Evanston’s Transportation and Parking Committee this week debated how to fit a two-way bike path onto Chicago Avenue downtown.

Senior City Engineer Sat Nagar showed preliminary designs for the three block route down the west side of the street from Sheridan Road to Davis Street that would help link the Northwestern University campus to downtown.

He immediately ran into static from Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, over the plans for the northern edge of the route — where Chicago Avenue intersects with Sheridan Road.

“That does not make any sense at all, what you’re proposing,” Burrus said of the plan to have cyclists cross Sheridan at the busy intersection.

Nagar conceded that the intersection presents difficult issues. “We’ve had several meetings in the field about how to make that intersection work,” he said.

He noted that the intersection now has an “all red” segment to its light cycle to allow pedestrians to cross, and suggested that could be used by cyclists as well.

But with plans for bike paths on Sheridan Road still up in the air, Nagar said, there are still a variety of other options under consideration — including having the path continue block further north along the west side of Sheridan to the next traffic light.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, who chairs the committee, with Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons.

Nagar said no trees would be removed from Chicago Avenue for the path, and Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said he hopes the city can make up for the loss of on-street parking spaces by dedicating the first level of the Church Street garage to short term parking.

That garage is never full now, Lyons said.

Nagar said he wants to maintain two lanes of auto traffic in each direction on Chicago Avenue between Church and Davis streets. That block gets extra traffic as drivers loop between the two one-way streets.

But committee member Paul Giddings suggested that two travel lanes plus a dedicated turn lane would be sufficient — and could avoid having to strip parking from the block.

Plans for bike lanes on Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road are scheduled to be discussed at a public meeting on Saturday morning, July 19, at the Evanston Public Library.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. What doesn’t make any sense . . .

    It's unclear why the Alderman thought it doesn't make any sense to have bikes cross at Sheridan and Chicago where there's already a well-established pedestrian crossing where the lights turn red in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross.  Instead, it would be better to have the bikes cross further north, where there's less room and just as much traffic??

    No, what doesn't make any sense about this is tearing up parking throughout downtown for dedicated bike lanes that hardly anyone uses and that present additional dangers to pedestrians, motorists, parkers, and cyclists alike.  Ever try helping a child or an older person out of the CURB side of a car while standing not on the curb but in the middle of a bike lane, where a bike could hit you at anytime?  Welcome to Evanston.

    1. Use the parking garages

       Ever try helping a child or an older person out of the CURB side of a car while standing not on the curb but in the middle of a bike lane, where a bike could hit you at anytime?

      Another good reason you should use the parking garages. 

    2. Look both ways before crossing traffic

      What doesn't make sense is to keep a handful of parking spots in downtown Evanston instead of updating an outdated infastructure paradigm.

      As far as the safety of a bike lane is concerned: Do you look both ways (with or without the young/elderly) before stepping into street traffic? If you treat the bike lanes as you would a motorized traffic lane, you will find that it can be very safe.

      1. Not the point

        You apparently aren't familiar with the bike lanes I'm referencing.  You can't help but stand in the middle of the bike lane while helping people in and out of the curb side of a car.  It's not a question of looking both ways.  I would add, however, that bikes are supposed to yield to pedestrians, and since when do you have to look both ways for vehicles between the curb and a parked car?  Why not have the cars parked in the middle of the road with lanes of traffic on either side?  Just look both ways and it won't be a problem, the reasoning would go.

        I don't think the businesses in downtown Evanston would support your plan to get rid of all the street parking in downtown.

        1. Great idea

          I think the idea of the cars parked in the middle of the road with traffic on either side is a great idea – at least then you will realize that the bike lane IS a lane of traffic. 

          As for looking both ways – I presume you look both ways when you cross other lanes of traffic. Why disregard those of us who bike to work and to other businesses in Evanston because you are too lazy to turn your head? 

          1. One-way lanes

            Even if you think the parking in the middle of the street makes sense — and I don't — it doesn't work well on Church and Davis.  

            People aren't conditioned to look both ways on a one-way street.  Yet bikes go the wrong way in the bike lines on Davis and Church all the time — even though they are marked one way.  It's dangerous. It would be good if the police ticketed some bikers to discourage this.

    3. If only bikers used those lanes…

      …but no: they'd much rather ride fast on the sidewalks, swear and shout at pedestrians walking on the sidewalks where they belong, and knock them down when they can.   That's the most frequent story I encounter as a pedestrian on Davis and Church Streets downtown.  The last time I got knocked down the biker spat in my face before riding away.  So much for the supposed civility of the North Shore.

      1. pedestrians vs bike riders

        A complaint about careless bike riders!

