If you want safety and livability to be the priority on Chicago’s streets, here’s where the rubber meets the road.
Recently, 32nd Ward Alderman (and Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign supporter) Scott Waguespack asked the Wicker Park Committee, a neighborhood group, to conduct an advisory vote on potential protected bike lanes for Milwaukee Ave. The group voted 15-8 opposing, citing concerns about the need to remove parking in order to accommodate new barrier-protected lane design, which would make the street safer and more livable (not to mention better for business).
But we know that the people who live near and utilize Milwaukee Ave. want protected bike lanes. More than 2,700 people (including more than 500 who live in Wicker Park/Bucktown) have signed Active Trans' petition supporting the city’s plan to make Milwaukee Ave. safer and better for everyone who uses the street.
The message from this overwhelming response is clear: Chicagoans want our streets to give priority to people, not just cars. Barrier-protected bikeways are one way we can make this vision a reality.
Change can be scary and the choices we face about making changes in our communities often involve tradeoffs. As a community, we evaluate the relative costs and benefits of these tradeoffs based on the degree to which they reflect our shared values and priorities. It doesn’t take a traffic engineer to look at the status quo on Milwaukee Ave. and see that traffic and parking are given priority over safety and livability. This is out of step with the shifting priorities of the people who live, work, and travel in the area. We value protecting vulnerable road users and creating vibrant neighborhoods over making it easier to drive and park.
But our car-centered ways of thinking run deep. And shifting beliefs is hard work, even when you have facts on your side. That’s why it’s critical for each and every one of us to take action and help our neighbors understand that when our streets meet the needs of all users, everybody benefits.
If you agree with Active Trans (and the 2700 friends who signed the petition) that our world-class city deserves a world-class bicycle network, here’s what you can do:
Spring officially begins next week, and with warmer weather, construction crews will once again be hitting the streets installing new bikeways. Active Trans is excited about a street improvement project the city is planning on Milwaukee Avenue between Elston Avenue and Kinzie Street, which we expect will make this often chaotic and hazardous street safer for everyone.
Nearly 1,900 people have signed our petition supporting barrier-protected bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue, but the more voices we add, the stronger our message will be!
We know Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Transportation support the goal of 100 miles of protected bike lanes, and aldermen in the Milwaukee corridor -- including Burnett, Moreno, Waguespack, Colon, Reboyras and Arena -- have also officially signed on as partners supporting that goal.
However, city officials are always in the position of balancing their constituents' interests for every street project. That's why it's so important for us to speak up together as the city assesses how to use limited street space. Consolidating some parking may be required on Milwaukee to create a safer street, and that's worth it. Help make it easier for city officials to support protected bike lanes on Milwaukee by making it clear where Chicagoans stand on this issue.
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Spring officially begins on March 20 this year, just five weeks away. As Chicagoans know, construction crews return to the streets when spring arrives. We're excited about that because it means the city will get back to work installing new bikeways, making our streets safer for everyone.
What can we look forward to this spring? The city's Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 (PDF) calls for more than 16 miles of new bikeways by May 2013!
The plan is a roadmap to guide the development of a citywide network of bikeways, but the inclusion of a street in the plan does not mean that a bikeway project has been approved by the alderman or necessary government agencies.
Making the plan a reality will still require advocacy and outreach to keep bikeway projects moving forward -- and we're depending on supporters like you to speak up with us. With the state putting down roadblocks for projects like these, you can help right now by telling Gov. Quinn to end the state's obstruction of safer streets for biking.
We've updated our Chicago Bikeways Tracker map so you can see what projects from the plan have been completed and what's proposed for installation by May. Here are a few highlights.
To learn more about ways you can help support these projects this spring, make sure to sign up as a Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign supporter here.
Whether you're an 8-year-old child or 80-year-old grandmother, you should be able to ride a bike on your community's streets without fearing for your safety. Barrier protected bike lanes are designed with all kinds of people in mind to make biking a safe and easy option for everyone.
But Streetsblog Chicago and the Chicago Tribune have revealed that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has put the brakes on barrier protected bike lanes and safer streets. This will impact plans for safer streets in both the City of Chicago and the suburbs.
Please sign this petition telling Gov. Quinn that IDOT must cooperate with local communities to create safer streets for biking!
Congratulations to the Village of Wheeling for adopting an active transportation plan!
Nearly 250 people from the north suburban community helped shape the plan: Local residents, business owners, elected officials, and representatives from the schools, park districts, bike clubs and community organizations all provided valuable feedback.
The plan contains guidance on where improvements for walking and biking are most needed, what types of improvements to make, policies to encourage coordinated planning of future bike and pedestrian facilities, maintenance plans for existing facilities, and programming ideas for encouraging people to walk and ride in Wheeling. It's all there!
Active Trans was pleased by the amount of enthusiasm within Wheeling for the plan. Already, members of the village board have discussed moving ahead with some of the plan's recommendations.
The recently-adopted plan was a year-long project lead by the Active Transportation Alliance in partnership with the Village of Wheeling, with support from TranSystems, a transportation design and engineering firm, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
Photo above shows one of the community meetings where Wheeling residents provided their input on the plan.
What did it feel like biking on Dearborn Street before the protected bike lane, and what does it feel like now? The difference is stark. Take a look at the dramatic impact that comes about when we rethink our streets to make biking safer and easier. The before and after video and photos below will give you a sense of Dearborn's transformation!
