Chicago Will Build 50 More Miles Of Bike Lanes Over The Next Three Years

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Apr 12, 2016 8:23PM

The mayor's push to make Chicago America's "most bike-friendly" city continues with a new pledge to build 50 more miles of bike lanes, including several new protected bike lanes, over the next three years.

Chicago has made a name for itself as a leading city for commuter cycling in recent years, particularly as City Hall set and met a goal to build over 100 miles of new barrier- or buffer-protected bike lanes since 2011. There are currently over 290 miles of bike lanes in the city, including 21.5 miles of lanes with physical barriers, such as bollards or concrete curbs, separating them from traffic. (They're detailed in a new report here.)

Of course, many critics of the city's bike lane program say Chicago still has a long way to go, particularly when it comes to installing bike infrastructure on the far South and West sides to match the dense network for bike lanes and Divvy bike share stations in affluent North Side neighborhoods.

In a Monday announcement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to build 50 miles worth of "better bike lanes"—though what exactly will make them better than the existing bike lanes remains to be seen—in the next three years, including new South and West side lanes. Not all of those miles will represent curb-protected bike lanes, but the mayor acknowledged that those types of lanes, separated from traffic by a sturdy poured-concrete curb that runs in the street along the inside of the lane, are considered some of the safest.

"Curb-protected bike lanes provide better separation between people riding bikes and people driving, reduce illegal parking and driving in the bike lane, and improve the aesthetics of the roadway," a release on the announcement from the Chicago Department of Transportation officials said. Chicago has seen a few such projects in the past year—most recently, the seven-foot wide, curb-protected bike lanes on 31st Street that extend from Michigan Avenue to LaSalle Street on the IIT campus.

The "better bike lanes" push begins this year with plans for 9 miles of new bike lanes, up to 15 miles of other bikeway and the re-striping of up to 20 miles of the existing on-street bikeways network, according to CDOT. Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld elaborates:

“Better bike lanes will include new off-street connections, upgrading existing protected bike lanes, building new neighborhood greenways and protected bike lanes, and making safety improvements at key intersections.”

But CDOT says it isn't leaving the South and West sides out of process of creating new bike lane routes. It hosted a public meeting on the South Side Monday night, and is hosting another Tuesday night at the Historic Pullman Foundation, at 11141 S. Cottage Grove, at 5:30 p.m.