New bike lanes offer chance for cyclists to step up

By Editorial Board

According to the Chicago Department of Transportation, the city will spend an estimated $4.6 million on creating protected bicycle lanes this year by installing pylons to separate bike traffic from motor vehicles. The city hopes to add 650 miles of bike lanes by 2020 as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the country.

This is obviously a great time to be a cyclist. Protected bike lanes shield both cyclists and motorists from dangerous collisions. Bicycles are an affordable and environmentally friendly form of transportation and deserve consideration when it comes to urban planning and safety.

That being said, all eyes are on cyclists now. The era of reckless, law-flouting cyclists needs to end, and they may need to start paying vehicle taxes similar to motorists.

According to the CDT, protected bike lanes cost approximately $140,000 per mile. With cyclists not paying taxes for parking, licensing or fuel, this could escalate the already heated culture clash between cyclists

and motorists.

Now that the city is spending so much money on bike amenities, there is no reason why cyclists can’t spare $20 or $30 to register their bikes with the city. After all, drivers currently pay $85 or $135 for city vehicle stickers, depending on vehicle size.

Vehicle stickers are expected to generate $115.4 million in revenue this year, according to a financial report released by the City

Clerk’s office.

The vehicle tax fund, financed by city stickers and other fees such as car impoundments, pays for the repair of roads and it ended last year with a surplus of $14.3 million. This fund has not always covered the cost of all roadwork, but the recent $60 increase in some vehicle sticker prices is expected to generate enough revenue to continue this surplus despite the added cost of bike lanes, according to the financial report.

“Spending has been relatively constant and more closely in line with revenues,” according to the financial report, in regards to vehicle fees.

Motorists pay for a significant portion of the city’s roads. It is only fair that cyclists, now having the same legal and political status as motorists, should pay for the infrastructure being built for them.

Some drivers are quick to point out that traffic laws are not as heavily enforced on cyclists. This needs to change for the benefit of everyone on the road. Any law applying to motorists applies to cyclists as well.

Cyclists need to follow traffic laws now more than ever, and police need to enforce them more, with fines being utilized to pay for new bike lanes.

Chicago’s ambitious plan to build a comprehensive network of protected bike lanes is the first step in creating an atmosphere in which riding a bike to work or school is as viable a transportation choice as driving. As long as cyclists and motorists take responsibility in sharing the road and its cost, Chicago can indeed become the most bike-friendly city in the country.