Thousands of bicyclists have been scratching their helmets in bewilderment this week.
Why, they wonder, has a construction site on Milwaukee Avenue lain dormant for several days — rendering bike lanes mostly useless on the city’s busiest bike thoroughfare?
A city work crew ripped up the sidewalk outside 401 N. Milwaukee Ave. last week to replace the pavement, said Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation.
But, contacted Tuesday, Claffey didn’t know what the delay was in finishing the project.
After demolishing the walkway, workers erected concrete barricades and orange traffic markers but have not been back since.
The configuration forces bicyclists and motorists to encroach on each other at a six-way intersection that can be confusing enough even without any construction obstacles.
At that particular corner, hordes of bicyclists traveling into the city on Milwaukee during the morning rush either head east on Kinzie Street into the Loop or turn south onto Des Plaines Street.
Conversely, cyclists from Kinzie and Des Plaines converge on Milwaukee during the evening rush to head out of the Loop.
Milwaukee Avenue is known to some as the Hipster Highway because of the large volume of bicyclists from youthful neighborhoods such as Wicker Park and Logan Square who bike on it daily.
“The bottom line is that the city has a responsibility to provide safe conditions during construction projects,” said Jim Merrell, who works on safety campaigns for the Active Transportation Alliance, a group that promotes biking in the city.
“If people feel they are not safe, they should call 311 and report it,” he added.
“Any time there are motorized vehicles mixing with bikes, there’s a potential for conflict,” Merrell said. “Not only is Milwaukee Avenue the most heavily biked street in the city, it’s one of the most heavily biked streets in the whole country.”
About 2,400 bicyclists use Milwaukee daily during the morning and evening rush hours. And about that many cyclists roll down the road daily during non-peak hours.
No need to fear the construction. Bicyclists are well aware that no one takes too much interest in the fact that automobile traffic often gets rerouted. Bicyclists should consider it a privilege to join the ‘big boys‘ in having their way into work impeded.
Just remember that the absence of a ‘bike lane‘ only means that you need to chose another. Or for that matter choose an alternative route into work. After all you whine and bitched and moaned about not wanting to have either Milwaukee or Kinzie rerouted over to Grand, so suck it up and take your medicine. This is America and daily affronts to your forward progress are the norm.