Cook County has presented its pioneering Bike Plan, laying out a strategy for enhancing bike infrastructure across the county. The plan seeks to implement hundreds of miles of fresh low-stress bike paths: this includes 90 miles of new off-street paved trails, 150 miles of fresh side paths, and 230 miles of low-stress on-street routes, which comprise quiet residential streets and secured lanes. The plan proposes that this enhancement position 96% of Cook County residents within a mile of a low-stress bike route.
Enhancing Connectivity in Chicagoland’s Bike Routes
Despite safe and comfortable bike routes in Chicagoland, these routes often fail to link cyclists to their desired destinations. The county plan is centered on how DoTH can facilitate the integration of disconnected bikeways that tend to terminate abruptly, usually at jurisdiction borders.
Advocates are united in the belief that a secure, interconnected bike network is the optimal incentive for current riders to bike more frequently, and it may persuade tentative potential riders to consider cycling for their next trip. The county plan reveals that 60% of survey respondents stated they would cycle more frequently if they had access to low-stress bike facilities.
The plan categorizes bike facility users into three groups—including those who only walk or use mobility aids—and proposes enhancements to roads, streets, and trails to most advantage each group.
Pioneering New Bike Infrastructure and Enhancing Safety Measures
In addition to creating new bike infrastructure on DoTH roadways, the county pledges to spearhead and provide funds for feasibility studies for off-street trails outside of their jurisdiction. The plan also promises to support city-level planning for residential streets and enhance safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists at intersections—these locations are often where most accidents occur. Improvements to city streets crossing DoTH roads will also be instrumental in bridging gaps in the bike network. The plan highlights the Major Taylor Trail as a key location to integrate on-street bike paths with off-street trails. Provided maps display how enhanced bike lanes on 83rd, Loomis, and Damen could connect the Major Taylor Trail to the surrounding neighborhoods, generating bikeable paths to suburban Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn.
Promoting Equity and Transportation Justice
The yearlong planning process was conducted with the Transportation Equity Network, a group advocating for racial equity and mobility justice in transportation planning. The plan signifies a significant stride towards fairness, as the county has declared that it will no longer mandate municipalities to contribute towards the design and construction expenses of bike infrastructure on county roads. This policy shift ensures that low-income communities with constrained budgets will not be subject to inferior infrastructure compared to affluent areas with more tax revenue. The county also pledges to assist high-need communities in securing funding for bike infrastructure maintenance tasks, such as sweeping, snow removal, and surface repairs.
Collaboration and Action Plans for Implementation
The realization of this plan will require considerable collaboration among various stakeholders—134 municipalities, 80 park districts, and 20 townships. The concluding sections of the plan outline the action steps for the forthcoming two to three years. These steps encompass bike network studies, feasibility evaluations, sponsoring outreach and engagement activities, and collaborating with communities to designate routes and improve intersections.