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Several people with homes near the new protected bike lanes on Dodge Avenue complained to Evanston aldermen Monday night that they don’t believe the new road configuration is safe.

Sheila Brand.

Sheila Brand, who said she’s lived at 1811 South Boulevard for 48 years, called the new design “unintelligent,” and said she doesn’t like having cars parked away from the curb.

George Feeney, who said he’s lived on Dodge opposite James Park for 45 years, said the new design makes it more hazardous for people boarding buses or getting into cars, because driver-side doors now open into very heavy, fast moving traffic.

He called the nearly half-million dollar bike lane project a waste of money.

And Leo Sherman, who lives at Kirk and Dodge complained that garbage has piled up along the curbs because bollards protecting the bike lane prevent street sweepers from getting to the curb.

Some residents also claimed that the new lanes make it impossible for emergency vehicles to get down the street, although a Fire Department ambulance observed by a reporter toward the end of the morning rush hour today appeared to have no trouble getting from Church and Dodge to the Dobson Plaza nursing home just a block north of the south city limit at Howard Street.

The ambulance at the Dobson Plaza this morning.

The city received a $480,000 federal grant for the bike lane project in November 2013.

The protected bike lane design was approved on a 6-3 City Council vote in September 2014, with aldermen rejecting an alternative proposed by city staff that would have created “buffered” bike lanes — with just wider striping, rather than parked cars, to separate bikes from the traffic lanes — and reduced the number of parking spaces eliminated.

Back in 2011, an 81-year-old cyclist was killed on Dodge Avenue. Police said she veered out of the old, unprotected bike lane and collided with the side of a passing CTA bus.

Only a handful of people turned out for a public meeting in late 2014 to review the bike lane design, and then the project stalled last year after bids for it came in higher than expected. But the project got the green light this year after new bids came in at $455,000 — just over half the lowest bid from last year.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who opposed the protected bike lane plan for her stretch of Dodge when it was approved two years ago on Monday night called the bike lane situation near Kirk Street and Dodge Avenue — where it transitions out of the protected mode until it reaches Oakton — “very unfortunate” and “terrifying.”

That block includes Dawes School, and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl promised that the city would try to reassess the situation and come up with improvements there before school starts at the end of next month.

Today between 8:45 and about 9:15 a.m. traffic appeared to be moving smoothly along Dodge, with most cars traveling near the 30 mile per hour speed limit and the occasional bicylist encountering no obstacles in the new protected bike lanes.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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28 Comments

  1. Dodge Bike/Car Lanes

    They also made the Car Lanes 12 to 15 inches narrower.  When passing a bus going opposite direction. It can be a little snug. Wonder how this will work out in winter with snow on the ground. I realize the posts will probably be gone for the winter but the parked cars will still be there.

    1. Bollards

      Yes, the city manager said Monday night that — as is the practice with the bike lanes on Church and Davis streets — the plan is to remove the bollards — the posts separating the lanes — in the fall and put them back out in the spring each year.

      Dodge is a snow route, so no overnight parking is permitted during/after a storm. One hopes the plows will push the snow to the curb and people will be able to park the next day. My observation of the bike lane on Church Street in the winter is that you start seeing cyclists again pretty soon after a storm, and they seem to be able to navigate the bike lane pretty well, despite some slushy, icy spots. (Not my kind of biking weather, though.)

      — Bill

    2. Dodge is a mess

      The lanes are so narrow the buses are over the yellow line and the posts are being hit. 

