12/05/2012 09:18 am ET

Dearborn Two-Way Bike Lane Construction Underway As Mayor Rebuffs Critics

Zipping through the Loop on two wheels is about to get speedier for Chicago cyclists -- and for drivers, bikers and pedestrians alike, hopefully safer, too.

The northbound running one-way street of Dearborn is getting two bike-related firsts for the city: the first two-way bike lane (apart from the Lakefront Trail) and the first bike-only traffic signals. The Chicago Department of Transportation started work on the lanes Nov. 30. The project, that stretches from Kinzie to Polk, set for a mid-December completion.

(Scroll down for photos of the two-way bike lane construction.)

"We are committed to improving the safety for all roadway users throughout Chicago,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein in a statement. “The Dearborn Street barrier-protected bike lanes will provide bicyclists with a safe and comfortable route, making a key connection for people who commute via bicycle through the heart of the Loop.”

According to an update CDOT posted via Facebook late Tuesday afternoon,

"Striping is complete to Kinzie, bicycle traffic sensors were installed yesterday in the southbound bike lane approaching Polk to trigger a green light for cyclists, and bollards are being installed today! Before opening the lanes we still need to install signs and adjust the traffic signal timing along the corridor.

According to the city, Dearborn will remain one-way for motorists, with the two-way bike lane installed on the west side of the street; cyclists heading north will flow with traffic, flanked by a buffer of street parking for cars, while southbound cyclists will bike closest to the curb.

As for the already installed dedicated bike signals, those will be activated when the lane opens for traffic. Signals were placed at each intersection in November to guide the southbound cyclists (moving opposite motor traffic), and to separate northbound bicyclists from motorists turning left off Dearborn Street onto westbound cross streets, said the city.

CDOT said via Twitter even mid-construction, drivers were already getting used to parking along the new bike lanes. Dearborn's lanes feature the same buffered parking style similar to lanes on Kinzie and Elston.

To accomodate the protected bike lane in the stretch of Dearborn between Polk and Wacker, one motor vehicle lane was removed. As was the case when the Kinzie protected bike lane was installed--and a lane removed--The Sun-Times reports some motorists are already complaining.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, meanwhile, has defended the lanes, while Klein has said “the Dearborn Street two-way protected bike lane project will balance roadway space to ensure pedestrians, transit users, bicyclists and motorists can travel along and across the street safely.”

While the Sun-Times notes there are "literally 12 feet between bicyclists and the flow of vehicular traffic," buffer zones between cyclists and parked cars are still critical: just two months ago, lawyer Neill Townsend was killed by a semitrailer on Wells Street (which has a designated bike lane, but no buffer between cars and traffic) when he swerved to avoid being doored.

Currently, there are no significant north-south running dedicated bike lanes east of Dearborn between Kinzie and Polk. To the west, there's no dedicated bike lane until Canal Street, save a short segment of Wells between Kinzie and Wacker.

Two-Way Bike Line On Dearborn