Lori Lightfoot proposes crackdown on drivers who encroach on bike, bus lanes

Parking enforcement aides would be able to take a picture of the violation and mail it to the owner of the vehicle, even if the driver takes off before the citation is served.

SHARE Lori Lightfoot proposes crackdown on drivers who encroach on bike, bus lanes
Cars parked in protected bike lanes, like these in the 500 block of West Harrison Street, frustrate cyclists.

A line of cars parked in a protected bike lane outside a business this winter in the 500 block of West Harrison Street.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Drivers who park, stand or otherwise encroach on bus and bike lanes would have a greater chance of getting caught under a mayoral crackdown proposed Wednesday to ease downtown congestion, speed bus travel and reverse a precipitous decline in bus ridership.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance that would allow parking enforcement aides to take a picture of the encroachment and mail the violation — with fines ranging from $60-to-$150 — to the address of the license plate holder.

Currently, the ticket can only be issued if the vehicle is parked in a bus lane or bike lane. If someone drives off to avoid the ticket — even while a citation is being written — the parking enforcement aide is out of luck.

The mayor’s plan would close that loophole by allowing parking enforcement aides to take a picture of the vehicle and send the violation and the photographic evidence in the mail within 30 days and no later than 90 days after the secretary of state notifies the city of the identity of the owner and no later than 210 days later if the vehicle is leased.

City Comptroller Reshma Soni portrayed the crackdown as another step toward reducing downtown congestion. The $40 million congestion fee on ride hailing trips — particularly solo rides in the downtown area — apparently wasn’t enough.

City Comptroller Reshma Soni.

City Comptroller Reshma Soni.


“Let’s say, for example, you’re double-parked in a bike lane, and our PEA goes and takes a photo, starts writing a ticket, and you drive away,” Soni said. “This will give us the ability to write the ticket and send it to the owner of a car to curb this kind of congestion.

“There’s so much of this in the central business district area. We’re trying to do whatever we can to curb congestion. And it’s a safety issue as well. People are opening doors in bike lanes. Also in bus lanes. Accidents are happening. We’re trying to rectify that.”

Soni acknowledged that an ancillary aim is to speed bus travel and ultimately reverse a precipitous decline in bus ridership.

“People are blocking bus lanes, and they can’t move,” Soni said. “Now, all of the sudden, they’re not meeting their schedule. This will help with that as well.”

Last fall, Lightfoot convinced the city council to cut Chicago scofflaws some slack by reducing fines, expanding payment plans and stopping drivers’ license suspensions for non-moving violations. That was the first installment on a promise to wean Chicago away from fines and fees that have punished those who least can afford it. She also has stopped water shutoffs, calling water a “basic human right.”

During her election campaign, Lightfoot also promised to raise the boot threshold, stop booting for non-moving violations and eliminate a hefty chunk of red-light cameras at 149 intersections if those cameras were used for revenue rather than safety.

She even proposed abolishing city stickers, which are the source of many compliance tickets, and replacing the $128 million in annual revenue used to repair and maintain Chicago streets with higher fees on ride-hailing vehicles.

Soni denied that the crackdown on bus lane and bike lane encroachment runs contrary to that promise.

“We are trying to create a level playing field, so people [in heavy debt] can have a clean slate and hopefully stay in compliance,” she said.

“Here, the issue is people who are not in compliance. We have a safety issue. We have a congestion issue. We can’t make it easy for people to just run away from this and commit the same offense over and over again. People are not inclined to come downtown if you have all of these congestion issues. We’re hoping this will curb some of that.”

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