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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I'm still recuperating from a slipped disc in my back from a fall on the ice in the Milwaukee "protected" bike lanes near Ogden in February. The city fails to maintain the protected lanes properly, making them a danger during certain parts of the year. On the day I was injured, the streets were well salted...no ice to be seen. Normally, I would ride in the traffic lane, but in some sections it's too narrow with the protected bike lanes, so you're sort of forced to use them. I made the mistake of veering off the well-salted, dry street into the bike lane, only to realize too late it was a sheet of ice. I am personally not a fan of the enclosed lanes in winter...and in summer they collect substantial amounts of debris while streets like Milwaukee and Elston get regular street sweeping...but not in the sectioned off bike lanes.  

Maybe the conversation should be what bike lanes are safe? The only bike lanes I feel safe on are total barrier lanes like Elston between North and Chicago. Wherever you are riding and there isn't a barrier between you and parked cars on one side and traffic on the other is unsafe.

They need to eliminate the parking on one whole side of Milwaukee in Wicker park. I'd argue there's 3x as many bikers commuting on that stretch now than there was three years ago. I tell friends no need to go sky diving or bungie jumping for an adrenaline rush - just ride down Milwaukee on a Friday at 5.30pm.

seriously. I whine pretty much incessantly about how much better off riders have it on the north side. I mean, it is true that the south and especially the southwest sides are quite neglected compared to the north side - but yikes! I rode that stretch of Milwaukee last week and it was even more scary and uncomfortable than riding on Archer!

How can we change this behavior? Is there a way the ticket violation can be increased or can we have a dedicated number for calling the police?  I experience all of the issues Jeff references as I work in Old Town and live in Uptown.

To me the must frustrating thing is the stretch of Clark Soutbound between Diversey and Fullerton that is marked for buses and bikes. Cars and delivery trucks have virtually taken over the no parking 7-9 lane in the am. Only once have I seen cops out there ticketing.  I hardly believe there aren't enough cops in Lincoln Park to handle this on the most heavily trafficked street in the neighborhood.

An idea I want to propose is to get 4-5 of us out there on a weekday am, maybe from 7-8.  We'd each take a few blocks and constantly call 911 as we see violations. My assumption is CPD would be shamed into acting.  Anybody else interested?  How else do we raise visibility of this matter with the City/CPD?

I'm not sure I understand your point.  

By and large people respect parking regulations because of the threat of tickets. If a large fine was levied on parking in bike lanes behavior would change.  Whether there is political will to do that I don't know. Maybe it will take more bikrs getting doored before they do this.

I would like to see the people who ticketed the meters be authorized to ticket parked  cars in the bike lane. 

My understanding is that the ticket already is high but almost never issued.  From the OP:

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.

My sister, who is a diligent driver, thought bikes were supposed to go to the left of cars turning right.  I explained to her the law is for cars to wait for bikes to pass before turning.  The city has made no effort to make this clear.

As a practical matter, if a driver is signaling a right turn, I make sure not to pass them on the right, even if I am in a bike lane and they should be yielding to me.  I want to stay alive.

That's my general practice - watch for turn signals and avoid conflicts.

A few weeks ago, I was riding north in the buffered lane on Wells.  Traffic was backed up by 10-15 cars around 1400 north, and I felt good as I was riding past them.  The reason for the back-up was a Streets and Sanitation truck stopped in the car lane as a worker was emptying the trash cans from the sidewalk.

 

Once I passed, I felt conflicted about the whole situation.  Yes, I was happy I did not have to merge with cars to get around a garbage truck stopped in the bike lane, but it seemed ridiculous to back up that many cars for a few minutes when I was the only cyclist (that I saw) that rode past.

 

Maybe I need to look at it as "why should a few cyclists have to be inconvenienced to make things easier for a few drivers?"

I basically feel the only advantage of the buffered bike lanes is that it makes drivers alert to bikes in the area.  I understand a cab or delivery truck may feel it is better to stop in the bike lane than to stop in the driving lane.  Anecdotal experience has shown me that cars yield to bikes taking the driving lane to get around a vehicle stopped in the bike lane.

There is/was a movement to use #enforce940060 with a photo on Twitter to alert the city to this issue.  I feel CDOT, CPD, Rahm, and aldermen just don't care, so nothing will be done.  Therefore, I don't get as worked up about this issue as I used to.

"Anecdotal experience has shown me that cars yield to bikes taking the driving lane to get around a vehicle stopped in the bike lane."

I have to merge into the driving lane the pass an obstruction at least once every commute and by this point its routine and trivial maneuver.   The vast majority of drivers can see you, that your path in blocked, and that you're moving left, so they slow down and let you in. 

In the chaotic urban environment of Chicago, the driving lane is also very frequently blocked.   Streets are narrow so when a vehicle double parks in a bike lane its still sticks out far enough into the driving lane that cars have to cross the centerline of road to pass.  The idea that as a bicyclist you're entitled to a holy inviolable bike lane is laughable.   You want to be treated like other vehicles?  Then get used to having crap in your lane.  That's riding in the city.

Of course, if something is blocking your way in a precious PBL, you're just stuck.  Its only the worst of all possible worlds.

i agree with your general drift and think that we'll all have a happier experience on the streets if we don't get all bent out of shape by the occasional obstruction. But I most definitely do not want to be treated like other vehicles. Other vehicles usually weigh tons and routinely operate at speeds I can't get to on a bike (at least not in flat Chicago.) A person on a bike should not be treated the same as a person in a car or truck surrounded by tons of steel and airbags.

Hit a nasty pothole this morning going around a truck parked in the Kinzie heavily buffered (I refuse to call it protected) lane. Had to take my bike to the shop during lunch because it was knocked out of true. 

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