Chicago Completes Installation Of First Protected Bike Lane, Announces Second On The Way

The Chicago Department of Transportation on Monday announced the completion and official opening of the city's first protected bike lane, located along a half-mile stretch of Kinzie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street on the city's near north side.

The Kinzie stretch, which cost roughly $140,000 to install, is just the first of 25 protected bike lanes that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein plan to install on an annual basis in order to achieve the goal of "making Chicago the best big city for bicycling in the United States," according to a statement.

The improvements to Kinzie, as HuffPost Chicago previously reported, entail a marked lane directly next to the curb in each direction, with a three-foot "buffer" area with flexible marker posts and a parking lane for automobiles.

According to the city, the protected lane has already proven popular with bicyclists as recent counts of bicycle traffic during the morning rush hour at the corner of Kinzie and Clinton have already seen a 60 percent increase over last year's numbers. By last week, bicycles accounted for just less than half the morning rush hour traffic on southbound Milwaukee Avenue at Kinzie.

Nearly half of the cyclists using the new Kinzie lane also said they felt the addition of the new lane was improving motorist behavior, in line with Klein's claim that the improvement would have an impact on pedestrian and motorist safety as well as cyclist safety.

The next protected lane, they also announced, will be installed along Jackson Boulevard between Damen Avenue and Halsted Street, just south of the United Center and north of Malcolm X College and the city's Medical District. Construction of the Jackson lane is set to begin in early August in coordination with an upcoming street resurfacing.

As NBC Chicago reports, the city had originally received a $3.2 million federal grant in order to pilot a protected bike lane along Stony Island Avenue (between 69th and 77th streets), but that project was cancelled due to low usage. This effort seems to be receiving a much better (though still not universally enthusiastic) reception.