be used to test out the city's first protected bike lanes.

42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly announced the pilot program in his newsletter Friday. The lane, called a cycle track, places all motorized traffic to the left of the cyclist, with the lane protected either via a construction barrier (like these lanes in New York), a raised median or other divider; the Kinzie pilot program will use flexible posts.

The program is being funded by a $3.2 million federal grant awarded to the Chicago Department of Transportation, who were originally going to test the program on a stretch of South Stony Island Avenue where bicycle traffic is infrequent before switching to Kinzie.

Bicycle transportation advocate Steven Vance is cautiously optimistic about the location. Others think it's a bad idea to place the cycle track in an area they feel won't attract new cyclists and, given some of the inclines along the route, may lead to a logjam of cyclists at points.

We'd be more inclined to see it in an area that sees some serious bike traffic, like the intersection of Grand, Milwaukee and Halsted. Or maybe near the area of Wicker Park where the city will get its first designated Bike parking area. Regardless, it's a start and, like Vance, we're also cautiously optimistic to see the results. It could be the beginning of making Chicago even more bike-friendly, coupled with legislation awaiting Gov. Quinn's signature that will allow bicyclists and motorcycles to make "slow stops" at red lights and stop signs.