The Bike City: Chicago’s Big Plans for Two Wheels

The Bike City: Chicago’s Big Plans for Two Wheels

By: KELSEY CRUZ

As spinning classes continue to grow in popularity and driving continues to make the morning commute insufferable, cycling to work seems to be the smarter alternative. What’s more, biking not only ensures a toned body and cleaner air, but thanks to efforts by cities like Chicago, it can also provide a safer journey.

 

Chicago recently installed its first stretch of protected bike lanes (or separated bike lanes) on Kinzie Street from Milwaukee Avenue to Wells Street. According to the press release by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the protected ½ mile-long-lane features three main elements: “a marked lane adjacent to the curb in each direction along Kinzie, a buffered area with flexible marker posts, and a parking lane for automobiles.” While many cities already have designated bike lanes for cyclists, protected lanes provide even more safety for bikers in the form of planters or pylons.

 

“The big hurdle for most people to use a bicycle for transportation is the fear that they’re exposed to danger by passing motor vehicles,” says Raphael Clemente, director of downtown development authority in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Paint stripes on the road and signs that say ‘share the road’ are good, but protected bike lanes are seen as barriers from motorists and they ease cyclists’ minds.”

 

In addition to protected bike lanes, bike boxes have also been implemented to promote cyclist safety. Bike boxes sit at the front of a travel lane in front of vehicles at an intersection, where cyclists can safely wait at a red light where they are visible to motorists and protected from vehicle exhaust. Bike boxes have been especially effective in reducing “right-hook” collisions, where right-turning vehicles hit cyclists who are biking straight through the intersection.

 

To compete with other bike cities (like New York, Portland, and Seattle) and further improve Chicago’s cycling network, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel created the Bike 2015 Plan, hoping to install 25 miles of protected bike lanes per year.

 

Mayor Emanuel has been vocal with the press about the plan, saying, “I promised the people of Chicago that we would create  100 miles of shared bike lanes in the city to ensure our transportation network supports diverse and affordable ways of getting around and these bike lanes will help ensure that all Chicagoans can get to work and travel in their neighborhoods in the safest and most efficient fashion possible.”

 

With all the glitz, glamour, and goals, has the protected bike lane found success? According to the CDOT data collected two months after it was implemented, the protected bike lane has provided a safe route for cyclists, boasting an impressive 55 percent increase in ridership post-construction. What’s more, 86 percent of respondents feel safe or very safe riding on Kinzie Street and 49 percent of respondents feel motorist behavior has improved post-installation.

 

“If you present people with a viable, convenient, safe option, they’ll take it,” says Clemente. “The protected bike lane reclaims space from the motor vehicle, provides cyclists with safe, acceptable places to ride, and gives people healthier alternatives.”

 

Biking And Health
Created by: Healthcare Management Degree

Categories: Home, Sections, Your Fitness, Your Health News

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