Chicago’s New Mayor on Bicycling

Rahm Emanuel has been elected the next mayor of Chicago!

Here is a bit of what our new mayor has to say about bicycling in Chicago:

Rahm supports full implementation of Chicago’s Bike Plan and will initiate a review of its goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation.

Chicago’s 125 miles of bike lanes cover a small portion of the city’s 5000 miles of roads. Rahm wants to dramatically increase the number of miles added each year – from 8 to 25 – and prioritize the creation of protected bike lanes. His plan is based on a simple premise: create a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan – from kids on their first ride to senior citizens on their way to the grocery store – to feel safe on our streets.

Under the plan, Chicago would be a pioneer in the creation and expansion of protected bike lanes, which are separated from traveling cars and sit between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars that shield cyclists from street traffic. He will prioritize the lanes on major thoroughfares that link communities to downtown and each other.

I was surprised and impressed by the specificity of these campaign promises, especially the emphasis on protected bike lanes, which the city so desperately needs to encourage more people to ride a bike.

Mayor Daley has done a lot for bicycling in Chicago, but I’ve seen very little progress in the last couple of years.  I’m excited for a fresh start!

You can read more about Emanuel’s transportation plans here, with sections on public transportation, bicycling and high speed rail.

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    • matt.

      Its not hard to paint a bike “lane” on a number of Chicago streets but there is no way he’s going to add a separate, “protected” lane. The city is incredibly broke, he’s unwilling to raise property taxes, and the main problem: where to put them? Any Chicago resident who bikes because they realize it cuts their commute in half will no doubt realize that the automobile infrastructure has been in need of incredible updating for about 40 years. The traffic patterns are woefully outdated. Most streets are single-lane car traffic with street parking. How do you implement this and still allow for street parking and plowing during snow storms? Sure, there are a couple of few block stretches that you could probably do this but that’s not actually solving a problem, its window dressing. Daley ignored the fact that the city extends beyond the scope of the Red and Brown Line. Like Daley, I’m sure there will be improvements for occasional visitors to the lakefront and loop, but for full-time city residents, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

      • Steven Vance

        The federal government will pay, and has paid, for 80% (or more) of Chicago bike lanes.

        There are some two-way, four-lane streets that have less car traffic than some two-way, two-lane streets.

        Take Halsted Street and Chicago Avenue, for example.
        Chicago Avenue has four lanes but fewer cars on a daily basis than Halsted Street, with only two lanes. Chicago Avenue could be a good candidate for shifting parking towards the left and installing a cycle track.

        • Matt.

          I know where you’re coming from but those two examples are also problematic. At many intersections and at nearly all of the bridges and underpasses the lanes narrow significantly creating a preferred single lane that bottle necks traffic. Were the city to implement these barrier style bike lanes along with addressing the automobile lane confusion then maybe. But unless they were to seriously look at the traffic patterns city-wide and update, i think it’s just a weak band-aid to appear progressive. And outside of those two streets, we’ve got western and Cicero for north/south and Irving park for east/west where two lanes go throughout. Those aren’t going to be serious contenders for barrier lanes. And I still don’t know how they’ll fare in the winter. I’m not hating here, I just think that bike infrastructure gets enthusiasm from some politicians and obviously cyclists, but I think discussions should focus on integrating it with more all-encompassing transportation upgrades.

          • Matt.

            I also just reread your comment. are you saying you want to reduce a two lane road to a single lane and add a bike lane? If they eliminate a car lane it will be to create a dedicated bus-only lane. There is way too much traffic on Chicago and way too many cta riders to have a single lane servicing them all.

  • Dave

    Here’s hoping he sticks to his word, and that separated infrastructure doesn’t become the divisive issue it has here in Portland. I think half the reason we don’t have more of it here despite a city administration that is very pro-bike, is because most of the “real” cyclists think it’s a stupid idea and tell everyone they can think of why it shouldn’t happen.

    Given that it requires taking space from automobile traffic, if even the “cyclists” think it’s a bad idea, why do it?

    Then again, what we do get out of that is traffic calming measures instead, and city planning which routes nearly all car traffic to a few main arterial streets, which is also helpful for both bicycles and pedestrians. Still, it would be nice to not have to avoid certain streets due to the traffic.

  • dukiebiddle

    Forget cycling infrastructure. I want to know the Emanuel administration’s stand on swearing! ;)

  • Melissa

    The recently developed separated bike lanes in DC are A. MAZING. It’s unbelievable how just a few little white plastic pylons – and, I suppose, tons of engineering studies to create special bike traffic flow and signage – can open up space.

  • neighbourtease

    I second Dave’s wish for you guys to have a less divisive experience with implementing new bike infrastructure than we’ve had in NYC. The politically connected NIMBYs here can suck it.

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  • Ian

    Your black and white photo is simply stunning Dottie, such a moody feel to it. Love it !!

  • SM

    Interesting, I heard about his win this morning on the radio, so I automatically always link Chicago with LGRAB. You will have to keep us informed on whether he keeps his promises.

  • Daniel Evans

    Yet another stunning photo Dottie! Beautiful!

  • Carolyn I.

    Let’s hope he really means it, it would wonderful if he did! That would be so great for Chicago.

    I am a bit skeptical on promises made by Politicians. Our Mayor is ‘bike friendly’, but I haven’t seen much happening since he was elected.

  • Clarence

    We gotta get Mr. Emanuel to agree to bring us over and have a Streetfilms screening and show lots of films about separated bike lanes.

    Then show him this one and tell him by next year, Chicago needs to be among NYC, SF, and Portland:

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  • Lovely Bicycle!

    It will be interesting to see how that develops, keep us posted!

  • nicolas

    Very specific and hitting all the right notes. Sounds great. I’m jealous of your upcoming Copenhagen-style infra. It’s so dang simple to just duplicate what works.

  • Nuresma

    Sounds promising!
    It would be very nice if this comes true, your city will improve a lot! Good luck!

  • Maureen

    Another amazing photo Dottie, and the new mayor’s plans sound exciting!

  • JTuttle

    Thanks for posting this, Dottie. I hope hope he sticks to these ideas because it would be soooo nice to have seperated bike lanes in Chicago! Let’s cross our fingers!

  • Xander

    I’m hoping that since Chicago is very similar to Toronto that your new mayor rubs off on our new mayor. Toronto is influenced by NYC also, so i’m glad that we have 2 cities that can be a positive example for how a city can transform to support all of its citizens and not only cyclists.

    I appreciate the post.

  • Susan Tomlinson

    That does it, I’m moving to Chicago.

    Oh, wait. You have snow there…;-)

  • Karen

    Well, hopefully Rahm will make a better mayor than he did WH Chief of Staff . . . . the bike plan is a good start if it is implemented.

    • Kari

      That’s pretty awesome. We have a pretty good Bike Plan here in the Twin Cities, too… it was pretty convenient for me that things started to improve drastically right after I started commuting! My friend is moving to Chicago sometime, so I hope to be able to bike there when I visit her!

  • Steven Vance

    CDOT is planning to build a cycle track on Stony Island Avenue between 69th and 77th Streets in 2014. Weird location, right?

  • Will

    It’s wonderful to hear that Rahm supports bikes! I’m looking forward to seeing how the city’s bike lanes develop as he gets into office.