On Friday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein dedicated the city's most ambitious commitment yet to the ideal of taking biking beyond the recreational to make it an integral part of Chicago's transportation system. On the west side of Dearborn, from Polk Street all the way north to Kinzie, there is now the city's first two-way, protected bike route, complete with dedicated bicycle signals. At the Printers Row Park event, Klein also officially released the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, an ambitious document that sets a goal of a 645-mile network that puts protected bikeways within half a mile of every Chicago resident.
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|courtesy: The Chuckman Collection|
|photograph: J Randal, Wikipedia|
Somewhere around the great 1973 oil embargo, however, adults began to rediscover the bike, reclaiming the pathways from their kids. According to one survey, over a quarter of all Americans sixteen or older ride a bike sometime in the year Over 130,000,000 bikes are manufactured annually worldwide, most of them for adult riders.
The number of people using bikes to commute to work remains small. Portland, Oregon, at just under 6%, remains the champ. New York City is at .6%, and most cities, including Chicago, hover somewhere around the 1% mark.
|Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein|
Emanuel posits a clear connection between bikeability and economic growth:
Two facts in the last year: coincidence? I think not. One, the City of Chicago moved from tenth to fifth of most bike-friendly cities in the country in one year. No other city has ever moved that far that fast. In the same year, the city of Chicago moved from fifteen to tenth worldwide in startup economy. No other city has moved that far, that fast. And you cannot be for a start-up, high-tech economy and not be pro-bike. And you can't be pro-bike without having a vision of having a start-up economy."In addition to Dearborn Street, 2012 saw the completion of a spoke route on Wabash, and crosstown routes on 18th, Jackson and Kinzie. The goal is to have 100 miles of protected bike lanes by 2015, and over 500 new miles by 2012. Through 2015, $32 million of the funding comes through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program, with a $8 million local match. The city is still trying to figure out a dedicated funding source for ongoing maintenance.
pitched-battle profile that recalls the animosity between farmers and ranchers in the Old West.
The Trib's John Kass, as part of his ongoing battle against the 21st Century, rails against "elitist politically coddled bicyclists" by indulging his usual habit of seeing everything in Chicago he doesn't like as a Rahm Emanuel plot, raising spectres of traffic tickets and tolls for bikers. But even a dedicated bicyclist like Crain's Chicago Business's Greg Hinz, citing over 1,400 Chicago bicycle injuries each year, with 39 fatalities since 2005, expresses his doubts over the city's bike plan: "I just don't know if it it's possible." Part of the plan is to make streets safer by deliberately slowing down motor traffic. How will drivers take to that?