Improvements in Chicago’s Walking and Biking Infrastructure

Improvements in Chicago's Walking and Biking Infrastructure

Chicago is making significant strides in enhancing its biking infrastructure, catering to the increasing number of individuals who are opting for sustainable and healthy transportation options. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been actively working on expanding and improving bike infrastructure throughout the city, with a particular focus on establishing a more connected and equitable bike network.

In Spring 2023, CDOT unveiled its Chicago Cycling Strategy, a comprehensive plan aimed at creating a safer and more accessible biking environment. The strategy outlines an ambitious goal of expanding the bike network to encompass over 500 miles of on-street bikeways and off-street trails, prioritizing low-stress routes and underserved neighborhoods. Key corridors such as Belmont, Clark, Damen, and Milwaukee will see the implementation of protected bike lanes to enhance safety. The objective is simple: to ensure that biking becomes a convenient and secure option for all members of the community, irrespective of their location or cycling proficiency.

Key Takeaways:

  • Chicago is actively working on expanding and improving its biking infrastructure.
  • The Chicago Cycling Strategy aims to create a more connected and equitable bike network.
  • CDOT plans to expand the bike network to over 500 miles of on-street bikeways and off-street trails.
  • Protected bike lanes will be implemented on key corridors such as Belmont, Clark, Damen, and Milwaukee.
  • The goal is to make biking a safe and convenient transportation option for all residents of Chicago.

Active Projects and Existing Bikeway Network

Chicago’s commitment to improving biking infrastructure can be seen through various active projects undertaken by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). These projects aim to enhance the existing bikeway network and create safer cycling options for residents and visitors alike.

CDOT Active Projects

CDOT is currently working on several significant projects to improve biking infrastructure in Chicago. These projects include:

  • Upgrading existing buffered bike lanes to protected bike lanes on Augusta Boulevard
  • Developing new protected bike lanes on Clark Street from Irving Park to Montrose
  • Upgrading the existing protected bike lane on Clark Street in the Edgewater neighborhood
  • Extending the protected bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue

These initiatives will add over 63 miles of bike lanes to the city’s network, providing cyclists with safer and more accessible routes.

Existing Bikeway Network

Chicago already boasts an extensive bikeway network that includes over 400 miles of on-street bikeways and off-street paths. This network comprises various types of bike lanes, including:

Type of Bike Lane Miles
Protected Bike Lanes 41.1
Neighborhood Greenways 55.6
Buffered Bike Lanes 112.4
Bike Lanes 129.4
Marked Shared Lanes 48.8
Off-Street Trails 55.4

This existing network provides Chicagoans with a variety of options for cycling throughout the city.

Challenges and Equity in Bike Infrastructure

While Chicago has made progress in improving bike infrastructure, there are still challenges and inequities that need to be addressed. Nonprofit organizations and bike advocates have raised concerns about the lack of consistent and safe bike lanes, particularly in underserved neighborhoods on the South Side. A recent analysis by PeopleForBikes ranked Chicago as one of the least bikeable cities in the world, citing the lack of protected bike lanes and high-stress biking conditions in many parts of the city.

This lack of infrastructure not only poses safety risks for cyclists but also perpetuates inequities, as predominantly Black neighborhoods have fewer bike lanes compared to predominantly white neighborhoods. The city needs to prioritize equitable practices in the creation of bike infrastructure, seeking input from marginalized communities and ensuring that all residents have access to safe biking options.

Equity in Bike Infrastructure

The lack of equitable access to bike infrastructure in Chicago is a pressing issue. Historically, underserved neighborhoods, particularly on the South Side, have been neglected in terms of bike lane development. This leads to a disparity in transportation options, as residents in these areas may rely more heavily on public transportation or personal vehicles, limiting their access to the benefits of biking as a mode of transportation.

To address this issue, it is crucial for city planners and policymakers to prioritize equity in the allocation of resources for bike infrastructure. This includes targeting investments in underserved neighborhoods, ensuring that bike lanes are well-maintained and connected to key destinations such as schools, parks, and commercial areas. Additionally, community engagement and input should be sought to ensure that the specific needs and concerns of residents in these areas are taken into account during the planning and implementation stages.

Improving Bike Safety

Bike safety is a significant concern in Chicago, as the lack of dedicated bike lanes and high-stress biking conditions contribute to a higher risk of accidents and injuries. To enhance bike safety, the city should prioritize the development of protected bike lanes throughout the city, especially in areas with high bike traffic and where conflicts between cyclists and motorists are common.

Protected bike lanes separate cyclists from vehicular traffic, providing a physical barrier that increases safety and encourages more people to bike. Implementing traffic calming measures, such as reduced speed limits and improved signage, can also contribute to safer biking conditions. Regular maintenance and enforcement of bike lane infrastructure are essential to ensure that they remain accessible and safe for all users.

Key Challenges Solutions
Lack of consistent and safe bike lanes Expand and improve bike lane infrastructure in underserved neighborhoods, focusing on the South Side. Prioritize the implementation of protected bike lanes.
Inequitable distribution of bike infrastructure Allocate resources equitably, targeting investments in underserved neighborhoods and seeking input from marginalized communities.
High-stress biking conditions Develop protected bike lanes and implement traffic calming measures to create safer biking conditions throughout the city.

The Importance of Bike Infrastructure and Safety

In recent years, bike-related incidents in Chicago have seen a concerning increase, with an average of 5-6 bicyclist deaths per year before the pandemic rising to 10 deaths in 2021. This surge in incidents highlights the pressing need for improved bike infrastructure and safety measures across the city.

Bike safety in Chicago is crucial for both cyclists and the community as a whole. Creating a network of protected bike lanes is essential to reduce the risks faced by bikers and ensure their safety on the roads. By prioritizing the development of protected bike lanes, we can make the streets safer for all vulnerable road users.

While there are plans and strategies in place to enhance bike infrastructure in Chicago, dedicated funding and resources are needed to bring these plans to fruition. Investing in protected bike lanes and consistent infrastructure will not only promote safe biking but also encourage more people to choose biking as a sustainable and healthy transportation option.

By recognizing the importance of bike infrastructure and actively working towards its improvement, we can create a bike-friendly and safe city for everyone. Prioritizing bike safety in Chicago is crucial for the well-being of cyclists, the reduction of accidents, and the advancement of sustainability in urban transportation.

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