The Chainlink

Any Chainlinkers out there have any contacts in Streets and San, the city guys who drive the snowplows.  Riding up Elston yesterday in the rain, it occurred to me that unless the city has some mini-snowplows hidden up their sleeves, the dedicated bike lanes will not be plowed when it snows.  And when the streets do get plowed, those plastic "protectors" will be mowed under like toothpicks.  Any ideas what will happen come winter?

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Please tell me you've called 311 4 times, and called the Alderman at least once? Please?

-jbn

Clint H said:

My puncture count on Elston since the lane opened up is up to four, and that's with four weeks spent out of town. There are points where you can barely see the pavement under all the trash.

This thread of comments shows that we need a more complex conversation about cycling in the city.

Many people seem to assume that the construction of protected bike lanes is an automatically good thing. Such lanes do change the urban infrastructure in a way that cyclists should nod at. 

But urban infrastructure is also about maintenance and other issues.  Dedicated bike lanes won't work for year-round riding without dedicated snowplows.  If the plows clearing the street send snow/slush into the bike lanes, and (as another commenter pointed out) property owners shovel their sidewalk snow into what used to be the parking lane but is now the bike lane, well, good luck cycling during winter in the dedicated bike lanes unless you have superhuman endurance, monster truck tires, and a bicycle built out of kevlar and teflon and kryptonite (not just the locks, the whole thing).

To reveal my bias, I think these dedicated bike lanes are a waste of time and money, and the more miles of them we have, the more that waste will appear.  They are great in good weather, but when the snow comes, they will be useless.  And if the way they are engineered makes them more likely to accumulate broken glass and debris, even in good weather, then experienced cyclists will either avoid them or jump out of them into the "cars only" lanes that our "bikes only" lanes necessarily create.  Then drivers will hate on cyclists even more: we've taken one of their lanes, and we ride in their lanes too!

We tend to celebrate these lanes as victories for cyclists, but they're just the start of another battle.

If people called 311 and the Alderman every time they got a puncture, the city would grind to a halt.  Me, I carry a broom and dustpan to sweep up broken glass everywhere I go.  Or I would, in a perfect world.

Justin B Newman said:

Please tell me you've called 311 4 times, and called the Alderman at least once? Please?

-jbn

Clint H said:

My puncture count on Elston since the lane opened up is up to four, and that's with four weeks spent out of town. There are points where you can barely see the pavement under all the trash.

Yes. We had 2-3 significant snows and the Kinzie lane was slushy, heavily salted (like rusting your chain as you ride salty) or not cleared for a day or 2 after the snow.

The mindset is bikes are for summer riding only?

Derek said:

If it's like last season the Kinzie protected lanes were always the slushiest / snowiest places of my commute.

I was very excited at the prospect of protected bike lanes when they first started to take shape in Chicago. As a regular Elston rider, I can now see they come with some sticky issues.

 

Maintenance is clearly a problem within the Elston protected bike lanes. Glass regularly accumulates and the regular sweeping of Elson only serves to push debris into the protected bike lane.

 

I can’t imagine how the winter will look along this lengthy stretch. Plows push snow to the edges of their blades. Will they now deposit the snow in the bike lane? There’s simply no way, at least with the way our city works, for mini plows to be driven through every protected bike lane with the same frequency as ordinary street plows.

 

I’m curious if they can consider removing the plastic dividers during the winter months? Is that an option? 

I should have clarified above that I "was" a regular Elson commuter. For the time being, with the mess in the protected bike lanes, I've moved to Milwaukee Ave. I'm crossing my fingers that any plans to add protected bike lanes on Milwaukee are going to take a long time to plan/fund, so that I can enjoy that street unencumbered. 

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