Dearborn Street : Plain Speakin’ Isn’t Welcomed

Background Reading


The ChainLink Forum has an ongoing thread that is used to communicate between riders about general roadway conditions and attitudes. The Trained Seals in our midst take exception to complaints about “showcaseProtected Bike Lanes like Dearborn Street. It looks bad to have the congregants of the Church of Urban Cycling complaining that the High Priests have been fondling the kids again.

So the kerfuffle begins:

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 3 hours ago
I rode in this morning. Roads were mostly clear, aside from a few piles of snow in the bike lane. I took Roscoe/Broadway, Clark, Wells. Avoid Wells/Hubbard if you can, though. It’s a complete mess due to construction and snow.
Dearborn, however, was another story. It was a disaster. I rode it for four blocks before cutting over on Madison.
Also, where the heck are the bridge plates?! CDOT said they’d be installed by the end of February, and I haven’t heard any updates since then.

Reply by Lisa Curcio 4.0 mi 3 hours ago
Other than that last photo which seems to be the building with the ongoing snow problem it does not look that bad.

Reply by spencewine 3 hours ago
Looks good to me. Unless you’re pulling a 12 foot wide trailer, I’m not sure what you’re complaining about.

Now at this point the Trained Seals are on the offensive. They are looking over at the High Priest to see if his demeanor is changing. He gives a slight nod to show approval of their support and then the “bad seed” speaks up again:

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 3 hours ago
The fact that Dearborn is now the worst part of my commute, when it’s supposed to be the best is telling. All of the other streets I took today were mostly clear, even ones with buffered/door zone lanes. Dearborn is already riddled with potholes and slick manhole covers, and the snow just makes it that much worse. The two-way bikeway is just not wide enough to have 25% of it unusable due to snow. Why can’t the city manage to keep their “flagship” bike lane clear?

Fair enough questions. The High Priest looks relieved there has been precious little mention of the child fondling after Communion so things are going swimmingly.

Reply by Lisa Curcio 4.0 mi 3 hours ago
Glass half-empty/glass half-full?

Seeking to gain favor with the High Priest a Trained Seal decides to offer a platitude. The other seals clap their flippers and the High Priest nods and smiles.

Reply by Jenn_5.5 mi 3 hours ago
I put on my rose colored glasses when I ride Dearborn. I didn’t have a problem at all.- I typically stay center line while riding southbound due to all the MH covers & grates, so it was just another day for me.
Lincoln was wonderful, the bike lane (& road) was clear. Wells wasn’t wonderful but ride-able (and morning traffic is light so taking the lane is never a problem – be it snow or dodging cabbies).
Overall, I was impressed with the streets. I come from the St Louis Area. Yesterdays snow totals would have stopped my small town in its tracks. The highways are the only things that get cleared down there. I would have been snowed in, but I got to enjoy it here!!

Reply by spencewine 3 hours ago
This is starting to get silly.

The Trained Seals are giddy. Did one of their own just call this upstart’s complaining “silly“? The High Priest sits back against his throne and smiles, nods and offers the youngish lad some hard candy from under his robes. The youth reaches forward timidly and takes a piece and smiles seductively.

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 3 hours ago
If by silly you mean that it’s silly that the city doesn’t maintain their protected bike lanes, then I agree.

Oops! I thought we had this upstart bridled and ready for the deep fat frier. Why is he still speaking aloud and with such temerity? Where are the Active Transportation Alliance deacons when you need them?

Reply by Skip Montanaro 12mi 3 hours ago
I agree. The first photo shows half the s/b lane clogged with snow. The entire n/b lane is obstructed by the steel grate, which is going to be damn slippery when wet. Looks like Adam was lucky enough to ride this section when nobody was parallel parked there. Had an evasive maneuver been necessary, he did have an out.
A friend of minean experienced bike commuterwent down on one of the bridges with exposed steel grates two or three years ago. Broke a finger which required surgery and a fair amount of PT. There is no excuse at this point for any of these steel grates to be exposed like this. Are there plates on the Dearborn bridge yet?
As Adam points out, this is the city’s flagship bike lane. While they can’t completely control cabs, delivery trucks and clueless pedestrians, you would think they’d solve the aspects of the bike lane which are under their control (potholes, cops parking in the lanes, grate covers, etc) before moving on to build other protected bike lanes around the city.

Wait, wait. One of the lads whose parents are filing a suit against the Diocese of the Church of Urban Cycling is speaking up now. He has seen the passing of the hard candy and realizes that yet another altar boy is being trained and he is unwilling to allow the High Priest to have his way with the silly boy.

The real issue here is finally addressed by Skip.