    3. Bike Lanes
      So…why are the lanes and street parking reversed? In Skokie and other burbs….the cars park at the curb, and bike lanes are to the middle….makes NO sense..and IS inconvenient for the people who street park……

    4. Dodge Ave. Separated Bike Lanes

      RE lane widths: The point is to GO SLOW. You are driving in an area with pedestrians and bicyclists, seniors, moms with strollers, disabled folks (temporarily and permanently disabled), distracted teens and others, etc. etc. Drive cautiously at 20 mph and all will be fine! The Dodge Ave. protected bike lanes are a great addition to the road and to the neighborhood and to the City of Evanston! They help slow/calm traffic and make it safer for all roadway users (bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers — especially the vulnerable, such as seniors, children, and persons with disabilities. They may take a little time to get used to but the criticisms offered here are not, in my opinion, well-informed or well thought-out. They represent reactive opposition to change. I'd like to know how many of the comments/complaints were by people who actually USE the bike lanes? Emergency response vehicles can still access the neighborhood, residences, businesses. In fact, emergency response vehicles — like fire trucks, police, ambulances — spend most of their time/outings responding to traffic accidents, so if we make roads safer for everyone using them (by all modes of travel), then the ER folks 1) are happy, and 2) can respond quicker to the fewer calls they get. Evanston should expand the network of separated bike lanes as quickly and aggressively as possible!

      1. Yes…. Slow Down
        Your advice to slow down is well-placed! Traffic has been roaring through southwest Evanston unabated for years. Resident complaints fall on the deaf ears of our city (tax-paid) employees and our aldermen. We need more engineering type fixes on ALL of our streets…. Ridge, Asbury, Oakton, Dempster. We live on Oakton and our alderman recently told us that a concerted effort was made at the city level to funnel traffic down our street. Aldermen in other wards do not want the traffic going any further north into their wards. This is patently ridiculous. If we exerted traffic controls, this Chicago cut-through traffic wouldn’t be queuing up at our lights. YOUR trip home might have a few new controls in place, but you might not be sitting behind a driver that wants to cut through Evanston because using the Chicago streets they live on would mean they would have to deal with traffic controls… because Chicago protects is residents on residential artery streets from speeding drivers. Take a drive down Dodge and see for yourself how the street changes the second you cross over into Chicago and it becomes California. Cars are stacked up in Evanston during rush hour, but not so much once you move into Chicago. Take a drive down Ridge where it turns from a four lane super-highway into a two lane, 25 MPH street as you cross into Chicago. We are no less populace than these Chicago neighborhoods. Our aldermen and our city traffic division need to wake up to this fact. No one should have to live on a street that is so filled with speeding traffic it gives the impression they live on Lake Shore Drive. And that is just what living on Ridge feels like.

        Thanks in large part to our Evanston Police Traffic Division, we now have a lot of drivers slowing down a bit, but there are still the drivers that go 50 MPH (racing from one red light to the next) on our street where we have Oakton Elementary School and their large playground, Chute Middle School and their very large play field, Dawes Elementary School and their large playground, and James Park (Trashmore). I do not understand how this street is allowed to exist with virtually no forms of control for speeders given the large number of children that are on it year round. I am NOT a fan of STOP signs, but bump-outs and crosswalks should be implemented up and down the street to make the lanes feel tighter. I know of no major street with speedbumps, but several neighbors have thrown that idea out there because we have had several children get hit by cars on this street. How do you argue with anyone when our kids are daily subjected to this unsafe and uncared for situation? After a child was hit by a car this past spring, my alderman sent an e-mail request for a meeting to our city traffic engineers on behalf of local residents and the owner of the Little Beans (who has become concerned for children after witnessing the crazy drivers on our street). Will it surprise you to learn that our tax-paid salaried city employees never deigned to respond to that request? Or, if they did, they certainly didn’t hit “reply to all” for everyone included on that e-mail.

        Evanston has several speed indicators that we would have installed every three months as part of a share program throughout our city, but we haven’t seen one over here since NOVEMBER. When we recently asked the city for a turn with it we were told that a set was stolen. STOLEN. We aren’t scheduled to have it until this month… August. When the neighbors were told, there was a flurry of anger and one brought up a great point… don’t we insure our property in this town? Ugh! The unchecked roaring traffic on our streets really gets our ire up over here. Dodge Avenue…. we are jealous of you!

