Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to create a ground-breaking network of protected bike lanes—and launch the nation’s largest bike-sharing program—has increased tension among cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.
On Tuesday, the mayor witnessed those problems first-hand.
After a morning visit to Otis Elementary School, Emanuel stopped at Big Shoulders Coffee at Ogden and Milwaukee. After hearing, what sounded like a crash, Emanuel “ran outside and saw there had been an accident,” according to the mayor’s communications director Sarah Hamilton.
Emanuel then stayed with the injured cyclist until an ambulance arrived. The biker was knocked down after being “clipped by a truck” making a turn, Hamilton said.
The mayor’s decision to rush to the aid of an injured cyclist was first reported on Twitter.
“Just saw a biker clipped by a truck and dragged at Milwaukee and Ogden. @RahmEmanuel was coincidentally there and helped #wow #bike Chi,” tweeted Wicker Park resident Jennie Rad, who describes herself as a marketer.
Earlier this year, the City Council approved the mayor’s plan to throw the book at reckless motorists who endanger bicycle riders and cowboy cyclists in hopes that the higher fines would ease roadway conflicts between the two.
The Emanuel-championed ordinance raised fines for cyclists who disobey the city’s traffic laws – from $25 for all offenses to $50 to $200, depending on the severity of the violation.
The mayor’s plan also doubled – to $1,000 – the fine imposed against motorists who open their doors without looking into the path of cyclists. The fine for leaving a car door open in traffic also doubled – to $300.
Last year, there were 1,675 bicycle crashes in Chicago, 250 of them so-called “dooring” accidents.
For decades, cyclists 12 and older have been prohibited from riding on Chicago sidewalks. That, too, was changed.
Cyclists were also permitted to ride side-by-side, provided they don’t impede traffic and stay in one lane, leave the curbside edge when passing another bike or preparing to turn and stray from hugging the right shoulder if they are keeping up with other traffic.
Like for Mayor Richard M. Daley, Emanuel is an avid cyclist who campaigned on a promise to make Chicago the nation’s most “bike-friendly” city.
Less than a month after taking office, Emanuel installed the first of what he promised would be 100 miles of protected bike lanes over four years.
The city now has 204.1 miles of on-street bike ways. That includes: 30 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes; 134.2 miles of standard bike lanes and 39.8 miles of marked shared lanes.
Protected bike lanes were installed this summer on Milwaukee and on Clybourn.
Emanuel said the crackdown would not solve all of the conflicts between motorists and cyclists, but it’s a start.
“We have bicyclists. We have drivers. Since both are using it, I want to improve the safety of our streets and…I want bicyclists to know they have a responsibility, just like drivers,” the mayor said then.
“Do I think it will solve everything? There’s no city ordinance that does that. Do I think it will make an improvement so people will actually ride with the notion that they’re gonna be held responsible? Yes.”