UPTOWN — A meeting about plans to bring protected bike lanes to a stretch of Broadway in Uptown drew a mix of about 50 cyclists and motorists with one goal in mind: How to keep both sets of vehicles safe on the busy stretch of road.
Currently, North Broadway — a 70-foot-wide, four-lane street with no median and no designated bike lane accommodations — is due for a safety upgrade, according to Chicago Department of Transportation officials and the cycling community.
The meeting was held in conjunction with the office of Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and city transportation officials at Weiss Memorial Hospital.
Under a new plan to alter the roadway, North Broadway between Montrose and Foster could be a two-lane street with one turn lane, as opposed to the current four-lane configuration in which the outer two lanes share space with parking and cyclists.
"We're very confident we can do a 'road diet' out here," said Michael Amsden, a CDOT senior planner, saying that while the term "road diet" may not be ideally attractive, the benefits from such a transition could save lives.
Though the project is still in its design phase, Amsden said changes to the 1.05-mile stretch of Broadway could be made by the end of the year.
According to Amsden, the bike-centric plan will ultimately slow traffic and make the street safer to cross for the neighborhood's "most vulnerable population."
"Our budget is pretty limited," Amsden told the crowd. "But what we're trying to do now is start the process of making Broadway safer for everyone."
However, a point of future contention will likely be the projected loss of four parking spots along the strip — overall, some spots will be gained in the transition, but others, in an overall net loss, will have to go.
Other changes to the bustling street may include the prohibition of left turns at the Leland Avenue intersection, well-known to regular commuters for its low visibility where the street meets several rows of pillars at a Red Line crossing.
The width of the road, already choked with cars, cyclists, train commuters and buses, narrows to 60 feet between Wilson and Foster, according to CDOT.
While cyclists will still have to share a relatively small space with buses, according to the new plan, protected bike lanes will be included with the road revisions, Amsden said.
Along the stretch, there were 909 motor vehicle accidents between 2006 and 2010, according to CDOT. One was fatal and 23 involved a bike.
Attendees at the meeting represented nearly every major group that would be impacted by the plan, including one motorist who said she "nearly killed a cyclist the other day."
"Thank God there wasn't a car in the lane next to me," the motorist said, explaining how she and the cyclist avoided certain death.
Under the new plan, a center turn lane would eliminate the last-second passing often seen in four-lane traffic when a vehicle makes a left turn, abruptly stopping all traffic behind it.
According to Eric Hanss of Bike Uptown, the plan is a welcome change to "enliven streets, enliven business and improve safety."
"A lot of us over the years have looked at Broadway as a great opportunity," he said.