Chicago Bike Lanes: Dearborn St. Lane Named Best in the Country

Chicago Bike Lanes: Dearborn St. Lane Named Best in the Country
The protected bike lane on Dearborn St. runs through the central business district. Photo credit: John Greenfield
Dearborn St. bike light. Photo credit, John Greenfield

Dearborn St. bike light. Photo credit, John Greenfield

Chicago’s Bike Lanes, a top priority of Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are getting national recognition with PeopleForBikes, naming the Dearborn St. protected bike lanes the best in the country.

According to PeopleForBikes, a national bicycling advocate, they scoured “the country for a comprehensive (and subjective) ranking of the best of the best” and determined that Chicago’s Dearborn St. bike lane was number one.

The 1.2 mile Dearborn bike lane which runs through Chicago’s central business district, from Polk to Kinzie, was chosen over all others not just for  “its on-street markings, though they’re excellent, or its quick-and-simple plastic-post barriers,” says PeopleForBikes but for what they cited as “the really remarkable thing about Dearborn is that bikes get their own traffic signals” adding “maybe that’s why stoplight compliance has soared from 31 percent to 81 percent and bike traffic has more than doubled since the lane went in.”

The Dearborn bike lane has come a long way in a short time being dedicated by Chicago Mayor Emanuel in a special ceremony on December 14, 2012, less than a year ago.

Long in the forefront of bike awareness, the city opened its first bike trail in 1963 and its first on-street bike lane in 1971. Chicago continues to rise in the bike world being  named the country’s tenth most bicycle-friendly city in 2011 and fifth friendliest bike city in 2012 by Bicycling Magazine.

When Mayor Emanuel took office in May 2011, there were no protected bike lanes in Chicago. Now, Chicago is on the leading edge of the protected lane movement, promising to have 100 protected “green lanes” by 2015, while setting a new standard for cycling facilities, with other cities watching closely.

CDOT classifies protected bike lanes as either buffer-protected lanes, which separate cyclists from traffic by providing a wide, marked space (without a physical barrier) on one or both sides of the lane, or barrier-protected lanes, which use a physical barrier such as raised medians, posts, and on-street parking.

The four-foot-wide northbound and five-foot southbound, Dearborn St. bike lanes were the first two-way protected green lanes to be installed in Chicago, and the first with bicycle traffic signals. This stretch of Dearborn Street will continue to be one-way northbound for vehicle traffic.

Chicago actually has two of the top ten with the bike lane along Milwaukee Avenue coming in number seven.

Here are the best of the rest…

2) Indianapolis Cultural Trail

3) Guadalupe Street, Austin

4) Fell and Oak Streets, San Francisco

5) Linden Avenue, Seattle

6) First Avenue, New York City

7) Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago

8) 10th Street, Atlanta

9) Cherry Street, Seattle

10) Overton Park Road, Memphis

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