Have Some Areas of Chicagoland Been Left Out of Bike Planning and Infrastructure Efforts?

In order to provide networking and ease of accessibility between communities, bike planning and infrastructure in Chicago, and surrounding suburbs is comprised of several key components-protected bike lanes along roadways; unprotected lanes which connect routes; and the off-road scenic and throughway paths, which are both protected and serve the purpose of linking communities. However, when considering all the cities that comprise Chicagoland, as a whole, and the current plans in place, we can’t help but wonder if the city’s bike planning efforts have failed to fully incorporate many of Chicago’s northern suburbs.

According the Department of Transportation’s, Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, “It was developed using three key principles:

1. Provide a bicycle accommodation within 1⁄2 mile of every Chicagoan. The network should achieve the Bike 2015 Plan’s goal of having a bicycle accommodation within 1⁄2 mile of every Chicagoan. These accommodations should connect to the destinations identified in the public input phase of the planning process.
2. Provide a greater number of bikeways where more people live. Ridership is the key criterion for evaluating the success of bicycle infrastructure. The need to provide accommodations on a citywide basis was balanced with an analysis of residential and employment density.
3. Increase the amount of infrastructure where ridership is high, while establishing a strong backbone of infrastructure where ridership is currently lower. Building a citywide network means providing accommodations and connections in all neighborhoods, from Rogers Park to Altgeld Gardens. The network identifies new bicycle infrastructure for all neighborhoods. The Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 network meets the needs of an eight year old just learning to ride a bike, an eighty year old that rides to the park, the commuter who rides 10 miles to the Loop every day for work, and everyone in between.”

While there are many projects planned for northern communities that surround Rogers Park, when viewing the map of the city’s plan as a whole, there seems to be a lack of safe bike routes that provide access to downtown Chicago to residents of the north side, as well as northern suburbs like Skokie or Evanston, and northwestern suburbs like Niles or Morton Grove. Yet, as the development principles state, the intent of the plan was to “provide a greater number of bikeways where more people live,” and build a citywide network, which means “providing accommodations and connections in all neighborhoods.” Why then, do some communities appear to have been excluded from the so-called ‘citywide network’?

When considering both the population density in north and northwest suburbs, as well as the traveling distance between these areas and downtown Chicago, one would think that bike planning efforts would have provided the residents of these communities with a safe means of biking into the city. In fact, there are many areas to the west, southwest, and south of downtown, that are located equal distance to the city and that have similar populations to northern communities, which have far more comprehensive planning efforts in place. Further, of the few existing routes that provide access to downtown areas from the north, many are poorly maintained, which serves as an additional barrier to our northern residents that wish to bike into the city.

As Bicycle Accident attorneys, we do hope that more of an effort is made in the future to include our neighbors to the north. Because the plan’s networking efforts will occur in three stages, there is certainly room for improvement, particularly in Phase 3, which will implement 2018 plan updates, based upon recommendations, in order to fill in remaining gaps in the network. In the meantime, the injury team at Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. encourage motorists and cyclists to make a concerted effort to share our roadways, especially in areas with less infrastructure in place.