Monday, April 23, 2012

Meeting on CDOT Plan to put Bike Lanes on 55th

 -posted by chicago pop

Props to 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns. This is one of the best ideas I've heard about in a while. It's all about slowing things down. And when it comes to crazy traffic on the South Side's underutilized roadways, that's how it should be.

Substantial stretches of King Drive, 31st Street, and 55th/Garfield would be altered to incorporate protected bike lanes, and improved pedestrian safety and crosswalks. This would be done at the expense of lane space currently devoted to vehicular traffic. As a CDOT rep put it on the GRID Chicago blog:

CDOT traffic counts show that all of these roadways currently have more travel lanes and/or lane width than needed to accommodate their traffic volume, and this encourages motorists to drive dangerously. While studies show that road diets work well on streets that serve under 20,000 cars a day, actually improving traffic flow in many cases, 55th Street currently serves only 13,500 cars a day and King Drive only carries 9,000 to 11,500 cars per day. Due to the lack of congestion on these roadways, the agency found that 54% of cars on King are speeding, and 15% or motorists are driving over 40 MPH.

I'm sure lots of cyclists will agree with this traffic analysis based on their personal experience. Here again we see the pathological effects of the South Side's loss of density relative to historic levels: streets like King, Cottage, Indiana, 55th and others are far wider than their current levels of traffic would demand.

The North Side can only dream of having the kind of capacity we have down here. King Drive has 8 lanes! 55th is likewise quite broad as it passes through western Hyde Park and so encourages speeding and disregard for pedestrians.

So why not make room for bikes?

Details on the meeting:

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is presenting on the 55th Street safety improvement project this Wednesday, April 25, from 6:30 – 8pmThis project, between Cottage Grove and Lake Park, seeks to create a safe and comfortable roadway for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit users accessing Washington Park, the University of Chicago, Hyde Park, and the Lakefront. The main features include enhanced pedestrian crosswalks and signage, protected and buffered bike lanes, and a ‘Road Diet’ between Cottage Grove and Kenwood.

The meeting is open to the public.
Date:                           Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Time:                           6:30 – 8:00 p.m. 
            Reception:                   6:30 – 7:00 p.m.
            Presentation:   7:00 – 7:30 p.m.  
            Q & A:                         7:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Location:                     Alumni House in the Klowden Library

Presentation by CDOT Project Development Staff:  Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton and Project Manager Mike Amsden
Thanks to HPP reader PM for the update.


nate said...

Hurray! I have a love/hate relationship with 55th for exactly this reason. Would love to have protected bike lane there.

Eric Allix Rogers said...

I was excited to hear about these plans, and hope they don't get sunk by people who are unwilling to give up the ability to speed on all the major streets in our part of town. Sadly, I can't come out to support it at this meeting, even though I work upstairs from it, due to an obligation downtown that evening.

Richard Gill said...

I was at this meeting. While there was concern about some of the details, I did not hear one objection to the project per se. In fact, when someone in the audience praised the project, there was loud applause. For a public meeting in Hyde Park, this has got to be a first.

CDOT said the work should start late spring/early summer this year.

elizabeth said...

Did anyone go to this meeting? Know when the 55th street protected bike lane is supposed to be installed?

Unknown said...

I was the one in the audience who praised the project, which I think is fabulous. While it was clear that pretty much everyone in the audience approved of the project, I think the main concerns being voiced were that this is just "engineering" and that what is really needed is enforcement (of crosswalks, of speed limits, etc). I completely disagree with that view.

Enforcement is always fleeting, at best, while engineering is forever. By that I mean that a well engineered roadway makes it hard to speed, easy to cross, and reduces blind spots and conflict point at all times of day and nights.

To use an example I gave last night, I often try to stop for folks trying to cross at the crosswalks on 55th st in the stretches without stop signs, but I am always worried that someone in the second lane will blow through the crosswalk (or worse, someone behind me will change lanes to do so). I always worry I am setting someone up to get pancaked. With the new design allowing only one through travel lane in each direction, a car stopping to allow someone to cross will force those behind to stop as well. With space in the median to take shelter, the pedestrian can get halfway across safely and then wait for someone travelling in the other direction to yield as well.

Richard Gill said...

Unknown -

I agree with you, the project is fabulous, and that without the engineering, the program won't work. It's the engineering that creates the safety measures and makes the rules clear on the street. Enforcement is primarily for those who think the rules aren't for real. Too bad, those kinds we will always have with us.