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Mayor Emanuel Aims to Create Over 100 Miles of Protected Bike Lanes

By Soyoung Kwak in News on Sep 25, 2011 4:00PM

In the 22 years that Mayor Daley was in office, he created around 115 miles of bike lanes in Chicago. Mayor Emanuel hopes to do better than the former mayor, and proposes to create an additional 100 miles of bike lanes over the next four years.

Mayor Emanuel is pretty particular about what he wants, too - he hopes to create bike paths that are not just "painted lines on a street," but fully divided, sectioned-off bike paths that are protected by medians or other barriers from automobile traffic. Mayor Emanuel and all those in favor of the new bike lanes hope that the presence of safe bike lanes will encourage people to bike more instead of using their cars to get around the city:

"We're making everyone safer at a very low cost and getting people out of their cars on top of it -- that's what you call a no-brainer," said transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, who rides his bike to work.

Although new, protected bike paths initially sound like a great idea, there is some doubt surrounding the successful implementation of the bike paths in a tough economy. The proposed bike paths under Mayor Emanuel will cost around $28 million, and some think we should proceed with caution:

Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, Oregon and a former head of the Chicago bike advocacy group (Active Transportation Alliance), said that most of the backlash he sees comes in struggling neighborhoods. "It's a symbol of gentrification," Sadowsky said. "It's not why are you putting a bike lane in, but why are you spending money on bike lanes when I don't have a job?"

Moreover, it is also no secret that the relationship between bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers is a bit tense in the city. Implementing protected bike lanes will mean better supervision of traffic violations and to make sure everyone is educated about the rules of the road. While we definitely encourage the construction of more bike lanes, we are definitely interested in seeing how Mayor Emanuel proposes to deal with any bicycle backlash.