South Side residents Peter Taylor and Anne Alt have been bicyclists their whole lives. But a lack of bike lanes in their neighborhoods limited the places they could go and made riding on the street unsafe.
“I rode a lot of places in the city in the ’80s when there were no bike lanes at all,” said Alt, 58. “People in cars were like, ‘What are you doing here?'”
On Wednesday, the two cyclists stood with Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) and Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi and others to announce the “biggest bike lane expansion in Chicago history.”
By the end of 2022, CDOT plans to spend $17 million to add 100 miles of new bike lanes around the city with a concerted effort on the South and West sides. The additions will bring the city’s total bike lane miles to nearly 400.
Th city plans to add 100 miles of bikeway improvements in 2021 and 2022.Chicago Department of Transportation
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people biking to work in Chicago has nearly doubled, according to CDOT, with bike shares like Divvy breaking daily ride records on three separate occasions this year.
In July, the city completed one protected bike lane in West Pullman. The lane stretches along 119th Street between Ashland Avenue and Halsted Street and connects the Coleman Elementary Academy to the Major Taylor Trail. The trail is named after the bicycle racer and civil rights pioneer Marshall “Major” Taylor, who died in Chicago in 1932.
“When you look here, you see an example of the equity that CDOT is starting to bring to the bike network in Chicago,” said Peter Taylor, 62. He added that there are food deserts around the South Side, and the new bike lane “connects three grocery stores and allows people in our neighborhood to get to the grocery store for essential services.”
Most bike lanes will share the roads with vehicles. By the end of 2022, 12 miles of dedicated bike lanes will be marked by paint, concrete curbing or plastic poles.
Biagi said it is an “incremental process” to decide what type of bike lane and what protection goes with it.
“One of the challenges is that not every neighborhood is ready for (bike lanes)” she said. “So we might put the bike sharrow down to say, “Cycling is appropriate here.'” Doing so, she added, “builds on making cycling that option that people want to use” and the need for bike lanes.
CDOT hopes to design and install additional miles of protected bike lanes in 2022 but would need to assess community outreach and engagement before making any decisions.
For Taylor and Alt, both board members for the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, the extra miles of bike lanes are a step in the right direction, but they say there is “still a long way to go” to providing safe and accessible cycling options.
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter for the Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.