Inept Leadership Is Worse Than None At All

Background Reading

Just posted on the Active Trans blog:

Why removing the Kinzie bike lane is a bad idea

A bike network is only as strong as its weakest link, but a new proposal by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly threatens to remove one of the most critical connections in Chicago’s growing network of protected bike lanes.

In an ordinance introduced in the Chicago City Council, Ald. Reilly is seeking to force the Chicago Department of Transportation to remove the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, located between Des Plaines and Wells Streets in the River North neighborhood.

If successful, the removal of the Kinzie protected bike lane would be a setback for Chicago, putting more people at risk of injury while doing nothing to alleviate congestion or move people more efficiently around downtown.

Tell your alderman to oppose the removal of the Kinzie protected bi…

In recent news coverage, the alderman argues that the bike lane needs to be removed due to concerns about safety and increased congestion during and after construction of the development at Wolf Point.

But the fact is that with or without a protected bike lane, people will continue to bike on Kinzie because this route provides one of the only lower-traffic connections to downtown over the river. That’s why the protected bike lane was put there in the first place.

Protected bike lanes are proven to reduce the risk of injury to people riding bikes by a whopping 89 percent. Removing the Kinzie protected bike lane would immediately put people at risk of preventable harm.

Concerns about the impact new development may have on local traffic and congestion similarly miss the mark. A study conducted on Kinzie after it was installed showed that despite a 55 percent increase in bike traffic, the project had little to no impact on car travel times. But more importantly, the notion that new development necessitates more car space in crowded downtown Chicago, rather than alternatives like protected bike lanes, is the kind of backwards thinking Active Trans and our supporters are working to change.

Employers and residents locate downtown because of the alternative transportation options the city center provides, not in spite of them.

Beyond the fact that stated concerns about safety and congestion just don’t hold much water, Chicago’s reputation as a forward thinking city of the future is also on the line.

In recent years, Chicago has enjoyed a lot of positive media attention due to the impressive progress the city has made encouraging cycling by building out its network of protected bike lanes and launching the Divvy bike share program.

In recognition of these strides, Bicycling Magazine just last year named our city the second best city for biking in the country. Mayor Emanuel has often cited the Kinzie protected bike lane as the kind of infrastructure improvement he sees as critical to luring new businesses to Chicago, particularly the well-paying tech and creative jobs we need to attract to strengthen our local economy and right our fiscal ship.

Removing the first protected bike lane in the city just four short years after it was installed will be a national embarrassment and set us back in our efforts to make our city more livable and economically vibrant. The only way to make our streets safer and less congested is to build more protected bike lanes like the one on Kinzie, while pushing for complementary transit and pedestrian improvements.

That’s why Active Trans is mobilizing our members and supporters to push back against Ald. Reilly’s proposal. We hope you will join us.


Brendan Reilly

Brendan Reilly

Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, a smoker, speaks to the City Council on his opposition to the indoor ban on e-cigarettes at Chicago City Hall. (Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune)


Activism is almost at odds with reasoned approaches during the course of ‘advocating for something‘. Activism is what you do once you get your ‘marching orders‘. But there is precious little thinking that is going on at the advocacy level with the ranks of the Chicago Urban Cycling Movement.

Were I to hazard a guess the ‘troops‘ are ‘calling the shots‘ in this debate over whether or not to relocate the Kinzie Protected Bike Lane. That is unfortunate but wholly in keeping with the level of leadership coming out of the Active Transportation Alliance. We deserve more reasoned and thoughtful leadership, not more formulator generators and surveys to sign. I understand the need to gather all the money you can while you can. I am all for that. But please do not make silly tactical errors while attempting to look like Rambo.

Muhammed Ali said it best:

Float Like A Butterfly. Sting Like A Bee.

One of the more thoughtful responses to this ‘manufactured crisis‘ was in essence this one:

Kenzie’s Protected Bike Lane is crappy. I have ridden it too many times to feel anything about it that remotely resembles ‘love‘. It is a bit better than the bike lane along Lake Street but barely.

This squabble reminds me of the ones girls had in high school when I was that age over a guy who was muscled but dumb as a stone. Never could understand why ‘bad boys‘ always beat out the nerds. But Kinzie is definitely a ‘bad boy‘ in every sense of that term.

As the writer pointed out it is bone-jarring when you ride over it. And when the weather is bad is gets even worse. If this were a couch in your family room and someone came over demanding that you give it to them in exchange for a brand new one with leather covering rather than sweat-soaked cotton you would be a fool to turn them down.

But as the writer points out we are a lot that is more than prone to ‘turf wars‘ over everything from the altered placement of bike racks on Navy Pier to the mixed reviews on our showcase bike lane along Dearborn Street.

Activism is the brainless side of getting things done. Moving the lane to Grand would probably be a blessing. But what we have here is an inept bit of advocacy going on that seizes the chance once again to ‘bring in money‘ over ‘getting things done‘.

At the very least someone on ‘our side‘ needs to learn how to ‘spin things‘. We need leadership that can convince the troops that getting a new gym with increased seating, brand new locker rooms a ceiling mounted Jumbo-tron and a whiz-bang press box is well worth tearing down the 100 year old gym that is half the size and stinks, literally stinks.

But hey, as activists we are all doing things. Not thinking thing through, but doing things. Our favorite activity is showing up for photo-ops. Each of us has finally figured out which side to keep to the cameras and how to smile without grimacing.

Our leadership having issued it fluff piece of a Vision Zero statement feels secure in its position and is calling for everyone else to trot out something on the same subject. Sheesh!

But we need and deserve so much more for our money. We won’t get it until we demand as much for ourselves as we do from everyone else.

Oh, one last thing. If you are the Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez’ Cycling Forum Leader please consider that painting the Alderman as unhealthy is a bit dangerous when our side spends most of its waking moments slamming down alcohol and smoking weed. And for goodness sake, do your research on the dangers of tattoo inks. Now that is enough to make you shut your yap and find a place to get the darned skin discolorations removed.

Let’s think about this logically, folks.