Chicago’s Dearborn Street Cycletrack

I was in Chicago with my family on Christmas Eve and snapped some pictures of the Dearborn Street cycletrack that I wanted to share here.  This is a protected two way cycletrack along a heavily traveled one way street through the heart of the Loop.

Dearborn Street bisects the heart of Chicago's Loop.

Dearborn Street crosses the heart of Chicago’s Loop.

Dearborn is a north south street that sits one block west of State Street and two blocks east of LaSalle, Chicago’s Wall Street.   It’s only three blocks from Michigan Avenue.  The cycletrack starts at Polk Street on the south end, directly across from Dearborn Station. At one time, this was a terminal for rail commuters from the south side as well as outstate and Indiana.  It also served several national railroads with intercity passenger service.  Today it is repurposed as mixed-use retail space.

As it extends north across the Loop, the cycletrack passes numerous Chicago landmarks including plazas anchored by the city’s iconic Calder and Picasso sculptures.  At Wacker Drive, it crosses the Chicago River in the shadow of Marina City and continues into the dynamic and vibrant River North neighborhood.

Looking south.  There are dedicated bicycle signals.

Looking south. The pavement is rough and uneven and the paint could use freshening up, but the same is true of lanes for motor vehicles. The bicycle signals are nice.

The cycletrack uses parking as a buffer to protect cyclists from passing vehicles.

The cycletrack uses parking as a buffer to protect cyclists from passing vehicles.

Warning for pedestrians about to step off the curb.

A reminder for pedestrians about to step off the curb that the cycletrack is two way.

Divvy bikes are everywhere in the loop.  These are some of the largest capacity docking bays I've seen in any city's bikeshare system.

Divvy bikes are everywhere in the Loop. These are some of the largest capacity docking bays I’ve seen in any city’s bikeshare system, which suggests that the demand is there.

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Intersections are well marked and include green bike boxes for turning cyclists. Because this is a two way cycletrack on a one way street, the Copenhagen left is used for left turns.

Google Maps view of Dearborn looking south.  This is serious urban cycling.

Google Maps view of Dearborn looking south. This is serious urban cycling.

 

Dearborn Street is jammed with cars, delivery trucks, buses, taxis and pedestrians six days a week from early morning until late at night.  There’s subway access from the sidewalks.  This is as urban a street as you will find anywhere and yet it is still probably the best choice for a north-south cycletrack through the Loop.

As a practical matter, the cycletrack gets used.  There are large banks of Divvy bikeshare bikes available along the route.  The pavement is relatively rough and uneven and the paint needs freshening up, but it’s no worse than what the city’s motorists have to face so in a sense it is fundamentally fair.

I like the fact that Chicago is walking the walk when it comes to bicycle infrastructure.  This is not a route for casual cyclists, but it is perfect for commuters…a bicycling black diamond, so to speak. It crosses an area where other bicycle accommodations are few and far between, so it provides access where none existed previously.  It also provides connectivity between a large and vibrant residential neighborhood and a predominantly commercial neighborhood.   For these reasons, I think it’s a winner and commend the city for building it.

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