  2. The new configuration is a real improvement.

    I drive this stretch daily. It certainly presents no special challenges to motorists. The lanes are still amply wide, and having bicycle traffic separated from autos means that riders are safer and drivers aren't having to travel at the speed of cyclists. It's a win for both. As for on-street parkers getting into cars, they can do what every sane person on every street in the world does — wait for a break in traffic.

    I do always observe a lot of illegal parking along this stretch — curbside wheels over the line into the protected zone. Officers would do well to patrol this area and ticket these criminals.

  3. Bike Lanes – Safer for Pedestrians Too
    Those bike lanes have done a lot for southwest Evanston. Not only have the reduced lane sizes worked to slow down motorists who were going 10-15 MPH over the limit on a regular basis, but bicyclists now feel safe enough to bike in the lane provided instead of on the sidewalk. When school starts up again, our high-school age students will be able to use those lanes and stay very safe. Truly, as a regular pedestrian on that street, I’m so glad to not have a bicyclist whizzing by me from behind on the sidewalk. It regularly caught me off guard and I’m glad the bicyclists have a safer route which also makes it safer for our pedestrians. I’m not sure why everyone is on the rampage about the size of the traffic lanes. They are certainly wider than Ridge Avenue and no one is doing anything to fatten up the lanes on Ridge.

    One thing that would seriously have irritated me in the planning for the bike lanes are the blocks of homes who have lost all of the parking that used to be in front of their house. An example of this is the block situated just north of Oakton on the east side of the street. There is a long row of townhomes there and those people regularly parked in front of their home. The parking has been completely removed on that block. Anyone can see it was done because of the turning lane at the intersection, but it seems at least half of that block could have retained parking if there was a will to think of the residents in the planning.

    With regard to George Feeney’s comments that traffic has only increased since he moved here, I wholeheartedly agree. And much of that traffic is cutting through our wonderful town on their way to a destination outside of it. We need more engineering on all of our streets to impede this practice that stems from Chicago cut through traffic. I and my neighbors have complained bitterly about Oakton Street for years! We can’t even get a crosswalk painted in on Florence or Dewey that would allow us to more safely cross our street. Our elderly residents who use the bus are forced to get off of it at Oakton and Dodge just so they can safely cross the street, and then they are forced to walk several blocks to their home… when there is a bus stop less than half of a block from their home. Not a day goes by that those of us who live over here aren’t “treated” to honking horns and slamming on of brakes from over-aggressive drivers. It is patently ridiculous just how little “quality of resident life” counts in southwest Evanston. This impacts every Evanstonian because the degradation of our main streets is occurring more quickly and that equates to every taxpayer having to pony up on their taxes to keep repairing them.

    I would like to shout out a “GREAT JOB” to our Evanston Police Traffic Division. They do a superb job at the behest of local residents to stem the ridiculous speeding traffic. Instead of drivers going 50 and 55 MPH on our street, they now only speed at 30 and 40 MPH. This could mean all the difference if one of our Evanston children were to get hit by a motorist as they head to one of the three schools or James Park on Oakton Street.

    1. I agree–the bike lanes are great
      I do not ride a bike, but I do walk and drive down Dodge all of the time. ANYTHING that slows traffic down on Dodge south of Dempster is welcome to me.

      The narrower lanes seem to accomplish that to a degree so I wholeheartedly endorse them.

      Cars routinely speed. In addition to the cyclist killed we had a pedestrian killed a couple of years ago on Dodge just south of Main.

      It has been shown in numerous studies that more people bike when protected lanes are installed. This means one less car taking up space which helps manage congestion.

      As for the loss of parking, to me that is not a big deal. The streets are valuable public space and should be configured to give the greatest value to the community. Providing free car storage on the street doesn’t seem like it should be a priority when measured against the public benefits for everyone that come with the new street configuration.

  4. Bike lanes on Dodge
    The new lanes are dangerous to bicyclists, sine it is extremely hard for a motorist turning off Dodge to see an oncoming rider in the bike lane. They are hidden by the parked cars and thus collisions of bikes and cars are hard to avoid. It is dangerous to have cars cut across this parallel traffic lane when turning. Turns should only be made from the lane closest to the curb.

