Editor’s note: This is part of a package of two stories on area cycling. To read the other story surveying area cyclists, click here.
A smoother path lies ahead!
Local governments are gearing up for busy years of bicycle-related improvements in 2023 and beyond. From filling in gaps on existing trails to creating new bike lanes on streets, Evanston and nearby municipalities have a number of planned improvements in the works, which should improve riding conditions for Evanston bicyclists of all types.
A key trend in transportation planning has been the development of “sidepaths,” which are similar to sidewalks in that they are separated from streets but are broader asphalt-surfaced paths. Designed to be shared by pedestrians and bicyclists, the sidepaths provide better safety and comfort, particularly for less experienced bikers, than just bike lane markings on the street. These sidepaths already exist in some municipalities, with more such paths either under construction or planned for the future.
However, because Evanston and other North Shore communities are almost entirely built up with relatively narrow rights-of-way – and because of opposition from local residents to the loss of parking and/or trees – sidepaths are not always feasible. As a result, some of the planned improvements call for shared streets marked with bicycle symbols and arrows (often called “sharrows”), which are less expensive but force cyclists to compete with vehicular traffic.
Following is a roundup of some of the major bicycle-related improvements slated for 2023 and the following years in Evanston and nearby suburbs.
Design work will continue in 2023 for three projects in Evanston: the reconstruction of Chicago Avenue in south Evanston; bike lanes along Church Street in west Evanston and a new bicycle/pedestrian path on Oakton Avenue, between Dodge Avenue and the North Shore Channel.
- The Chicago Avenue project extends from Howard Street north to Davis Street and encompasses a complete reconfiguration of that busy stretch, including two-way bike lanes separated from vehicular traffic by a concrete barrier, such as now exist on Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road from Davis north past Northwestern University. When complete, the separated bike lanes will run almost the entire length of Evanston. Construction is expected to begin in 2024. Information on the project is available here.
- The Church Street project extends west from Dodge Avenue to the North Shore Channel, also with a separated two-way bike lane as the preferred configuration. The new stretch will link to the existing bike lane that runs east from Dodge to downtown Evanston and new bike lanes on Church Street in Skokie that will be painted in 2023. When both the Evanston and Skokie work is complete, cyclists will be able to ride in designated bike lanes west from downtown Evanston to the popular North Branch Trail in the Cook County forest preserves, except for a short stretch through a residential neighborhood in Morton Grove. The Evanston project also includes building new stretches of path to fill in gaps on an existing path on the east side of the North Shore Channel between Harbert Park, south of Dempster Street, to Beck Park north of Church Street. Construction in expected begin in following years. Information on the project is available here.
- In addition, there will be construction of a new bicycle/pedestrian path on Oakton Avenue between Dodge Avenue and the North Shore Channel. A new sidepath will be built on the south side of Oakton from Dodge west past Dawes Elementary School and link up with an existing path in James Park. The new path will then continue on the south side of Oakton from James Park west to a traffic light next to the Shell gas station. The path will then cross Oakton at the light and link up with the North Shore Channel Trail. As part of the project, Mulford Street between Dodge Avenue and Asbury Avenue will be marked as a bike route. Information on the project is available here.
There will also be a large project in Skokie that will finish in 2024 and another is being designed now, slated for construction to start in 2024.
- In 2023, Skokie plans to build a short section of the Skokie Valley Trail from Dempster Street to Golf Road, closing a critical gap in that path. Although only a bit more than a mile in length, that segment of the trail must cross several busy streets: Dempster and Church streets as well as Gross Point and Golf roads. The trail crossings will either use existing traffic signals at nearby intersections or new signals, said Russ Rietveld, Skokie director of engineering. The new section of path will run adjacent to the ComEd right-of-way, as it does in an existing portion of the path farther south in Skokie. Once the new stretch is completed, the trail will go all the way through Skokie from Old Orchard Road south to Howard Street, where the trail then continues through Lincolnwood to Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago. In addition, bike lanes will be added as part of the reconstruction of Gross Point Road from Golf Road to Old Orchard Road next year. Those lanes will then link with a major construction project that Skokie and Cook County have been working on together – a side path that will run along the south side of Old Orchard Road from Gross Point Road to Harms Woods Forest Preserve. Portions of the path now exist at the east and west ends, but the path will be extended through the busy section adjacent to Old Orchard Shopping Center and across the Edens Expressway. Work is slated for 2023 and 2024.
- Skokie and Cook County are also partnering on the planned reconstruction of Crawford Avenue between Golf Road and Oakton Avenue, including the construction of on-street bike lanes. Engineering design work is underway with construction scheduled for 2024 or 2025.
After adopting a multi-year bicycle and active transportation plan in 2022, Wilmette is starting work on a number of projects, said Dan Manis, Wilmette village engineer.
- Work was done in 2022 on Greenleaf Avenue from Poplar Avenue to 4th Street. According to the village’s master plan, “bike boulevards” are streets that will have traffic lanes marked with bicycle symbols and arrows. The plan calls for similar improvements in 2023 to three other streets: Park Avenue from Gregory Avenue to Central Avenue; Poplar from Isabella Street to Wilmette Avenue; and Washington Avenue from Hunter Road to Ridge Avenue. Information on Wilmette’s plan is available here.
Alan Cubbage is the president of the Evanston Bicycle Club, which has more than 500 members from Evanston, Chicago and nearby suburbs. Go here for more information on the club.