This photo of a police SUV parked in the Kinzie Street protected bike lane was included in the letter. Photo taken by Tumblr user 122782.
I just received another report from a reader about people driving in the 18th Street protected bike lane, so it’s obvious to me that dangerous driving behavior is still happening.
A month ago, Anne Alt, president of the Chicago Cycling Club and author of our excellent, two-part series about cycling on the south side, wrote to me that she had drafted a letter written to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, and police superintendent Garry McCarthy to advocate for increased police enforcement of the City’s (pretty solid) traffic laws. I helped edit parts of the letter, gathered some signatures in support of the letter at the Chicago Bike Swap, and even paid for postage. The letter has been sent, and pursuant to the Grid Chicago mission statement (“taking a stand on issues”), I’m publishing it here.
Dear Mayor Emanuel, Superintendent McCarthy and Commissioner Klein:
In recent months, many Chicago cyclists have become painfully aware, both through personal experience and the experiences of friends, that we have a significant problem affecting sustainable transportation in Chicago. The introduction of the first protected bike lanes was not accompanied by any widespread education efforts. The results of this omission have not been pleasant.
Parking and driving in bike lanes are common occurrences. In spite of a city ordinance enacted years ago, enforcement is rare. Chicago police officers are some of the violators. The photo below [above] was taken on 2/9/12 approx. 8:05 a.m. and shows Beat 1323 parked in the Kinzie Street protected lane, just east of the Desplaines/Milwaukee intersection. Note the available spaces in the parking lane. Another cyclist later saw the officer returning to his car and asked why he was parked in the bike lane. The officer replied “I guess I’ll just have to write myself a ticket” and drove away.
The number of citations issued for parking in the bike lane is unacceptably low and an ineffective deterrent to such behavior in the future. According to the Department of Administrative Hearings, 2 citations were issued in 2007, 6 in 2008, 8 in 2009, 2 in 2010, and 5 in 2011 (until October 11).*
We need a citywide education program and enforcement initiative regarding bike lanes in all configurations. This information needs to reach officers, delivery drivers and the general public. The postal service, UPS and Fed Ex have been frequent offenders.
We also need education aimed at pedestrians and cyclists. We recognize that there is room for improvement by all categories of road users. Too many pedestrians are jaywalking in front of cyclists, causing collisions and crashes. Joggers are treating the Kinzie bike lanes as extra sidewalk space, compromising the lanes’ effectiveness. Too many cyclists run red lights and ride without lights at night. In the past few years, there have been outreach efforts where cyclists without lights are stopped, offered free lights and given information about relevant laws. Another is in the works. (http://bit.ly/xCBH4l).
Could an informational flyer be included with future mailings of city stickers and property tax bills, starting in June 2012? This could be an effective way to reach a large number of Chicago residents and drivers.
Could CPD bike officers do training sessions to update other officers on bike laws, including the 3 foot passing and anti-harassment laws? Could CPD be more cooperative in taking accident reports and complaints from cyclists? Currently, cyclists are often subjected to a long drawn-out process that appears to be intended to wear them down and make them give up before their issue is ever recorded or reviewed.
The effectiveness and safety of new protected bike lanes and other bike facilities will continue to be undermined until the general public and Chicago police are on an equal footing with the cycling community in understanding new pavement markings, laws concerning cyclists in traffic, and enforcing those laws.
Thank you for your consideration on these issues. We hope that 2012 will be a turning point in transforming Chicago into a truly bike friendly city. Attention to these issues is critical in ensuring that transformation.
Anne Alt, Steven Vance and the undersigned Chicagoans [50 total signatures]
cc: Active Transportation Alliance
Alderman Will Burns, 4th ward
Alderman Daniel Solis, 25th ward
Alderman Scott Waguespack, 32nd ward
Alderman Michelle Smith, 43rd ward
Alderman Tom Tunney, 44th ward
Alderman John Arena, 45th ward
Alderman Ameya Pawar, 47th ward
* [These figures may be inaccurate and may only represent contested citations. In my original request to the Department of Administrative Hearings I asked for the total number of citations issued for violating Municipal Code of Chicago 9-40-060.]