Parents in Chicago who wish to use bikes as transportation with their independent young riders are thwarted at every turn. Dangerous traffic uneducated about our youngest cyclists, terrible road conditions, lack of infrastructure for bikes, poorly marked and vulnerable bike lanes. All these factors add up to using public transportation or the car instead of a bicycle in most cases when families are often traveling less than two miles to reach school, shopping, parks libraries or museums.How can we rectify this as a city? I'm sick of telling my sons they can't ride the four miles to school each morning they can easily pedal in no time because it just isn't safe period.
Today Pedestrian Observations published a critique of rails to trails conversion in the U.S. and separated infrastructure overseas. As a huge fan of well designed separated lanes and road calming here in Chicago I was particularly interested in the comment left by a Dutch reader describing how they use a variety of methods to create better cycling opportunities in Holland. I was interested as always in the mix used in other places both in the U.S. and abroad and it is part of my solution to riding with children here in Chicago. The comment will be published at the bottom of the post so you can read it too.
Here's my prescription for Chicago.
Let's infrastructure "bomb" one or two neighborhoods here in Chicago in the next year to create cycling forward zones. We could target four-five schools, two CPL libraries, shopping and parks to create pathways that reach these key places designed specifically for the 8-80 rider. The infrastructure for cyclists could and should be a mix of traffic calming and separated lanes in a mix of styles. This would not be ward specific but cycling user specific designed to increase ridership to these most used places for families. Studying the families that use other kinds of transportation to get to school as is being done in Mr. Colon's ward could give some of the information needed to begin laying out lanes.
In my neighborhood there are five schools in close proximity to four parks, three shopping areas, a major university and one public library. These places serve families in at least two wards. I'd like to address moving beyond ward thinking for creating better cycling in another post! That said, the ward to ward thinking behind cycling development is not how we all actually ride. I pass through four wards in my first leg to school alone. By the time I ride home and back I have been in at least three to four more. This is how most of us commute here and as constant users of roads in every ward we all have a stake in each community change in cycling infrastructure.
While Logan Square is a natural choice for this due to political support and a high number of cyclists, I think that it would be wise to choose one ward that has the motivation or Logan itself (or say Pilsen) and another far less obvious community with far, far fewer cyclists.
I think that creating one or two cycling specific communities would create demand for this amenity in other parts of the city if done well! What neighborhood would you choose?
Just something to think on before you head off to the Mayor's Bike Meeting Tomorrow click for all the details. See you there!
Here is Andre Lot's comment from Pedestrian Observations: