The Chainlink

The Active Transportation Alliance sent out to all members a form letter, already composed and addressed, to Mayor Lori Lightfoot...all it needs is your signature.  Topics include:

•  Safe Streets Fund for better lit crosswalks, curb protected bike lanes, and bus stop bump-outs

•  Bike Lanes:  at least 100 miles of new on-street bikeways by 2023, including 35 miles of protected bike lanes

•  Chicago River Trail:  a continuous system on the North, Central, and Southwest Sides

•  Bus Lanes:  50 miles of new transit-priority streets by 2023

I guess ATA thinks its members are a bunch of illiterate morons who can't parse a sentence.  As a long-time Chicago cyclist, none of these are MY priorities...are they yours?   I suggest you delete the lengthy prepared text, and write your own thoughts.  Some ideas I'd suggest mentioning:

1.  Just like Governor Pritzker who wants to double the Illinois gas tax, double the Chicago city gas tax too...gas is now selling at a ridiculously low price, when adjusted for inflation and compared with past periods.  It is a very opportune time to take a bite of this sugar-plum, improve City finances, relieve Global Warming, and reduce congestion.  Refer to Bill Nye, The Science Guy.

2.  Name a Cycling Czar of Chicago who works 24/7 to make biking in Chicago safer and more popular.

3.  With the Cycling Czar, personally review EVERY cyclist's death in Chicago and the disposition of each case:  determining that such an accident will never happen again

4.  Survey usage of existing Protected Bike Lanes and consider dismantling those that do not attract at least 50 cyclists/hour during rush periods, and replacing them with paint.

5.  Implement Congestion Pricing in downtown Chicago similar to that being considered by several other major US cities.

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Thanks for sharing this link, clp. I do support the suggestions of the ATA, for what it’s worth. And i think your suggestions are interesting as well; what do you see the bike czar doing, exactly? And why spend money dismantling protected lanes? If the network was expanded to better connect those lanes they might see more use, don’t you think?

Regarding the city gas tax, the city needs to take measures to ensure that airlines are paying the tax. Yes, those taxes will just get passed onto ticket purchases, but it is still a large amount of money that needs to be collected. In the past, airlines have set up "fuel purchasing offices" in Sycamore, IL to buy fuel to avoid city taxes.

Good points Jeremy and Filka.  And my golf buddy (resides in the Gold Coast) always buys his gas when we play in Indiana, thus dodging Chicago's and Illinois' gas taxes too.  It is difficult to attain 100% compliance for vehicles that can move to other tax jurisdictions.  One duty of the new Chicago Cycling Czar could be to monitor the new gas tax and other pro-cycling initiatives, look for loopholes, and prosecute tax dodgers.

My position on Protected Bike Lanes is that many good biking routes (Dodge, Clybourne, etc) with adequate shoulders to ride safely, have been cluttered with glass-littered, cramped and unsafe PBLs.  Since the number of cyclists using those PBLs is limited, the City should reassess their benefit, and eliminate many of them that do not attain a minimal usage frequency.  And return that road space for cars and bikes to SHARE...presumably making both driving and biking safer because of the extra maneuvering room.

The NYTimes today published an article on Lori Lightfoot's speech after being sworn in yesterday.   A lot of good feelings and positive talk.  But the article ended with the observation that 'Aldermanic Perogative' could be difficult to eliminate because, like many Chicago customs, it is based on unwritten rules:

.....Don Rose, a political consultant said he viewed [Ms Lightfoot's intention to reform City Council] as fulfilling a campaign promise. The details of how to go about it were a little murkier, he acknowledged.   “In some ways, we’re all dealing with intangibles here — people would find it very odd that she’s making an executive order about something that’s an unwritten rule,” he said. “It’s uniquely Chicago.....”


"My position on Protected Bike Lanes is that many good biking routes (Dodge, Clybourne, etc) with adequate shoulders to ride safely, have been cluttered with glass-littered, cramped and unsafe PBLs."

PBLs can never be reasonably maintained and as a result force riders through a narrow collection of debris and standing water/ice.

It's not particularly important whether the ATA expresses your priorities (or mine), either as an individual or as a cyclist. THE ATA does not represent only cyclists (never mind only one-note John Forrester obsessvies, thank goodness) - they represent everyone in Chicago in their use of non-car transportation and movement. 

