Kinzie Street: The First of Many Protected Bike Lanes for Chicago
In his campaign for mayor, Rahm Emanuel pledged to make Chicago a more bike-friendly city. And in office, he set his sights high, aiming to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes in his first term.
His team wasted no time. Chicago DOT installed the city's first protected bike lane on Kinzie Street before Emanuel's first 30 days in office were over. Leading Emanuel's DOT is former Washington, DC DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, who clearly understands the connection between safe streets and the health of a city.
Last month Streetfilms traveled to Chicago to speak with the commissioner, ride on Kinzie Street, and bask in the city's cycling excitement.
And one piece of local trivia. The Blommer Chocolate Store is right on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane and boy does it smell good. It figured prominently in my all-time favorite response to an interview question about biking.
Gabe Klein: [00:02] In essence a protected bike lane is a bike lane that cushions the cyclist, gives them their own space.
David Gleason: [00:10] We’re on Kinzie, this is the first protected bike lane of any kind in Chicago. It’s about a half mile long. Kinzie is a connector between two of the busiest bike lanes in the city. It is a connection for cyclists coming into the loop. It originally was four lanes, two lanes in each direction. Because it was low volume and we had a lot of extra width, we were able to take out a lane in each direction and install a kerbside bike lane with flexible posts, and depending on whether parking was present or not, an additional lane of parking between the bike lane and the travel lane.
Steven Vance: [00:46] A lot of bridges in Chicago have open metal grate decks, and with the protected bike lane on Kinzie, a treatment was added so that it is flat and safer to ride across. And I’m excited that protected bike lanes will bring more treatments to open metal grate bridges.
David Gleason: [01:04] When we embarked on the plan to install a protected bike lane, we wanted to pay a lot of attention on where the cyclists interacted with motorists at the intersections. So we implemented a number of treatments through the intersection. One we’re using what’s called elephant tracks colloquially, it’s a very thick dotted line. Additionally we use bike symbols facing turning traffic or crossing traffic so approaching vehicles know that they are crossing a bicycle space. And thirdly we’re using coloured pavement to highlight and draw attention to the bicycle space in the intersection.
Speaker: [01:42] I’ve been biking for about two years in Chicago and I love the bike lane. I go out of my way to take it. I just feel so much safer riding in the bike lane.
Gabe Klein: [01:54] There was a demand and we met the demand. And what’s fascinating about it is that we put that protected bike lane almost instantly it went from 22% up to 49% mode share over the course of a few weeks. We’ve even measured as high as 51% mode share for bikes during rush hour, which means more bikes than cars.
David Gleason: [02:14] This is only the first. Chicago’s second protected bike lane is under installation right now on Jackson.
Bradley Topol: [02:20] And today we’re out on Jackson Boulevard which will be the city’s second cycle track. We’ve already got a lot of the paint lines down on our project, and we’re currently installing flexible delineators which are part of the protected bike lane. It definitely separates the cars and the parking area from the bike track which is the left hand cycle track.
Gabe Klein: [02:38] Next spring you’re going to see the network start to take shape, extend out into the neighbourhoods more, extend into the loop a bit more.
Danny Solis: [02:44] How I got a protected bike lane is I asked for it. We heard about the protected bike lane that was done on Kinzie Street. We thought it was a tremendous idea. Now we know that it is a great idea because people are using it in droves. And because of this connection between my two communities and the proximity to Downtown and to the Lake, we thought this would be a perfect first protected bike lane for my Ward. And I can’t wait to get it done. I know my constituents are going to be very happy about it. I’m looking forward to getting more. I know that the Mayor wants 100 miles of protected bike lanes in the city, and I want to make sure that the 25th Ward gets its fair share of them.
Brandon Gobel: [03:27] The Kinzie bike path here and the other protected bike lanes that are being built in the city are an integral part of the bike network that’s going to help promote bicycle commuters and commerce to move throughout the city.
Gabe Klein: [03:41]
It’s been a wonderful thing to launch the first protected bike lane
in the first 30 days of the Mayor’s tenure. I think it’s excited
the cycling community out there and the advocates. It’s also
shown that it makes streets safer for everybody, for pedestrians, cyclists
and motor vehicle users.
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