Evanston aldermen on a 6-3 vote Monday night approved plans to replace the current Dodge Avenue bike lanes with protected bike lanes, similar to the ones recently installed in downtown Evanston.

The council majority rejected an alternative option for buffered bike lanes proposed by city staff that would have reduced the the number of parking spaces to be removed for the project.

A drawing of a buffered bike lane from the city staff presentation.

The protected bike lane on Church Street downtown.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she believed the protected lane approach would be safer for riders.

“I’m not sure how much people respect that pavement striping,” Wynne said, adding that it’s “really critical” that students be able to ride safely to and from Evanston Township High School.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said she’d seen studies from other communities that indicate protected bike lanes — which shield bikers from moving traffic with a line of parked cars — are safer than buffered ones.

Both pose a risk of a cyclist being hit by an opening car door, she noted, but with most cars occupied by just a driver, more door-opening incidents happen on the drivers side.

And if a cyclist in a protected lane has to dodge an opening door, he may end up on the parkway, while the same maneuver on a buffered bike lane could leave the cyclist sprawled in the traffic lane.

But two aldermen who have constituents living along Dodge Avenue strongly favored the buffered plan.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite said the buffered lane would require elimination of 61 fewer parking spaces than the protected lane would greatly inconvenience residents.

“I know this [buffered] plan is not ideal to bike enthusiasts out there, but on behalf of the neighbors I think that it’s a good solution,” Braithwaite said.

“I’m not aware of any major accidents on Dodge now,” he added, “and I feel just as safe riding down Dodge as Church.”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she doesn’t see motorists speeding on Dodge — that traffic is so heavy lines of cars are backed up and traffic is congested and slow.

She called the buffered lanes approach a much better solution — especially near James Park where parking is very tight.

But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said Evanston is not really very bike friendly. The avid cyclist said “Evanston is the most hostile environment to ride in from here to Wisconsin, and Dodge Avenue and Central Street are probably the two most hostile streets in town.”

Wilson said the city should look at providing more parking at James Park, but not give up on the protected bike lanes plan. “Adding some paint to the existing lanes isn’t going to change anything,” he added.

The staff report says there are now 532 parking spaces on the affected stretch of Dodge between Howard and Church streets. That, the report said, would have been reduced by 32 using buffered bike lanes and now will be cut by 93 using the protected lanes approach.

Alderman had unanimously approved the protected bike lane approach last year and staff had won approval for it from the regional planning agency and state transportation department. Those approvals would have had to have been renegotiated to switch to the buffered design.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, joined Braithwaite and Rainey in voting against the protected bike lane option.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. protected?
    Will they block bullets? My wife, child and I no longer use this route due to the violence in the area.

  2. This is great news for us

    This is great news for us that live on and around Dodge. When the day comes when I decide to sell my home, I will most certainly market my home as one that is along a protected bike route to both an elementary school as well as the high school. Motorist drive way too fast on Dodge… a street that is already a main thoroughfare for young people riding to and from their respective schools. Who do we really care about more, drivers surrounded by 3,000 pound cages or young people riding bikes? For as long as I've been alive, elected officials and the municipalities they reperesent have gone out of their way to accomopdate the motorist… Tables are slowly turning, people, deal with it!

  3. Dedicated Lanes Work

    I've been using the protected bike lanes on Davis and Church. They're both great and appreciated, and, other than being occasionally blocked by delivery trucks or cyclists sometimes going the wrong direction, they work well. I find the Davis westbound lane makes it easier to time your speed to make all the lights through downtown.

    Here's a tour of the Davis dedicated lane, from Hinman to Ridge:



      1. Davis Street Bike lanes

        The Davis Street Bike lanes as shown in your video  ane Not Protected Bike Lanes. Davis in your Video appears to be a combination of buffered bike lanes and  the current lanes used in some areas (painted green).

        1. Watch again

          The Davis Street bike lane would appear to match the definition of a protected lane offered here in the stretch from Hinman to Orrington and again roughly from Elmwood to Ridge — that is, the cyclists are protected from moving traffic by a painted barrier and a row of parked cars.

          Other segments better fit the "buffered" definition — in that there's only a painted buffer zone between the bike lane and moving traffic.

