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City officials and community members today marked the official opening of Chicago’s first protected bike lane along Kinzie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street.
The protected lane features three main elements: a marked lane adjacent to the curb in each direction along Kinzie; a buffered area with flexible marker posts, and a parking lane for automobiles. Green paint and pavement markings depicting a bicycle help further define the lane.
Kinzie retains a lane for motor vehicles in each direction.
“This improvement will benefit not only bicyclists, but pedestrians and motorists as well,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. Vehicles tend to slow down and become more aware of bicyclists, he said, and pedestrians benefit from the defined environment for cars and bikes.
“Everything we do for one mode of travel should benefit the other modes of travel,” Klein said.
The ½-mile-long lane is the first in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to install 25 miles of protected bike lanes each year—to help achieve his goal of making Chicago the best big city for bicycling in the United States.
Klein also announced the location of the city’s next protected bike lane: Jackson Boulevard from Damen Avenue to Halsted Street. Like Kinzie, Jackson was chosen for its available roadway width, existing bike traffic and connections to existing bike lanes and bike routes.
Work on Jackson is set to begin by early August, and the work will be coordinated with an upcoming resurfacing project along Jackson.
Most of the Kinzie lane was completed in early July. The last element—custom-fitted plates that cover the Kinzie bridge’s open-grate deck to create a smooth riding surface—was installed late last week. The plates were installed with temporary fasteners; permanent fasteners will be installed in August.
Already, the lane is proving very popular with bicyclists: Recent counts of bicycle traffic during the morning rush hour at Kinzie and Clinton saw a 60 percent increase over May 2011 counts—from 413 bicyclists to 656. Both counts were taken on good-weather days.
And a week ago, bicycles accounted for about 48 percent of the morning rush hour traffic on southbound Milwaukee at Kinzie—819 bicyclists vs. 892 motor vehicles.
For more info on the bike counts, click here.
CDOT has also surveyed Kinzie bicyclists about their experience with the new lane. 41 percent said Kinzie was not part of their normal route before the protected lane was installed, but is now. And 49 percent said they feel motorist behavior has improved.
“That’s exactly the kind of change we’re hoping to achieve,” Klein said.
The Kinzie lane cost roughly $140,000 to install. The Chicago-based SRAM Cycling Fund donated $10,000 worth of pavement markings to the project. Cost estimates for the Jackson lane are not yet finalized.
SRAM officials, along with Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) and officials from the Active Transportation Alliance participated in the ribbon-cutting.