    1. Danger

      Jim,

      You hit the nail on the head.

      The bike lane is not only ugly and lowered the property values of the Dodge home owners, it is the most dangerous design for a bike lane that I have ever seen. Somebody really screwed-up

      Downtown this design was able to work because there was a traffic light on every corner. Cars had to slow or stop to make a turn, On Dodge, you have a poor view of bikes, as well as walkers at curbside.

      I have no solution to this. You need to make the bikers more visible. You can't put a stop sign or traffic signal on every corner. You can put the cars back on the curb and the bikes in the same configuration prior to spending a half of a million dollars.

      I hate to think that the city gets hit with a lawsuit every time bikes and cars collide making a left or right turn because of this less than safe design.

      What was our traffic people thinking.

       

  5. Glad I moved out of Evanston
    Glad I moved out of Evanston years ago. Glad I don’t have to waste my Monday nights any more complaining about how poorly a city can be run.

    1. We are glad you moved out

      We are glad you moved out, too. We don't need naysayers who think this city is poorly run living here. Evanston is one of the best cities in the world and it has SO much to offer!! How can you not see that? Can there be improvements made? Certainly! It's not perfect. But it is pretty close, in my opinion.

  6. Dodge Avenue bike lanes

    I had asked the city engineer what the plan was for cleaning the street along the curbs and plowing snow, because the poles that have been epoxied into the street will definitely block the street sweepers and snow plows.

    The only response I got was, the bike lanes design had taken the sweeping and plowing into consideration. So today was street sweeping day on Dodge, from 4-7 am . I witnessed the following at 9:30 am: a crew of approximately 10 laborers, followed by a couple supervisors, walking down both sides of Dodge, using push brooms to sweep the street pavement.

    This was stunning to me, considering the cost of deploying a crew of some 12 people to manually clean the street surface. So how do they plan to shovel the snow?

    1. Hi Susan,

      Hi Susan,

      I noticed the push-broom brigade myself this morning. That may be a one-time post-construction thing. I haven't seen a similar push-broom brigade on Church Street working the bike lane there.

      As for your snow removal question, see my comment above.

      — Bill

      1. manual cleaning of Dodge
        I noticed the pattern on the street pavement left by street sweeping machines this morning on the west side of Dodge, obviously steered around and outside the poles (bollards?). So it seems apparent to me that the sweepers have no intention of trying to direct their activity inside the several yards-long segments of Dodge, therefore the “boots on the ground” activity that we witnessed Tuesday morning. And it would appear that any south bound cyclist would be hard pressed to stay inside the bike lane (The intended safety zone) with his/her path blocked by the crew of manual cleaners who were also progressing southbound with their backs to the oncoming cyclists at normal time of day (9:30 am), which was of course far outside the posted hours for street cleaning of 4-7 am. I stopped and spoke with the crew members who were installing the poles a few weeks ago, and was told the poles were being secured with epoxy, which seems to be a permanent type of installation to me. The removal of those poles, and then reinstallation, year after year, is accomplished how? I am asking this question with great sincerity, not mockingly, because i don’t understand how it is feasible. And the enormity of said removal and reinstallation costs the citizens many tax dollars, I would think. And when the poles are removed for the winter, pedestrians are now having took navigate around holes in the pavement that are some 4″ wide and maybe 1-3″ deep, a hazard for most any shoe or a dress winter boot. I really do see that as a hazard. Dodge Avenue gets a lot of pedestrian crossing activity where I live due to dense population resulting from multi-unit dwellings on both sides of the street. I am just worried about people getting hurt. I hope nobody does get hurt.

    2. They also have converted a

      They also have converted a bobcat ( or some type of other lightwight 4 wheeler) with a rollingbroom and collection device. I assume they will use the same vehicle for snow removal between the parked cars and the curb. It's narrow enough to fit in the bike lane. 

