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Chicago's Near North Side to Get Safer Cycling Routes

Young man riding a bicycle on a road in Chicago.

Chicago has seen a surge in cycling as residents increasingly choose eco-friendly transportation options. However, safer cycling routes are necessary to protect bicyclists from potential risks. Some of the most common dangers Chicago bicyclists face include rush hour traffic, dooring, poor road conditions, dangerous intersections, and negligent driving (e.g., speeding, texting, aggressive behavior toward cyclists).

City officials have made strides to address these risks and protect bicyclists. The bicycle accident attorneys at Keating Law Offices, P.C. understand the risks cyclists in Chicago face. We are cyclists ourselves, and we fight to help hold those injured by negligent drivers accountable.

Where Is Chicago Accommodating Safer Cycling Routes?

The city's efforts to accommodate bicyclists are evident at the intersection of Wells Street (200 W.) and Chicago Avenue (800 N.) in River North, where the only bike counter stands. On a recent post-Labor Day ride, Chicagoans took to the streets, with the bike counter registering an estimated 715 riders.

While this surge in cycling enthusiasm is heartening, it also highlights a significant challenge: the need for safer cycling routes from North Lakefront neighborhoods to downtown. Bicyclists need to find lower-stress biking options with protection from vehicle traffic. One option is to detour to the Lakefront Trail, where cars are not allowed.

Also, painted bike lanes offer some protection on Wells Street, Clark Street (100 W.), and Dearborn Street (30 W.). These are widely used north-south on-street bike routes across the Near North Side.

How Is Cyclist Safety Being Addressed In Chicago?

The lanes North of Kinzie Street (400 N.) in River North lack physical barriers. This leaves bicyclists vulnerable to hazardous driver behavior. Thankfully, a brighter future seems to be on the horizon for Dearborn, Clark, and Wells Streets.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is actively upgrading the painted northbound bike lane on the west side of Dearborn. They're adding concrete protection between Kinzie and Chicago Avenue, covering about half a mile. The plan involves relocating the bike lanes curbside. It will also move car parking to the right.

The introduction of concrete islands alongside the northbound Dearborn bike lane at key intersections aims to enhance bicyclist safety. Here's how:

  • Islands will protect bicyclists from left-turning drivers. This is a common risk on Dearborn in River North.
  • Islands will also reduce crossing distances for pedestrians.
  • A dedicated bike signal phase at the Chicago Avenue intersection will further separate bicyclists from left-turning drivers.

Additional CDOT Developments For Safer Cycling Routes

Protected bike lanes have been proposed on Wells Street from Lincoln Avenue (1800 N.) to near Chicago Avenue (800 N.) in 2024. This project may be a game-changer for North Side bike riders, providing a low-stress north-south route.

The good news continues with plans for a protected bike lane on Clark Street, south of Walton Street (930 N.). This could provide ample room for conversion to a protected bike lane, as it becomes a "superwide" one-way southbound street with three mixed-traffic lanes.

While not an immediate reality, CDOT is actively evaluating opportunities to convert buffered bike lanes into protected lanes without removing parking lanes. This is outlined in the Chicago Cycling Strategy. It also underscores the commitment to improving cycling infrastructure in Chicago.

Remaining Challenges For Chicago Bicyclists

While these developments offer hope for safer cycling routes, some challenges remain. Notably, the proposed protected bike lanes on Wells Street face obstacles due to the prevalence of delivery drivers blocking non-protected bike lanes and mixed-traffic lanes. This often happens between Division Street (1200 N.) and North Avenue (1600 N.) in Old Town.

The presence of restaurants and bars without alleys exacerbates this issue. It makes the removal of a parking lane in this densely commercial stretch complicated.

The attorneys at Keating Law Offices, P.C. understand the importance of safer cycling routes. We fully endorse these new developments. However, drivers still have an obligation to watch out for bicyclists and share the road with them respectfully. When their failure to do so results in a bicyclist's injury, we'll fight to hold them accountable.

To find out how we can help you in the event of a bicycle accident, contact us for a free consultation. We have law offices in the Loop and West Town sections of Chicago.

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