Dearborn protected bike lane almost unusable with snow

December 16, 2013 at 12:42 pm

During lunch today I went over to Macy’s to do a little Christmas shopping. I took Divvy because the 15-minute walk just feels like it takes too long; riding a bike it’s only about 5 minutes, give or take. I went north on Canal St from Union Station. It was pretty bad. When there wasn’t snow in the marked bike lane, there was a large UPS truck. For three blocks, there were 3 large trucks in the bike lane that also took up half of the adjacent driving lane. The rest of the ride was good.

It was coming back from Macy’s that was terrible. I took the Dearborn protected bike lane from Randolph to Adams. Snow has crusted over the entire surface of the southbound lane. South of Washington, one entire lane was completely unusable and forced me to wait for oncoming northbound bike traffic so I could go around.

There was also a car full of people parked in the bike lane at Madison. As I snapped the photo below, the Sheriff’s car in the background actually pulled up, flashed his lights and siren, and they slowly left the bike lane, waiting for their friend to cross the street full of moving traffic so she could get in the back of the two-door Honda.

This was the only time I’d seen a police officer/sheriff get someone out of any bike lane.

Further south there were pedestrians just waiting in the bike lane. This has always been a problem but it’s even worse when dodging miniature ice mountains in the bike lane, trying not to lose your Christmas purchases. I don’t understand why pedestrians can’t wait until the traffic is stopped; if you’re going to jaywalk (because many do), at least wait until there is a large gap in traffic.

I try to love the Dearborn protected bike lane, but sometimes I wonder… if this is apparently the #1 protected bike lane in the US, we’re not doing so well.

I think Vancouver sets a better example. While it doesn’t really snow there (apparently), the barriers to the sides of some of the downtown protected bike lanes are much better and might keep people out/establish its place on the street. And if you can’t cross those barriers to walk in-between the parked cars to cross the street mid-block, you won’t find pedestrians walking all over the lane.

Vancouver protected lane.

I can’t speak for snow removal in other cities, but Streetsblog did a good article on how bad it seems in Chicago. I don’t ride my bike all the way to work in the winter, usually opting for the CTA (unless the weather is very nice), but I do use my bike frequently for short neighborhood trips, and it’s been hit or miss. The “flagship” Dearborn lane is doing terribly, especially considering it’s been a few days since the last snowfall. There’s been plenty of time to clean this up.