OLD TOWN — It's been more than two years since Bobby Cann was struck and killed by an allegedly drunk driver while riding his bike down Clybourn Avenue.
On Monday, Illinois Department of Transportation workers started work on installing curb-protected bike lanes along the route that 26-year-old Cann was riding.
The new curb-protected lanes are a step up from the lanes along Kinzie Downtown as they will separate vehicles and bicycles with three-foot-wide concrete medians that will run the length of Clybourn and onto a stretch of Division Street.
When Cann's mother, Maria Cann, heard that the project was finally underway Monday she was elated.
"Bobby would be so honored to know that something positive came from this," Maria Cann said. "That would make Bobby so happy."
Paul Biasco talks about the new bike lane:
The project is being viewed as an experiment, according to IDOT, as it's the first of its kind constructed by the state transportation agency.
IDOT intends to study elements of the design to implement in statewide projects in the future.
IDOT is taking charge of this particular project because Clybourn is an official state route unlike most other Chicago roads.
The barrier-protected lanes will run down Clybourn Avenue between North Avenue and Division as well as on Division between Clybourn and Orleans Street.
The lanes will separate the bike lane from parked cars and vehicle traffic and take Clybourn down to one lane of traffic at all times.
Before Monday, parking was banned along Clybourn during morning and evening rush hours to create two lanes of traffic in each direction for two hours.
IDOT was considering two plans as of last year and decided on the plan that included a longer barrier and a greater loss in parking spaces along Clybourn.
Not everyone is on board with the project, mainly due to the loss of parking along Clybourn.
Directly across from a memorial for Cann on Clybourn just north of Division Street sits New Zaika, a Pakistani restaurant that includes a prayer room in the basement.
The restaurant and its prayer room are frequented by many in the Muslim community, including many cab drivers who come to New Zaika multiple times a day and park out front.
The Islamic prayer schedule usually includes praying before dawn, at midday, in the afternoon, in the early evening and before bed.
It typical to see rows of cabs parking down Clybourn near the restaurant, which is open 24 hours a day, at any time of the day.
Mohammad Rafiq, owner of New Zaika, 1316 N. Clybourn Ave., said he understood the need to better protection for bikers, but thought the loss of parking would kill his business.
He estimated that more than 100 people come each day to pray, and most of his customers are people who had come to pray — many of them four times a day.
"If they don't come, who am I going to serve?" Rafiq said.
The construction of barrier-protected lanes will limit parking to one side of Clybourn and result in a net loss of 65 spaces, according to IDOT.
The slimmed-down version of the plan would have resulted in the loss of 43 spaces, but would not have included barrier-protection between Larrabee and Division.
Marcus Moore, the owner of Yojimbo's Garage directly across from Cann's memorial, is in a peculiar situation.
Moore was a witness of Cann's horrific crash in May 2013 and runs a bike shop.
It would seem like a no-brainer to support the barrier-protected lane, Moore said, but it could also hurt his business.
"It's going to be a big experiment," Moore said. "I'm kind of neutral. I'm not sure what to expect."
Moore said the fact IDOT was putting resources to creating the first state-protected-lane was huge, but he said maintenance would be a big issue.
Lincoln Park resident Andrew Herman said he rode daily and Clybourn Avenue would be his route of choice if it were safer.
The lack of a bike lane has forced him to change his route.
"That's really the reason I don't take it as often because there aren't safe ways to get down the street," Herman said. "If I was heading Downtown and that [curb-protected lane] existed, I would go down Clybourn."
Herman said it would be "huge" that the lane would be physically separated from vehicle traffic rather than simply having extra buffer space like most other lanes in the city.
"That's a great way to get people [who are] uncomfortable with city riding out there and feeling safe," he said.
The first phase of construction will involve building on the east side of Clybourn and the south side of Division. The second phase will complete the project by adding lanes to the west side of Clybourn and north side of Division.
Construction will require lane closures daily, according to IDOT.
The project is expected to be complete in early August.
The city's first curb-protected lanes were constructed by city workers in May in Douglas Park along a quarter-mile stretch of Sacramento Boulevard between Ogden Avenue and Douglas Boulevard.
That project did not affect parking.
"The hard thing about Chicago is they put in all these small structures without many miles. It feels like disconnected pieces," Herman said. "I guess they have to start somewhere, so putting in a half-mile stretch here is a good start.”
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