Chicago’s ‘Bike Friendly’ Plan Needs More Work

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A new Chicago Tribune analysis found that despite the city’s recent efforts to become a more “bike-friendly” area, not all demographics are benefiting.

With a specific focus on Chicago’s expanded Divvy bike-sharing program, the report found that the neighborhoods that do have Divvy stations are mostly white or integrated neighborhoods. The analysis also found that the low and middle-income neighborhoods with mainly African-American or Latino residents do not have any specific “protected” bike lanes.

Three years ago, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel opened the city’s first barrier-protected two-way bike lane on Dearborn Street. He has since made a promise to the city to create similar such lanes all throughout the city, but the South and West sides have been neglected. In fact, about 29 percent and 26 percent of these residents, respectively, do not have any sort of bike path within a half mile to their homes, where only 18 percent of North Siders lack access.

Although Hispanic and African-American residents represent a third of the city’s population, only 10 percent of the city’s 475 Divvy stations are in Hispanic neighborhoods, and only 17.7 percent in African-American neighborhoods.


However, Divvy plans to add 75 stations this year, mostly on the South and West sides. Another 23 stations will be added in Evanston and Oak Park suburbs. The city also plans to add another 50 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020 with a focus on the South and West; Emanuel has already added 108 miles since his announced mission to make Chicago more bicycle friendly.

Nearly 2 percent of Chicago residents overall are commuting by bike, and seems to be growing, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Recently, League of American Bicyclists announced 34 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Communities in the United States, totaling 372. Over 72 million people in the United States now live in a Bicycle Friendly Community. Chicago was ranked 12th out of the top 25 most populous American cities in bike commuting.

“We have a long ways to go before the bicycling system is where it needs to be, south, west or north,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago-based not-for-profit advocacy building.

Residents will be asked to identify priority routes from the city’s Cycling Plan 2020 during four community meetings through July, the Chicago Tribune reported.