          — Bill

  4. If I were a council member, I

    If I were a council member, I would let the people who live on Dodge decide what kind of bike lanes they would choose. I would bet that the protected version would lose in a landslide.

    When downtown protected bike lanes are close to be called a fail, why do you keep pushing this on Evanston people. Give the people a choice.

  5. How did we bike before bike lanes?

    When I was growing up in the 1950's & 60's we all loved to ride.  The only caveat our parents had was that we were not to ride on MAIN STREETS (side streets only).  Even as little children we knew that riding on a street that had cars going ten times faster than we could peddle, buses and trucks that we didn't think would even see our small selves, didn't even require our parent's admonition.  So we gladly kept to the side streets, we felt safe, we were happy just riding.  When and why did such an enjoyable experience get so complicated?  

    1. Pretty simple answer: there

      Pretty simple answer: there are twice as many cars on the road than there were in the 1960s… all the more reason to have protected/dedicated bike lanes.

    2. Recreation and Transportation are different

      There is a difference between recreational bike riding, going to a friend's house or riding to the park, and biking to school or work.

      Side streets are fine if you are pedaling around your neighborhood, but side streets also require that the rider pause at every stop sign, and watch very carefully for pets, small children and landscaper crews.

      Cyclists want to use main streets for the exact same reason that cars do.  They allow the rider to keep a faster speed, go for a several blocks in one direction and reach their destination faster.  Traffic entering from side streets knows to stop and wait to merge, and the cyclists need only stop at the traffic light, where all other traffic stops as well.

      If I use Asbury and Church to travel from my house to downtown Evanston it can be done in eleven minutes, that's faster than a car can get there and park.  If I travel the more scenic route, it's longer, much more complicated, many more stops and lights, and frankly, with all the intersections, a little more dangerous.

      1. Bike lanes on Asbury

        I would just like to note that Asbury does not have protected bike lanes (green pavement and white bollards). It is marked by white pavement striping which, as you note and I will concur, is effective. When the reasoning for going with the over-the-top solution of protected bike lanes with excessive loss of parking was that it would entail a "renegotiation" with several agencies, I found that to be lame. Let's work for the best solution not the easiest. The people that live along Dodge must be given a voice.

        From the article:

        “Alderman had unanimously approved the protected bike lane approach last year and staff had won approval for it from the regional planning agency and state transportation department. Those approvals would have had to have been renegotiated to switch to the buffered design.” 





        1. Perceptions of the overall

          Perceptions of the overall bike plan have definitely changed in the past year and that should have been taken into account. We are seeing how the protected bike lanes work and don't work. More residents have become involved and shown push back based on the reality of these plans.

          When the alderman whose ward will bear the majority impact of this decision presents an alternate solution, the rest of the council members should take that into consideration as he is working in the best interest of his constituents.

          This decision was a major disappointment especially after we've seen good compromises regarding other parts of the bike plan.

    3. Actual vs. Perceived Safety

      In the 50's and 60's people generally felt safer on the road than we do now, but at least since the mid 60's traffic deaths per 100k of population has been going down.  I am sure if you looked at traffic deaths per mile driven the drop would be much steeper.

      We live in a time of risk awareness and aversion.  That is what makes everything more complicated.

      1. Bike Videos

        We need a whole lot more videos like this to show people unloading cars, crossing the street, not understanding the lane direction and especially pulling up to use the mail box, because that's why the mail box is there.  Should the mailbox on Davis be moved?  It's probably been there 50 years?  Lots of decisions to make about things like that.

  6. Good for us

    Very glad the council approved the plan.  Providing protected bicycle lanes on Dodge adds to the network will further encourage cycling throughout the city.  Complete streets mean infrastructure for different types of transportation modes, including bicycles.  

    I've had too many close calls where drivers swerve into the non-protected bike lane to jump traffic without a thought to me or other cyclists.  Many drivers in Evanston are courteous and law-abiding, but some are reckless, impatient jerks -protected bike lanes makes "sharing the road" mandatory!   

    There are a few repeat commenters on this site that don't get it, that cycling is not just for children but also the preferred method of transport for adults.  Many of us own cars but choose to bike because it's the most efficient, free, non-polluting form of transport available.  Cars should not be the only method of transport streets are designed for.  

  7. Glad for the Bike Lanes

    This is great.  I live right off Dodge and am looking forward to being able to be more secure when I use Dodge.

    I am extremely disappointed in my 2nd Ward alderman who apparently thinks the ability for a small number of people to store their cars on public space outweighs safety measures we can take for our children.

    Luckily we have a majority of council members with some sense on this topic.

  8. Parking on Dodge

    With a couple of the Alders being insistent that Dodge was incredibly hard to find parking on, with one Alder at the meeting mentioning that 100% of available spaces are taken in the evening, I decided to conduct an unscientific experiment.   I drove down Dodge after the City Council meeting at 10pm, as well as today at 7pm, and every block of Dodge from Howard to Church had plenty of spaces.  I'd say no more than 50% of the spaces were taken at both times. What troubles me more than the Alders being so parking phobic is that several high-ranking City staff went so actively against what is clearly a much safer option (protected bike lanes) rather than the buffered lanes, all to save a few parking spaces which I doubt are ever fully used.   And when asked, the City staff felt that the buffered lanes offered adequate protection, which is clearly not the case on a busy street like Dodge. The staff should have done their homework by reading the literature on the safety of various types of bike lanes.  Also, they should have conducted a parking study on Dodge to assess the availability of parking at various times of day.  It doesn't seem like either of these were done.  

  9. ‘Not aware of any accidents on Dodge’?

    Seriously, how out of touch can Ald. Braithwaite be?  An 81 year old cyclist was killed in his ward on Dodge three years ago!

    He was hit by a CTA bus when he apparently veered from the bike lane.  

    A protected lane would probably saved the cyclist's life.  

    Pretty amazing how callous Braithwaite can be and an insult to the memory of Lane Swanson.

    1. Accident on Dodge.

      Protected Bike Lane probably would NOT have made a differance.  Cyclists can still veer in and out of the vehicle lanes.

      1. Protected Lane

        mij, a protected bike lane is protected by a line of immobile parked cars, a wall of steel between the cyclist and the moving cars on their left. For a cyclist to "veer" from the protected bike lane into the through-lane, s/he would have to levitate over that line of parked cars between the lanes.  Very unlikely.  Yes, the unfortunate death by bus a few years back may well have been prevented with smarter road arrangement.

        1. protected lanes

          Cyclist can, do, and will veer from a protected bike lane, and do so ALL the time.  The accident on Church earlier this year is simple, ample, and tragic enough proof of that fact.

          Even within the avid bike community there is disagreement on the safety claims of buffered vs protected lanes, with a small contingent even objecting to implementing any bike lanes whatsoever.

          Granted, at first glance, protected lanes seem to logically make more sense, but I know many cyclist who prefer buffered and will simply not use protected lanes.  They feel very hidden from sight and at much greater risk every time they approach an intersection.     

          1. Trucks in bike lanes

            On Church across from EPL, cars/trucks park for extended [suppose to be zero time] periods and the police going by don't even stop let alone ticket them. Little hope the city will really do anything other than talk about biker protection.

          2. no big deal

            Bikers will still veer in and out no matter what, I see it all the time.  And delivery trucks parked and double parked are a simple fact of urban life worldwide.

            In an environment like most of our downtown, protected lanes pretty much prevents trucks from parking in that type of bike lane, most of the time there isn't room for them to squeeze back and forth between parked cars into a protected lane.  Otherwise, installing bollards where there are no cars will prevent it outright, buffered or protected.  

            But, because the bike lanes reduce road width so much, trucks then become much more of an obstacle to autos than bikes, and because our downtown is basically one way streets with two lanes, really not a big deal.     

  10. Bikes lanes a go go

    I love the green bike lanes.  However, bikers…stop wearing ear buds…pumping your head with whatever as you become oblivious to me in my car. Because bikers have a bigger share of the road, don't think you are now the only game in town. Be respectful of cars. I really don't want to be looking for you, in your music bliss zone, zipping by me. I enjoy riding my car and my bike. Lets all be mindful of each other…

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