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Bike Lanes Set For Milwaukee Avenue in Portage Park, Old Irving Park

 Bicyclists ride in a buffered lane on Wabash Avenue.
Bicyclists ride in a buffered lane on Wabash Avenue.
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City of Chicago

PORTAGE PARK — Plans to install buffered bicycle lanes on Milwaukee Avenue between Addison Street and Lawrence Avenue will require the removal of 92 parking spots, Ald. John Arena said.

All of the parking spots that will be removed to make way for the bicycle lanes are on the east side of Milwaukee between Addison and Irving Park Road because the road is too narrow to accommodate vehicle lanes, bike lanes and parking lanes in each direction, according to the alderman's office.

Eight surveys conducted at various times on weekdays and weekends by the Chicago Department of Transportation during the last several months found there was low demand for the spots along Milwaukee in Old Irving Park, especially between Kilpatrick Avenue and Addison, said Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff.

"The addition of buffered bike lanes along Milwaukee Avenue will increase the safety for all commuters and encourage alternative methods of transportation," Arena said in a statement.

Buffered bike lanes separate bicyclists from motorists and parked vehicles with extra space and lane markers, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Complete Streets project, which is designed to "ensure that everyone — pedestrians, transit users, bicyclists and motorists — can travel safely and comfortably along and across a street."

But no parking spots will be removed to make way for the bike lanes between Irving Park and Lawrence because of high demand for those spots, Arena said.

That means there will not be enough room for buffered bicycle lanes through the Six Corners Shopping District along Milwaukee to the Jefferson Park Business District, Arena said. Instead, "marked shared lanes" will be installed in that section of Milwaukee, he added.

The plan to install bike lanes along Milwaukee in Old Irving Park and Portage Park was the top-vote getter in the 45th Ward participatory budget election that took place in May 2015.

While the cost of the project was initially pegged at $60,000 during the election, the price tag is now approximately $100,000, Brugh said. The entire cost of the project will be covered by the $1.3 million Arena got in 2015 for discretionary capital projects and road resurfacing, Brugh added.

Work on the new bicycle lanes is expected to start late this summer or in early fall, Brugh said.

The plan for new bike lanes south of Lawrence comes two years after a furor erupted over a plan backed by Arena to remove a lane of traffic in each direction on Milwaukee north of Lawrence through Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park in order to improve safety — and install protected or buffered bicycle lanes.

Amid criticism during an election year that narrowing Milwaukee and removing parking spots would snarl traffic and hurt neighborhood businesses in an area that has struggled for years to fill empty storefronts, Arena dropped the plan.

Buffered bicycle lanes were installed between Carmen and Elston avenues by reducing the center turn lane.

In addition, the construction of the new bike lanes along Milwaukee between Addison and Irving Park will coincide with the relocation of several stops for the No. 56 bus on Milwaukee Avenue, Arena said.

The affected stops are:

• The northbound and southbound bus stop at Waveland Avenue will be removed because of low ridership.

• The southbound stop at Kilbourn Avenue will be eliminated, and riders will be directed to the stop at the Grayland Metra station.

• The northbound and southbound stops at Wilson Avenue stop will be eliminated, and riders will be directed to board the bus at Laramie Avenue, near a traffic signal, to better protect pedestrians.

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