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New Dodge bike lanes rile some neighbors

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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.

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