Saturday, July 27, 2013

Are Cities Doing Enough To Keep Bicyclists Safe?

What more can be done to keep Bicyclists safe Here in California, bicycle enthusiasts are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy their cycling passion nearly year round. Consequently, many of the laws municipalities around the state have adopted have served as the basis for other cities around the country to implement bicycle safety programs to entice more people to bicycle in the city and help keep them safe from collisions when they are doing it. Chicago is one city that has really embraced the whole bicycling lifestyle concept as a win-win proposition for all involve.

Proponents argue that bicycle travel is good for business; it reduces traffic congestion, wear on roadways and is an environmentally sound type of transportation. The city of Chicago has publicly proclaimed that it dedicated to promoting bicycle travel and reducing accidents and injuries. I recently asked Jonathan Rosenfeld, a Chicago attorney and bicycling safety guru, what he thought of the cities rapid expansion of bicycling safety laws and expanding system of marked bike lanes.

Evaluation of Chicago's 2012 Bike Crash Data

The Chicago DOT retained a grant from the Illinois DOT to perform an analysis on bike crashes in the city to determine what needed to be done to reduce the incidence of these crashes. The analysis looked at data from 2005-2010. The idea was to understand when, where and how bicycle accidents were occurring and create a plan to overcome these obstacles. Some of the data found in the report involved:
  • Bicycle travel has increased in Chicago 150% form 2000 to 2010.
  • There were 28 fatal bicycle crashes in the five year period
  • There were almost 9,000 bicyclist injuries during the same period
  • From 2005 to 2010, injuries increased 27%
  • The majority of bike crashes happened at intersections
  • The majority of injuries were caused by motorists that failed to yield

Current Chicago Bicycle Safety Initiatives

The City of Chicago has been actively working toward bicycle safety since the publication of the Bike 2000 Plan that came out in 1992. Some of the initiatives that have been implemented include the installation of on-street bike lanes, multi-use trails, more bike racks, safety education and several other programs. In the report from 2012, the city outlined the strategies it plans to use to reduce crashes by 50% in five years including:
  • Adding more bike lanes, including separated or buffered lanes
  • Implement intersection improvements to improve safety
  • Increase education on bicycle and motorist safety
  • Enforcement of bicycle safety laws, targeting motorists
In 2013, Chicago has begun living up to some of its promises. This year has already seen the addition of:
  • Divvy Bike Share Program
  • 25 added bike corrals in downtown shopping areas
  • Protected bike added to Milwaukee Ave, the busiest biking street
The Chicago Streets For Cycling Plan 2020 states that Chicago would like to increase the current 200 miles of bike lines in the city to 645. The plan is to add 100 miles of protected bike lanes and 10 miles of neighborhood greenways by 2015. By 2020, another 50 miles of protected bike lanes, another 30 miles of greenways and 40 more miles of bike lanes.

In 2010, Bicycling.com released its rankings of the most bike-friendly cities. Chicago came in 10th, not bad overall. However, in a study of bicycle safety done at Rutgers and Virginia Tech in 2011, Chicago was ranked the 2nd most dangerous city to bike in after New York. Cities like Minneapolis, Portland and Vancouver all ranked much higher in both as “bike-friendly” and in safety, giving Chicago some examples to look to for future bicycle initiatives.

 Chicago has come a long way in promoting bicycle safety and seems geared to continue its efforts. Many may point out that 2015 and 2020 are still years away and more needs to be done now to prevent bicycle injuries and deaths on Chicago streets. Hopefully with the continued focus on safety for bicyclists, Chicago will become a safer and more desirable city to bike in. Chicago Bike Safety Resources: