The Chainlink

Gabe Klein Predicts a 300-500% Increase in Bike Traffic in Chicago

Interesting article in the Chicago Tribune about the forthcoming Bike 2020 Plan. Gabe Klein thinks that Chicago can support a 3 to 5 times increase in the number of bikes. I agree and applaud the Chicago tradition of making "no little plans."

The most significant detail of the forthcoming Bike 2020 Plan is that Chicago's leaders believe that the City can support three to five times the number of bicyclists that it does now. In addition, the Bike 2020 Plan will add 600 miles of bicycle facilities to the 100 miles of protected bike lanes called for by Mayor Emmanuel.


Read the Chicago Tribune article here.    Read my post on ILBicycleLaw.com here.

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A 300% might not be enough to reach the goals of the Bike 2015 Plan. 

  • To increase bicycle use, so that 5 percent of all trips less than five miles are by bicycle.
  • To reduce the number of bicycle injuries by 50 percent from current levels.

The current portion of all trips less than 5 miles taken by bicycle is not known. The best estimates are from the CMAP Travel Tracker Survey, for Cook County:

  • Mean trip distance is 3.0 miles
  • Median trip distance is 2.3 miles
  • 1.1% of all trips are by bike
  • 1.5% of people bike to work (in Chicago, lower in Cook County). A threefold increase would mean 4.5%. 

That's about all we know. I write this to point out that we don't have enough data, or we do, but it hasn't been sliced and diced to get the answer of "How many trips under 5 miles are taken by bicycle?"

Nationally, the amount of all trips taken by bike (for any distance) is 1%. Source.

(There is no Bike 2020 Plan, but there is a Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan. The SFC plan addresses infrastructure only, not policy like the Bike 2015 Plan.)

I welcome the velorution for more reason than one...

If there really are going to be that many more cyclists in Chicago we're going to have to do something about the lawless reputation of Chicago cyclists.  If people hate us now imagine how bad it will be if there are five times as many cyclists.

A majority of those new cyclists will be people who also drive cars. The reputation will fix itself as drivers become bicyclists and better understands the needs, limitations, mores, and peculiarities, of each transportation domain. 

Different "mores"? If the same basic set of laws govern motorized vehicles and bicycles then there should have always been some "understanding" between these two groups. I wonder if trying to claim a distinction between them is not problematic. If the common wisdom is that these two modes of transportation require different "mores" to be understood properly, then it begs the question why place them on roadways with "shared" lanes?

Because they are using the same roadways and their operators share the same signs, signals, hand turning signals, it means (at least to me) that the behaviors expected from these groups are essentially the same with the exception of routes where the speed differential is too great to accommodate both simultaneously (e.g. highways and major arteries like LSD).

What would help however if for the two groups to concentrate on the fact of their similarities and perhaps enjoy experiences on the roadways that are devoid of antagonistic behaviors and attempts to usurp control of intersections in ways that are not normally allowed for either transportation mode. True motorcades and funerals have escorts that block intersections, but automobile clubs are not allowed to practice this sort of thing without having gained permission or requested police escorts where needed.

And certainly the notion of a motorist reaching out of their automobile to apply a "safety slap" or better yet a "safety bump" to the person of someone they deem to be a cyclist displaying errant behaviors would raise more than a few eyebrows on this forum, and deservedly so.

I certainly hope that the number of cyclists does increase in number but I would have guessed that the problems between cyclists and motorists would be fewer than between cyclists and cyclists. The fact that the city ordinance requires SINGLE FILE riding on streets may mean that speed differentials between cyclists is likely cause the same kinds of consternation that is experienced on the LFP but with fewer options for immediate resolution.

Steven Vance said:

A majority of those new cyclists will be people who also drive cars. The reputation will fix itself as drivers become bicyclists and better understands the needs, limitations, mores, and peculiarities, of each transportation domain. 

Just ban cars on the road altogether, remove the stop signs.  Traffic will be fine.   It'd be like China before everyone could afford cars.  It wasn't a problem until then.

The rules are for the cars.  Without the rules the cars would be killing EVEN MORE road users.   Bikes really don't need all these "rules" because they are not big, heavy, and fast.

It's the cars, stupid.

The fact that the city ordinance requires SINGLE FILE riding on streets may mean that speed differentials between cyclists is likely cause the same kinds of consternation that is experienced on the LFP but with fewer options for immediate resolution.

 

We're seeing this already in places where bike lanes are not wide enough to allow passing.  In those places, the faster rider often ends up going out into a regular traffic lane to pass someone slow in the bike lane.  Lane width can vary, depending on available overall road width.  As I recently discovered, the lanes on the 18th St. are wide enough for passing.  On a climb, that's an especially valuable thing.

I think there will definitely be a learning curve - figuring how to solve the passing problem in various locations.  THere are plenty of folks who are content to move at Dutch bike speeds (slow), but there will always be some who want to go faster, regardless of what the other cyclists are doing.

I failed to mention the other big issue that is going to test the ridership of cyclists and that is "end of travel accommodations". For instance when you reach your destination (assuming that there is not a significant increase in folding bike use, that I am pushing for) you are going to have 3-5X as many folks looking for a place to lock up their bikes.

That is going to mean that in front of building (or somewhere outside) the number and size of racks will need to balloon. This will mean some serious thinking on the part of building and city planners to figure out where all these riders bikes can go. In some European cities they actually have floating barges that serve as parking facilities for riders.

But the couple of web masters with whom I regularly communicate indicate that bicycle theft has become a fairly substantial problem as a result of the increasing numbers of riders. And that despite the barges it ends up being a situation which requires bicyclists to become pedestrians for the final remainders of their journey.

Is our system of mixed mode transportation ready for 3-5x the number of riders who will be

  • contending for racks on the front of buses
  • vying for seats on trains for the ride into and away from the city (rides in which they board their bikes)
  • can our current bike parking facilities really handle this sort of increase in ridership and provide adequate showering and dressing room space for that many more people

In those areas of the city where there really is not enough space to park bikes outside and still leave the front of the building cleared according to anti-terrorism protocol it will probably mean having to pay for underground in indoor parking. That is going to be an issue for some who have found the current FREE parking situation suitable to their pocketbooks but suddenly the increasing numbers mean that monies they had been saving are now being bled from them for parking and valet services that did not exist before.

Admittedly a parking and valet service would be cool, but it won't come cheap. And it most certainly won't always be as convenient as pulling up to the front of your office and finding that usual light post to hitch to.

It may suddenly be a situation where contention for precious resources makes competitors out of allies.

And even if the city and the private sector provide the needed infrastructure for all of this my guess is that it will come at some price (i.e. financial). That is certainly the case with parking in the city. Only those with jobs can park inside the buildings where the costs are steep but the convenience is quite high.
Anne Alt said:

I think there will definitely be a learning curve - figuring how to solve the passing problem in various locations.  THere are plenty of folks who are content to move at Dutch bike speeds (slow), but there will always be some who want to go faster, regardless of what the other cyclists are doing.

Apparently the the writer thinks that Chicago is getting some really heavy duty bikes that can carry 3-5 people each:

“I think we can accomplish three times to five times bike loadshare easily,” said Gabe Klein, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, meaning bicycles can carry three to five times as many Chicagoans as they now do.

Brilliant solution to the bike parking problem!

Maybe someday we'll have multiple bike lanes, and single occupancy bikes will be banned from the express lane.

Duppie said:

Apparently the the writer thinks that Chicago is getting some really heavy duty bikes that can carry 3-5 people each:

“I think we can accomplish three times to five times bike loadshare easily,” said Gabe Klein, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, meaning bicycles can carry three to five times as many Chicagoans as they now do.

We need more bike stations.  There's been talk for years about adding one in the West Loop (possibly in or near Union Station).  Any of us who spend time in the south end of the Loop know that bike parking demand there (anywhere near the Board of Trade) greatly exceeds supply.  I'd love it if we could get a bike station near each corner of the Loop - something with at least 200 bike parking spaces.  Now THAT would really boost commuting ridership.

O said:

I failed to mention the other big issue that is going to test the ridership of cyclists and that is "end of travel accommodations". For instance when you reach your destination (assuming that there is not a significant increase in folding bike use, that I am pushing for) you are going to have 3-5X as many folks looking for a place to lock up their bikes.

That is going to mean that in front of building (or somewhere outside) the number and size of racks will need to balloon. This will mean some serious thinking on the part of building and city planners to figure out where all these riders bikes can go. In some European cities they actually have floating barges that serve as parking facilities for riders.

But the couple of web masters with whom I regularly communicate indicate that bicycle theft has become a fairly substantial problem as a result of the increasing numbers of riders. And that despite the barges it ends up being a situation which requires bicyclists to become pedestrians for the final remainders of their journey.

Is our system of mixed mode transportation ready for 3-5x the number of riders who will be

  • contending for racks on the front of buses
  • vying for seats on trains for the ride into and away from the city (rides in which they board their bikes)
  • can our current bike parking facilities really handle this sort of increase in ridership and provide adequate showering and dressing room space for that many more people

In those areas of the city where there really is not enough space to park bikes outside and still leave the front of the building cleared according to anti-terrorism protocol it will probably mean having to pay for underground in indoor parking. That is going to be an issue for some who have found the current FREE parking situation suitable to their pocketbooks but suddenly the increasing numbers mean that monies they had been saving are now being bled from them for parking and valet services that did not exist before.

Admittedly a parking and valet service would be cool, but it won't come cheap. And it most certainly won't always be as convenient as pulling up to the front of your office and finding that usual light post to hitch to.

It may suddenly be a situation where contention for precious resources makes competitors out of allies.

And even if the city and the private sector provide the needed infrastructure for all of this my guess is that it will come at some price (i.e. financial). That is certainly the case with parking in the city. Only those with jobs can park inside the buildings where the costs are steep but the convenience is quite high.
Anne Alt said:

I think there will definitely be a learning curve - figuring how to solve the passing problem in various locations.  THere are plenty of folks who are content to move at Dutch bike speeds (slow), but there will always be some who want to go faster, regardless of what the other cyclists are doing.

I don't think bicycle operators should be sharing the road with automobile operators except on roads where the design and laws demand automobiles be driven at or less than the speed of bicycles. 


O said:

Different "mores"? If the same basic set of laws govern motorized vehicles and bicycles then there should have always been some "understanding" between these two groups. I wonder if trying to claim a distinction between them is not problematic. If the common wisdom is that these two modes of transportation require different "mores" to be understood properly, then it begs the question why place them on roadways with "shared" lanes?

The key would be the "design" of the road.  I was on a four lane in the suburbs today that goes straight through the forest preserves.  It is posted 30, but the drivers read the sign as:  "Go as fast as you can before you get to the next light."

Steven Vance said:

I don't think bicycle operators should be sharing the road with automobile operators except on roads where the design and laws demand automobiles be driven at or less than the speed of bicycles. 


O said:

Different "mores"? If the same basic set of laws govern motorized vehicles and bicycles then there should have always been some "understanding" between these two groups. I wonder if trying to claim a distinction between them is not problematic. If the common wisdom is that these two modes of transportation require different "mores" to be understood properly, then it begs the question why place them on roadways with "shared" lanes?

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