Almost exactly a year ago, Chicago officials put paint to pavement for the Windy City’s first protected bike lane. The facility on Kinzie Street was just the start of the grand ambition of the new mayor — and DOT Director Gabe Klein — to create a network of 100 miles of separated bike lanes over the next several years.
Already, in the short time since the Kinzie lane was installed, bicycle mode share on that street has jumped from 22 to more than 50 percent. Last week the city took another step forward, rolling out seven more miles of separated facilities in a part of the city that, traditionally, hasn’t been served by bicycle infrastructure: the city’s South Side.
When I read the news from the Active Transportation Alliance, I immediately thought of Lacourdaire Camargo, a bicyclist who lives in Little Village, a predominantly Mexican-American community on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
A few months ago, I was working on a story for Momentum magazine about diversity in U.S. cycling and Camargo, like many others I spoke to, highlighted the need for equitable distribution of cycling infrastructure to encourage more folks from her neighborhood to ride. Working downtown, she recognized the growing ranks of urban professionals riding in to work, but very few of those folks were coming from the South Side. “Cycling is a bit more challenging on the south and west side of Chicago, because there really aren’t a lot of bike lanes or bike-friendly zones,” she said. “I feel that there’s a disparity.”
Thanks to the work of advocates and city officials that’s starting to change. According to Active Trans:
The South Side’s first protected bike lane is coming to life this week in Hyde Park. Crews are installing the lane between Cottage Grove and Lake Park, helping to connect residents of this bustling neighborhood with a direct route to the spectacular Washington Park. The lane also cruises past the University of Chicago campus, and a number of churches and schools. South Siders, you’re going to love it.
Will neighborhoods like Little Village be next in line? Stay tuned to the Active Trans blog for updates on the citywide bikeways campaign.
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.