Jackson Blvd – East Bound and Down

Background Reading


Jackson Boulevard is something of an ‘odd duck‘. My take on the street from the beginning is that it is a ‘work in progress‘.

When its Bicycle Lane crosses Damen it moves from the south side of the street to the north side. Of course that presents a bit of a headache since the entrance to the parking lot in front of Malcolm X College is on the north side of the street.

But hey, if the Mayor himself can visit the opening of this street and stand for pictures on the very spot to which I refer, then who am I to complain?

But as the street moves eastward this start going sideways. At the point where it crosses Morgan is a bit of a disappointment.

Jackson-Morgan Intersection (Showing Missing Bike Box)

Jackson-Morgan Intersection (Showing Missing Bike Box)

If you were heading over to the UIC campus this would be an ideal spot to make a right turn. But the bike lane is on the north side of the street and that means you have to anticipate the need for moving to the south side of the street.

For daily commuters this is one thing. But for those who are unfamiliar with the area it provides a challenge since no ‘Bike Box‘ is positioned on Morgan to allow cyclists to legally make that right hand turn.

As a result some rather inventive maneuvers have been executed there. I have watched countless cyclists wait until the light turns red and then ride onto the pedestrian crosswalk where it intersects the bike lane and use it as a means to make a right turn.

Of course this is both dangerous and illegal since that crosswalk is reserved for pedestrians. But hey, Chicago bicyclists are known more for their concern for self than others. You only have to travel a bit further east to see what I mean.

By the time Jackson reaches the heart of Greek Town it has ‘blown its wad‘. At Halsted the bike lane just ‘quits‘. In fact a seasoned veteran of Chicago bicycling was a bit confused on this point in a recent discussion on the ChainLink.

Now understand if a lifelong resident of the area can not realize that the bike lane is gone and thus runs into a rather crazy situation at the top of the overpass leading to the Kennedy Expressway imagine what could happen when a Divvy riding tourist makes that mistake!

So by the time a rider has crossed Halsted and suddenly come face-to-face with the madhouse that the on/off ramp to the Kennedy represents he suddenly discovers the next obstacles at Des Plaines.

Des Plaines is a one-way southbound street. It has a bike lanes on the west side of its traffic lanes and is one of those streets with a NO RIGHT TURN ON RED prominently posted over the center of the roadway heading eastbound.

Cars always honor the sign. Bicyclists not so much!

I have watched so many Divvy and private bicycle riders screw up this intersection that I have begun to make wagers with myself as to when one of these knuckleheads will fall prey to hitting a pedestrian crossing Des Plaines in the vain attempt to ‘amber gamble‘ at the light.

Most of these knuckleheads using the crosswalks as if it were their own person ‘safety zone‘. When a group like Active Transportation Alliance sends me a brochure with my membership renewal and then has the audacity to picture an automobile encroaching in the crosswalk as a pedestrian crosses I simply have to shake my head.

Why is it so very, very difficult to admit that when it comes to pedestrians cars and bicycles alike treat them as the ‘niggers‘ of the street. They have no problem either not waiting until then are out of the crosswalk or dodge between then (as is usually the case with bicyclists) while they are indeed in the crosswalk! The situation is horrendous and were I a pedestrian in Chicago and some well-meaning cyclist asked if I were interested in joining the ATA because it represents cyclists, pedestrians and mass transit users I would have no difficulty in calling out the hypocrisy of the entire Urban Cycling Movement when it comes to their own behavior.

There is a snowballs chance in Hell that we will ever win the Public Relations battle that way.

Des Plaines used to have a Bike Box presumably to allow southbound riders in the bike lane to make a left turn onto Jackson Boulevard. But that has been removed altogether.

So at this crucial intersection you have controlled chaos reigning on a daily basis! I watch in absolute horror the other day as a cyclist rode up to the traffic light at this intersection and waited patiently for the red light. I though to myself that finally someone on a bicycle was behaving.

He was waiting on the south side of Jackson. Remembers at this point the bicycle lane is gone! Suddenly the light turns green and I expected him to shove off and try to beat the cars that usually find themselves crowded out of the righthand lane near the bus stop. Nope!

With the light green he darted (in the pedestrian crosswalk) across the three or so lanes of traffic and then made a sharp right leaving the crossing so that he could continue eastbound on the north side of the street! Yikes!

This fellow was either a complete moron or a personal injury lawyer. A difference without any distinction. Either way I caught my breath and wondered why he would wait until the cars were allowed to enter the intersection before crossing in the pedestrian crosswalk? I shudder to think that he figured that getting hit at just that moment could mean a ‘big payday‘.

But what else would make a person wait through the entirety of a red light before deciding to make this amateur maneuver?

Bicycle Infrastructure Is A Joke!

If anyone seriously doubts that training on how to ride safely in busy city traffic is unnecessary then Jackson Boulevard should convince them that they are being silly. It is not just that traffic is gnarly in Chicago but infrastructure in many cases simply does not help.

You need to ride the street on a bicycle to understand the problems. You need to be less a politician trying to win hipster votes and more of a critic of the system that produces such lousy designs.

The Active Transportation Alliance has a new membership campaign slogan: We Deserve Better! Damn straight!

We deserve a less self-serving ‘homer‘ attitude from our advocates. We deserve a StreetsBlog that tells the truth and lets the chips fall where they may. We need a City Hall that is willing to crackdown more often on car drivers and cyclists alike rather than coddling either group. But as the saying goes:

Folks in Hell want ice water, but that don’t mean their getting any!

Until such time as bicycle infrastructure is critically analyzed instead of being incessantly clamored for nothing is ever going to change. Instead of being eager for yet another round of poorly designed bike lanes on busy streets, why not take the time to point out the flaws in the ones we have and make damn sure that our current failures are not reproduced?

What the hell is StreetsBlogs job if not to keep a watchful eye on problems here at home? Instead these knuckleheads are busy worrying about what someone hundreds of miles and a dozen states away is doing and allow all sorts of crap to exist right here in our own backyard. Do these guys get paid for this?