A Poorly Managed Situation Develops Into A ‘Classic FusterCluck’

Background Reading

Summary

This part of the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, from the River east to Dearborn, is supposed to be removed during Wolf Point construction. Photo: masMiguel.

This part of the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, from the River east to Dearborn, is supposed to be removed during Wolf Point construction. Photo: masMiguel.

Alderman Brendan Reilly submitted an order to city council on Wednesday that would compel Chicago Department of Transportation Rebekah Scheinfeld to remove the Kinzie Street protected bike lane between Dearborn and the Chicago River because he says it conflicts with Wolf Point construction truck traffic.

Brendan-Reilly-Tweet

In 2013, under former commissioner Gabe Klein, CDOT agreed to a development plan [PDF], which was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and codified into law. The plan called for Hines, the Wolf Point developer, to pay for installing temporary protected bike lanes on Grand Avenue, Illinois Street, and Wells Street, before the temporary removal of the Kinzie Street bike lanes to facilitate the construction project.

In the long term, it makes sense for there to be bike lanes on both Grand Avenue – already identified as a “Crosstown Bike Route” in the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 – and Kinzie Street. The Active Transportation Alliance recently launched a petition asking other aldermen to oppose Reilly’s order. “Ald. Reilly has proposed installing new bike lanes on Grand Avenue as an alternative,” the petition stated. “But the reality is, people will continue to bike on Kinzie because it is less stressful than Grand Avenue with fewer cars and no buses, not to mention it provides the most logical and direct connection to the central business district.”

CDOT appears to have changed its position about the development plan. Spokesman Mike Claffey underscored the importance of the Kinzie bike lanes in a statement to Streetsblog:

“CDOT has safety concerns about removing the protected bike lanes on Kinzie, which is the second most popular street for bicycling in Chicago. The protected bike lane is in place to reduce conflicts and the risk of accidents between bicyclists, motor vehicles, and pedestrians. We have been in discussions with the Alderman about these concerns and will continue to work with him on this issue.”

Specifically, the development plan, identified as Planned Development 98, calls for:

  • Temporary removal of the protected bike lanes on Kinzie from Dearborn to Milwaukee
  • Eastbound and westbound PBLs on Grand from Milwaukee to Wells
  • Westbound PBL on Grand from Dearborn to Wells
  • Eastbound PBL on Illinois from Wells to Dearborn
  • “An improved bicycle accommodation on Wells Street for cyclists traveling, between Grand Avenue and Illinois Street”

The Kinzie bike lanes are indeed important, but it’s unclear why Scheinfeld is now pushing back against the plan. Reilly told City Council that Scheinfeld cited an internal study that supported keeping the bike lanes on Kinzie. We asked for a copy of this report but Claffey said he didn’t have one. The development plan also says that all of the developer’s designs for these temporary bicycle accommodations are subject to Scheinfeld’s departmental review.

CDOT could propose retaining the Kinzie Street protected bike lanes throughout the construction project, which started over a year ago. If that’s not feasible, and the bike lanes must come out, the agency should bring back their support for the original plan that temporarily relocates the bike lanes to Grand. However, it’s important the the Kinzie lanes be reinstalled, because Kinzie is the direct and route between the popular protected bike lanes on Milwaukee and bike lanes on Desplaines, Canal, Wells, and Dearborn.


TakeAways

This entire episode has revealed the ineptitude of the so-called Bicycle Advocacy we possess here in Chicago. People are giving the Urban Bicycle Movement their rightful due as Drama Queen Central.

This section of PBL along Kinzie is among the least well maintained in the city. It would in fact be a blessing to have it relocated onto Grand. But the folks at Active Transportation Alliance have drawn an unnecessary ‘line in the sand‘ by claiming that it has some intrinsic importance to the well-being of bicyclists in the area:

 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly threatens to remove one of the most critical connections in Chicago’s growing network of protected bike lanes.

But the fact is that this is one of the least pleasant stretches to ride along that exists in the Loop area. Everyone knows this. But some of the misfits that populate the Urban Cycling Movement have a bent towards the melodramatic. So we are going to be stuck with this unless the warring parties can figure a way past their stalemate.

I sincerely hope that none of the folks who travel this ruptured duck of a PBL ever have to wonder whether the Movement made a mistake in objecting to the removal (temporary or permanent).

One Would Think This Was Wrigley Field

The Active Transportation Alliance approach to this debate has framed it on historic lines of importance. Heck the darned thing has been up for about 3 years if memory serves. And if you ride in you will see why so many people complain about its lack of maintenance.

In fact much of the mileage devoted to bicycle lanes in Chicago suffers this same neglect. Lake Street to the west is another glaring example of slapping something together to be able to count it as miles converted to bicycle use but the reality is sadly empty.

Why anyone would be ‘fighting to keep‘ this kind of crap is beyond me. It is not quite as bad as the PBL that I have ridden in the Logan Square Area. That thing was so bad I was tempted to get out of the bike lane and use the area where the cars drive.

Seriously the top layer of the pavement was as crumbled and miserable as any dried mud wadi in the Great American Southwest. In fact the guys from StreetsBlog have written about other PBLs over course of the past three years and they too suffer the same neglect.

It kind of makes the point of providing ‘safe passage‘ for bicycles moot when the pavement is this bad. But we must of course cling to the past at every point, otherwise we will suffer the indignity of being disrespected. Not that we can change that anytime soon.

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

Our on street behavior as cyclists has been poor enough to warrant the indelible memory burned into the minds of every motorist who has watched our antics in horror as we perform Idaho Two Step Maneuvers in an effort to be ‘safe‘?

Yeah, right!