Why are we rushing to add more infrastructure when we clearly cannot safely manage the little we already have?
— Skip Montaro

Reply by spencewine 3 hours ago
I mean you and your constant whining about Dearborne is silly. I think you should consider taking an alternative route so as to spare us- it’s getting incredibly tedious.

Between munches on his piece of hard candy our brashest Trained Seal is struggling to keep the eye of the High Priest. He lashes out once again.

Reply by grayn8 (5.3 – 36) 2 hours ago
I hate to become involved in something that might decay further into philosophical half full/half empty meh or name calling…but I am curious as to the speed Adam is going compared to others and what type of ride. Dpbl are fine for me putting around at 14 with 700 x 35. Not good doing faster with skinnys on a roadie. Perhaps it’s not a cup, but a brandy sifter versus a flute.

Now this is certainly interesting. We know now that at least some of the users of these Protected Bike Lanes should moderate their speeds to around 14MPH. That’s going to be a blow to the folks who want green waves along Dearborn Street. They already think the thing is too slow for their taste.

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 2 hours ago
The plates on the Dearborn bridge have not been installed. CDOT promised they’d be there by the end of February.

I typically ride slowly, especially on Dearborn. I average about 10-12 MPH, and go even slower on Dearborn – typically slow enough to hit nearly every red light. I ride a hybrid with 700×32 slick tires.

We are now entering that phase of bicycle infrastructure ownership when the glow of newness is diminishing and the sad reality of maintenance and upkeep are starting to become burdensome. But heck the darn Dearborn Street PBL is barely a few months old. This does not bold well for the future. If you cannot have your “showcase” PBL be perfect then what chance is there of the outer lying areas to approach anything like true usability? And have we forgotten that all of this is supposed to lead to “safety” for everyone on the roadway?

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 2 hours ago
I have been walking my bike over the bridge – especially on wet mornings like today’s. I have rarely had an issue with other cyclists trying to get around me.

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 2 hours ago
Grate brides have long been a problem with lots of talk and little action. I believe CDOT’s official stance is to address cyclist safety whenever a bridge is rehabbed, but this policy doesn’t seem to translate to action (Division St being one of the biggest missed opportunities). No there are not plates on Dearborn yet. The fact that CDOT will direct cyclists over one of the more dangerous bridge decks in the city shows how little CDOT cares about the bridge issue.

There’s that troublesome notion again “safety“. How on earth is the High Priest going to get increased offerings if the “bad seeds” in the Congregation of the Church of Urban Cycling keep pointing to the failings of the current bicycling infrastructure to provide the very thing it was built to insure? This is a PR disaster. The High Priest is clutching is chest and his wallet pocket and not in that order. At least we think that is his wallet pocket. Under these vestments he could be doing anything.

Reply by Deet 4.5mi 2 hours ago
Personally i know they have a way to go , but i do enjoy being able to ride to work thru the loop and not have to sprint to keep up with traffic or fear that a car is going to whip past me at 40 mph when the roads are less than ideal. Is it perfect no, but it is better than the other option. Give it time it will get there.
I do agree the plates would make it much better.

Reply by David crZven 10.6 2 hours ago
All these comments about those bridges bring back memories of Bike Commuting into the loop. I hated those bridges on my narrow tires. That being said, my commute (out toward the airport) has a different, and in my view far greater (or grater to use the pun…) problem. The City still has a number of those grates with the 1.5 inch wide slots running parallel to the direction of travel stuck right into the area where Bikes ride. These are really really dangerous. (The most obvious are at the Lawrence Avenue crossing over the Edens…) Go ahead and fix the plates, but first fix the (ahem) Grater Hazard….

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 2 hours ago
There are lot of variables that affect how a bike responds to grate bridge decks including tire size, tread pattern, grate type, and grate orientation. There are certain bridges that are fine on skinny tires and terrible on fat tires, and other bridges that are fine on fat tires and terrible on skinny tires. Even motorcyclists who have much fatter tires than any cyclist complain about grate bridges.
There are bridges I’ve crossed on my fixie with 700x25s without problem and then had a problem on my mountain bike with knobby tires. Generally I have the fewest problems on my touring bike with 700×35 rear and 700×27 front, but that bike still has problems on some bridges (even some where my fixie doesn’t have a problem).

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 3 hours ago
Yes, but the fact that there is a high-profile protected bike lane over a bridge with no plates and the fact that CDOT did state that they’d be installed by now, makes this more infuriating than usual.

Spencewine is now taking a direct hit from one of the older “bad seed“. He is looking frantically at the High Priest for direction.

