The Berwyn Greenway at Lincoln Square is an upgrade, but it needs more traffic calming – Streetsblog Chicago

Earlier this week, the Chicago Department of Transportation announced the completion of the Berwyn Avenue Greenway at Lincoln Square. This less stressful bike path was scratched on Berwyn (5300 N.) between Western Avenue (2400 W.) and the North Shore Channel Trail on the east side of the Chicago River (approx. 3000 W.) Since this stretch of Berwyn is one-way westbound, an eastbound contraflow (“wrong way”) cycle lane has been added to make the route two-way for cyclists. Berwyn, a residential street, has a traffic light at Western, and it is also one-way westbound between Broadway (1200 W.) and Western, although this segment lacks cycling facilities.

The project area.  Picture: Google Maps
The project area. Picture: Google Maps

I checked out the new Neighborhood Greenway on Thursday night around 4 p.m. I was initially nervous about driving on it as rush hour started, a time when more drivers might be on the road. But I thought the effectiveness of this type of bike lane should be judged during times of peak bicycle and motor vehicle traffic.

The Berwyn Greenway entrance/exit at Berwyn & Western Ave looking east on Berwyn.
The Berwyn Greenway entrance/exit in Berwyn/Western, which has red lights, heading east. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

My biggest takeaway was that while the Berwyn Greenway has street markings and a recently lowered speed limit of 20mph, it needs the additional traffic calming features found already along other neighborhood greenways. For example, the Glenwood/Greenview Greenway, which connects Evanston to Uptown, has many speed bumps: two per block for many stretches. Although the bumps are a bit annoying on the bike – especially the bad ones – they help calm traffic. In contrast, I only noticed two speed bumps on the entire Berwyn Greenway course, although they have a sine wave design suitable for bikes, which is smoother to navigate.

One of two speed bumps I encountered along the Berwyn Greenway.
One of two speed bumps I encountered along the Berwyn Greenway. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

Driving east in the oncoming lane on Berwyn, I paid attention to how westbound drivers behaved around people driving west. Mone of these motorists attempted to enter the oncoming lane to pass the westbound cyclists. But because I was in the oncoming lane, they couldn’t do it, so they instead passed westbound cyclists with less than three feet of passing space required by state law.

I wish I could have asked cyclists what they thought of drivers invading their space. One of the riders was carrying a child and I was frustrated that the drivers were in such a rush that they didn’t even slow down to wait for an opportunity to safely pass someone riding a bike with a child. And some of Berwyn’s drivers were definitely going over 20 mph. Again, all of Glenwood’s speed bumps make for a bumpy bike ride, but they do slow down motorists and discourage them from overtaking cyclists in dangerous ways.

As with many other streets in Chicago, Berwyn’s new bike infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. Ideally, the contraflow lane would be located at the edge of the sidewalk, with the parking lane moved to the left so that parked cars protect cyclists and prevent people from driving in the bike lane.

In the tweet above announcing the new greenway, the Chicago Department of Transportation said it was trying to expand the facility east of Western. I can’t hold my breath that they will turn parts of Berwyn into something resembling a Barcelona Superblock. But the stretch of Berwyn between Winthrop Avenue (1100 W.) and Clark Street (1530 W.) is wide enough to accommodate street furniture like benches and maybe even mini play equipment.

Berwyn Avenue is quite wide between Clark St. and Winthrop Ave.  This section could easily accommodate street furniture and play equipment if the CDOT had a little imagination.
Berwyn Avenue is wider between Clark and Winthrop. This section could easily accommodate street furniture and playground equipment. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

I often drive east along Berwyn from Clark to Broadway and am amazed at how wide the street is and how relatively few curbside parking spaces are occupied. It’s such a mess that the city of Chicago still doesn’t consider its residential streets as anything more than places for motorists to pass through and car storage. But I hope residents will soon start demanding that our streets become places to socialize, play and rest.

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