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Chicago's Bicyclists Get Protection With Innovative New Lanes

Last week Chicago became the envy of America's urban biking advocates when it opened the city's first two-way protected bike lanes in the heart of the Loop, reports Lori Rotenberk.
December 17, 2012, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Along 12 blocks of Dearborn Street in the heart of the city's central business district, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's and transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein's plan to turn Chicago into the "bike friendliest city in the country" took a giant leap forward last week. 

Created at a cost of $450,000, the two-way protected bike lane that was created by removing a car lane features bike traffic signals, signs instructing pedestrians to "look both ways," and a 3-foot wide buffer between the bike lanes and the adjacent parking lane, reports Jon Hilkevitch in the Chicago Tribune. As Rotenberk explains, "[t]he major goals of the redesign include slowing down the approximately 13,100 vehicles a day that use the 1.15-mile Dearborn corridor and enhancing pedestrian safety, yet also improving traffic flow, said Commissioner Klein, who often bikes to work."

"Michael Amsden, a project manager for the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Bike Program says swiping a lane from drivers took 'lots of political know-how,' adding that 'no other city has cut through dense traffic' in that manner. While other cities have been putting in bike infrastructure for years, what sets Chicago apart, Amsden says, is the sheer super-speed at which the city has laid down protected bike lanes, going from 'zero to second-most in the country in just 18 months.' City officials hint that converting car lanes into bike lanes is the way of Chicago’s future," writes Rotenberk.

As Angie Schmitt notes at Streetsblog, bike advocates across the country are now looking to the Windy City with admiration and envy. In America's expanding bicycle infrastructure game of one-upmanship, Chicago has just raised the ante.

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Published on Friday, December 14, 2012 in Grist
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