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Dearborn Street Bike Lane Named Best Protected Route of 2013

 Bike riders test drive the new Dearborn Street protected bike lanes.
Bike riders test drive the new Dearborn Street protected bike lanes.
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THE LOOP — Two of Chicago's new protected bike lanes were named in a cycling advocacy group's roundup of the 10 best buffered routes in the country.

People for Bikes named the Dearborn Street protected bike lane the best in the U.S. Tuesday.

"Chicago’s 1.2-mile showpiece isn’t the country’s most sophisticated downtown bikeway because of its on-street markings, though they’re excellent, or its quick-and-simple plastic-post barriers. The really remarkable thing about Dearborn is that bikes get their own traffic signals." wrote Michael Andersen, a staff writer at People for Bikes' protected barrier advocacy program, The Green Lane Project, which partnered with Chicago and five other cities this year to support bike lane expansion with technical and strategic assistance and grant money.

 CDOT officials said they're planning to move ahead with constructing barrier and buffer protected bicycle lanes on a .85- mile stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between Kinzie Street and Elston Avenue.  The project is expected to begin in May and will cost $1.1 million, using $250,000 of tax increment financing from a River West TIF district. 
Barrier and/or Buffer Protected Bike Lanes
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"Maybe that's why stoplight compliance has soared from 31 percent to 81 percent and bike traffic has more than doubled since the lane went in. Did we mention that one of its local fans has given the lane its own Twitter feed? We challenge any other street project in the country to inspire such devotion."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office accepted the designation proudly, Tweeting Wednesday: "It's official. named best protected bike lane in America."

The protected bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue in River North also got a nod, ranked seventh in a list that includes paths in Seattle, San Francisco and Austin.

Andersen praised the Milwaukee Avenue path's combination of "physically protected lanes with stretches buffered by paint" as "a lesson to planners: the best place to put a buffered lane isn't necessarily where you wish people would pedal, but where they're already pedaling."

When the protected lanes were planned, however, residents and business owners were not thrilled about the lanes taking away their precious few parking spots. And further northwest on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, cyclists have complained about a "dooring epidemic" that has injured many riders.

"I'm really getting fed up with hearing about cyclists' blood being spilled on Milwaukee Avenue, Wicker Park and Logan Square from dooring crashes that might have been prevented by protected bike lanes," Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield wrote over the summer. "The time to act is now, before a fatal crash makes the need for safer biking conditions even more painfully obvious."