        I hope 'Lady T' has recovered.  Such incidents leave one sore long afterwards. I know.   I was recently run into from behind and knocked down while walking on a path near the lake, I feel rather viscerally that there needs to be stricter attention paid to the way those walking, driving and biking share public spaces. 

        There are many bike riders out there who obey traffic signs and otherwise act courteously to walkers and drivers alike.  Then there are the others!  I think many lives must have been saved by drivers  who braked for bikers who never paid heed to stop signs or red traffic lights.  Perhaps the time has come to license bicicyle riders.

        1. Licensing

          The vast majority of bicycle riders over the age of 16 already are licensed — as automobile drivers.

          Perhaps there should be more about bikes on the drivers test?

          — Bill

    4. bikes at pedestrian crossings

      The bike riders should be allowed to cross, as long as they walked their bikes across!  Bikes ridden  at speeds of seveal miles per hour at the same time pedestrians are crossing  sounds like a scenario for likely accidents- these in the middle of a busy road.

  2. Just what we need…another bike path

    Just what we need, another bike path! And, coincidentally, one that would aid the students at NU. Maybe we should consider the citizens of Evanston who pay their real estate taxes and city vehicle tax. Possibly NU could give up some of their tax-free land and create their own bike path!

    1. Bikes are great for businesses

      I am all for improving and expanding bike lanes, bike parking and overall safety for bikers and pedestrians. I cannot believe how narrow minded some people are about biking. And also, this tired old  "blame Northwestern" make them pay more, etc. The fact is without Northwestern this city would be in a horrible position. Northwestern brings an incredibly diverse and international crowd to this city. What they fail to pay in taxes they make up for in other ways. To be honest if NU was not here we would be an extension of Rogers Park face major economic obstacles. I should add- I did not go to NU, nor do I work there- I just appreciate what they add to this city. 

      Cars do not pay a special tax that entitles them to the roads. I have a car and I also have a bike. I prefer to ride my bike to work, the grocery store, take my kids to school, etc. also pay taxes. I want biking to be safer and easier in this city. The city has done a great job to try and begin making this a more biker friendly community. The future of transportation is expansion of biking and public transportation. People who want believe that cars have more rights to the road than bikers need to realize cars have no more legal right to the road than bikers. Yes bikers must yield to pedestrians- just as cars do. But pedestrians who choose to cross outside of cross walks or cut across moving traffic do so at their own risk. I cars and bikes traveling in their designated lane of traffic There is already too much car parking and not enough bike parking. I don't think it is unreasonable to have to park in a garage and walk a little to a store. It would be more equitable if the city converted 2-3 metered car spots in each shopping district into a bike corrals.  Converting 1 parking spot allows 12-15 people to park, rather than 1 car. I am confident that the city will continue to expand and improve bike lanes and bike parking. It is exciting to live in a city that is trying to be so forward thinking. I believe that it is because Evanston is so progressive and environmentally friendly that the city is becoming home to so many new and exciting businesses. 

      1. Car Usage Taxes

        "Cars do not pay a special tax that entitles them to the roads"

        1. City Sticker

        2. State Motor vehicle License

        3. City Motor Fuel Tax

        4. State Motor Fuel Tax

        5. Federal Motor fuel Tac

        6. Pay to park ( street or garage)

        1. Cost of Cars vrs. Bikes

          Cars cost millions for new roads, road repairs, very expensive bridges, parking gargages, extra snow plowing, and on and on.

          Not to mention the pollution, traffic accidents, long traffic lines after an accident.

          If gas was taxed at market rate—to cover pollutions, roads, bridges, you would need to add another $4-5 per gallon. Of course all the revenue that is raised for these items gets shiphoned off by government bodies for their own special projects that have nothing to do with transportation—unless you count roads to 'no where' that they build in THEIR district to get more votes.

      2. If this were Beijing, the

        If this were Beijing, the current bike lane madness which is gripping both Evanston and Chicago might make sense but it's not. The air moral superiority which bikers have assumed, typified by Judy's letter, is haughty nonsense. If you think businesses are so pro-bike, try floating a proposal to ban downtown Evanston on-street car parking in favor of bike lanes and bike parking and see how long it takes before the Chamber of Commerce is ready to burn down city hall. Business was bad enough during our "Chi-beria" winter. How bad would it have been if you'd had to bike through mountains of snow, icy streets, and freezing cold to shop or dine downtown?  Moreover, there's nothing "forward thinking" about creating more traffic congestion by reducing car traffic lanes in favor of bike lanes. Many still avoid downtown Evanston because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that parking is "difficult."  Narrowing streets and reducing street parking will only compound the problem. And the bike lanes, like on the south side of Church, do make it a challenge to drop off an elderly or disabled person curbside. I know because I've had to do it. I don't have problem with bikers or bike lanes. But I despise the bike community's holier-than-thou cant. And trading a 20th century form of transport for 19th century one ain't progress. No way, no how.

