The following is a letter to the editor that was submitted to the Chicago Tribune in response to John Kass' column, “Introducing bike tolls and the Rahm-PASS,” published on August 22. The letter was submitted by a coalition of local interests: AARP Illinois, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, New Communities Program and Active Trans.
John Kass’ column, “Introducing bike tolls and the Rahm-PASS” (8/22/2012), implies all Chicagoans who ride bikes are “elitist” “hipsters” only concerned about “carbon-footprintless pedaling” and not worthy of our city’s investment. If Mr. Kass could get beyond his stereotypes, he would know that all kinds of Chicagoans ride bikes and want safer streets.
We are Chicago’s children, sisters and grandmothers. We live on the north side, west side and south side. We are black, white and Hispanic. We speak English, Spanish and Polish. We are going to the grocery store, dropping by the park and visiting family. We are going to work as your teachers, your waiters and your IT professionals. We are poor, we are wealthy, we are middle class. We are also drivers. We pay gas taxes, sales taxes and property taxes that pay for roads. We write today because we share one thing in common: we ride bikes because it’s healthy, affordable and convenient – and we want “complete streets” in our neighborhoods that safely accommodate everyone – people on foot, in cars, and, yes, on bikes.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey, 24 percent of Midwesterners ride a bike at least once a week; and 71 percent of Americans would like to bicycle more, but fewer than half feel that their community is designed for making biking safe. Most Chicagoans avoid riding on city streets for fear of their safety. We need safer streets for biking in order to access jobs and basic services in our communities. Biking also provides a rare opportunity for healthy physical activity in our busy daily routines.
The 100 miles of protected bike lanes that Mayor Emanuel is adding will enable thousands more Chicagoans to get out of cars and onto bikes and, by giving bikes their own space, will make streets more orderly and safer for everyone. But 100 miles is less than two percent of our street network, and cars still get to use streets with protected bike lanes.
For about the same cost as just one mile of freeway, Chicago can build an entire city-wide network of protected bike lanes. This could provide safe and easy access to a healthy, affordable and convenient form of transportation that our neighborhoods need. It’s a wise investment for Chicagoans and our neighborhoods.
Ron Burke, Executive Director, Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago, IL
Bob Gallo, State Director, AARP Illinois, Chicago, IL
Joy Aruguete, Executive Director, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, Chicago, IL
Christy Prahl, Director, New Communities Program – Humboldt Park, Chicago, IL