Alderman Dowell with 3rd Ward bike campers.
[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Thursdays.]
3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell wasn’t always a bicycle-friendly politician. But she says a recent visit to bike-crazy northern Europe opened her eyes to the potential benefits of cycling for her South Side constituents.
Dowell’s Near South district includes parts of Bronzeville, Kenwood, Oakland, Douglas, and the South Loop. Last February, as part of Rahm Emanuel’s plan to build one hundred miles of car-protected bike lanes within his first term, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) proposed installing protected lanes along Martin Luther King Drive in her ward. But local church leaders opposed the lanes because they feared they would impact Sunday parking and because they felt the white posts used to delineate the lanes would detract from the aesthetics of the historic boulevard, says CDOT project manager Mike Amsden. As a result, the project stalled.