A quick interview with Gabe Klein at the Bike to Work Rally

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Klein with Active Trans’ Julia Kim.

With terrific weather there was a good turnout at today’s Bike to Work Rally under the giant Picasso in Daley Plaza. As the festivities wound down, I buttonholed Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein to ask him a few questions about the state of cycling in Chicago.

This is going to be a big year for bicycling in Chicago. What things are you most excited about that are coming up this year?

There’s so much that we’re working on, but I’m really proud of the bike team’s efforts on the protected bike lanes and the buffered bike lanes, and traditional bike lanes. I mean, last year we put in 39 miles all across the board, which was probably more than we’ve ever done. This year we’re going to put in 25 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes, mostly protected. So I’m very excited about our efforts to make it safer for people, particularly to get to work. That’s why Bike to Work Week is great. What we’ve seen, and I’ve heard it from people in our agency is, people are like, “Wow, I didn’t know it was so much fun and so fast and so easy to get to work on my bike.” And now if we can just make it a little safer, then I think people will be like, “There’s no good reason not to do this.”

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Elizabeth Adamczyk discusses the Streets for Cycling network with CDOT Bicycle Program engineer Nate Rosebury.

Why do you think are going to be the biggest challenges this year as you put in the new facilities?

I think we need to educate people as to what they are, and that goes for motorists as well as bicyclists, or people that aren’t cyclists but want to bike. Some of that happens naturally over time, like we saw with the Kinzie protected bike lane. And some of it means that we have to have our bike ambassadors out there. We have to have folks actually explain to people, “Yes who have to actually stop at a stoplight, stop at a stop sign and so on.” We’re going to work on an information campaign for bike safety as well.

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Bicycling Ambassadors Angel Montalvo, Kayla Livingston and Genaro Escarzaga.

Yesterday at the Mayor’s Bike Advisory Council meeting they announced that the bike share program is probably not going to launch this year. What do you have to say about that?

What I’ll say is that it’s going to launch in the next six to twelve months. We don’t know exactly what month it’s going to launch. Some of it has something to do with weather. So if we get to the point where it’s going to be an October launch then we might just want to go ahead and wait until March or April. And unfortunately these things always run behind a bit, these big projects. So we knew all along that if it slipped too far into the late summer or early fall we might have to do the spring. And, to be honest, we’re still not sure yet.

The bike share contract has been challenged. Are you confident that that problem is going to be resolved?

You know, I haven’t been involved in any of that. That’s happening over at Procurement, but I can tell you that we’ll be launching bike share in the next six to twelve months.

OK. Any other thoughts?

It was just such a great Bike to Work Week. I rode every day and I saw so many people out on the road having a good time getting to work. And I just hope that this really sort of catalyzes a movement of people biking to work every week.

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John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

6 thoughts on “A quick interview with Gabe Klein at the Bike to Work Rally”

  1. I had a chance to stop by the Free Stuff— I mean Bike to Work Rally, and definitely enjoyed it. I finally learned how to load my bike onto the bus racks at the CTA booth! Did I mention all the free stuff?

  2. Those bus rack demos are a great feature at the BTW rally and other events. No matter how many times they’re offered, there are always more cyclists who find them useful. I hope CTA will continue to offer them.

    This year’s BTW rally was a little smaller than in some previous years. Perhaps the weather forecast was a factor. It was still a great time as always.

  3. This quote from Commissioner Gabe Klein “unfortunately these things always run behind a bit, these big projects” is a reflection on the competence of Commissioner Gabe Klein, not any kind of truism. The City of Chicago is being sued for a conflict of interest (correction – not “sued”, investigated by the Chicago IG), with Mr. Klein accused of being at the center of the conflict. That is why there is a delay. Never mind that installing bike sharing stations isn’t exactly a big project in the scheme of things. The Hoover Dam was built two years ahead of schedule, I guess by aliens, because as Commissioner Klein mentioned, big projects always run behind schedule.

    Biking/BRT update: I went to the latest BRT informational session and bike lanes have
    disappeared from the BRT design on Western or Ashland and it looked to me
    like shrinking the sidewalks was also a possibility. I was told Damen is
    the biking corridor. I believe they need the sidewalk space to keep two lanes of vehicle traffic each way, add BRT lanes (center or curbside is what is being debated), and keep street parking (IMHO, having to pay CPM to remove spots is really going to restrict the project).

    1. I don’t think the City is being sued over bike sharing. Or at least I didn’t read that. I do know that the Inspector General’s office has opened an investigation into the procurement process. Read this: http://gridchicago.com/2012/bike-sharing-delays-bike-lane-designs-and-other-highlights-from-wednesdays-mbac-meeting/
      I had a conflict with the BRT meeting closest to meet (the one in Lakeview) so I missed it. Thanks for reporting back what you heard.
      It doesn’t seem that the people working on BRT are connecting with the people working on the Streets for Cycling Plan where citizens told of their desire to bike all over the place on distance and time efficient routes. Shuttling people to bike on one street instead of another is not a good plan. Damen, as many people will profess, is not a good street to bike on because of the potholes, narrow lanes, high speed traffic between Fullerton and Diversey, high volumes of car traffic, lack of bike lanes on many parts, and so on.
      The Central Loop BRT will be designed to not accommodate cycling on Madison Street, but on Randolph Street.
      The City doesn’t tell people driving cars to take a different street. They do that on their own based on traffic conditions. Damen is 1/2 mile from Western and Ashland.
      I left a comment on another forum yesterday: “The thing that shuts down potential bikeways is neighbors and the aldermen themselves (not availability of funding, parking, or geometric constraints).”
      But in this case it might be the parking meter lease.

      1. Thank you for the correction. I confused the IG investigation with allegations from the other losing vendor. I thought the allegations were part of a formal lawsuit but I see now that they were just informal allegations and the only action is that of the Chicago IG.

        They had a complete set of BRT whiteboards up that explained where CTA was at in the process. I was taking pictures of them but then told they would all be online. I’m still looking for the presentation online. If it is not up later in the week I will email them to ask for it. The boards showed the remaining options and what was being considered.

        Most of the various people speaking were very helpful and pragmatic and happy to talk about a range of issues. I highly recommend attending any of the CTA events that are often listed here on GRID.

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