Also, buying gas for your car in WI or IN or the suburbs is not "dodging taxes".

Thank you.

I agree with all of the ATA's priorities except for the bus lane thing. I mean, I'm not against it or anything, but would rather see some of the rail-focused Transit Future initiatives like extending the Brown Line to connect to the Blue and building a N/S route that parallels Cicero get some attention finally.

I'm fine with doubling all of the gas taxes everywhere, but don't really care much about a Cycling Czar and don't want PBLs dismantled anywhere. We should def do congestion pricing, too- anything reasonable that brings in revenue and disincentivizes driving is aces with me.

Well Harry, my intent is to raise the profile of bicycling in Chicago.  Right now we have a few well-meaning aldermen and ATA trying to manage bicycling infrastructure.  But no trained, qualified city planners who have big-city experience with creating and maintaining safe biking facilities.

Someone from New York City, Portland or even Stockholm should be hired as the Czar for instance.  And be granted a weekly audience with the Mayor.  And to stay involved with biking, the Mayor should review every cyclist death with the Czar and see that appropriate corrections and punishment is handed out before the case is closed.

In addition, the Czar should set up an on-line board to handle reports of bicycling problems of all kinds, to which we could post.   Argonne69 would finally have someone to complain to about bike lane transgressions!  Reporting directly to the Mayor, the Czar would have some clout with the police department, and 'encourage' better policing of our roads.

Up to now, I think bike infrastructure has been built on the 'squeaky wheel' theory, without a grand master plan.  The ATA has tried, but I don't think it has either the expertise or the money to do the job that deserves to get done to make bicycle riding the preferred means of travel in Chicago for ALL its citizens and visitors.

Actually you have a ton (maybe not a ton, you don't have a ton of people working at CDOT anyway) of qualified, trained city planners with big city experience with creating safe bike infrastructure working all over the city.

This Cycling Czar business is a false flag and disregards any semblance of organization that city has in place to implement any projects.

You could not be more wrong about the "squeaky wheel" theory. While there is a ton of ink spilled about the biggest projects, hundreds of miles of miles of bike lanes were designed and redesigned in the last 8 years.

Well great Charlie.   Maybe CDOT has lots of qualified people.  The trouble is, are any of them charged specifically with BICYCLING?   And only bicycling?   24/7?  Thinking about, working on, dreaming of.....BICYCLES? 

That's what I'm suggesting.  A guy who reports directly to the Mayor, and whom we can all get to know; our 'bike man.'  Who works for the City, and can get things done.  I'm not satisfied with the status quo; I want to raise the profile of bicycling in Chicago.  So that it has the same sort of support that it has in Portland, Oregon....or Davis, California....or Copenhagen....or Amsterdam.

For instance, do you have the name and phone number of ANY City employee you could call to discuss a bike infrastructure idea?   If you were helping with a neighborhood street fair, and wanted to rent some bike racks for a bike corral at the fest, do you know who in the City to call?  If we had a Cycling Czar, you would.

Lori Lightfoot has promised that "Change is Here!"   We're writing letters to her to suggest some changes.  Why is the idea of raising the profile of biking in Chicago not an idea whose time has come?


Yeah, I worked for the "bike man" at CDOT and after Mayor Daley completed his first round of projects, he was forgotten. You want numbers for specific things? I'll give them to you. I haven't worked at CDOT for two years and the info is pretty easy to come by. Go to any MBAC meeting and you can get the phone number and email for anyone who works on bikes.

Having ONE person means there's only one person to ignore about bike issues, and it means the bandwidth that person has is incredibly limited. The biggest mistake people make in Chicago is assuming that there is always ONE person making and executing a decision.

All that said, your disappointment in the bike infrastructure and execution and communication of that infrastructure isn't unique and your suggestions and ideas help expand the dialogue around what's possible in bikes.

I don't have all the answers, and I know my answers pose more questions, but I was around for a lot of big changes and they only happened when persistent, dedicated folks reached all of us. Maybe I should get back into it, but I'm happy to answer real questions about why things are happening or not and help people connect with the folks that make the decisions.

Let me put it another way: if you're trying to burn down a house in a wind storm, I'd be happy to help; you just have to stop wasting all of your matches.


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