Today is the perfect day to voice concerns to the City over how it has maintained (or not) Chicago's bike lanes over the winter. From 3:00 to 4:30 this afternoon the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC) will meet at City Hall to discuss the state of all things bicycle. The meeting is open to the general public and will take place in Room 1103, 121 North LaSalle Street. MBAC meetings are held four times a year and provide an excellent opportunity to hear about the latest bikey happenings and to discuss issues with actual policy makers.
There is much to discuss about how the City has dealt with a difficult winter season. Judging solely by appearances, the City seems to have largely thrown in the towel when it comes to maintaining our (no longer) shiny new bicycle infrastructure. Our bike lanes, particularly our protected bike lanes, are in terrible shape. Plastic posts meant to separate bikes from cars have in numerous instances been ripped from the asphalt, often by the City's own snow plows. Potholes, are not merely an annoyance but are so deep and prevalent in areas designated for bike traffic that they are down right dangerous. In the Kinzie protected bicycle lane there is a sewer cover that has recessed deeply into the ground so as to present a hazard to cyclists using what was once a gleaming example of where the we wanted to go as a city. Someone placed a orange safety cone in it some weeks ago. It now lays mashed in the hole, a limp symbol of our present sad state.
As my law partner, Jim Freeman, documented a short time ago on this blog, snow removal in Chicago bicycle lanes has been inconsistent this winter. This morning conditions in both the Kinzie bike lane and the Loop's Dearborn bike lane were down right treacherous. Both were filled with a thick mix of slush and ice that probably could have been avoided had the City simply placed salt in the bike lanes. This is what Kinzie looked like at around 8:30 a.m.:
|Chicago's Kinzie Bike Lane this morning|
This is what the Dearborn bike lane looked like a short time later:
|Chicago's Dearborn Bike Lane this morning|
It was accurately worse than it looks and it looked bad for the lane's entire length through the Loop. In the case of Dearborn, the City does not seem to have attempted snow removal. Also, the situation was made worse by building property managers along the route pushing snow directly into the bike lane. (I'm looking at you Monadnock Building.) This has been a problem all winter long and the City is quite aware of it. After snow storms Chicago police should be patrolling Dearborn handing out tickets to those dumping snow in the bike lane.
My guess is that the City's response to many of these concerns will be that, you know, this was an exceptionally bad winter. It was. But the weather was certainly not unprecedented. No one should be surprised when a Chicago winter is cold and snowy. Perfection is not expected, but the current state of affairs is unacceptable and worrisome. Is Chicago truly committed to making cycling safe and accessible for people "8 to 80" year 'round, or not? If it is, then hard work and planning is required.
If you share the concerns raised here, or have additional concerns, show up today and make yourself heard. I know, the winter is nearly over and everyone is sick to death of thinking about snow and the removal thereof. But the time is now to start making sure that next winter the City does a better job of making our bike lanes safe for everyone to use.