Downtown Evanston would become more welcoming to bike riders under plans discussed Friday at a Downtown Plan Committee meeting.

Downtown bike routes

Downtown streets with bike lanes are shown in red, streets signed as bike routes in blue on this detail from a proposed city-wide bike route map. Red circles indicate traffic signals.

City engineer Rajeev Dahal said the city is seeking approval from state and federal officials for a network of bike lanes and bike routes across the city.

The system would have its greatest density downtown, with portions of Church, Davis and Lake streets getting designated five-foot-wide bike lanes, while other downtown streets including Elgin Road and Clark Streets, and Hinman, Chicago and Maple avenues would gain new bike route signage.

Mr. Dahal said that assuming approvals and funding come through, implementation of the project could start in October.

He said the project will use signs of a shape common in Europe but new to the U.S.

Instead of being square or portrait-shaped rectangles, taller than they are wide, the new signs will be very wide but skinny, with a single line of information, including a bike route symbol, a destination name and the mileage to the destination. They’ll be green, with white reflective lettering.

“We had to get federal approval to do the new signs,” Mr. Dahal said. He said Chicago also plans to use the new signs and that the Chicagoland Bike Federation and the Evanston Bike Club are doing before and after surveys to see whether the new signs do a better job of informing riders about bike routes.

Downtown Plan Committee Chairman Larry Widmayer said he new design should be much clearer, and Mr. Dahal added that they will take up relatively little space on posts that also have to accommodate other signage.

The bike lanes will be designated with reflective thermoplastic, Mr. Dahal said, which should last a few years before it needs to be redone.

The plan also calls for adding bike lanes on both sides of Emerson Street, the major east-west artery into downtown, from the canal east to Wesley Avenue.

That will reduce what are now 17-foot auto travel lanes to 12-feet. “We think it will have a traffic-calming effect,” Mr Dahal said.

He added that there’ve been a couple of accidents on Emerson where people edging to see around parked cars at cross streets have been hit by cars traveling close to the parked vehicles. The bike lanes should improve sight lines from the side streets for everybody, he said.

Plan Commissioner David Galloway called the Emerson plan “a real win-win” that should also slow traffic on the street.

A copy of the full city-wide planned bike route map is available by clicking the attachment link below.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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