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Alderman wants to let seniors and kids ride bikes on Chicago sidewalks

Senior citizens 65 and older and kids under 12 would be free to ride their bicycles on Chicago sidewalks, under an election-year safety net proposed Wednesday.

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) said senior citizens in his Northwest Side ward requested the change and he wants to give it to them to protect them. Never mind that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in the process of creating one of the most extensive networks of protected and buffered bike lanes in the nation.

Currently, bike riding on sidewalks is prohibited in Chicago. That’s because it’s downright dangerous for pedestrians.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Reboyras introduced an ordinance that would carve out an exemption from the sidewalk ban for kids and seniors, including the sidewalk along North Sheridan Road between Ardmore and West Sheridan. The sidewalk ban would continue to apply to cyclists “between the ages of 12 and 64.”

“It’s unsafe for seniors to be in the streets. They can’t react like we can,” Reboyras said Wednesday.

The aldermen acknowledged that kids under 12 can be reckless bike riders who endanger pedestrians. But, he said risk is far outweighed by the need to keep kids safe. He did not explain why he considers bike lanes unsafe, even those protected with buffers.

“It’s important that we look out for young kids and the elderly,” he said.

Emanuel campaigned on a promise to make Chicago the most “bike-friendly” city in the nation. He delivered on that promise by creating scores of bike lanes, including protected lanes separated from vehicles, either by a lane of parking or by physical buffers and elevated curbs.