Some happy with proposed bike-riding ban on Riverwalk: ‘They’re going too fast’

SHARE Some happy with proposed bike-riding ban on Riverwalk: ‘They’re going too fast’
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A proposed ordinance would ban bicycle riding on the Downtown Riverwalk. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Anita Balodis, 75, was walking along the Riverwalk near her condo on Memorial Day when she was hit by a cyclist.

Balodis said it’s a miracle she didn’t break anything.

“[The cyclist] fell off, too, because she was going so fast,” said Balodis, who lives in Lake Point Tower. “They’re going too fast, and they don’t look out for pedestrians.”

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has introduced a measure he hopes will prevent any more accidents like Balodis’. The proposed ordinance would prohibit cyclists from riding their bikes on the Riverwalk.

Even with “Share the Riverwalk: Walk your bike” signs already posted along the path, Reilly said he has received complaints from people who are having to dodge bikers.

“What we’ve had is dozens upon dozens of complaints about pedestrian and bicycle conflicts down there. It’s one of the most popular tourism destinations in the city. It’s drawing some of the largest pedestrian volumes of any sidewalk in the city. For the same reasons why we don’t allow people to ride bicycles on the sidewalks, that applies here,” Reilly said last week.

Ald. Brendan Reilly says these signs, intended as a suggestion, need the force of law to protect pedestrians along the Chicago River. | Sun-Times photo

Ald. Brendan Reilly says these signs, intended as a suggestion, need the force of law to protect pedestrians along the Chicago River. | Sun-Times photo

Mary Ptacin, who lives downtown and uses the Riverwalk everyday to train for the Chicago Marathon, likes the proposal.

“It’s so busy around here, I can’t imagine people trying to ride their bike,” the 38-year-old said recently. “I think it’s a safety issue.”

Ptacin said cyclists should be able to ride their bikes safely on the street.

“If they’re not going to allow people to safely ride their bikes down here, they need to make appropriate bike lanes in the street,” she said. “So there has to be a balance between safety of runners and pedestrians, and also safety of tourists who come to Chicago.”

Alphonso Olds, 31, said although there’s a risk, cyclists should be able to ride their bikes on the Riverwalk — even though he never would.

“I think you should walk your bike on the Riverwalk,” said Olds, an Edgewater resident. But he added, “I know a lot of people that work around here, that live around here, that come to work early that come on the Riverwalk to get a bike ride in, get an exercise in, get a run in and go back to work real quick.”

Parents with strollers and other pedestrians will be a lot safer along the Downtown Riverwalk if bicycle riding is banned on the promenade, Ald. Brendan Reilly said. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Parents with strollers and other pedestrians will be a lot safer along the Downtown Riverwalk if bicycle riding is banned on the promenade, Ald. Brendan Reilly said. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Charlie Kimball, who had his bike on the Riverwalk steps, said he always walks his bike and hops on it for only a few seconds, and only if there are no pedestrians.

“You can’t dodge large crowds of people,” said Kimball, 23. “Anybody who rides a bike knows you can’t really expect people to know where you are and what you’re doing. So you have to be on the lookout for other people, and you’re just sort of more likely to end up crashing into somebody who might be out walking with their kids, or something like that, if you’re riding your bike where large crowds of people are.”

Last week when he introduced the ordinance, Reilly said it was common sense to not ride a bicycle through a big crowd of pedestrians, but “unfortunately, common sense it not prevailing on the Riverwalk. I’m a big fan of keeping Chicago bicycle friendly.

“But we can’t have pedestrians and people with strollers or in wheelchairs being forced off a pedestrian path that close to the water.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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