With the recent deaths of 3 cyclists, advocates say Chicago needs to recommit to building more protected lanes and installing side guards on trucks, as well as crack down on drivers and businesses that block bike lanes.
Nearly three years after Chicago was named the top city for bicycling in a survey by a national magazine, biking advocates say the city is falling behind other cities and is not doing enough to pursue its stated goals of making biking safer for all types of riders.
Advocates cite a dwindling commitment to expanding protected bike lanes and installing side guards on the city’s fleets of trucks, as well as drivers and businesses that use bike lanes like parking spots.
The latest push to increase efforts toward improving bike safety comes following the death of three cyclists in less than a month.
I’ve been commuting from Montrose to the Loop for 10+ years. I’ve seen the “Before” and “After” with protected bike lanes. I’ll take the protected bike lane any day, thank you!
Biking is part of Chicago’s culture, but the city no longer has a sterling reputation when it comes to being bike-friendly.
There are 248 miles of protected and conventional bike lanes across the city, but between 2016 and 2018 less than 4 miles of protected bike lanes were constructed. More than 60 percent of Chicagoans don’t have safe bikeways in their neighborhoods, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Active Transportation Alliance.
During a bout of early snow this November, major roadways were cleared but bike lanes were ignored. Many protected lanes stayed icy and slushy, forcing cyclists into the street or on the sidewalks. Even in winter, there are plenty of bikers that deserve safe roadways—last year on Chicago’s coldest day when it was minus 23, 191 people road Divvy bikes.
Transportation advocates are calling for more action from the city, but it can be hard to get the necessary changes implemented. Some aldermen prioritize parking over protected bike lanes in their wards.
Already this year, four bicyclists have died in traffic crashes. These tragedies have renewed calls from activists to prioritize the safety of people who bike, walk, and take transit. Active Transportation Alliance is again asking for the mayor to implement a Safe Streets Fund to pay for safer infrastructure in high-crash corridors.
In addition to unsafe roadways, drivers often block or park in bike lanes which means a cyclist might have to merge into traffic. According to Bike Lane Uprising, which is a platform that makes it easy for cyclists to track obstructions, in 2018 there were 5,461 reports of vehicles blocking bike lanes but the city only issued tickets for 3,946 of them. On 311, only 2,926 bike lane obstructions were reported.
Our challenge is that money is actually being spent ($millions) and there is substantial debate about the efficacy of this investment. For everything we can point to that might be characterized as a success, we continue to have tragedies associated with CDOT's version of infrastructure such as lead to the recent tragedy on Milwaukee Avenue, and then we have calls double-down on CDOT's thinking on Stoney, brought to us by these same people who drew up Milwaukee Ave. and the westbound Randolph scenario between LSD and Michigan.
A lot of what was built relied on one-time federal grant funding, and didn't come with a maintenance fund. Moreover, the city council just deliberately lightened up on in terms of parking tickets and such, and has LOWERED the expected city collections for these by $15million. One notion floated is that the congestion pricing and even parking tickets actually be indexed by income, but that will lead the city to add more accountants than they have people snowplowing or cleaning protected bike lanes already in existence.
While still a safer way of getting around than cycling per rider mile, the CTA has an operating loss of over a billion dollars every year, with the gap filled by taxes, and some debt. The new Chicago Teacher's contract will add $1.5 billion in new costs over the next 5 years. As such, additional infrastructure and the maintenance of it is competing with a lot of other basic spending requests, which in this town are funded by more debt, in a city, county and state that are all under water financially. By billions.
At some point it may be safer and less expensive to just give people a bus pass until CDOT can rethink their approach to all of this, all while the results of their strategies such as on Milwaukee Avenue, well, we've been through this already.
"At some point it may be safer and less expensive to just give people a bus pass..."
They already do. It's called VENTRA and you can get one at any station from one of the machines.
I've got mine of course, and as I've mentioned, the notion is that it may be cheaper and safer to just give people that bus pass instead (that's sort of the key) of what CDOT is doing with taxes and borrowed money until CDOT can rethink their approach to all of this as per above.
A 39-year-old man was riding a bike when he was struck in the 800 block of West Grand Avenue.
A man was hit by a vehicle while riding a bicycle on Wednesday in the Fulton River District.
About 3 p.m., the 39-year-old was struck by a vehicle driven by a 21-year-old man in the 800 block of West Grand Avenue, Chicago police said.
The cyclist was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.
The driver of the vehicle was taken into custody, police said.