The Chainlink

I wonder whether it would be worthwhile to identify stretches of bike lane that are unusually problematic.  To be clear, I don't mean entire routes, like the LFP or the Dearborn lanes in the Loop, which are routinely occupied by pedestrians and even vehicles.  I mean discrete stretches that present somewhat unique hazards due to their specific location.

 

Two examples of what I had in mind with suggested remedial measures:

 

1. Northbound Canal just north of Roosevelt:  This travels past a major commercial complex including a Whole Foods and a couple of restaurants.  The path proceeds to the right of parked cars, which is the primary issue.  Since it was re-striped in this manner, I don't know that I've even seen this path clear of cars, pedestrians, and shopping carts.  My most recent trip was a Sunday morning, when auto traffic was extremely light, yet the lane contained no fewer than 4 stationary pedestrians treating the bike lane as a parking lot instead of a lane of moving traffic, an abandoned shopping cart, a parked cab loading a passenger with several bags, and a perpendicular vehicle blocking the entire bike lane while exiting the underground parking garage and waiting to turn left on Canal.  This last item is the most dangerous, as I've witnessed several near misses involving cars turning into or pulling out of the garage without so much as glancing at the bike lane.  Cars turning into the garage would have to look especially closely, as their view of the lane is obstructed by the "barrier" of parked cars that sharply reduces visibility and ironically makes the lane much more dangerous.  It seems it would be worthwhile for the city or even the commercial entities themselves to address this issue though enforcement and education before somebody is killed or seriously injured.  Ideally, the barrier experiment would be ended and the lane would be relocated to its original position on the other side of the parked cars.

 

2. Southbound Halsted near Polk:  Cars use the bike lane as a parking lot as they wait for students to get out of class. You'll find 8-10 cars and vans staggered across the lane in peak hours, when it is most dangerous to pass them by taking the lane, but you'll also routinely see them in non-peak hours, as this is a large campus with residents.  The UIC shuttle busses (and misc. other busses) also often block the lane and park at odd angles, even though the area has large dedicated bus stops that do not obstruct anything.  There is no design issue with respect to cars either, as there are at least two large pull-off areas where auto passengers can be dropped off and picked on both sides.  It seems that enforcement and education would be very easy, since UIC has its own police department and vast other resources, in addition to the city's.  Cars easily could be directed to the pull-offs or even to the dead end across the street.  (God forbid young college students need to walk a few steps further than the absolute minimum.)  Yet it's been this way for years with no apparent effort to address the problem.

 

I emphasize education and enforcement, because that would be essentially free.  The city has gone to great lengths to generate revenue through cameras and other controversial mechanisms, yet it easily could send Dept. of Revenue employees out to a troublesome bike lane with a ticket book and make money though more conventional means.  The tickets are quite hefty but rarely written.

 

Thoughts?  This issue is important to the community, so hopefully we can have a civil discussion.

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Agree Dearborn between Kinzie and Chicago is nail-biting. Would LOVE to see the PBL extended up there.

I am glad to see you mention valets.  I like riding on Wells, but last week I was riding north, and a valet was standing in the bike lane.  Not in the door zone area, the actual lane.  I said something to him as I passed.

One problem I have with the city's assortment of bike lane construction is the lack of consistency.  The type of lane on a street could change over the course of a couple of blocks.  Since there is zero effort to educate everyone, I see where innocent confusion can lead to dangerous results.

I sort of feel bad for cabbies when they have to pick up or drop off a fare on a street with a buffered bike lane.  I can understand their dilemma of whether to block traffic or block the bike lane.  They aren't supposed to block the bike lane, but if they remain in the car lane, there is the risk of a cyclist being doored.

Jeff Schneider said:

Another contender would be Wells between Division and North.  Lots of valet and other jockeying for parking.  I have never ridden that stretch without having to take the lane for at least half a block (usually more).

...and the additional risk of the fare walking across the bike lane without looking.

Please help us document these dangerous spots by taking photos when you can, and posting them on twitter with the tag #enforce940060. For more on the hastag: http://chi.streetsblog.org/tag/enforce-9-40-060/  From the most recent Mayor's Bike Advisory Council meeting, we know that CDOT is monitoring the hashtag, and is at least aware that many problem spots exist, and any additional documentation of trouble spots will hopefully help get the city to act, and maybe improve bike lanes beyond paint...

So the only way to get attention to this sort of thing is via public calling-out? There's no functional "normal channels" system for getting things addressed?


 R W said:

Please help us document these dangerous spots by taking photos when you can, and posting them on twitter with the tag #enforce940060. For more on the hastag: http://chi.streetsblog.org/tag/enforce-9-40-060/  From the most recent Mayor's Bike Advisory Council meeting, we know that CDOT is monitoring the hashtag, and is at least aware that many problem spots exist, and any additional documentation of trouble spots will hopefully help get the city to act, and maybe improve bike lanes beyond paint...

