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Chicago bike lanes are getting concrete curb protections


As Chicago contends with a series of recent pedestrian and cyclist deaths that have brought into focus the sometimes perilous nature of walking or biking city streets, plans are underway to boost the number of bike lanes protected by a concrete curb.

Concrete curb-protected bike lanes have been a key ask of safety advocates. Now, the Chicago Department of Transportation has unveiled a roughly $7 million plan to convert all existing protected bike lanes to include concrete curbs by the end of 2023 and add 10 miles of new concrete-protected lanes.

Concrete curbs will become the standard for new protected bike lanes in the city moving forward, CDOT said.

The city has about 35 miles of protected bike lanes, but the majority of those lanes do not include concrete, instead often featuring plastic posts separating cyclists from car traffic. By the end of this year, the city aims to convert 15 miles of those lanes to include a concrete curb, and another 13 miles are expected to undergo work next year.

When the work is complete, including the additional new lanes, about 45 of the city’s nearly 400 miles of bikeways will be protected by a concrete curb.

The work comes as recent traffic deaths have unleashed anger among community members and sparked calls for citywide infrastructure that prioritizes the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Among the bicyclists recently killed when hit by a vehicle was 15-year-old Joshua Avina, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. The teen was struck by a delivery truck Friday afternoon as he was crossing South Austin Avenue on the city’s Southwest Side, Chicago Police said.

Earlier, on June 9, 3-year-old Lily Grace Shambrook was killed when a semitruck collided with the bicycle she was being carried on in the 1100 block of West Leland Avenue in Uptown, Chicago police said.

Their deaths follow those of other cyclists and pedestrians this year, including bicyclist Nick Parlingayan, 22, who was hit and killed by a vehicle that fled the scene in the 3800 block of North Milwaukee Avenue on the city’s Northwest Side.

The stretch of road where Parlingayan was struck and killed is among those identified for concrete protections. Also identified were stretches of road elsewhere on the city’s Northwest, West, and South sides, and areas near downtown.

Kyle Whitehead, spokesman for the Active Transportation Alliance, celebrated the additional concrete-protected bike lanes, saying they will prevent future crashes and help make bicyclists feel more comfortable, encouraging more people to ride on city streets.

“There’s still this problem that people will be riding bikes most often on streets where they won’t have this protection and they will potentially be vulnerable,” he said. “But where these lanes are going in are popular biking routes today, and people riding those lanes will be more safe and more comfortable than they were before.”

Concrete protections aren’t a natural fit for every street — for example, they make more sense on major city roads than on smaller side streets, he said. But he considered the announcement particularly exciting because it involves upgrades across several neighborhoods at once. Bike lane design often happens block-by-block or ward-by-ward, leaving a patchwork of protections across neighborhoods.

Still, more protections for pedestrians and bicyclists are needed, he said.

City officials are touting plans for the new protected bike lanes as the largest bike lane upgrade in city history. In an email, CDOT spokeswoman Erica Schroeder said work on road safety would continue.

“CDOT continues to work with Aldermen and community stakeholders throughout Chicago to make additional safety improvements for all road users,” she said. “CDOT is committed to increasing the number of protected bike lane miles annually, expanding our network of low-stress routes, and implementing new designs at conflict points to increase comfort and safety.”

Work on the concrete curbs will begin this week along Kinzie Street between Milwaukee and Wells. Other bike lanes slated to get protections this year include:

  • Lake Street from Pulaski to Damen;
  • Logan Boulevard from Rockwell to Diversey;
  • Milwaukee between Addison and Irving Park, Chicago and Division, and Kinzie and Ohio;
  • Independence Boulevard from Douglas to Harrison
  • Douglas Boulevard from Independence to Sacramento
  • 119th Street from Ashland to Halsted and the Major Taylor Trail

The Chicago Tribune’s Rosemary Sobol contributed.

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