Alderman’s bike lane project leaves cyclists in the streets

By Assistant Metro Editor

Mark Serletic has been riding his bicycle for two years and understands the importance of protected bike lanes on busy streets in the city. 

Unfortunately for cyclists like Serletic, Alderman John Arena (45th Ward) canceled plans for a bike lane that would have protected cyclists along Milwaukee Avenue in Gladstone Park.  

Arena’s office did not return multiple requests for comment.

Serletic, 27, said accidents are inevitable for cyclists, a reality he begrudgingly accepts.

“Everyone seems to get hit, so I think I’m due for a collision at some point,” Serletic said. “I’m deathly afraid of it.”

Julie Hochstadter, director of, an online community and social network for cyclists, said protected bikes lanes are important because they help separate cyclists from cars.

Hochstadter said on streets, such as Milwaukee and Western avenues, cyclists face the danger of being hit by vehicle passengers opening their doors into the bike lanes.

“The issue is getting ‘doored,’” Hochstadter said.  “There is only so much room on a street and I’m more comfortable riding along moving cars than parked cars.”

Serletic said that changing the speed limit for vehicles close to bike lanes will not make the streets safer for cyclists.  

“I don’t think slowing down cars is going to make a difference,” Serletic said. 

If cyclists and drivers communicated effectively with each other and use their signals, then it would be a non-issue.

“You can move fast as long as you’re paying attention,” Serletic said.  “People need to signal, pay attention and communicate.”

Chris Sutphen, seven-year cyclist and sales associate at Rapid Transit Cycleshop, 1900 W. North Ave., said some of the problems cyclists experience come from cars and fellow cyclists.

“You don’t have trust or faith in that person next to you, that they’re not going to swerve and do something that’s going to cause an accident,” Sutphen said.  “It’s a lot better there’s more awareness.”

Sutphen said protected bike lanes are essential to ensure the safety of cyclists and that he would like to see them expanded, especially on Milwaukee Avenue.

Serletic said the streets should be wider to allow for bigger bike lanes. However, he said bike lanes still pose a safety concern to cyclists.

“I like the idea of protected bike lanes, but not ones that are protected by cars,” Serletic said. “To me, they don’t seem any safer. You still have pedestrians walking in and out so it becomes another sidewalk.”

Serletic said streets like Milwaukee, Damen and Western avenues could be safer not only for drivers but for cyclists as well.

“Places like Western Avenue and Ashland are basically death traps,” Serletic said. “It sucks because they’re useful streets.” 

Serletic said cyclists can make bike lanes and busy streets safer by paying attention.

Another way for the city to avoid congestion and decrease accidents is by following the lead of other metropolitan areas like Minneapolis, Seattle and Boston, which have bike-dedicated roads and highways. 

Sutphen and Serletic both said they would love to have a bike-dedicated road in Chicago, as it would provide camaraderie and safety amongst the cyclists. 

“If [Bike-dedicated roads] were actually blocked off for bikers, it would be awesome,” Serletic said. “Keep us separate.”

Sutphen said it will add safety for Chicago bikers.

“It pushes all the bikers to one location, but it creates a much safer spot for them,” Sutphen said.