The Chainlink

John Greenfield made a good point in his last comment on the John Kass/Dearborn thread.  As we saw with Kinzie and are seeing with the new bike lanes on west side boulevards and other streets, major changes to our streets may generate major resistance.  The Dearborn lanes are a radical change - something the majority of Chicago drivers have never seen.

One of the best things we can do is to write rational letters in support of these improvements.  This could take several forms: letters to the editor of the Trib and Sun-Times; letters to Crain's Chicago Business emphasizing how improved bike facilities (lanes, parking, etc.) can create more flexible transportation options for employees and business owners, generate more traffic to neighborhood business districts so businesses there can serve more customers without more car parking, create a new real estate development model, etc.; messages (email or letter) to aldermen in wards with new bike facilities, thanking them for the improvements; messages to CDOT voicing support and/or suggesting ways to fine tune lanes so they work as well as possible; messages to neighborhood chambers of commerce about improving bike friendliness to take advantage or nearby routes; and messages to TV and radio stations asking for some well researched educational pieces aimed at drivers.

People who don't understand the changes are likely to complain about them.  Because we do understand, we can educate - friends, neighbors, family members, employees and managers of neighborhood businesses.  We can also ask for bike improvements in areas of our own neighborhoods where we think they are needed, and encourage others to do likewise.

In my own neighborhood, as in others with a lower density of bike traffic, it can be a little more challenging, as we often encounter other kinds of density.  The need for outreach and education is even more important in these lower density areas, since fewer people "get it."

The fact that we're getting these lanes doesn't guarantee acceptance.  We need to get out and ride them, speak up for them, and send the message that bikes are the way of our transportation future across the city.

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Thanks for this post, Anne.  I was thinking in response to John's last reply that it is extremely important for cyclists to let the powers who were responsible for instituting the bike infrastructure know that it is appreciated.  There is a certain courage exhibited by those blazing these trails.  In the long run, they need to know that there are constituents who approve of their actions. 

Of course, many of us use the infrastructure outside of our wards.  Letting Mayor Emanuel and CDOT know we think it is good is one thing.  It cannot hurt to send correspondence to the aldermen even though we don't live in the particular ward.

Agreed.

I bike my four year old to preschool. You can believe that I appreciate the overall upgrades to infrastructure. Emailing or calling your Alderman's office takes five minutes.

Well said! If someone doesn't know where to start, here are two online tools from Active Trans for sending email messages to aldermen:

- Say thank you for the Dearborn Bikeway

- Share your support for the West Side Boulevard Bikeway

Also many aldermen now actively use Twitter and take note when people @mention them. You can click here to give city officials a thumbs-up for Dearborn on Twitter.

It's important both for constituents in a ward to thank their aldermen and for cyclists who don't live in the ward to say that it matters to them, and to explain why - because their job is in the ward, or they patronize businesses in the ward, regularly visit the ward, etc.  If a ward is part of one's commute route, that matters, too.

Businesses that are on one's commute route may become destinations.  I've discovered restaurants and other businesses that became regular destinations because I saw them along the way.  Some examples are small neighborhood restaurants not too far from home where I might stop for dinner on the way home, or call ahead for a takeout order.  Aldermen need to know this, because it can be a business development tool for them.

Lisa Curcio said:

Thanks for this post, Anne.  I was thinking in response to John's last reply that it is extremely important for cyclists to let the powers who were responsible for instituting the bike infrastructure know that it is appreciated.  There is a certain courage exhibited by those blazing these trails.  In the long run, they need to know that there are constituents who approve of their actions. 

Of course, many of us use the infrastructure outside of our wards.  Letting Mayor Emanuel and CDOT know we think it is good is one thing.  It cannot hurt to send correspondence to the aldermen even though we don't live in the particular ward.

If the Dearborn PBL has shown us anything, its that the City of Chicago is serious about expanding bicycling in the city. Politicians at the local, state and Federal level are no doubt watching. I sincerely believe this is a crucial "tipping point" in how ingrained cycling becomes in Chicago for years to come.

If politicians know that bicycling is important from their constituents, they will support bicycling by trying to earn appropriations and supporting legislation that is consistent with a pro-biking agenda. As Tip O'Neill famously said, "All politics is local." For this reason it is extremely important to make sure your Alderman, State Representative, State Senator, Congressman, and Senators Durbin and Kirk know how we feel. And that we'll vote how we feel.

+1

Mike Keating said:

If the Dearborn PBL has shown us anything, its that the City of Chicago is serious about expanding bicycling in the city. Politicians at the local, state and Federal level are no doubt watching. I sincerely believe this is a crucial "tipping point" in how ingrained cycling becomes in Chicago for years to come.

If politicians know that bicycling is important from their constituents, they will support bicycling by trying to earn appropriations and supporting legislation that is consistent with a pro-biking agenda. As Tip O'Neill famously said, "All politics is local." For this reason it is extremely important to make sure your Alderman, State Representative, State Senator, Congressman, and Senators Durbin and Kirk know how we feel. And that we'll vote how we feel.

I think the success of the Dearborn lane depends far less on public relations and more on if the lane is designed in the most useful and useable fashion. Good lanes speak loudly for themselves.

This we won't know  how good the Dearborn lane is until we begin to use it but if it leaves vulnerable riders stranded mid ride we won't see a rise in ridership no matter how many thank you notes we send. Essential to a growth in political capital for cycling is the real increase in riders in Chicago- not a sigh of support from the fringe. I am not inclined to cheerlead for bad or poor short term lanes-- especially painted ones even with a deluxe double painted line perfect for putting my kid in the door zone-- that have no long term impact. 

Creating mediocre lanes isn't political courage-- it's the opposite. I can't wait to ride the Dearborn lane and hope it is well made. I do doubt who is watching this lane. Is it really that ground breaking?  Isn't moving the Kinzie lane a good indication that the nature of these lanes is temporary.  I doubt sincerely if any lawmakers are paying attention to the Dearborn lane.

Politicians watch permanent infrastructure and real changes in ride share. Hopefully the Dearborn lane will bring at least half of the equation. 

I think it's well known that you and I are often on the same page (John and I discuss our opposing views quite often). We won't know if Dearborn Street is good until we get to bike on its new bike lane. I think it has a lot of symbology for those who don't bike: its downtown location and that a travel lane was converted to a bike lane tells everyone that bicycling is being taken seriously (or more seriously) in 2012. 

I want to correct something "for the record": The Kinzie Street bike lane is not moving or going away. There are many factors that would determine its temporary removal, but CDOT confirmed with me that the removal would be temporary. Its removal would be caused by the *potential* need to allow construction truck traffic for the Wolf Point development, the approval of which has been delayed multiple times because Alderman Reilly feels he was duped by the developer.

jennifer james said:

Creating mediocre lanes isn't political courage-- it's the opposite. I can't wait to ride the Dearborn lane and hope it is well made. I do doubt who is watching this lane. Is it really that ground breaking?  Isn't moving the Kinzie lane a good indication that the nature of these lanes is temporary.  I doubt sincerely if any lawmakers are paying attention to the Dearborn lane.

I look at this change as another step on an evolutionary scale of bike infrastructure.  As Randy Neufeld reminded us at yesterday's MBAC meeting, the amazing bike infrastructure in places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen didn't come out of nowhere.  It evolved from early configurations somewhat like what we have now. 

I don't look at Dearborn as a perfect "forever" solution, but if it gets a lot more cyclists on the road in relative safety, we're moving in the right direction.

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