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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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.

"Yeah, I worked for the "bike man" at CDOT..."

Who was that? Ben Gomberg?

Ben Gomberg?   Man, that's a blast from the past Bob!  Ben used to personally set up race courses for the Chicago Area Runners Association.  He'd be out there at 5am placing orange drums and making sure cars didn't wander onto the run course.

Ben was actually the guy I was thinking of, when I proposed a Chicago Cycling Czar!  I'm sure he's retired now, with a fat City pension.  But he had a way to cut through red tape, and get the job done!

Ben went back to Canada was got a similar job with a large Ontario municipality.

An Express Bus running between the Kimball Brown Line and the Jefferson Park Blue Line up and down Lawrence Avenue, with perhaps only one or two stops in between would be just as effective and far less expensive and disruptive than trying to join the two with a rail line.

I guess I'm not sure how you could objectively conclude the efficiency would be the same between an Express Bus and an extended Brown Line. The express bus would not carry as many people, would require an additional transfer, additional service(and therefore an additional point of potential failure of service), and an additional wait as opposed to a direct connection between the two train lines. The direct connection, once complete, would be permanent. An express bus, by comparison, would only exist as long as somebody wanted it to, and could easily be cut due to budgetary reasons, whether the fault of the route itself or not. 

The Lawrence Loop Express Bus could be started next week, digging a subway underground (the only way not to tear apart neighborhoods) could take many years.  If there wasn't enough room on the buses, add more busses. 

If it were used, why would somebody NOT want it?

Given that there's no evidence that would be more efficient (or even as efficient) as an extension of the Brown Line, it's easy to conclude that it won't be used, and/or that somebody would not want it.

If nobody wanted it then the Express Bus should be continued.  If the rail extension would be built and nobody wanted to use it that would be a waste of a lot of money.

Build the cheapest first to see what the demand would be.  Find out what's needed before you spend a lot of money and disturb the neighborhood on this project.

I agree with having a Bike Czar! That would be amazing! Unlike you I'd want the bike czar to get straight to work on building MORE physically protected lanes AND oversee that they are regularly cleaned and maintained. I don't think a lack of maintenance means we need to do away with protected lanes. If a lack of maintenance was the basis for getting rid of transit related things, we'd see Metra scrapped....

It's really hard to implement 4 when we don't even exactly know why folks aren't riding. Perhaps it's the lack of physical protection, lack of safe places to lock bikes, lack of an intuitive and low stress NETWORK, etc.

Raise the gas tax in Chicago to help fund transit and bike lane infrastructure.
Implement congestion pricing and help fund technology and infrastructure to speed up the buses
Create a Rogers Park-Hyde Park-South Shore express bus
Pressure Springfield to allow camera enforcement for bus only lanes AND bus stops. After the third violation of parking or driving in a bus-only lane or at a bus stop the person will lose their license for a year.

On a statewide level: mandate IDOT decrease VMT across the state and hold them accountable to that.

These are just ideas off the top of my head as I wait for a client to show at work.

Agree with more protected bike lanes, not less. Great comment about maintenance. A huge part of that is also enforcement. If there's a way for a car to squeeze in one, they will do it. 

I am hoping the new mayor will keep to her word on bringing more services and infrastructure to the areas that need it most - the South and West sides of the city. Chicago can be an amazing place for riding a bike, let's make it that way for everyone. :-)

Get Lightfoot on the right foot :)



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