New Buffered Bike Lane

On my way to work yesterday morning, I spotted a road crew laying down paint to buffer the existing Wells Street bike lane.  In the photo below, parked cars are usually next to the curb, the bike lane was already to the left of the parked car area, and the addition is the striped area to the left of the bike lane.

This new “buffer” is nice to see, but not so much when considered as part of Chicago’s overall bike plan.  I first heard that Wells would be getting a buffered bike lane one year ago and I expected something more – something that would actually protect cyclists from moving traffic and from opening car doors.  This new painted buffer is better than nothing, but not a big step forward.  More painted lines are not going to get new people on their bikes.  Considering Wells is a hugely popular route for bikes (seems to me there are more bicyclists than cars during rush hour), I would like more to be done to ensure bicyclist safety.

I feel like I should not complain, because the new mayor is taking bicycling seriously and accomplishing a lot and seeing progress is exciting.  But if he is serious about making Chicago a first-class bicycling city, safe for citizens aged 8 to 80, painted stripes are not going to cut it.  If actual protection is not feasible with the space and budget, at least fill in the lane with green paint, put up more signage, and ticket drivers who park in the bike lane.

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17 thoughts on “New Buffered Bike Lane

  1. Beth says:

    Hey, I take that road! And I’ll take what I can get. As you mention, cars are the least worry during rush hour times, it’s the delivery trucks that park in the bike lane all up and down Wells. I try to remind myself that they have to park *somewhere* to deliver all that lovely beer to the bars in Old Town and River North, and I can’t really see anywhere else for them to do it. That’s probably why it’s just paint instead of some kind of actual barrier.

    • Dottie says:

      I think the same as you about the delivery drivers.  I foster much more ill will toward the selfish car and SUV drivers who double park.  And to the drivers who fling their doors open without looking in the bike lane.  What would really make Wells feel safe is putting the bike lane to the right of parked cars.

      • TrekRiderMark says:

         On the flip side of that Dottie, you would be blocked
        in.  True that the cars would be a barrier from the traffic, however you
        still run the risk of being doored.  The only exception here is that you
        have no outs.  You would have a parked car to your left and a curb to your
        right.  If they did put a buffer between the parked car and the bike lane,
        that could work.  My only big concern would be making a left hand
        turn.  How would you move out into traffic to turn left if there is a row
        of parked cars?  

        I’m just thinking out loud here. :)  Honestly, the best thing is to just
        create more cycling awareness.  At least by changing the downtown roads,
        drivers are forced to notice cyclists more, since they are slowly “taking
        over the road” (which is a great thing!).  I’ll be happy once cycling
        is accepted country wide as a viable form of transportation.  People just
        are afraid to sweat these days…spoiled rotten from our technological
        advances. :)

  2. David P says:

    Beverage trucks plague part of my ride down Milwukee, too, though I can imagine it’s worst on Wells. Ideally, alleys would be large enough to fit large trucks in to use for deliveries. I agree that the lane as installed is not ideal, but it is some improvement and for now I’ll take what I can get. I have seen more real changes in the last year than in the three previous. 

  3. A protected lane should have been put in on Wells instead of a buffered lane.

    • guest says:

      there is a ton of planning that goes into these lanes, it is not always feasable to put a protected bike lane in based on the needs and limitations of the roadway.  Yes you could have say a blanket statment like “we should put a protected bike lane on every street”  but that cant always happen.  Chicago has to work with the space it has, Be thankful they are at least doing the buffered lanes.

      • LGRAB says:

        This is not directed specifically to you, but to a general message I have been hearing a lot lately. I am tired of the old line that bicyclists should be thankful for whatever limited infrastructure is thrown our way.
        Yes, I understand that governments are working within real limitations – budgets, engineering, public opinion. Wells is not a very wide street and I’m sure that factored into the kind of treatment selected.

