OLD TOWN — Plans are underway to install Chicago's first barrier-protected bike lane along Clybourn Avenue in Old Town, which will serve as a test run for the city.
The proposal, presented to the public at a meeting Thursday night, included constructing a 3-foot-wide curb on each side of Clybourn separating the bike lane from parked cars and vehicle traffic.
"This would be the first use of concrete physical separation," said Nathan Roseberry, a senior engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation. "We are going to be using this project as a means to study elements of the design to see how they work, see how they can be improved.”
The goals of the project are to reduce crashes, increase transportation options and evaluate the curb-protected lanes for other future uses.
IDOT officials presented two options that they are considering for the project.
The first proposal would include barrier-protected lanes on both sides of the street from Halsted Street to Division Street.
A second proposal, presented as an alterative, would include barrier-protected lanes from Halsted to Larrabee, and then a striped bike lane from Larrabee to Division. That option would preserve parking spaces, but would get rid of the physical separation between cyclists and vehicle traffic.
Both options would take Clybourn down to one lane of traffic at all times and result in a loss of parking along the street.
Now, parking is banned along Clybourn during morning and evening rush hours to open up traffic to two lanes for two hours.
John Baczek, project and environmental studies chief at IDOT, said that stretch of Clybourn now sees about 11,000 cars a day, but could handle up to 16,000 or 17,000.
The construction of barrier-protected lanes would limit parking to one side of Clybourn and would result in a net loss of 65 spaces, according to IDOT.
If the agency decides on the slimmed-down plan, the net loss of spaces would be be 43.
The New City development, now under construction on the east side of Clybourn south of North Avenue, will include a 1,100-spot parking garage.
The plan also calls for creating barrier-protected lanes along Division Street between Clybourn and Orleans Street as well as a number of fixes to the tricky intersections to improve safety for pedestrians.
IDOT is working with the Chicago Department of Transportation on the project because the roadway is an official state route.
Whatever option is chosen, the departments plan on starting construction in the spring or summer of next year.
The stretch on Clybourn that is being considered includes the intersection where 26-year-old bicyclist Bobby Cann was struck and killed by an alleged drunken driver in the spring of 2013.
The city and IDOT had been considering the roadway for protected bike lanes before that crash, but they were awaiting results of a three-year study on protected lanes.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) spoke of Cann at Thursday night's meeting and was present at an unveiling of the honorary Bobby Cann Way street sign in October.
"After Bobby's death, it enhanced the conversation," Burnett said.
Residents at the meeting called the possibility of the city's first barrier-protected lane an opportunity for the whole city.
"I think this is a landmark opportunity for Chicago to try this out," said Lincoln Park resident Andrew Herman.
While Herman was living in New York, the city installed a major barrier-protected bike lane in 2011, which he said made him feel comfortable on the road.
"I'm never going to let my 7-year-old ride on a buffered bike lane or a traditional bike lane through a Chicago street," he said. "If you have a physical barrier bike lane, something protecting him, you have the option of little kids biking to school, getting around."
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