        1. As someone who grew up in

          As someone who grew up in Europe where everyone bikes, I continue to be surprised by the hostility towards all things bike-related often displayed in the comments section here. A couple of thoughts:

          – Some people's comments seem to be motivated mainly by anger at rude bikers, using sidewalks, disobeying traffic laws etc. I am sure that some of those exist, just as there exist many incredibly rude (and dangerous) drivers in cars. However, I do not see how this is relevant to the issue of building new bike lanes. New bike lanes are not primarily for existing bikers (who obviously bike already now, even the lack of infrastructure), but to make it possible for many other people to use the bike as well. Where I am from, people use their bikes every day well into their seventies and eighties. They do this because biking is healthy, cheap, and above all, safe. I see hardly any older people biking in Evanston, and my guess is that this is because it is not safe for them now. The only way to make biking more accessible is to create infrastructure that can be used by more people than the fearless bike-messenger set. We should be asking: What changes will make people in their seventies and eighties (and also families with small children on bikes) feel comfortable biking in Evanston?

          – Again based on European experience, the two ways to make biking safe is to create separate bike lanes, or to mix all traffic in streets where traffic moves very slowly (say, 10-15 mph), implemented through ubiquitous speed bumps etc. For main through streets such as Chicago, Church, or Davis, I don't think there is any sensible alternative to separated bike lanes.

          Some may feel that the current car-centric infrastructure is just fine and that there is no need to make biking safe for everyone, including especially the elderly. But assuming that we want Evanston to be bike friendly (with all the associated benefits for health, the environment etc.), the city is doing exactly the right thing, and the proposed changes to Sheridan and Chicago are a further step in the right direction. For sure, there are some kinks to be worked out (my personal pet peeve about the Church lane: cars using the bike lane between Chicago and Orrington as a temporary parking lane; the delivery drivers for the restaurants there are serial offenders; bikers than have to swerve into car traffic, once again making biking less safe for seniors and children in particular). But we can have a constructive debate about details without falling back to the tired old cars-versus-bikes battle again.

        2. A couple of counterpoints

          1. You obviously have a 1972 perspective of Beijing. China's legendary bicycle commuters fell prey to a booming economy and many gave up their bikes for statusy motorscooters and cars. Tourists and residents can now enjoy the ever intensing pollution in the skies of the capital city. Better comparisons might be The Netherlands and Denmark, which host thriving biking populations of all ages in even tighter urban environments.

          2. Reread your rather buried sentence, "I don't have problem with bikers or bike lanes…" then please reconsider nearly ever sentence you composed above and below it. 

        3. Bike lanes

          Judy's letter is typical liberal Evanston nonsense. Why not raise taxes even more and chase all small business from Evanston so we can accomodate more even more dangerous bike lanes. How about concentrating our resources on crime, schools and improving city services.

      3. My thoughts exactly

        Well said, Judy. I agree with everything you said. I am very glad the city supports biking, and I look forward to the bike lane on Chicago (which was needed, and not only for NU, but everyone that lives up north, or wants to go to the Lighthouse Beach, Central St., etc). To think of bikes as outdated is nonsense. If anything, most modern countries in the world are encouraging more sustainable ways of transportation like biking! Changing mentalities takes time, and I am grateful that the City's decisions are putting our city on the right track.

  3. Chicago Ave Bike Path

    I love the idea that the city is creating so many bike paths, but I think one for Chicago Ave is senseless. As a biker, why woudkl I want to bike up busy, ugly, dangerous Chicago Ave when lovely, relaxing, tree-lined and safer Hinman Ave exists? 


  4. Yay!

    Seriously glad to see the city continue to put effort into making biking a better, safer way to get around our beautiful city.  Being a parent of two and a life long biker I have been making good, regular use of so many of the bike lanes that have been made all over our city. The shifted parking lanes along busy streets are an elegant solution to a problem not so easily soved – they achieve safety for bikers and motorists while spending very little money to implement. On streets that are wide enough, it's great.  Yes, motor passengers and bikers need to share that space and as long as we educate bikers to give right of way, it works.

    As for rude and irresponsible bikers, I know that the Evanston police have spent some effort on regulating bike traffic downtown (as they more often do for motorized traffic), hopefully that helps.  As a biker I hate that there are people who behave this way and give bikers a bad name. As a biker I for one will always be aware and respectful of my fellow travelers, whether on foot, car or bike.  I'm looking forward to seeing more people transfer to biking as a regular method of travel. I plan to set a good example.

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