Sunday, July 22, 2012

New Lanes on 55th St. a Learning Curve

-posted by chicago pop

It is truly amazing what good urban design is capable of. New lines on the street, and a few physical impediments to nudge behavior in the desired direction, and we already have tangible benefits: traffic moving at a much slower pace the length of 55th, improved safety for pedestrians at crosswalks, and more cyclists riding in the street - as they should be - with more confidence.

The sticky part is getting motorists to go with the new parking program, and park away from the curb. As of last week, local car owners must still be thinking all that new paint on the street was some kind of public art:

To their credit, on at least one block in about this area last week, I saw about half a dozen cars parking in the boxed lane BETWEEN the curbside bike lane and the lane of traffic - where the cars are supposed to go. But those vehicles were a minority.

That may change quickly, however, if - as the HPP reader who submitted these photos reports -- vehicles parked in the bike lanes continue to receive tickets, as they began to last week. 

It would help, also, if more bollards were deployed to make parking in the bike lane physically impossible. My assumption was that these were on the way, but I don't know. It would make sense, after all this effort, to situate the bollards in such a way that the desired behavior was perfectly clear.

Everything comes with a learning curve. Even if it takes a few weeks for the locals get the hang of this, or maybe even the rest of the summer, in the long term it's what we call here at HPP 'real goddamn progress.' A round of applause to CDOT and to the Adlermen and traffic engineers and cycling/pedestrian activists who made this a reality. Sometimes an ingenious idea really can make the world a little bit more civilized.


Richard Gill said...

We know how hard it is for some Hyde Park residents to adapt to change.

Chicago_mom said...

Hmmmm, I agree that this new design will take some "getting used to." But I'm optimistic. Really! I have gone a bit out of my way to use the protected lanes in the last few days, admiring the growing number of correctly parked cars and feeling sorry for the cars getting tickets (on Friday, I believe, kind of early in the game for enforcement of such radically new rules). Using the lanes does make me think harder about making left turns (is this right? go through the intersection, get off bike, turn 90 degrees, and wait for light to change). If the lanes work well, I'll use 56th and 57th less often--is that a good thing? Don't know, but do expect our neighborhood to become more "active transportation"-friendly, as cyclists and pedestrians feel more comfortable around and about, with I hope a limited impact on drivers accustomed to getting places fast. Here's to Gabe Klein--hope this all works!

Greg said...

I am very pleased to see the bike lanes. We must promote and accommodate alternate modes of transportation and healthy life styles.

Laura C. said...

I have nothing against bikers or bike lanes, but I actually find this new style of bike lane to be completely ridiculous. This even tops the lanes on Kinzie and the ones on 18th. I drive over the 18th Street bridge frequently, and I almost never see anyone actually using the bike lanes there. Hopefully these in Hyde Park will serve more purpose. I just think of how broke our city is and all the money spent building elaborate bike lanes that won't get used from October through March. And speaking of winter, how DO the snow plows get around all those bollards? Curious to see how that will work in a few months.

elizabeth said...

I think it would be much friendlier for the city to do a few days of putting brochures about protected bike lanes on cars before they started ticketing. I'd like this to be well received by both drivers and cyclists, and if I'd never seen anything like this before, I'd be pissed if the first public notice I got was a ticket on my windshield. Maybe they'll be easy to contest? Still, it seems like education would have been a better approach, at least to start out with.

David Farley said...

I wonder why, with all this recent work, there's such a fuss going on about putting a stop sign at Kenwood on 55th. (I'm in favor of it.)

chicago pop said...

If the first public notice of the 55th street project you got was a ticket on your windshield, then you haven't been paying attention.

CDOT has already been using small plows that can plow inside bike lanes. See photos below.

Media mentions of the 55th Street project:

Hyde Park Progress

The Maroon

Every Block Chicago

Plowing bike lanes:
SW-4S tracked vehicle plowing Kinzie bike lanes

55th St. bike lanes announced in the Hyde Park Herald, excerpted from the May 12, 2012 issue:55th will go on a "road diet" to one lane in each direction and a set of bike lanes in each, with some loss of parking.
Striping and in some places plastic bollards will separate vehicular and bike traffic. More permanent barriers may be placed later after testing. Work will be done in spring and summer 2012.
Traffic lights will be updated with turn signals at Woodlawn and at Ellis and signage will be updated. A main object is to slow drivers and thus enhance safety- between 2006 and 2010 the stretch Cottage Grove to Lake Park had 348 accidents of which 23 involved bicycles, making it one of the most dangerous in Hyde Park. Most of the audience, said by another to be largely bike riders, largely applauded the plan for bikes-- from Cottage to start of the curve between Kenwood and Dorchester the bike lane would be next to the curb with parking to bike rider's left, between bikes and cars. East of there the bike lane will transition to the traditional curb-parking-bike-cars configuration (which also prevails on parts to the east on 55th). One kind is called buffered and the other protected.

remarkable said...

