A Summer of Bicycle-Focused Transportation Policy for Chicagoans

Chicago is an ideal city for riding a bicycle. It's flat, people are generally respectful of other users of the road, and there are alternative options for commuting if you get stuck in the rain. We have a beautiful lake front path, local organizations that advocate for riders and with Rahm Emanuel and Gabe Klein in City Hall, promises of bicycle-focused transportation policy and city infrastructure are on the horizon.

This city continually ranks decently on bike-friendly city rankings, awarded the 'silver' designation in the 2011 League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Community Rankings, the same rank as NYC, D.C., Ann Arbor, Denver and Austin to compare a few. With promises of future implementation of bicycle focused transportation decisions, Chicago planners are making progress in helping the city join the ranks of Minneapolis, Portland and San Francisco as places were the bicycle is utilized as a tool for improving livability and functionality for all residents in an urban area.

, here are some numbers on the current state of bicycle infrastructure in Chicago from
  • 123 miles of on-street bike lanes
  • 33 miles of marked shared lane
  • 0.5 miles of car-separated cycle tracks (Kinzie St)
  • 50 miles of paved, off street paths (The Lake Shore Path)
  • 12,265 on-street bike parking racks
  • 1 bicycle parking corral (Milwaukee near Damen)
  • 100 B-cycle bike share vehicles at six kiosks

Over the past month or so the Department of Transportation and Emanuel's team have made some encouraging announcements on improvements and enhancements to Chicago's bicycle planning, policy and infrastructure.

In July, CDOT announced a second protected bike lane on Jackson between Damen and Halsted. This added to the Kinzie .5-mile lane built this past summer puts Chicago at a total of two miles of protected lanes. The Active Transportation Alliance released information that CDOT announced two new protected bike lanes due to be installed this fall on 18th Street from Canal to Clark and Elston Ave from Milwaukee to North. The 18th Street lane is half a mile and the Elston one is one mile. This completes 3.5 miles of protected lanes. Only 96.5 miles to go to keep Emanuel's promise of 100 miles of protected lanes over the next four years.

In September, adding to the pro-bicycle initiatives, Chicago announced plans for a new bike share program. The bike share should be innovative with Klein heading the program, with more focus around residents and commuters rather than tourists as the existing B-Roll has proved to be. The RFP calls for an initial installation of 3,000 bikes and 300 stations, with another 2,000 bikes and 200 stations by the end of summer 2012. Klein is known for his success with the bike share program in D.C. from when he headed their Department of Transportation. Now, if only the bike share stations could be linked to the Chicago Card or compatible with the single fare pass card for all CTA, Metra and Pace transit the RTA is legislated to develop by 2015.

These pro-bicycle planning and policy initiatives announced this past summer are the first of bicycle-minded transportation changes for our city. With these initiatives, Chicago will enhance the design of streets and mold urban transportation for all users of the road; pedestrians, cyclists and pedestrians alike, enhancing the sustainability of our transportation options.