This week, there was news from the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago that outraged many residents. No, I’m not talking about the condemnation of the local alderman and descendant of the Daley dynasty Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) for bank fraud.
Instead, it was revealed that the Chicago Department of Transportation responded to protests over the removal of a section of bike lane on Halsted Street by putting bike symbols on the sidewalk, with a sign stating that it is legal to ride a bike there. Judging by the reactions on social media, many bike advocates were angered by the decision.
First, a little background on the issue. In 2020, community groups and civic organizations unsuccessfully lobbied the City of Chicago to reject a zoning change for an 112,000 square foot Amazon warehouse on the south bank of the South Fork of the Chicago River in west of Halsted and north of Archer Avenue. They argued that the southwest side already has many distribution centers and other industrial sites that contribute to air pollution in the area and create unsafe conditions for walking and cycling, and called for a moratorium on logistics facilities on the south, south-west and west sides.
in December 2021, the Chicago Department of Transportation scraped the northbound Halsted Bike Path into the Orange Line and Metra overpass just south of the river to make way for a northbound left-turn lane at a new red light to facilitate left turns by truckers heading west into the Amazon facility and minimize delays for other motorists.
After removing the segment of the cycle lane, the CDOT marked the green boxes with “sharrows”, bicycle and chevron symbols. However, since through traffic now merges directly into the curb lane to bypass the left-turn area, this new layout has increased the risk of cyclists being struck from behind.
On December 29, dozens of activists showed up to protest against the deterioration of security organized by the 11th Quarter IPO, Alliance Bridgeportand Best Streets in Chicago (of which Courtney Cobbs, co-editor of Streetsblog Chicago, is a co-founder). “Since there doesn’t seem to be the political will to create what is really needed here, a barrier-protected bike lane, CDOT should at a minimum put up signs warning cyclists that they are entering a bottleneck. dangerous,” Courtney explained in her write-up of the demo.
It seems like the Department of Transport got the message, sort of. A Streetsblog reader yesterday tweeted pictures of new sharrow stencils on the east sidewalk of Hasted, next to where the cycle lane has been removed, along with a sign posted on the northeast corner of Halsted / Archer stating, “Bikes can use the sidewalk.”
A few commenters have argued that this is a reasonable solution, which legalizes the strategy that many cyclists already use. “A lot of cyclists actually use the sidewalk there anyway,” said one respondent. “It looked like I was the only cyclist using the street.”
“Northbound or southbound, for over 16 years of driving steadily on Halsted in Archer, I have used the pavement before, because even before the recent extra traffic in the warehouse, this overpass was a potential death trap” , the North West history and literature professor tweeted. Bill Wild. “Realism is safer than anything else.”
But the Better Streets Twitter account argued that CDOT’s approach was unacceptable.
Making pedestrians and cyclists fight over waste is not a solution. https://t.co/oaxwmWVvzb
— Chicago’s Best Streets (@chi_streets) February 16, 2022
Many other commentators seemed to share this opinion. Here are some additional tweets:
- “@ChicagoDOT: This is not cycling infrastructure. Take up space in cars and prioritize not driving. – @ProvocCities
- “The City of Chicago is making sure to absolve itself of the pending wrongful death lawsuit which is sure to come. Good job @cdot. – @jaredverbikes
- “What an af-ing joke” – @mateovonchicago
Others questioned whether the sidewalk bike path will actually be passable after snowstorms, as CDOT does not have a great track record for fulfilling its responsibility to clear sidewalks next to overpasses and bridges.
“It’s actually a reasonable solution for getting under the bridge in a lightly pedestrianized area,” commented Hyde Park cycling advocate Steven Lucy. “The problem is on the other end when you get run over or ‘right addicted’ trying to blend in with traffic.”
Right hook collisions won’t be an issue where northbound cyclists on the Halsted sidewalk will return to the on-street bike lane, as there is no eastbound cross street there so that northbound drivers can turn right. However, these cyclists should check the traffic behind them before re-entering the roadway.
Asked another reviewer, “Does that mean I have to use the sidewalk or is it optional?” The original poster stated that it appears that cyclists are encouraged to ride on the sidewalk or on the road, as the street plows have not been scraped. There is also a “Bikes may use the full lane” sign, clearly indicating that cyclists may ride in the middle of the traffic lane if they wish.
We asked the city for information on the decision to create the bike lane on the sidewalk, and if it is the permanent solution or if other bike interventions are planned. A city official said, “We’re making some changes to it” and promised to provide more information in the near future. This message will be updated as soon as we receive it.