Sunday, June 5, 2011

Protected Bike Lanes get a Wobbly Start

* this Posted yesterday morning- note the lane may be in by Bike to Work Week- that's fast! As you can find in the comments we think it's amazing that they can move so fast and we are thrilled that the new Mayor is showing such a strong commitment to cycle track right out of the gate.* I rode the "lane" this morning and it skirts the playground and  shopping so I was wrong on that! Now that I've seen it actually going it I'm just so excited and flabbergasted to see this in Chicago! thanks to CDOT, the Mayor and Alderman for showing us this can get done so fast. Mayor Emanuel hit the ground running on cycling!
My post on seeing the lane go in is above.

As you may know the Mayor has committed to installing two full miles of cycletrack, protected lanes with a physical barrier between cars and bikes, this year in Chicago and he is taking the first one hundred days of his term to decide where. It's a small start to what I hope will be a big change in Chicago transportation.

I had the luck of getting a chance to sit in on the bicycling session at TransportChicago - the Chicago transportation conference held last Friday. Huge thanks to them for letting me sit in. It will take me another day or so to get my post up about the conference but on that note I found the Guardian bike blog’s new post about creating cycletracks in England. This is an excellent introduction to the topic, focussing on a new study concluding that a protected cycletrack is one of the major tools needed to grow cycling (or in planner-speak, to increase modeshare). They discuss other traffic calming methods as well. Here is the link. We have some pictures of cycletracks from New York and Washington D.C. on our site and there are good videos on YouTube and StreetFilms about ones elsewhere.

I hope we can place some of the two miles Mayor Emanuel has committed to getting in this year where families can use them to shop or kids can bike to school. Then we can see how powerful it might be for those parents who are not confident on our streets now, to use bikes every day! This winter Alderman Solis, our Alderman in the 25th Ward, proposed a cycletrack in our ward from Pilsen to UIC that would connect several schools, the university, and the Pilsen business district on 18th street to downtown.

More discussion about bicycle lanes is going in a couple of places right now. Steven Vance at StevenCanPlan has been talking about lanes and he and WBEZ report that one location has been chosen, on Kinzie Street. I have to admit that this doesn't seem to be a location that fulfills any of the criteria I just mentioned - it seems instead to be directed at people who already are bicycle commuters to the Loop, largely young, fit adults. I don't think they are the people who can benefit from a track and it should be placed elsewhere.

In places with many protected cycletracks parents feel comfortable letting their children ride their own bikes, retirees can get to the store easily, shoppers can carry their groceries or other goods easily home without parking worries, and everybody gets more exercise and burns less expensive fuel. This could be possible here in Chicago, too, if good locations are chosen. Also, right now,it is easy to find automobile drivers who complain about bicyclists mixing badly with traffic. With a protected cycletrack riders have their own traffic signals and their path crosses other traffic much less often.

At One Less Minivan our friend Ash is excited about a proposed one for Humboldt Park, a place with a multi-aged population and lots of bicyclists. Where do you think your ward could use a lane?  Well, grab some other parents and head right on over to your Alderman's office and get to work!


  1. I don't hate Kinzie as a starting place. The lane will at least be utilized which gives us traction against naysayers for future projects. If we must piecemeal protected lanes together in half mile portions, I'd like to see one go in on Damen between North Av and Bloomindale or Armitage where there are a lot of commercial attractions. Armitage between Sheffield and Halsted is another heavily trafficed commercial strip that could lose some parking and gain some multi-modal connectivity.

  2. Hi Ash!
    I need to ride where they are putting the lane and maybe then I'll get more excited. I am glad that any are going in but as we mention I am a total fan of getting one into where families will begin to ride. I do ride that street sometimes on a zig zag way back to home from school but when I have ridden it it is usually at about 10a.m. and it;s quiet relative to when most commuters ride!
    I'm glad these lanes are coming at last but have high hopes for some where kids can get out and really get somewhere!


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