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CDOT is now defining buffered bike lanes as "protected" and counting them towards its 100-miles goal

In his Chicago 2011 Transition Plan, Rahm Emanuel set the extremely ambitious goal of installing hundred miles of protected bike lanes, defined in the document as “separated from traveling cars and sit[ting] between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars that shield cyclists from street traffic,” within his first term. Since then the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been doing yeoman's work installing protected and buffered lanes, completing or starting construction on a total of 12.5 miles of protected and 14.5 miles of buffered lanes by the end of 2012.

Recently CDOT began referring to protected lanes as "barrier-protected" and buffered lanes as "buffer-protected," and counting buffered lanes towards the 100-mile goal, changing its definition of what a protected bike lane is. I think it would be terrific if the city installs, say, 65 miles of protected and 35 miles of buffered lanes by 2015. The question is, would it make more sense for CDOT to acknowledge the shift to a more realistic goal, rather than changing the definition of "protected"? CDOT deputy commissioner Scott Kubly gave me the department's perspective on the issue:

http://gridchicago.com/2013/redefining-protected-a-look-at-cdots-ne...

Keep moving forward,

John Greenfield

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I really don't like the idea of being sandwiched between the curb and parked cars so something like the lane pictured would be best for my sense or safety.  Just keep the paint fresh so cabs have no excuse when they inevitably use the lane to ace out cars at intersections.

I also prefer buffered lanes (like the one pictured) to protected lanes, particularly at intersections where conflicts with turning cars are made worse by the row of parked cars blocking cyclists' and drivers' views of each other.

Tricolor said:

I really don't like the idea of being sandwiched between the curb and parked cars so something like the lane pictured would be best for my sense or safety.  Just keep the paint fresh so cabs have no excuse when they inevitably use the lane to ace out cars at intersections.

It does seem like many "strong and fearless" cyclists prefer buffered lanes to protected ones. The goal of protected lanes is to attract the "interested but concerned" contingent.

Buffered vote here.

Agreed.  I like both, but think we need more protected lanes.  There are still a ton of people that would like to bike in the city, but think it's too dangerous.

John Greenfield said:

It does seem like many "strong and fearless" cyclists prefer buffered lanes to protected ones. The goal of protected lanes is to attract the "interested but concerned" contingent.

Protected to me means physical barrier, like we saw on the North Ave bridge during construction.

It sounds like the number of cyclists that die or are permanently disabled due to sharing space with cars and trucks each year is generally acceptable to the bike community. So be it then.

John Greenfield said:

It does seem like many "strong and fearless" cyclists prefer buffered lanes to protected ones. The goal of protected lanes is to attract the "interested but concerned" contingent.

Protected lanes require a lot more attention to intersection design than CDOT has shown in most cases. NACTO design guides include several recommendations for channeling turning traffic crossing a protected lane and designing intersections to improve sight lines that would address a lot of my concerns with protected lanes as they've been implemented so far.

Most crashes happen at intersections, but protected lanes only provide more safety mid block and may make intersections more dangerous because of the poor sight lines.

Dearborn was a definite step in the right direction, but most of Chicago's protected lanes need improvements to their intersection design.

John Greenfield said:

It does seem like many "strong and fearless" cyclists prefer buffered lanes to protected ones. The goal of protected lanes is to attract the "interested but concerned" contingent.

Anything is a step up from a sign on the side of the road with a pic of a bike on it and an arrow.

This (or no bike mention at all) is most of what I get here out south.

I DO NOT like protected lanes.  Protected I have to almost stop and look behind me as my sight/sound is thrown off by being so seperate from the cars on the road.  Conceptually cool but poorly executed @ intersections.

Lets go for a elevated bike highway... :)

Parked cars aren't very protective when it comes to doors, visibility for pedestrians and bikers, intersections and callous people parking or making deliveries.  If we want a true protected lane the city needs to be a grizzly, give up some street parking and put in something like this.  If someone doesn't feel safe here nothing's going to get them riding.

That's lovely, and it must be in the U.S -- I have never seen roads patched like that in Europe. ;-)  Not being familiar with Canadian road maintenance, I guess I should say it must be in northern North America.

So where is it?

Tricolor said:

Parked cars aren't very protective when it comes to doors, visibility for pedestrians and bikers, intersections and callous people parking or making deliveries.  If we want a true protected lane the city needs to be a grizzly, give up some street parking and put in something like this.  If someone doesn't feel safe here nothing's going to get them riding.

Definitely North American, note the tall narrow license plate instead of the short wide one seen in most parts of the world. Also the only car is a pickup which didn't really catch on in Europe or Asia, and the trees don't seem right for South America. The one way sign with no text makes me think Canada.

Lisa Curcio 4.0 mi said:

That's lovely, and it must be in the U.S -- I have never seen roads patched like that in Europe. ;-)  Not being familiar with Canadian road maintenance, I guess I should say it must be in northern North America.

So where is it?

I tend to feel less safe in the protected lanes than the buffered lanes and would rather see buffered over protected lanes.  

I'm not sure what if any research exists to say which of these configurations would attract the "interested but concerned" group.  I really think overall safety vs. perception of what would bring more riders in better should be the first deciding factor.  

The Elston protected lanes are a perfect example of buffered lanes being the better option.  All the weaving back and forth is just confusing and makes what was a great cycling route unappealing.  

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