We know that people want safer streets for biking. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey found that 71 percent of Americans would like to bike more, but fewer than half feel their community is safe for bikes.
While controversy often tends to be what attracts attention, there's also no shortage of press coverage demonstrating the strong public support for new bike lanes in Chicago. Over the past week, there's been a strong showing of support in the form of an op-ed in Crain's Chicago from Donald Wilson of DRW Trading Group, a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune that gave Active Trans the last word, a column by Greg Hinz in Crain's, and even an editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times stating that "The opening Friday of the Loop’s first protected bicycle lane is a reminder there’s a better way to design the city’s transportation system."
Below are some highlights of supportive press coverage since Chicago's first protected bike lane was installed. Share links to your favorite positive news and commentary in the comments.
The photo features a neighbor of the new protected bike lane on Dearborn giving a thumbs up for the project.
Commissioner Gabe Klein and the Chicago Department of Transportation are hosting a press conference today for the grand opening of the Dearborn protected bike lane and the release of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020!
When: Friday, December 14 at 1 p.m.
Where: Printer’s Row Park, 700 S. Dearborn St.
Come out to celebrate safer streets for biking and to take your first ride on Chicago's newest protected bike lane. Can't make it? Celebrate with us online by clicking here to send a thank you to the city via email or Twitter.
As we ride on Dearborn, let's all show our appreciation by modeling good behavior and following the rules of the road.
Construction of the Dearborn Street protected bike lane is now officially underway! While we've been anticipating some of the bikeway updates described below, we also had a couple exciting surprises this autumn.
Check out a map of Chicago's newest bikeways and follow our progress toward 100 miles of protected bike lanes on our Chicago Bikeways Tracker.
Dearborn bikeway construction begins!
More than 4,500 people signed Active Trans' petition in support of the first protected bike lane through the Loop. Needless to say, many people have been anxiously anticipating its installation. The city kicked off construction this past weekend, starting with new bicycle traffic signals (see photo of wrapped pole right), but we'll be waiting for the first sign of striping on the street before we add this to our official Chicago Bikeways Tracker tally.
The signals will not be operational until the bikeway is completed, but it's an exciting sign that this project is now becoming a reality, thanks to the support and leadership of Mayor Emanuel and 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly. When completed, this will be a 1.25-mile two-way protected bike lane between Kinzie Street and Polk Street.
Franklin and Desplaines autumn surprises
Earlier this month, the city announced a new buffered bike lane for Franklin Street from Harrison Street to Wacker Drive. This project is intended to fit with the timing of the Wacker Drive project as it comes to a close and as Franklin is returned to a northbound one-way street.
This past weekend, striping started on a new southbound protected bike lane on Desplaines Street, from Fulton Street to Harrison Street. The two-way segment of Desplaines between Fulton and Kinzie Street/Milwaukee Avenue will also be updated with improved bike lanes. Desplaines can provide a great alternative route south into the Loop for northwest side residents -- particularly important during the Wells Street bridge closure.
Clark and Halsted buffered bike lanes
New buffered bike lanes have been incorporated into street resurfacing projects on Clark and Halsted Streets. You now have more breathing room when biking on Halsted between Division Street and North Avenue. And the new and improved bike lanes on Clark Street will be completed within the next couple weeks, providing safer passage through Wrigleyville and Lakeview, from Addison Street to Diversey Parkway.
King Drive buffered bike lanes
Biking in Bronzeville will get safer when the city finishes upgrading the bike lanes on King Drive to provide some buffer space, for 3 miles between 26th and 51st Streets. Striping started earlier this month.
Grand Avenue and Kinzie Street
Because of the potential construction impact of the Wolf Point development project on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, Ald. Reilly shared the news that the city is considering relocating the Kinzie protected bike lane to Grand Avenue. Learn more here.
Bikeways for School and Roscoe?
Ald. Tom Tunney is now exploring potential bikeways for School and Roscoe Streets through the 44th Ward. These streets would provide a missing east-west connection through Lakeview and would be great candidates for Neighborhood Greenways. If you live in the 44th Ward and support the idea, please be sure to contact Ald. Tunney to let him know!
UPDATED INFO. BELOW
Because of the potential construction impact of the Wolf Point development project on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly shared the news that the city is considering relocating the Kinzie protected bike lane to Grand Avenue.
Active Trans is pleased that in his negotiations with the developer, Ald. Reilly has made maintaining safe streets for biking a priority. We're also pleased that the developer has agreed to fund the relocation of this highly used bike lane, pending approval of the development by the Chicago Plan Commission.
Active Trans believes Grand Avenue could be a great alternative route, as long as it allows for protected bike lanes accomodating two-way bike traffic between Milwaukee Avenue and the planned protected bike lane on Dearborn Street, and as long as the Grand Avenue bikeway is completed before the Kinzie bikway is removed.
We are still awaiting additional details on this potential project and will share more information as it's available.
UPDATE: We spoke with Alderman Reilly’s office to ask about the bikeway design and whether the Grand bikeway would be installed before the Kinzie bikeway is removed. They said the alderman is committed to ensuring there’s a seamless transition from Kinzie to Grand without disruption to bike access. The plan is to create a connection on Grand between Milwaukee and the planned Dearborn bikeway. The developer is still working out the plans with CDOT and will hire their own contractor to install the bikeway per CDOT’s specs, in order to expedite installation. Details such as how two-way bike traffic will be accommodated are still to be determined. This would be a temporary relocation of the bikeway unless CDOT determines protected bike lanes should remain on Grand.