Chicago needs a comprehensive transportation vision that incorporates and supports burgeoning bicycle usage. Over the past quarter century, Chicago has transformed into a much more bicycle-oriented city. The commonsense approach of increasing biking in Chicago has several immediate impacts such as supporting a reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to individual citizens’ exercise regimens resulting in improved health outcomes.
While more and more residents use and rely on bicycles for transportation, our bicycle safety mechanisms, however, have lagged. Our city averages almost 3,000 bicycle-related injuries and dozens of fatalities a year. Sadly, last year we lost a young child who was killed in an Uptown bicycle crash with a truck due to an obstruction. The number of annual bicycle-vehicular accidents in Chicago has reached an unacceptable level and any preventable fatalities are too many.
I acknowledge our progress over the last decade in expanding access to bicyclists on our roads, but we need to think more boldly. Mayor Emanuel promised 100 miles of protected bicycle lanes, but over the last half decade, the city has moved slowly toward realizing this goal. Chicago has implemented bicycle lanes on some streets and invested in both enhanced bicycle access along the lakefront as well as the 606 Bloomingdale Trail. These efforts represent a start, but our city needs significantly more bicycle infrastructure. To help with traffic congestion and expand our cycling networks and routes, we need to explore “contraflow routes” – 2-way bike lanes on 1-way streets. In addition to being a low-cost intervention to increasing the flow of local traffic for motorists and bicyclists alike, studies in the UK have shown that the implementation of these routes greatly reduces the number of crashes by bicyclists when compared to other route networks.
Local grass roots organizations like Chicago, Bike Grid Now! have proposed an innovative plan to link bicycle friendly streets together in a grid that covers 10% of city streets. Bike Lane Uprising users have highlighted automobile obstruction of bicycle lanes by reporting over 50,000 instances of such non-compliance. Another group, the Active Transportation Alliance, is working to make biking, walking, and public transportation safe and equitable options for moving around Chicago. This group has fought for the use of concrete curbs for protected bicycle lanes. These ideas and others like it represent the future of Chicago.
As Alderman, I will continue to be a strong advocate for bicyclists and other alternative forms of transportation. I will work to grow our local network of bicycle lanes in the 46th Ward while also exploring route-enhancing options such as contraflow and a ward-wide grid option. We all want safer streets in our communities, and my commitment to bicycle safety and expansion will help us achieve that goal.
“An increase in bike lanes in urban environments can have a large impact beyond health and environmental sustainability. When strategies are implemented thoughtfully, bicycling can boost local business, revitalize commercial districts and provide significant transportation cost-savings for local residents.“ – Initiative for a Competitive Inner City