A Dose of Reality Never Hurt Anybody

Background Reading


Protected bike lane on Elston Avenue near Division Street. Photo: John Greenfield

Protected bike lane on Elston Avenue near Division Street. Photo: John Greenfield

There is always a bit of a “reality check” that activists of any sort are likely to experience. Urban Cyclists here in the Chicago area are about to part of a wave of postponements and rejections coming the way of many metropolitan districts. Money is no doubt and issue and frankly when you take a look at what Indianapolis was able to build versus the crappy set of lanes we have here in Chicago (some of which are too crumbly to even ride upon) you have to wonder whether we can do better. Is it really that important to have a given number of miles of lanes versus quality? Why cannot we have both?

Consider issues like “fracking“. That same folks that want a “hell bent for leather, full steam ahead” approach are more than a little reluctant to see a movement like “fracking” forge ahead without more data. So why the ulcer over something like that where bike lanes are concerned? Both sets of supporters are just certain that their notions are going to save the planet and perhaps produce jobs. And both groups have detractors who are just certain that if they get their way the world will end the next day.

A pox on both their houses!

The single most important thing that could grow out of a moratorium on PBLs is that we get it right and learn a bit of humility at the same time. We need to understand that the world does not owe us bike lanes. That despite all indications to the contrary we need to approach the table to bargain and not merely demand.

Comments On The StreetsBlog

BillD • 2 hours ago
Not going to be governor for long

You may be correct. But what you have not factored into the equation is that the next governor might just be from the GOP. And we all know how bicycle-friendly they are.

Michelle Stenzel • 6 hours ago −
Thank you for continuing coverage on this issue. I’d love to know what exactly IDOT believes is so unique about Chicago’s transportation system. The density of the population? The width of the streets? The way Chicagoans drive? The laws that apply to drivers or bicyclists? I don’t think these are very different here than in many cities that already have separated bike lane infrastructure. IDOT is insisting on first obtaining three years of data on a half-mile stretch of the Kinzie. Will they then say that it’s insufficient data due to the limited length of the street, or that the volume or speed of drivers on Kinzie are not comparable to those on Clybourn, or other IDOT-jurisdiction streets? I simply can’t fathom what makes this “Chicago exceptionalism” argument so strong for IDOT. It’s just not logical. I’m very disappointed to hear that Gov. Quinn supports the ban.

I guess the same question could be asked of the Police Commissioner and Mayor. Except in this instance I would want to know why gun violence is Chicago is so “off the charts“. We are doing most if not all the things that other big city law enforcement does and yet it still is not working. Go figure. I guess that no two places on the planet are exactly the same. Surprise, surprise.

J • 7 hours ago −
This kind of logic makes me think that all the studies in the world won’t convince IDOT. If they were truly interested in measuring safety, they’d follow a standard engineering procedure of proceeding with a limited number of pilot projects along with careful, well-defined before and after studies to truly evaluate the effects of those projects, in terms of boosting ridership and safety. This doesn’t seem to be the case, leading me to believe that there is, in fact, no intention to seriously study this type of facility. Instead, IDOT’s ban is a merely a delay/discourage tactic disguised as concern for safety.

Actually Chicago has been doing exactly that. You will notice that virtually no two installations are exactly the same. Their designs are all over the place. So CDOT should have some data soon and be able to pass that along to IDOT. In the meantime you can continue “bitching” about the deficiencies of the various lanes already installed on your favorite “virtual bathroom wall” (i.e. ChainLink) which I am more than certain is the source of the reluctance of IDOT.

It probably never dawned on the likes of this crowd that their complaints were being listened to by folks who despite being on their side needed to be able to justify the additional expense of installing lanes that are continually being greeted with complaints and displeasure. Were I the head of CDOT and IDOT I certainly would take a breather and get a handle on what exactly I was doing.

Hurrah for a refreshing bit of sanity!