Re-cycled roadways

By Kaley Fowler

As cycling continues to gain popularity in Chicago, the city has taken to revamping its roadways to accommodate bicyclists. The latest stride in this effort is now underway.

The Chicago Department of Transportation and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have come together to develop the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which is anticipated to be ready by June 2012.

According to Mike Amsden, Streets of Cycling 2020 project manager, the plan’s purpose is to create a citywide system of safe bikeways by the year 2020.

“The plan itself is a network plan that is going to identify anywhere from 150 to upwards of 250 miles of roadways for new bike facilities that haven’t really been seen in Chicago in years past,” Amsden said.

He said CDOT is currently in the process of designing the network and is still in the early stages of development. Because the plan has not yet been finalized, CDOT currently has no estimate of how much the project will cost the city.

Meetings are held regularly around the city to gauge community interest and identify where major routes need to be developed, which will help CDOT lay out the new bike lanes.  A meeting with a focus on bike boulevards will be held Jan. 28 at The Hartman Building, 30 E. Adams St, suite 1207.

So far the meetings have aided planners in identifying lesser-known, yet commonly used, bike routes around the city, according to Greg Borzo, co-chair of the Central Area Community Advisory Group.

“I’ve been biking in Chicago for decades and I thought I knew the city pretty well, but these meetings and this input has taught me a lot,” said Borzo.

CDOT divided the city into nine regions to make the project more manageable. Each of the sections is led by an advisory group to gather input from local residents, according to Borzo.

“I’ve found people to be quite surprised at the extent of what is planned and at the seriousness of the effort,” Borzo said. “Not only [of the seriousness] to build these new infrastructures and lanes and paths, but the seriousness of the effort to engage people in

the process.”

Amsden said community involvement plays a key role in the development of this plan and the bicyclists’ safety is the main goal of the initiative.

“[The plan] is really going to change the city by creating a safer environment for people using the roadways by whatever means they choose,” he said. “[It] encourages everybody to ride a bike, not just those who are confident and able to ride on busy streets with high-speed traffic.”

Traffic and road safety are major concerns for many bicyclists with a long commute, according to Vince Zaworski, Oak Park Cycle Club member.

“There are a lot of people from our area who commute into the city on a regular basis,” said Zaworski, explaining that the question of the safest routes to take is a “constant topic of discussion.”

In addition to the 150–250 miles of protected bikeways planned for construction, Emanuel will continue to follow through on his campaign promise to implement 25 miles of protected paths each year of

his term.

“The mayor has a very ambitious plan to not only create a really great bike network, but also to improve street safety for all roadway users, and that’s really what we’re doing,” Amsden said.

Safety will not be the only focus of the new plan, according to Borzo, who believes that the improved roadways will encourage a more perceptive lifestyle among cyclists.

“When you are active and are going on a bike, you see people and things more,” Borzo said. “A car is a way to get somewhere quickly and a bike is a way to get you somewhere in a more open, social way.”

For more information on the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, visit Facebook.com/StreetsforCycling2020.

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