As Chicago continues to install more bike lanes, many are worried about the city’s ability to keep up with lane maintenance issues. While a number of cyclists have already voiced their concerns by filing a complaint with the Chicago Department of Transportation, others have opted to simply forego the use of routes where the lack of maintenance presents safety hazards. As Bicycle Accident Attorneys, the injury team of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. takes note of current problems associated with poor maintenance of bike lanes, but at the same time, also have uncertainties over plans for the construction of more infrastructure in the coming months and years.
There are a variety of maintenance issues, some which are associated specifically to bike lane location, but many more which are dependent on the time of the year. In warmer seasons, critical problems include: roadway debris, such as garbage or broken glass; roadway surface conditions, such as potholes or cracks in pavement; as well as the persistence of pavement-marking issues, particularly along unprotected lanes (i.e. disappearing white lines),.Many cyclists have reported bent rims, flat tires, and other bicycle damage, caused by poor maintenance of bike lanes. Most concerning though, is the risk of injury or fatality, due to the increased potential for bike accidents caused by such hazards.
In colder weather, cyclists face issues similar to those present in warmer seasons, but with the added component of hazards created by inclement weather. During these months, it can be difficult for the city to keep up with the removal of snow and ice along roadways, let alone ensure that bike lanes are cleared as well. While the prevalence of winter cyclists is far less, we must not forget the commuter bicyclists that travel via bike for a significant portion of the year. Further, clearing roadway debris, which is often neglected during colder months, can accumulate, thereby increasing the need for clean-up efforts in the spring.
Fortunately, the city is aware of the problem, and is making improvements, such as increasing the use of street-sweeping machines—that fit into separated and barrier-protected lanes—to two times a month. However, residents remain concerned. As recently reported by the Chicago Tribune, the CDOT’s Assistant Director of Transportation Planning stated, "[i]t is still a brand-new experience and we are constantly learning, [however], [o]ur intent is to continue to improve upon snow-plowing and street-cleaning."
Although efforts at addressing existing issues of poor bike lane maintenance are underway, apprehensions persist over whether the city can adequately adapt to the increase in bike lanes that are expected to occur during each phase of plan implementation. Currently, we have only reached the half-point in the city’s goal to install 100-miles of protected lanes by 2015. Further, protected lanes encompass a mere portion of the overall infrastructure that the city projects. According to current plans, installation of more than 600 miles of bike lanes—both protected and regular—has been approved, with completion expected to occur over the next 5 years.
As Bicycle Accident Attorneys, we share concerns similar to those held by many residents. If maintenance is currently a problem—with approximately 50 miles of protected, and less than 200 miles of unprotected lanes—how will the city be able to ensure that bike lanes are properly maintained when bike lane mileage is tripled?