Bike Lanes Are Coming To Milwaukee Avenue In Wicker Park After All

By Stephen Gossett in News on Aug 25, 2017 5:00PM

One of the most heavily biked corridors in the country, the bustling Wicker Park stretch of Milwaukee Avenue has long called out for bike lanes. And while we likely won't be seeing the dedicated lanes of cyclists' dreams any time soon, the Chicago Department of Transportation has revealed that it will paint "dashed" lanes (more explanation below) along a heavily trafficked section of the avenue.

The dashed lanes will run along Milwaukee between Division and Western—although three shorter stretches of standard bike lanes will be included at points along that run. Eight bike boxes will also be installed along the corridor. Work is scheduled to begin next week and take up to two weeks to complete.

A CDOT fact sheet offers an explainer on what the dashed lanes will look like, how they function and where they'll be added. They measure five feet in width and have dashed lines, rather than solid lines, on the traffic side of the lane. The aim is to afford cyclists space while "encouraging people who are driving to position themselves closer to the centerline of the street," according to CDOT. Drivers should only enter the dashed lanes "if necessary;" large vehicles meanwhile "are expected to use the dashed bike lane" due to their size and the size constraints of the 9-foot vehicle travel lane. (See image below.)

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Via CDOT

CDOT will evaluate "the effectiveness of the dashed bike lane by monitoring lane positioning, travel speeds, and crashes, and by gathering user feedback."

As mentioned, the majority of the lane infrastructure along the run between Western and Division will be the "dashed" kind, though three legs will have standard bike lanes: between Bloomingdale and Leavitt; "between Wabansias;" and between Division and Ashland.

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CDOT hosted two community meetings earlier this year in which the "dashed" concept was not brought up, but community members delivered strong feedback calling for more bike space. Any installation of protected bike lanes would be a major project, involving moving curbs, Mike Amsden, assistant director of Transportation Planning for CDOT, said in July. The focus right now is on "low-cost, quick-hit" fixes.

Other safety improvements planned for the corridor include speed limit reductions (down to 20 miles per hour), paint/post bump-outs at select crossings, new crosswalks and slip lane closures. (More details here.)

Jim Merrell, Advocacy Director of cycling-advocacy organization Active Transportation Alliance applauded the dashed lanes and other safety improvements as "a good interim step" while noting that ATA will keep pressing for protected lanes along the corridor.

"The dashed bike lanes are a good near-term solution to make Milwaukee Ave in Wicker Park safer for people biking. We commend CDOT for listening to the strong message the community sent about the urgent need for better conditions for people on bikes along one of the busiest bike routes in the country," Merrell told Chicagoist in an email.

"Active Trans will continue to push our long term vision to re-design the street with protected bike lanes and more space for pedestrians, a goal that was echoed by CDOT officials during recent public meetings. Ultimately, these are the measures needed to eliminate the dangerous crashes that have plagued the corridor in recent years," he added.

ATA in June launched a petition urging CDOT to expand bike-lane installation along Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park and Bucktown. There have been more than 1,000 traffic crashes along the corridor between 2010 and 2014, according to CDOT.

The approximate cost of the safety improvements is $235,000, which will be funded by Divvy revenue, according to CDOT spokesman Michael Claffey.

[H/T Streetsblog Chicago]