City Announces New Street Obstacles To Make Chicago Driving Even More Confusing, Challenging, Frustrating
The City of Chicago has announced two new initiatives the past few days to add more bike lanes and micro-parks to Chicago’s streets in the near future.
On Friday, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein showed off the first of four seasonal “People Streets” which, according to CDOT’s press release, “will convert ‘excess’ asphalt into year-round hardscape public
spaces with the purpose of creating safer intersections and additional open space in neighborhoods. People Streets are intended for dead-end streets, cul-de-sacs, or areas of excess pavement.”
The idea was pioneered in San Francisco, with the goal of increasing pedestrian traffic and encouraging economic development in these less trafficked areas. While these spaces often attracted the homeless, the concept seemed popular with many residents with homes.
These spots in Chicago typically take up two to three on-street parking spots adjacent to sidewalks essentially expanding open space to be utilized by pedestrians.
“By expanding the sidewalks, these spots create seasonal space for outdoor seating
and dining,” said Klein. “As a placemaking tool, they also contribute to an increase of pedestrian volumes and help promote economic development in neighborhood retail corridors.”
Of course, the city will have to figure out a way to compensate Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, the company that controls the city’s metered parking system, for the lost parking spaces. Most likely, other metered spots will be added in areas where metered spots currently don’t exist.
The first four of these spots will be located at:
- Lincoln Avenue between Southport and Lakewood Avenue in Lakeview.
- Clark Street and Farragut Avenue in Andersonville.
- 47th Street and Greenwood Avenue in Kenwood.
- 47th Street and Champlain Avenue in Bronzeville.
More Protected Bike Lanes Announced
Then on Sunday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the city’s plan to install another 22 miles of protected bike lanes around the city according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
This will give the city 33 miles of total protected bike lanes making Chicago the nation’s leader in these types of dedicated bike lanes. Interestingly, the city is saying at least one of these protected lanes on Dearborn St., will also have traffic signals for riders on these bike lanes.
Emanuel rationalizes the cost of $140,000 per mile of protected lanes, or a total expenditure of $4.6 million as a way to recruit businesses to the city telling the Sun-Times:
“It will help us recruit the type of people that have been leaving for the coast. They will now come to the city of Chicago. The type of companies that have been leaving for the coast will stay in the city of Chicago.”
Emanuel cited a recent meeting with executives from the hot Internet startup company GrubHub, who told him that when they recruit engineers, they show the new protected bike lanes that Chicago has been installing since last summer.
Chicago’s first protected bike lane was installed just over a year ago along Kinzie St. from Des Plaines Ave. to Wells St. These type of bike lanes are adjacent to the curb and use white plastic pylons to visually and physically separate the drivable street from the bikes. In many cases, street parking is also moved closer to the center of the street.
Overall, protected bike lanes add to the visual clutter of the street and can be confusing to the uninitiated driver. There has been reports of confused motorists using the bike lanes as an additional driving lane.
Whether or not these two new concepts will have a positive impact on the city’s overall transportation environment will have to be seen.
Read the Sun-Times report on the plan to add more protected bike lines and a listing of upcoming bike lane locations in its story, “Mayor Emanuel adding protected bike lanes in Loop.”