Go Green Go Dutch: ThinkBike Chicago Workshop Day 2 – Results

Think Bike Workshops

After the public session last Thursday morning, the Dutch folks grabbed their bikes, split up into two teams — Blue and Orange — and rode  off into our city.   The Blue team focused on the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and the Orange team looked at the Washington-Madison transportation corridor.  Both teams noted the major bike-related differences between Chicago and the Netherlands as follows:

  • Winter weather challenges (ice, snow)
  • Entitled attitudes of motorists
  • Lack of enforcement of existing bike-lanes and bike-related laws
  • School-age children often prohibited from riding bikes to school
  • A city of taller buildings and a higher population density.

That last one surprised me because I have always assumed that Amsterdam was a very densely populated city.  While it’s not exactly bucolic,  according to the numbers on Wikipedia, Amsterdam has about 1,000 less people per square mile than Chicago.  Given all these challenges though, you’ll note that they didn’t see our city as one in which change would be overwhelmingly difficult to accomplish.

The Blue Team and Lincoln Park

The Blue team road around the neighborhood, noted major arterial streets, existing bike paths,  as well as major attractions/destinations.  Their suggestions focused on changing traffic patterns by leaving major arterial streets as is  (Fullerton, Armitage, North, Clark, Halsted)  and between those streets would establish Safe Zones – streets with speed limits of 20 mph. They also proposed designating specific bike routes through the neighborhood as “Safe Cycle Routes” .

ThinkBike Blue Team - Safe Zones

One of the other interesting proposals that the Blue Team came up with was too move bike traffic to the opposite side of park cars, thereby providing cyclists with a bit of a buffer zone between themselves and traffic,  and to lessen the risk of being ‘doored’.  Here is one of their ideas for reconfiguring Armitage Avenue.

ThinkBike Chicago - Armitage Avenue Recommendations

The suggestions for Clark Street were a little more dramatic, but also included adding a median and turning lane for motorists, which would help pedestrians cross at points where the street is wider.

ThinkBike Chicago - Clark Street Recommendations

The Orange Team and The Washington-Madison Corridor

In their review of the streets that comprise this current Chicago transportation corridor, the Orange team noted that while Madison has some dedicated bus lanes and right/left turn lanes, Washington street does not. In fact, Washington street has alternating right and left turn lanes, no bus lanes, and various parking and loading zones. Both streets narrow at the bridge over the Chicago River. All of these are pose dangers to cyclists.  They came up with three possible options for short-term changes that focused on reconfiguring the existing street lanes, and also provided pros and cons for each option.

  • Right‐side Protected Bike Lane & Bus Lane
    • Pros
      • Protection from moving vehicles
      • Protection from illegal standing/loading
      • No right‐turn conflict for bikes/pedestrians
      • Minimizes loss of parking/loading
    • Cons
    • Difficult overtaking for buses
    • Separate signal phase needed for turn & bike/bus
    • Lose thru lane
    • Left turns difficult for cyclists
  • Left‐side On‐street Bike Lane
    • Pros
      • Separates bike/ bus interaction
      • Minimizes loss of parking/loading
    • Cons
      • No protected lane for buses
      • No protection for cyclists from overtaking traffic
      • Bikes in atypical position
  • Left‐side Protected Cycle Track
    • Pros
      • Bikes protected from overtaking traffic
      • Protection for bikes from left turn conflicts
      • Minimized loss of parking/loading
      • Separates bike/bus interaction
      • Potential for green elements to be incorporated
    • Cons
      • No protection for bus lane
      • Separate signal phasing required for bike & left turns
      • Drainage requires modification
      • Maintenance responsibility

ThinkBike Chicago - On Street Separate Bike Lane Example

An example of the second option, a separate lane on the street on the outside of the bus lane.

ThinkBike Chicago - Protected Cycle Track Example

This is an example of the third option, a protected cycle track in New York City.

All of these options would require upgrades to bike lane color and/or textures,  possible grade changes, bicycle boxes  and perhaps even signals or hard or soft barriers.  Also,  issues around parking, signals,  loading and deliveries, and sidewalk space would need to be addressed as well.

All in all though,  I’d say both teams were  productive given they only had a couple of days to come into our city, observe, and make recommendations.  Hans Voerknecht (Manager of the International Dutch Bike Council) also wrote up his own summary of the workshop findings from his Team Blue perspective that I’ll publish next in it’s own post. And, the Dutch will be taking their show on the road again this year to DC and Miami – you should be able to follow the events on the embassy’s website.

Many of the  recommendations listed above parallel the proposals that our own Active Transportation Alliance has drawn up as well.  Check out their legislative agenda for this year and the myriad of other activities they are involved in to make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  Keep and eye on them and encourage the Alliance as well as your elected officials to act on the recommendations that were pulled together last week to make our city a safer environment for everyone.

I’ve uploaded the complete documents from the Blue and Orange teams below – the Blue team .pdf is a large file so it may take a minute or so to load.

ThinkBike Workshop – Blue Team Findings

ThinkBike Workshop – Orange Team Findings

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