Chicago has approximately 4,500 miles of streets yet only has around 28 miles of protected bike lanes, most of which aren’t connected in a way that would enable people to feel safe getting from point A to point B. While protected bike lanes are great for helping people on bikes feel safe on commercial streets, they seem to require too much funding and political will to get built.
Fortunately, we have seen that converting residential streets to Slow Streets is an inexpensive way to create a city-wide network of streets that would enable people to get to any part of the city using low-stress routes. What we learned from CDOT’s Slow Streets program was that some motorists didn’t like the inconvenience of navigating barrels or reducing their speeds; and others simply didn’t like the “construction zone” look of the barrels and signs. This could be easily remedied by installing signs for significantly lower speed limits, signs that show cars yielding to bikes, pavement markings that keep motorists alert to the special conditions, and signage to announce speed camera enforcement.
While some motorists may bristle at giving bicycles priority treatment on a limited number of streets, overall traffic congestion would be improved by more people using bikes for the many short trips they could now feel safe making.
Because at least 10% of Chicagoans ride bikes regularly, it seems only fair to make at least 10% (450 miles) of our streets bikes friendly.
Photo credit: John Greenfield