BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
September 9, 2013 3:16PM
Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Bicycle riders who turn the crowded sidewalks of Sheridan Road into an illegal continuation of the lakefront bike path would pay through the nose — with a $200 fine — under a crackdown advanced Monday to prevent sidewalk collisions, often involving seniors.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said he’s picking up where his predecessor left off to protect elderly residents of the high-rises and nursing homes that line Sheridan Road.
At Osterman’s behest, the City Council’s Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety agreed Monday to quadruple the fines for sidewalk intrusions on Sheridan between Ardmore and Devon.
Cyclists 12 or older are prohibited from riding their bikes on Chicago sidewalks.
The north lakefront bicycle path ends at Ardmore, which is at 5800 north. The one-block stretch between Thorndale and Ardmore is a key chokepoint because it’s the place where the lakefront bike path ends and the Sheridan sidewalks begin.
“People get off the bike path and go north. A lot of them are…taking the appropriate bike routes on Kenmore and Winthrop. But there are still some that take that turn and ride on the sidewalks. That’s where you have seniors walking down the street. It’s a significant problem. Very dense buildings with an elderly population,” Osterman said.
“It’s a small sidewalk. We’ve had accidents where seniors have been very significantly injured. And not just seniors, but people just walking down the street. We’re going to increase the signage telling people where to ride their bikes. But having this measure in place will deter people as well.”
In 2001, then-Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th) and Ald. Joe Moore (49th) proposed turning Sheridan between Ardmore and Devon into a “bicycle forfeiture zone.”
They wanted to seize the wheels of offending bike riders and give the bikes back, only if the offending cyclist could prove to an administrative hearing officer that they weren’t riding on the Sheridan sidewalk.
Then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, an early-morning user of the lakefront bike path, acknowledged that “something had to be done” to ease tension between cyclists, joggers and pedestrians.
“You have a lot of people up there. You have Loyola. You have a lot of seniors. You have a lot nursing homes in that area and they use the sidewalks quite heavily along Sheridan Road. If you hit somebody, people are going to get injured,” Daley said then.
But the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation denounced the crackdown as “draconian” and the bike forfeiture ordinance went nowhere.
Two years later, Smith proposed a watered down replacement imposing $50 fines against cyclists who ride illegally on Sheridan sidewalks.
Smith traded her legislative “sledgehammer” for a felt hammer after a year-long crackdown that featured hundreds of tickets and more than 100 booted bikes. It reduced the number of bikes riding illegally on Sheridan sidewalks from 40-an-hour to one or two.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to create a ground-breaking network of protected bike lanes — and launch the nation’s largest bike-sharing program — has increased tension among cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.
Earlier this year, the City Council approved the mayor’s plan to throw the book at reckless motorists and cowboy cyclists in hopes that the higher fines would ease roadway conflicts between the two.
The Emanuel-championed ordinance raised fines for cyclists who disobey the city’s traffic laws — from $25 for all offenses to $50-to-$200 depending on the severity of the violation.
The mayor’s plan also doubled — to $1,000 — the fine imposed against motorists who open their doors without looking into the path of cyclists. The fines for leaving a car door open in traffic also doubled — to $300.