Sunday, January 31, 2016

sustainable transportation vision (and the lack of it) in local wards and municipalities

Initiatives to promote bicycling as a healthy, sustainable form of transportation have the potential to transform the Chicago area. If more people feel safe when riding to their destinations instead of driving, quality of life in our neighborhoods improves: less road rage, less pollution (air, water and noise), better health, and a stronger local economy. Businesses can serve more customers with less car parking when more customers arrive by bike and on foot instead of driving. We've seen progress in the last 10 years, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

A cross section of Chicago wards currently have ongoing bike events and/or plans: 1925, 27, 28, 30, 3243, 4445, 4647, 48, and 49.

The 49th ward (Alderman Moore) is on the verge of starting one of the more ambitious neighborhood greenway plans, thanks to resident voting under participatory budgeting.

Former Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd ward) had bike events, and made bike infrastructure an important priority. Under new Alderman Brian Hopkins (ward remap), that has disappeared. The 14th and 15th wards had ward bike events under previous aldermen, but don't anymore.

I met Alderman Sawyer (6th ward) at a Slow Roll ride last year and talked bikes with him. He spent the morning riding with us and talked with quite a few riders.

Under former Alderman Colon, the 35th ward got an active transportation plan to promote walking and biking, as well as the city's first on-street bike parking corral. I'm hopeful that new Alderman Ramirez-Rosa will continue the momentum that was established under Colon.

The 26th ward did a safety study, but modifications to the streets since then have been a mixed bag with respect to safety and biking. (Note: useful info on infrastructure concepts starting at page 20 at the safety study link above.)

The 3rd ward has a great community bike program: Bronzeville Bikes, which includes a neighborhood co-op, the Bike Box.

Alderman Reboyras (30th ward) introduced an ordinance in an attempt to modify Chicago law to allow people 65 and older to legally ride bikes on sidewalks. He hoped to make conditions safer for seniors who ride. Under current law, only children 12 and under are allowed to ride on sidewalks.

In the 33rd ward, Alderman Mell has worked for bike and pedestrian improvements.

I talked with Alderman Burnett (27th ward) at an Active Transportation Alliance event a few years ago. While he doesn't appear to have an active ward program to promote biking and bike infrastructure, he is aware of relevant issues.

Many current and former south side aldermen don't seem to get the idea that many residents want or need to ride - for transportation that is healthy and affordable, or for recreation. This includes the 7th ward (Sandi Jackson), 5th ward (Leslie Hairston) and 8th ward (Michelle Harris).

I'm encouraged that some of our south side aldermen now say they want Divvy, though they don't necessarily understand that improving bike infrastructure in their wards to make biking safer would be important to Divvy's success there.

Participatory budgeting is becoming an important tool in getting community input and allocating funding for bike projects, such as the proposed greenway in the 49th ward mentioned above.

The list of Chicago area municipalities that have bike plans and are in some phase of implementation includes: Evanston, Oak Park (2008  2014), SkokieBlue IslandBerwyn, and Schaumburg,

The Cal-Sag Trail is a great example of cooperation between municipalities. When it is complete, it run 26 miles from Lemont to Burnham and Calumet City, connecting with many existing trails and boosting local and regional bike tourism.  

The growing importance of bike transportation and bike-related tourism cannot be ignored. It must be included in economic planning for our city and region. Watch for more on these topics.

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