This is why I wish there was more than a thin suggestion for cab fares to be picked up or dropped off curbside.

"I sort of feel bad for cabbies when they have to pick up or drop off a fare on a street with a buffered bike lane. I can understand their dilemma of whether to block traffic or block the bike lane. They aren't supposed to block the bike lane, but if they remain in the car lane, there is the risk of a cyclist being doored."

So it seems. Most of us have seen the police drive by illegally parked cars in bike lanes numerous times, and often the police themselves are the worst offenders. I've requested increased enforcement at some trouble spots through my alderman's office, and told there aren't resources to do so. It's been suggested that calling 311 is an option, but they often transfer you to 911, and the 911 operators are not too amused by this 

Other than shaming via twitter, I've also been successful filing city cab complaints at trouble spots. For example, very few cabs park in the bike lane on Harrison across from the Greyhound Station anymore due to the number of complaints that were filed (however the PBL is always full of parked private cars...)

h' 1.0 said:

So the only way to get attention to this sort of thing is via public calling-out? There's no functional "normal channels" system for getting things addressed?


 R W said:

Please help us document these dangerous spots by taking photos when you can, and posting them on twitter with the tag #enforce940060. For more on the hastag: http://chi.streetsblog.org/tag/enforce-9-40-060/  From the most recent Mayor's Bike Advisory Council meeting, we know that CDOT is monitoring the hashtag, and is at least aware that many problem spots exist, and any additional documentation of trouble spots will hopefully help get the city to act, and maybe improve bike lanes beyond paint...

The "protected lane" on Randolph just North of Millennial park seems pretty pointless to me. The whole bike lane was full of trucks unloading equipment for the Pavilion (i assume). With the amount of stuff that needs to go in and out of that place, its ridiculous to have the PBL there. It seems to me that those resources could have been used elsewhere.

FYI I complained about the people parking in the new protected bike lane on Upper Randolph last week to Alderman Reilly via Twitter and he said there will be enforcement via ticketing this week. That is great to hear; however, actual curbs would do the trick much more effectively in the long run, so hopefully that can happen eventually. I generally love the new protected lane and use it as my new route home in the afternoon to avoid Loop motor vehicle traffic.
 
Davo said:

The "protected lane" on Randolph just North of Millennial park seems pretty pointless to me. The whole bike lane was full of trucks unloading equipment for the Pavilion (i assume). With the amount of stuff that needs to go in and out of that place, its ridiculous to have the PBL there. It seems to me that those resources could have been used elsewhere.

I've lived in that neighborhood for almost 20 years and just about every configuration has drawbacks.  When the bike lane was all the way on the side next to the walkway was the worst with people and trucks parked in the lane.  I would often call the number on the side of the commercial truck and tell the person who answered to get in touch with the driver because they were about to be towed.  It was not true, but sure a lot of fun.  Also, I constantly tell the bike station that they need to inform tourists about not riding on sidewalks in the downtown area.  They say they do, but experience says not.

The "Detour" signs were supposed to be temporary, but they work very well for bikes and pedestrians trying to get to Navy Pier or the lakefront.  They need to be replaced with permanent signage for pedestrians and bicyclists.  

Alderman Reilly is very responsive to any communication about hazards.

Until tickets are issued, expect the parking and blockages, and if you do see a commercial truck parked in the lane please do call the number and tell the poor operator they are about to be towed.  You might as well enjoy the inconvenience.  

I think the hands down scariest bike lane segment that I (used to) take regularly is Madison Street crossing State Street, where the "floating" lane jogs to the left, exactly where CTA buses cross in order to enter the Bus Only lane. Ever since I witnessed a CTA bus driver hit and injure a Divvy bike rider who was in the intersection, I've been trying to avoid it whenever possible.

I may have just caught it on an off day then. On a similar note, the detour you take when going east on randolph and takes you down and around Lake Shore East Park. That was pretty delightful.



Michelle Stenzel said:

FYI I complained about the people parking in the new protected bike lane on Upper Randolph last week to Alderman Reilly via Twitter and he said there will be enforcement via ticketing this week. That is great to hear; however, actual curbs would do the trick much more effectively in the long run, so hopefully that can happen eventually. I generally love the new protected lane and use it as my new route home in the afternoon to avoid Loop motor vehicle traffic.
 
Davo said:

The "protected lane" on Randolph just North of Millennial park seems pretty pointless to me. The whole bike lane was full of trucks unloading equipment for the Pavilion (i assume). With the amount of stuff that needs to go in and out of that place, its ridiculous to have the PBL there. It seems to me that those resources could have been used elsewhere.

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