Ride Forward: A Brief Wish List For Chicago Biking Policy & Infrastructure
By Stephen Gossett in News on Mar 15, 2017 8:50PM
Photo Credit: Bob Segal
They tell us Chicago is the best biking city in America—and by several gauges, it does indeed stand out. We have miles of bike lanes, an active and passionate cycling community, an expanded bike-share network, a committed legal and advocacy framework and much more. Still, why let the good be the enemy of the great? With spring about to roll in and more riders looking pedal up, it seemed like a good time to take inventory of what we, as cyclists ourselves, would still love to see in terms of both policy and infrastructure. Check out our picks—both serious and whimsical—below.
Seattle Department of Transportation
Truck Side Guards
As CityLab reported last month, Seattle is among the latest to join the growing push for these potentially life-saving additions for commercial trucks. In the case of a side collision, the panels, attached to either side of the truck, are there to help prevent a cyclist from being thrust underneath the truck and into the path of its wheels. After a series of right-hook crashes in 2016, some of them fatal, John Greenfield of Streetsblog Chicago made a convincing case for mandating the guards here in Chicago. Firmly seconded.
The Dutch Reach
The so-called Dutch Reach is perhaps the most well-known, commonsense preventative measure against dooring incidents out there. It’s a simple maneuver that can have a profound effect: drivers open the door of their parked car using the right hand instead of the left—which forces them to twist their body toward road, making it much easier to spot a cyclist who could be traveling alongside the vehicle. Enforcement of such a policy would be pretty difficult, but some educational Reach outreach would go a long way. Perhaps as part of the city’s much-anticipated Vision Zero program.
Flickr / Photo: Steven Vance
A Rethink of Wicker Park's Six Corners
Few intersections cry out for an overhaul as loudly as the six-corner junction of North, Milwaukee and Damen avenues—reliably among the most dangerous in the city. To be sure, concerned parties are looking at the issue: a recent neighborhood-plan update calls for curb bump-outs, more visible crosswalks and potentially disallowing some right or left turns. But as the advocates at Active Transportation Alliance told us following a cycling injury in the area last year, the city needs to first ask and answer the big question: who does this space prioritize? Given that the volume of traffic and the configuration has so confounded engineers in the past, that seems to be the key.
Glow-in-the-Dark Bike Lanes
Ok, now for some of that whimsy. Incredible, solar-powered, glowing bike paths have popped up in the Netherlands and in Poland in recent years; and Chicago actually has a Grade-A opportunity to follow suit right now. The city apparently loves nothing more than tourism through bright, shiny, light-up things. And it has $12 million at the ready for separated bike and pedestrian paths on the tourist-friendly lakefront (thanks to one billionaire's wipeout). C'mon, Rahm, it's easy enough to connect the glowing dots.
More Infrastructure on the West and South Sides
Even after the city expanded its successful Divvy bike-share program nd committed to more protected bike lanes, a Tribune analysis in 2016 found that numerous minority neighborhoods on the South and West Sides were still wanting for access to both. At the same time, aldermen and other city officials need to learn the gentrification lessons of The 606 and make sure that affordable housing measures are a viable option for community members who fear such a consequence.
Either the city or major advocacy groups are currently looking at some of our other big asks—like better connective tissue to the Big Marsh Bike Park and (a blog can dream) a comprehensive riverfront bike trail—but there's clearly always work to be done. What's on your wish list? Drop a note in the comments or shoot us a line at email@example.com