Reply by Will G – 10mi 3 hours ago
Spence, no one is forcing you to read these threads, are they?
I appreciate Adam’s info and I agree with him. The city made a tremendous, and almost unprecedented, effort to provide a protected bike lane through the Loop. They made a big deal about it when it opened, it was part of Rahm’s campaign promises. Do you not agree that it should be maintained? Do you not agree that the city should do what they have promised to do (e.g. plates over grates)?
The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Let’s continue to be vocal about the good and bad things that the city is doing to with respect to the new PBLs.

Reply by spencewine 3 hours ago
Not really sure what you mean by that. Reading threads kinda goes along with the territory of participating in a forum, that said, if I could hide Adam’s threads/comments – I would in a heartbeat. When complaining about Dearborne spills into multiple threads, it’s getting ridiculous. We all know Adam’s issues with it. Telling us over and over again isn’t really accomplishing much, is it. I mean, Dearborne could be reduced to one lane of traffic and the PBL could be 25 feet wide and he would still find a way to complain about it. It’s making mountains out of molehills. We’re lucky to have a city interested in spending money (that it doesn’t have) on infrustructure for bicyclists.

Spencewhine is rattled and the High Priest is averting his gaze. What should he do?

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 2 hours ago
I will stop complaining when the city addresses the issues I have with the Dearborn bike lane.

Bully for you, “bad seed“.

Reply by Skip Montanaro 12mi 2 hours ago
I can think of at least one way it might help. It can serve as a reminder to CDOT and Active Trans folks that there are still problems with the Dearborn bike lane (or steel grate bridges, or the LFT, or, …). I understand that everybody has multiple things on their plate. They get something done, then move on to something else. More likely, they are juggling multiple things at once, trying to keep them all moving forward. Time passes. Then they see messages suggesting that all is not well with the first something. “Oh yeah. I need to call the damn contractor and bug him again about those steel plates.” Or, “I need to check with to make sure they are moving on the potholes on Dearborn.” Etc. Someone commented about squeaky wheels. Unfortunately, that seems to be the way things work. Nothing happens unless you’re vocal (often repeatedly vocal) about problems you encounter. We all understand that you personally can’t do anything about the problems, otherwise they would have been done by now. But, since you’re not in charge, we have to deal with the people who are, in the only way available.

Ok. It appears that Spencewhine has regained his footing.

Reply by spencewine 2 hours ago
Although your false sense of entitlement is quite stunning, I’m doubtful the city cares too much about what you have to say about Dearborn on the Chainlink. Please…. instead of complaining here, join an advisory council or start a club or something.

Spittle is dripping from the ruby red lips of our Trained Seal. How dare any of these others attack his High Priest. He begins to wonder if there is perhaps another piece of that hard candy. Does the High Priest look pleased or not? It is so hard to penetrate that inscrutable visage.

And now one of the adults in the parish has risen to say a few sage words:

Reply by David Barish 2 hours ago
Setting aside the dialogue above, I feel that grates on metal bridges are more important than the lane itself. I have gotten along just fine without protected bike lanes for many years. Bridges without grates are a hazard. Many years ago a fellow rider started riding the sidewalk on the Wells St. Bridge at a time before the grates were put in. He called it “the intended user route” in reference to the Boub court decision which promised him and I no protection against the City of Chicago. The grates got us back off the sidewalk. I completely understand why marked and protected lanes help especially with novice riders and kids. However, for me, putting in the grates and keeping the roads in decent condition are much more important factors for my well-being and safety.
That being said, Adam, your important point loses a bit of its vitality with repetition ad infinitum. We all know how you feel, and many of us agree. If you continue to preach you annoy the choir. We are on the same side. 🙂

Someone wakened the dotty nun from her slumbers and she has decided to opine:

Reply by Sue Clark 1 hour ago
Oh yay, kerfuffle. Where’s the popcorn?
I haven’t had too many problems on the open-grate bridges until yesterday. The Halsted bridge was pretty slick last night, and I skipped Dearborn this morning and took Clark instead.

Okay. The congregation is settling on the grates now. This is just fine with the High Priest. Not as yet a single mention of the altar boy fondling. He sleeps once more while allowing the conversations to continue:

Reply by Adam Kitzmann 1 hour ago
+1. The grates (aside for traffic) are the most dangers aspect of riding in the city IMO. During the winter they go from being hazards to being damn near life threatening. I really hope the city can do something about that. As far as bike lanes go, what can be said on The Chainlink that hasn’t already be said and argued over 1000 times already.

How ironic the one place you would hope to find the best riding is now being avoided:

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 1 hour ago
Not necessarily. A lot of people here chose to stop riding Dearborn until conditions improve. How are they supposed to know that they have not improved if no one is talking about it?

As the nun mentioned we need popcorn. So here is a reason to butter up a batch and enjoy!

Reply by Barclor 44 minutes ago
So, the question is “…did you?” The answer: Yes.
Here’s some video of last night’s commute home.