        But someone’s opinion that a protected bike lane should have been installed on Wells Street (note: no one said on “every street”) is perfectly valid and such opinions should be freely and confidentally expressed without being told, essentially, to be quiet and thankful. If we do not speak up for ourselves, no one else will.

        • Most days I’m just thankful that an absent-minded motorist didn’t hit me with their car.

          I understand that a lot of planning goes into these lanes, but we as cyclists still reserve the right to critique the solutions we are provided with. If we don’t think that enough is being done, then we need to speak up so that more is done in the future. Adding buffers to Wells is nice, but it doesn’t stop the problem of cars in the bike lane and weaving traffic. Wells is plenty wide in the stretch that the buffered lanes were added (three lanes south of Hubbard!). There’s no reason that the engineers who designed the lane couldn’t have given Wells a “road diet” and reduced it to one or two car lanes, and one protected bike lane. Car traffic wanting to go faster should be one block east on La Salle, which is a six-lane divided boulevard for most of its stretch in River North and decidedly bicycle-unfriendly.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s not a matter of opinion.  It’s a matter of geometry.  There’s not enough space for protected bike lanes, two traffic lanes, and two parking lanes on Wells.  What do you want to remove to get the protected bike lanes?  How much money are you willing to pay to buy our meters back?

          • LGRAB says:

            Then that is a matter of priorities, not geometry. Geometry does not require that cars get 2-3 moving lanes, plus 2 parking lanes, while bicyclists get a slim strip of pavement in the door zone. Considering that half of commuters on Wells during rush hour are riding bikes, not driving cars, one of the traffic lanes could have been eliminated along the one-way portion of Wells – heavy car traffic can easily switch to LaSalle one block over. The path of least resistance was chosen for this design and bikes were not prioritized – or even given equal consideration – which is not the way to get more people on bikes. If protected bike lanes are installed on Clark and Dearborn, I would be less concerned about Wells, but I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Ken says:

    I ride down Wells to the Loop often. I agree with you – make it a separate bike lane! But even better would be something that continues over the Wells St bridge into the Loop – I feel like it’s a demolition derby from the bridge to my office at Madison and Wells. Not sure where we’re supposed to go, so I ususally just “take the lane”.

  5. Maxime Paquin says:

    Chicago and bike lane blooming this year is awesome. Did anyone though about making a concrete barrier between car traffic and a bidirectionnal bike lane ? No more traffic in the bike lane, no delivery truck, and you feel safe with the added concrete protection (not just bollards). Something like Maisonneuve or  Berri bike lane in Montreal: . ALso why nobody talks about removing parking space to build a protected bike lane ? Again Maisonneuve bike lane (sorry I am working with what I know, and have seen work)

  6. Dennis Hindman says:

    To attract the 60% of the population that are interested in cycling, but concerned, you need to make sure that the their entire trip does not exceed their tolerance for stress. Unprotected bike lanes on a busy street will not accomplish that.

    Here’s a recent research report from the Mineta Transportation Institute on low-stress bicycling:

  7. Think he can talk to the people down here in Houston to help get things moving? hahaha

  8. Anonymous says:

    Some routes will be protected bike lanes, some will be buffered bike lanes, some will have green paint, some will not.  It all depends on road width, traffic volumes, and parking demands.  The only practical way to do a protected bike lane on Wells would be to remove parking on one side, but it’s hard to imagine that going over well with all the local buisnesses.  It’s also hard because the City doesn’t own the metered parking.

  9. Jenn says:

    It’s been a long week of a new commute figuring out a route. How great to check in to LGRAB for a visit. First amazing Sara from Full Hands and now an experienced commuter’s view of new infrastructure that is nuanced and informed! Thanks Dottie.  We need good commentary to help build it better in Chicago.

  10. Jenn says:

    It’s been a long week of a new commute figuring out a route. How great to check in to LGRAB for a visit. First amazing Sara from Full Hands and now an experienced commuter’s view of new infrastructure that is nuanced and informed! Thanks Dottie.  We need good commentary to help build it better in Chicago.

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