The city's plans to bring bus rapid transit to the Loop also could ease east-west commutes for cyclists.
At the recent quarterly meeting of the mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council, Chicago Department of Transportation officials said plans for the project, known as the Central Loop BRT, would include approximately 3 miles of new protected bike lanes on Clinton, Washington and Randolph streets. In turn, CDOT would eliminate about 1.5 miles on Canal and Madison streets, currently the main westbound bike routes out of the Loop.
West Loop "connectivity is really nowhere near where it needs to be," said Mike Amsden, assistant director of transportation planning at CDOT. "The Madison Street bike lane is there, and it's probably not the greatest example of a bike lane."
Commuters suffer without a direct connection between the Loop and the West Loop Metra stations, Amsden said. The new bikeways would help avoid conflict between cyclists and buses sharing the road on Madison Street and on Canal Street, particularly near Union Station where drivers make drop-offs and pick-ups, he said.
Troy Crady, general manager of West Loop bicycle shop Mox Multisport, said customers often ask him for the easiest route from his store to the lakefront. He said he tells them there isn't a more direct route .
"You have to go around the Loop, North up to Grand [Avenue] or down to Roosevelt [Road]," he said. "As soon as you get across the river, it's like, you're on your own. A bike lane anywhere, on any of the major streets, would be amazing, just because right now you have to avoid that area unless you're really comfortable in traffic."
CDOT officials have yet to announce a start date for construction on the Central Loop BRT construction. The changes are slated for spring 2015, according to CDOT officials.
The proposed bikeways would include:
>> A new two-way, barrier-protected bike lane on Clinton Street from Fulton Street to Harrison Street. The lane would be similar to the two-way Dearborn Street bike lanes.
>> An eastbound bike lane on Washington Street that would run from South Wacker Drive to Michigan Avenue and extend up Michigan Avenue for one block.
>> A westbound bike lane on Randolph Street that would run west from Michigan Avenue to Clinton Street.