City says Dearborn bike signals keeping cyclists in line

Proper biking etiquette and common sense still need attention though.

During a light rain Thursday morning, your Getting Around reporter observed a bicyclist holding an open umbrella in one hand over his head as he pedaled south in the Dearborn bike lane near Washington Street. He veered to avoid striking an oncoming cyclist with the umbrella, but his oversteering nearly resulted in a collision with pedestrians waiting at the curb to cross the street.

Frequent conflicts and near misses between cyclists and pedestrians spurred the management of the Trattoria No. 10 restaurant, just south of Washington at 10 N. Dearborn, to place signs last month between the bike lanes warning bicyclists to stop for pedestrians. CDOT sent an inspector and ordered the signs moved out of the lanes, explaining they created a hazard.

But the signs were stolen before they could be taken down, said Dan Rosenthal, the restaurant's managing director.

Rosenthal said changes are needed because the situation is potentially perilous for his restaurant's patrons and other pedestrians on the northbound street that has two-way bike traffic.

"It's not part of pedestrian psyche to look to the north to see if traffic is coming south," Rosenthal said. He said the risk of collision there is greater because Trattoria No. 10 is the only restaurant to offer valet parking on Dearborn, requiring passengers to walk across the bike lanes.

"There are all kinds of issues that the city in its wisdom did not address," Rosenthal said.

Klein agreed that it is a difficult location to navigate, but he said pedestrians should be more mindful to stay out of the bike lanes, except when crossing at intersections with a "walk" sign.

"That's an area where there is no car parking, and people naturally walk illegally across the street," he said.

"Some pedestrians are using the bike lanes as a refuge space," Klein said. "We have stenciled 'LOOK' in the crosswalks, with arrows pointing in both directions, to remind pedestrians they are crossing active (bike) lanes of traffic.

"The bottom line is that we all have to share the same right of way," Klein said.

One of several upcoming tweaks will be to paint the bike lanes green near alleys and driveways to point out potential conflicts and make the lanes more visible to pedestrians and drivers, said Mike Amsden, CDOT's bike program project manager.

In addition, at some midblock pedestrian crossings, "SLOW" markings and thick striping that functions like a rumble strips will be laid down in the bike lanes to alert cyclists to the possibility of pedestrians, Amsden said.

Existing pavement markings that are faded will also be refreshed, he said.

Getting Around observed another problem while biking on Dearborn: puddles in the bike lanes. CDOT and the city water department are working to improve drainage, officials said.

The protected bike lanes and the addition of left-turn signals for turning vehicles have resulted in fewer conflicts among drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, CDOT monitoring suggests.

Some 92 percent of drivers are complying with the sensor-activated left-turn signals on Dearborn, officials said.

The flip side, however, is that almost 10 percent of left-turning drivers aren't waiting for the turn arrow and are basically driving through a red arrow.

Before the signals were installed, vehicles turning off Dearborn would face solid waves of crossing pedestrians, officials said. Now the pedestrians get a "Don't walk" signal to allow cars to turn.

Despite the new traffic tools, newspaper vendor Robert Nance said he has witnessed "a lot of impatience" among drivers over the left-turn arrows. "I've seen several times cars almost run into each other," said Nance, 53, who sells papers at Dearborn and Randolph streets.