Residents weigh in on preliminary bike plan

Sophia Bollag, City Editor

A consulting firm presented the latest draft of a citywide bike plan on Saturday that would add features to make bike travel safer on some streets and prohibit it on others.

The plan would add safety features to eight “corridors,” including parts of Asbury, Chicago, Sherman and Maple avenues, Noyes and Howard streets, Green Bay Road and several other streets, in most cases by creating protected bike lanes. It would also prohibit bike travel on parts of Dempster, Main and Central streets, South Boulevard and Green Bay Road.

The plan also proposed adding safety measured to parts of Greenleaf Street, Oakton Street, Callan Avenue, South Boulevard, Sheridan Road, Edgemere Court, Lincoln Street, Harrison Street and Lincolnwood Drive.

The corridors were selected based on bike and automobile traffic studies and width of the streets, Public Works director Suzette Robinson said.

The draft was presented at a workshop Saturday morning to collect feedback from residents before Evanston and the consulting firm T.Y. Lin International finalize the proposal and present it to City Council in June.

About 20 people attended the workshop. Attendees were surveyed during the workshop about each aspect of the proposal and about where they would like to see more options for bike parking.

Most voiced their support of the proposed improvements to bike safety on the targeted streets, although there was some disagreement about how the safety measures should be implemented, especially on Chicago Avenue.

The plan presented two options to improve safety in the Chicago Avenue corridor, one that would create a protected two-way bike lane on Chicago between Church and Howard streets and another that would create a one-way protected bike lane on the street and a complementary one-way bike lane on Hinman Avenue. Both options would reduce the number of parking spaces for cars on Chicago Avenue.

John Jacobs, a member of North Shore Cycling Advocates, said that although he anticipated it would be difficult to get residents to agree on a solution to the problem, he thought it was important for safety measures to be put in place.

“It’s one of the most used bicycle corridors in the city, … and it’s not safe in its current form,” he said. “Between two lanes of traffic going in each direction and the parked cars, there really isn’t a safe space for bicyclists.”

Most of the residents at the workshop said they opposed the plan’s proposal to prohibit bike travel in some areas.

The proposed corridor on Chicago Avenue would connect with a separate bike path slated to be constructed along Sheridan Road through Northwestern’s campus for which Evanston received nearly $1.5 million in federal funding, Gov. Pat Quinn announced last month. The bike path will start on North Campus at Lincoln Street and will run the length of Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue until it reaches Davis Street.

Jim Considine, the project manager, said many attendees told him they were concerned about the proposed restrictions. Of all the proposals, the restrictions were “probably the most controversial,” he said, but were suggested for certain corridors that were narrow and had heavy traffic.

“We couldn’t come up with a viable alternative,” he said.

Stuart Kipnis, a south Evanston resident who attended the workshop, said he didn’t think the proposed restrictions were necessary.

“I ride there with my son,” he said. “It’s perfectly fine.”

Although Robinson and several attendees pointed out during the workshop that those corridors were not popular ones for cyclists to begin with, most attendees still said they opposed the restrictions.

“I’m just philosophically opposed to the idea of blocking off the street to bikes,” said Natalie Watson, who lives on Oakton Street and has worked with Evanston150 to make the community safer for bikers.

Residents will have the opportunity to vote on the aspects of the bike plan online from May 6 through May 20.

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