WICKER PARK — A congested stretch of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park has finally been overhauled in an effort to make the bike-heavy corridor safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
The recently added improvements include "dashed bike lanes," well-defined crosswalks and curbs protected by bollards, bright pavement markings for cyclists and pedestrians, two fewer bus stops and more.
Cars headed north on Damen Avenue can no longer turn right to go southbound on Milwaukee Avenue due to plastic poles that prohibit entry into the right "slip lane."
The pavement in the slip lane formerly used by cars has been painted a yellowish brown and provides more space for pedestrians.
Mike Amsden, a Chicago Department of Transportation planner, previously said as many as 1,000 pedestrians cross the Damen and Milwaukee slip lane — separated from two other Damen traffic lanes by a triangular concrete island — during peak morning and evening hours, while city data collectors observed just 32 cars turning right at that spot during the same period.
A second right "slip lane" removal at the Ashland and Milwaukee intersection still enables cars to turn right on Milwaukee Avenue to head north but not trucks because the turn would be too tight.
The triangular concrete islands in both slip lanes will not be removed at either location, Amsden said.
The changes — part of a pilot project impacting a 1.4-mile long stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between Division Street and Western Avenue — cost $200,000 and were described as "low-cost, quick-hitting pilot improvements" at a public meeting in July.
Pedestrians take over what CDOT officials said was an under-used car turn lane. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
The right turn slip lane at Ashland and Milwaukee Avenue has also been converted to pedestrian space.
Reactions to the closed right turn lane at Damen and Milwaukee have been mixed.
"It took me awhile to figure out what the changes are for, but it's safer now, especially at corners. Cars would yield, then turn too close to the sidewalk. Now it's blocked," said Lindsay Taras, a pedestrian.
Jose Prada, a worker at Lubinski Furniture, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., said the changes make it difficult for drivers of large vehicles to get to locations on Milwaukee.
Prada said the new bollards at Milwaukee and Honore, which are a few feet from the curb, cause trucks to make wider turns — making them more likely to stick out into traffic.
"Whoever made that decision has never driven a truck," Prada said of the changes.
The project will also see a loss of 32 metered parking spots along Milwaukee between Division and Western, which contains about 375 spaces — representing an 8.5 percent loss of the existing metered parking spaces. Check out this map to see where the lost parking spaces are located.
Amsden said on Wednesday that he is not sure when the parking spaces will be removed.
Other road users, including car drivers, praised improvements like the "dashed" bike lanes painted on the street.
"As a driver, I see the new [bike] lines. I like it when you can see the lines. I know where to be, they [cyclists] know where to be. It keeps us all safe," said Juan Salinas, an Avondale resident who was carefully parking his Nissan in front of a Milwaukee barber shop on Wednesday, as cyclists whizzed by.
Earlier this week, bright orange "WPB" bike racks were added to the Milwaukee and Oakley avenues intersection in front of Red & White Wines Shop, 1861 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Sponsored by the Special Service Area Taxpayer District No. 33, the racks were not part of the CDOT pilot project but "complement" the other improvements, Amsden said.
Catie Olson, an Avondale resident who works at Red & White Wine Shop, said that the bike racks are welcome, even though they displaced a loading zone that was relocated.
"[With] more people cycling, I think it's great. The [bike] racks made me quite happy," Olson said.
Other pilot project highlights:
New left turn lane for cyclists trying to get on The 606's elevated Bloomingdale Trail.
"Bike boxes" or bright green pavement areas for cyclists to wait at lights.
More pedestrian space and bollards to prevent sharp car turns at Milwaukee Avenue and Wood Street.
More pedestrian space at Wabansia and Milwaukee avenue and a bike lane on Wabansia.
New striping for pedestrians at Milwaukee and Oakley avenues, plus new bike racks.
Bollards at crosswalk at Milwaukee and Evergreen.