Worthy of Our Protection

The protected bike lanes on Dodge were challenged (again) at the April 23rd Administration and Public Works meeting. There was a proposal by Alderwoman Rainey that “the City Council review the necessity for bike lanes on Dodge Avenue between Howard Street and Oakton Street,” which led to some procedural confusion, as to what the actual vote would be - would the vote result in a review of the protected bike lanes or the removal the protected bike lanes? This confusion, and the potential for the worst-case scenario confused and concerned enough residents to show up at the APW meeting and speak out in favor of the protected bike lanes. Residents have some valid concerns and we support efforts to improve the design and function of the Dodge corridor but without putting cyclists at unnecessary risk. Here are some reasons why people think the protected bike lanes are worth protecting.

Crash/Injury Reduction Preliminary data show that crashes involving humans are down since the protected lanes were installed. While it is true that collisions involving parked cars have risen marginally, injuries have fallen and we believe this is an acceptable trade-off, as annoying as it is to have one’s car dinged.

Biking Equity Protected bike lanes are more likely than regular bike lanes to lure new riders and welcome people of all ages and abilities by providing protection from moving vehicles.

Emerging Connectivity The development of a connected bicycle network takes time and we won't see the full effect of our infrastructure improvements until we build more. The Howard Street improvements, which have just been approved by IDOT, include some bicycle accommodation and will connect to the Dodge Ave corridor. Removal of the protected bike lanes would undermine these efforts to create a safe, connected and convenient bicycle network.

Student Transportation Equity The lanes serve our students at both ETHS and Dawes, a population that does not typically have a license and/or a car of their own to get to school. Students whose parents work, or who cannot afford daily bus fare, rely on the bike lanes for a safe commute to school. Most people would agree that students deserve the highest degrees of protection while riding in this age of distracted driving. Particularly in light of the proposed cuts to PACE/CTA bus routes serving the high school, it is important to maintain safe commuting options for our high school students -- more students may need to ride in the near future due to reduced public bus service.

Cost & Credibility A cash-strapped city, looking at a budget deficit of at least $6 million in 2018, should not be spending money (and potentially returning grant money) to dismantle infrastructure that improves safety. In addition, the City's credibility with IDOT will suffer if the protected bike lanes are compromised, potentially jeopardizing future grant opportunities.

Livability/Sustainability Removing the protected bikes lanes would be a step backwards in reaching our livability, sustainability and public health goals. The protected bike lanes are a crucial component of reducing carbon emissions, providing active transportation opportunities, reducing traffic congestion, and improving mobility for vulnerable populations. They can increase bicycle ridership and reduce the harmful impacts of our transportation system.

In the end, the Administration and Public Works Committee voted the measure down; there would be no ‘review of the necessity of the protected bike lanes,” which is good news but celebrate in moderation; we may be called on again to protect the protected bike lanes in town.