As Chicago's Bicyclists Increase, City Struggles to Protect Them

Chris Fusco and Tina Sfondeles look at the growing rate of bike crashes reported in Chicago over the past decade. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel seeks to make it "the bike friendliest city in the country," can Chicago protect the riders it hopes to attract?
September 4, 2012, 2pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Reflecting the growing number of cyclists in the city, and growing conflicts with motor vehicles, Fusco and Sfondeles report that, "the number of bike crashes reported to the Chicago Police Department rose by 38 percent between 2001 and 2011." With an agressive plan to increase the city's share of protected bike lanes and a multimillion-dollar bike-sharing program due to launch next year, the authors ask if the city is doing enough to ensure the safety of cyclists.

"Most agree that the 33.5 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes that the mayor plans to have in place by the end of this year will make biking safer. But some say City Hall is failing to make simpler, lower-cost safety improvements - especially at crash-prone bike intersections," note Fusco and Sfondeles. 

John Pucher, a planning professor and transportation researcher at Rutgers University, "says those new routes and the addition of bike-sharing might actually make cycling in the city less dangerous."

"As you have more and more people cycling, you have this notion called safety in numbers," he says. "Motorists start to expect to see them crossing at intersections, and that generally makes it safer."

So far, this doesn't seem to be the case.


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Published on Monday, September 3, 2012 in Chicago Sun-Times
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