The hubbub over Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s security detail parking in a bike lane should be seen as a beepable, er, teachable moment that reminds us drivers need to take bicycle safety seriously.
Encouraging people to ride bikes instead of driving greenhouse-gas-spewing vehicles is good for the environment and good for cyclists’ health. It also can free up space devoted to cars in a crowded urban area.
To encourage more cyclists to take to the streets, drivers must stop treating bike lanes as handy spots to park, load or idle, even for a short time. It also means the pedaling public should follow traffic rules. Too often, we have seen cyclists weaving in and out of traffic lanes and ignoring traffic signals.
In June, the city’s Department of Transportation said it will add concrete barriers to existing protected bike lanes by the end of next year. That will help help keep cars and trucks out of bike lanes.
But the Transportation Department says there are more than 400 miles of protected bike lanes, neighborhood greenways, off-street trails and other on-street bikeways, and not all of those bike routes are protected. Also, many of the bike lanes are disconnected from each other.
Last week, a photo posted by the advocacy group Bike Lane Uprising and reported on by Block Club Chicago showed an SUV in Lightfoot’s detail parked in a bike lane at Roeser’s Bakery, 3216 W. North Ave. Another photo showed it was there because the mayor had gone inside to purchase doughnuts.
Lightfoot chastised her security detail, but as mayor she should have made it clear to her staff — before she went to get the doughnuts — that vehicles ought not linger in a bike lane.
In a crowded city, motorists are tempted to see bike lanes as a handy place to stop. But it’s dangerous. Seeing the mayoral SUV camped out in a bike lane reminded people of how 3-year-old Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook was killed in June when her mother, with whom she was riding on a bike, tried to get around a ComEd truck parked in a bike lane, only to be hit by a truck.
Some European cities are far ahead of Chicago in bicycle use. In fact, some bike racks on the continent are multilevel to accommodate all the bikes.
If Chicago wants to catch up, it not only needs to build more bike lanes but also to make sure cyclists feel safe using them.
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