The recent applications (both 2 and 3 dimensional) on 55th street remind me of the over-engineering that governs my TV remote and digital camera. Surely, there must be an easier way! Stop sign at 55th & Kenwood is an example of a low-tech solution.
Ticketing people who are parking in the bike lane, week one - don't we already have enough hatred of the LAZ high-tech parking shackles in our Daley lives? Was there no room in this project's costly budget for a friendly 'here's what we're doin' brochure to be handed out for the first month?
I was talking to one of the 55th St CTA drivers on my way home the other day - even he did not have a clue how the new markings were meant to work!
Over regulation and excessive paint are not the solution to heavy traffic - both 2 AND 4 wheeled.
PS - Here's a concern left unaddressed by CDOT's 55th St team: the unsightly islands at the corner of 55th and Kimbark? They are a collection site for garbage and are exhibit 'A' for urban weeds. Other neighborhoods have lush foliage in mid-street planters, serving as another example of low-tech means of traffic management.

Lilithcat said...

The difficulty for motorists is those bollards in the parking lane. Normally, if you are driving and you see those, that's a signal that you're not supposed to be in that lane.

I'd suggest that they re-deploy those, and as the city seems capable of painting the image of a bicycle, they could also paint the words "parking lane" on that strip.

As I was driving down 55th the other day, I also noticed another problem, and that is that the reticulated buses seemed to have a very hard time maneuvering into the bus stops, so that half the bus was hanging across the parking lane into the driving lane.

Yael said...

As a biker, I love the new lanes, but can't help but think about the suggestion I made to Ald. Burns about extending the boulevard system all the way to Monoxide Island/Toasters. It would have resulted in a road diet (one lane) and it would have been much prettier... Still, am happy for the added biking safety we now have!

trtennant said...

I'm a huge fan of these new bike lanes. And for those who are concerned about the potential lack of use in the winter months - my family and I bicycle commute year round, and we regularly see a set of folks biking in the winter months, as well! It's nice to have the city invest a bit in safety measures to support green living.

chicago pop said...

As of 2pm Monday, July 23, 100% parking compliance on 55th Street from Cottage Grove to Harper.

Redag said...

It is important to remember that Chicago winters are pretty mild, and that actual precipitation cover takes up a very small portion of the winter. Well, compared to where I grew up in the center of New York State at least. We had winters. With snow and stuff.

I am a heavy user of the affected portion of 55th Street. I bike back and forth over it every weekday and often to get back and forth from the Green and Red lines as well.

I am _exceedingly_ excited to see the lanes enforced. Just this morning I shouted at a woman parking in the wrong land in front of the Bank Financial building. The language used: "That's not a parking space!" and "Not cool!" was entirely mild but she still felt the privilege to glare back.

Despite some of the commenters here, there is no reason why anyone parking could be confused about where they should be parking. The lines are clear and there is ample precedent at this point. There is no remaining cause for confusion. Everyone parked out of position chose to do so.

I have observed a few non-optimal outcomes that I will detail here.

Bros are Bad: Observed one 'bro' who evidently believes the bike lane is a place he can step into while waiting for the light to change at the intersection of 55th and Ellis. Ironically, the traffic block was enhanced by the fact he was walking his bike. A variant was similarly observed in the form of a family grouping that similarly decided to occupy the lane at 55th and University to stage their crossing.

Other Lane? Other Direction?: Encountered while eastbound, some damn fool using the parking lane to go the wrong way. Quite annoying.

Bus Destruction: Those little insets where the bus gets to come make a stop in the bike lane can lead to being seemingly chased down by a bus that is squeezing you in. Worst yet when you're prepping a lane change yourself to turn left.

Loren said...

There’s no reason why, with a little tweaking, the new traffic configuration can’t become the community asset it’s meant to be.