  7. And what do you plan to do

    And what do you plan to do about the bike riders using the sidewalk?  Most appear to be too young to pay taxes or to vote.  When do they get ticketed for unsafe behavior?  Then there are the riders going the opposite direction in the bike lanes.  Does the city plan to take any action against these law breakers?  Or are they breaking any laws?

    1. You who?

      Who's this "you" you're talking about, Joy?

      Riding bikes on the sidewalk is not illegal, except in certain designated business districts. Dodge is not one of those districts.

      I'm sure the police will be out ticketing wrong-way riders in the bike lane right after they finish ticketing the landscapers using leaf-blowers out of season.

      — Bill

  8. Deal with it
    I have lived just off of Dodge for nearly 20 years and while not perfect, the protected bike lane should be considered an asset. For my entire life, municipalities across the country have bent over backwards to accommodate drivers. Evanston leadership attempts to accommodate bicyclists and drivers get nervous. I get it and I respect the concern: there are alot of poor drivers out there…. and poor cyclist as well. At the end of the day, Dodge is a potential main thoroughfare for people… mostly children… going to ETHS, Washington School, Chute School, Dawes School, James Park and Robert Crown. If and when I put my home on the market, I guarantee I will highlight the fact that children living in my house will be able to access two major parks and all three neighborhood schools (Dawes, Chute, and ETHS) by way of a protected bike lane. So if you think property values are going to drop because of a bike lane, you might want to find another realtor! Finally, from my purely non-scientific observations, the protected bike lane has slowed automobile/truck traffic down substantially on Dodge which I think is a far greater problem than the protected bike lane. Is it a little tricky turning onto Dodge? Yes, but I do it multiple times a day and it is becoming easier as time passes. I understand that for many people, both drivers and bicyclist, this is a big change. But I also understand that if we embrace this change and make some minor adjustments to our driving and cycling behaviors, protected bike lanes will continue to be seen as an asset.

  9. These bike lanes are awful and coddle inexperienced cyclists

    I'm an avid cyclist and ride between 30 and 40 miles every day except when it snows or rains. I never ride in those bollard protected bike lanes for 1 simple reason: broken glass and debris that never gets cleaned. I will never risk getting a flat tire. Sheila Brand is 100% right. Even here in the city, these types of bike lanes are an absolute mess. Look at the new 31st street bike lane from the beach west to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive: it's littered with rocks, debris and huge piles of shattered glass from burglarized cars and beer bottles that have been there for months. Seasons go by and nothing gets cleaned, ever. The street sweepers cannot fit into those bike lanes which means they never get cleaned. It's just awful. I'm more comfortable riding with traffic. Those bike lanes are a waste of money and only coddle inexperienced cyclists who have NO BUSINESS riding on a busy street. Think about this for a moment: you need a license to drive a car but any idiot can get onto a bike and ride on those same roads as licensed drivers. I love reading the comments from people here who say "I've never ridden a bike but these new bike lanes are so nice!" Uhh ok, thanks for your pointless uninformed input. Regular old-school bike lanes work just fine if you stay within the lane. It's not hard. The 81 year old cyclist who rode into the side of the bus had no business being on a bike. In what universe does a person decide to ride their bike out of the bike lane into the side of a huge bus? The bollard protected bike lanes are an absolute mess and experienced cyclists like me avoid them at all costs in order to protect our bikes from all the broken glass that NEVER gets cleaned up.

  10. Bikes should be outlawed on

    Bikes should be outlawed on all streets. Streets are for cars only. 

    1. Horse Drawn Conveyance
      Streets and byways were originally intended for riders on horseback and horse drawn conveyance and they also served as walkways for pedestrians. Where would we be if the users of our original byways had said “our lanes were not meant for cars”? Times change Shshaha and we can only roll along forward with it. The other option is to be dragged kicking and screaming, but that rarely does anything to stop the tide of change and really only leaves a bad life outlook when the battle is lost. Why not try to find silver lining in this? Just yesterday we had air quality warnings for folks with asthma. Air quality is improved every time a car is not driven and that means some of the people out there aren’t having as many asthma attacks thanks to our bicyclists (no matter how good or bad their bike manners are). Whatever the reason, there is always a silver lining to be found. You can’t stop progress.

