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Dearborn Street Bike Lane Named Best Protected Bike Lane In America

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 5, 2013 9:40PM

Image via Chicago Department of Transportation screen grab.

The national bicycle advocacy group People for Bikes earlier this week named the Dearborn Street protected bike lane the best of its kind in the country. Score one for the Little Bike People!

Here’s what Michael Andersen of the group’s Green Lane Project blog had to say about the Dearborn Street lanes.

Chicago’s 1.2-mile showpiece isn’t the country’s most sophisticated downtown bikeway because of its on-street markings, though they’re excellent, or its quick-and-simple plastic-post barriers. The really remarkable thing about Dearborn is that bikes get their own traffic signals. Maybe that's why stoplight compliance has soared from 31 percent to 81 percent and bike traffic has more than doubled since the lane went in.

For cyclists across Chicago this is old news. The Chicago Department of Transportation released numbers in June that showed stopping for red lights improved by 161 percent in the first six months the lanes were opened. Spot checks by CDOT and Tribune transportation reporter John Hilkevitch determined eight out of every 10 bicyclists were stopping at the bike-specific red lights, lending credence to Active Transportation Alliance Director of Campaigns Lee Crandell’s belief that bicyclists will mind the rules of the road if there’s infrastructure that “speaks to people who are biking.”

As a bicyclist and casual observer, I’ve found the same to hold true on Milwaukee Avenue where the new protected lanes connecting Kinzie Street to Elston also have dedicated stop lights and passing lanes for faster bicyclists.

The Milwaukee Avenue bike lanes were ranked the seventh-best in the country. Andersen noted the combination of protected and wide buffered lanes “is a lesson to planners: the best place to put a buffered lane isn't necessarily where you wish people would pedal, but where they're already pedaling.”