I don’t, however, believe this was rolled out very well. I’m as observant or not as any HP’er who’s lived at the intersection of 55th and Woodlawn for 15 years. Where were the CDOT signs, banners, handbills, lamp-post tags, windshield bills…whatever, that would have told HP bikers and drivers early on, and repeatedly, what was coming and how it would affect them. The long-term success of this experiment hinges not on us bikers, who have made a clear gain in pedaling room and safety, but on us drivers, with our great numbers and clout, who now feel a bit squeezed, slowed, and shorter on parking.

Is somebody counting bikes, taking a census, collecting data? Which data will demonstrate a successful innovation, and which a costly dud?

susan said...

As a pedestrian I like the reconfiguration because of the reduction to one lane in each direction. As a biker, I don't like to see other bikers riding straight in a far right lane, to the right of a car planning to turn right. As a driver, I will avoid 55th St. because it seems confusing. If I were driving a delivery truck I wouldn't know what the hell to do. If I were not primarily a biker, who has seen these kind of lanes before, I would be plenty pissed if my first notice of parking in the wrong place were a parking ticket. As this blog has pointed out in the past NO ONE READS THE HERALD. (I mean, I do, but I am living in some alternate 1950s fantasy Hyde Park world). They should paint the word parking in the parking lane.

chicago pop said...

With the last few comments we are veering off into the realm of captious theoretical criticism. While some of the observations are valid, most of them are now academic. For one simple reason: the whole thing is working. It started working less than a week after it was completed. There are more people riding their bikes on 55th every day than I have ever seen before. And cars are parked in a new and unfamiliar configuration. This without the saturation PR-outreach or the word "parking" painted on the streets. (The people for whom such methods would be effective are probably the last subscribers to the Herald.)

This all attests 1) to the power of the proper incentives, and 2) to the intelligence of the general public, in which group I include delivery truck drivers. If this is not the case, then poor Golden Rectangle residents will shortly starve to death from lack of Peapod deliveries and grow even more stooped as they are unable to replace their mattresses.

It is true that the sensory overload of novel stimuli may send some drivers seeking alternate routes that pose less of a derangement to their sensibilities. That they are able to do so is the beauty of the grid plan: God bless them.

For everybody else, it's like learning to use an elevator, or maybe even an Apple device. It takes about a minute, and then you've got it.

Kat Hill Reischl said...

Love love love the new configuration of 55th street. As a motorist - better traffic flow; as a bicyclist - so much safer; as a pedestrian - increased visibility! It seems that the parking confusion has been straightened out. I am impressed and enthused. PROGRESS!

David Farley said...

There was a group of bikers at Lake Park and 55th this morning with a large "Share the Road" sign. I don't know if they were there because of the new markings, or just for their own reasons.

susan said...

This is not theoretical criticism-- I was biking west on 55th this morning. I did not feel safe in the far right lane when approaching a corner (55th and Cottage) where I intended to bike straight through the intersection and many cars turn right, plus there's the bus. Ordinarily when biking I make sure to be to the left of cars turning right.

Seitu said...

I never had a problem riding with traffic on 55th. I tend to ride it when there isn't much traffic, but that seems to be the case a good deal of the time. The new bike lanes are okay and will make bikers feel safer. I'm not crazy about the stretch east of Kenwood where I saw cars veer south from either lane onto Dorchester. For most of my trips I'll still be sticking to the side streets.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Do they also have little street-cleaning trucks for the bike lanes? (Or maybe we'll go back to the European system with an actual human being sweeping the street?)

mchinand said...

Yes, at least for other bike lanes in Chicago, they have used small plows.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Thanks, mchinand, but I think you may have misunderstood me. I was wondering about street cleaning (during the mild months). Has the City talked about what it will do for routine cleaning around the bollards?

oldtimer said...

This is a half baked idea. How are they going to clear the snow in winter? How will the street get washed. Those vehicles are really big. Also when the the fire engines come screaming down 55th there is no place to pull to the side.
I stood on 55th for an hour in Sat and saw 6 bikes during that time. It was perfect weather that day, which means there are less on increment weather days.
I think this is a waste and may even be dangerous for the heavy traffic of cars and buses on 55th st.

Vicky said...

I like them. I cross 55th St. nearly every day on foot and I was sick of having one driver 'yield to pedestrians' and waving at me furiously to cross while another driver was speeding up behind him in the other lane...Not safe to cross! Having one lane is MUCH better--you only have to worry about one driver.