Dodge bike lanes under attack


Despite reports showing a reduction in traffic accidents and injuries after installation of protected bike lanes on Dodge Avenue, complaints from some residents along the south end of the street will lead to a City Council discussion Monday of removing the lanes between Oakton and Howard streets.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, responding to the neighbors’ complaints, has asked for aldermen to consider whether the bike lanes are necessary.

In a memo to the Council, city staff says accidents on Dodge dropped nearly 18 percent, from 140 in 2015, the year before the bike lanes were installed, to 115 in 2017, the year after installation.

And the number of accidents with injuries declined by more than half, from 27 in 2015 to 11 in 2017.

The speed limit on Dodge was also reduced from 30 to 25 miles per hour in late 2016.

Some residents complained about the protected bike lanes as soon as they were installed. They argue that it’s inconvenient and hazardous to have cars parked away from the curb and that the new road configuration impedes the ability of emergency vehicles to get down the street quickly and makes it difficult for drivers turning onto Dodge from side streets to see oncoming traffic.

Some modifications to the bike lane design have been made in response to those complaints — including removing bollards near intersections that made it hard for drivers to find a space to pull over for emergency vehicles. 

But complaints have continued, most recently being aired at a mayor’s town hall meeting at the Levy Center earlier this month.

Shortly after the bike lanes went in, city staff estimated that it could cost nearly $1 million to remove them from the full length of the project — to strip the pavement markings and repay a grant the city received for the project.

In the memo for Monday’s meeting, Public Works Director Dave Stoneback says removing the pavement markings just from Oakton to Howard would cost about $150,000.

He says it’s unclear whether the city would have to return all, or  just a portion, of the $292,000 grant, but that returning the grant funds might also jeopardize the city’s chance of receiving future grants from the regional planning agency.

Update 3:10 p.m.:

Drivers blocking the bike lane at Dawes School in October 2016. (Google Maps)

In an email message to Evanston Now this afternoon, Alderman Rainey said that despite what the staff memo claims, she does not want to have the bike lanes completely removed between Oakton and Howard, but instead wants them reconfigured to resemble the one-block stretch between Oakton and Kirk streets.

Because of issues related to student dropoffs at Dawes School, the bike lanes on that block are not protected from auto traffic and cars park at the curb.

Before the 2016 changes, that was the configuration of the bake lanes all along Dodge.

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