    2. Nope.

      Your comment looks like it's probably meant sarcasticly, but if not:

      This is a common bit of ignorance about streets. In fact, it was organizations of bicycle riders who lobbied for and finianced road improvements from dirt and gravel cart paths to paved surfaces. Investigate the Good Roads Movement if you'd like your comments to be better informed in the future.

  11. More Danger

    I have discovered even more danger to both cyclists and motorists with the new configurations of bike lanes on Dodge. Because the cars are parked further from the curb and the lanes are narrower, cars need to pull farther out to see if it is safe to turn onto or cross Dodge. They then block the bike lane at each east-west street. Sometimes they must wait thirty seconds to two minutes to make their turn while continuing to block the bike lane. The likelihood of a collision will increase substancially. I would assume that the right-of-way will be the car sine there is no other safe way to enter dodge and the bikes must come to a complete stop to prevent accidents.

    What were Evanstons steet staffs thinking when they came up with this dangerous configuration?

    1. And one more

      I agree that turning onto Dodge from any of the sidestreets has been made more difficult because of the cars parked so far from the curb on Dodge. I don't see that anyone has yet mentioned the additional hazard to cyclists in these "protected" lanes caused by passenger-side car doors. The biggest hazard to a bike rider is the random opening of car doors. Can we train everyone riding in a car to check the curbside bike lane for bikes before opening their car doors? I doubt it. Experienced bike riders would tell you that there was nothing wrong with the old lanes.

      1. One more? One more bit of nonsense?
        So, how is the danger from a passenger door any worse than one from a driver-side door. 100% of the time, there is a driver associated with a car. There is not always a passenger. Therefore, the frequency of passenger door openings is lower than driver side ones, so your thought experiment is flawed. I agree, auto drivers and passengers should be better aware when opening doors, although it’s just as much of an issue for other auto drivers. You see driver’s side doors open into the traffic lane often enough. I also would point out that the greatest risk to bicyclists isn’t collision with a stationary door (which is danger – I’m not denying that) but incidents involving MOVING traffic. That is the major safety benefit of protected lanes. Intersections are, for all involved, locations of higher likelihood of incidents. The balancing act is to reduce risks most commonly associated with more severe incidents without creating new high severity ones.
        As for the comment “Experienced bike riders would tell you that there was nothing wrong with the old lanes.” Are we designing infrastructure for only the most experienced of users? Aren’t we trying to encourage more alternative forms of transportation? Maybe I’d prefer my tax dollars to spent on projects that benefit the many, rather than the select few.

    2. Please provide actual evidence of “real danger”
      I like facts and data. Not the rantings of an anonymous source. Hopefully many in Evanston do, as well. There was recently (past couple years) a large US-based study of protected bike lanes (http://ppms.otrec.us/media/project_files/NITC-RR-583_ProtectedLanes_FinalReportb.pdf). Numerous previous studies had demonstrated the safety of this approach, but those were from outside the US where one can argue there is also a cultural effect at play (far less opposition to the idea of people commuting about using something other than a car). The argument that the bikes need to come to a complete stop to prevent accidents when something is blocking their path is an astute one; however, I want to remind you that the same logic applies to cars. Sometimes cars pull out because of poor line of sight and block other car traffic. In those cases, the cars still need to stop. I don’t understand why you would think bike lanes are somehow different and impervious to congestion-related issues.
      One thing I do think the City needs to take note of is that data shows protected bike lanes, in addition to the safety benefit, actually lead to increased bike usage. Bike parking is not something Evanston has done well so far (placing bike parking on the second level of a parking structure isn’t really the best example of “accessible”).

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