Confused Walter Jacobson Worries BRT “Bike Plan” Will Create Gridlock

In a recent CBS Chicago TV editorial, veteran news personality Walter Jacobson panicked that the city’s proposal for the Central Loop BRT corridor would “create a gridlock of the world,” but he’s wildly unclear on the concept. The plan would create dedicated bus lanes with island boarding platforms on Washington and Madison; the proposed Washington configuration includes a protected bike lane between the platform and the curb. However, on the CBS website this bus rapid transit project is erroneously branded the “Washington Street Bike Plan.”

Claiming to be a bike commuter himself, Jacobson thanked Mayor Emanuel for providing a bike lane on Washington but fretted that the street layout would wreak havoc on car traffic. “I can’t wait for the pedal, but I’m worried about the jam,” he said. “The mayor’s plan for Washington Street is to make space for bikes and buses by reducing these five lanes to just two. All the cars in line … waiting to turn [left], will force the [through] traffic into one lane. You sure, sir, you want to do that? Jam up the Loop, inconvenience people in cars for who knows how long?”

CentralLoopBRTWashington

Washington Street BRT configuration with protected bike lane.

Jacobson obviously didn’t take a close enough look at the rendering of Washington the city released last week, which shows that the island platforms would taper off to make room for a left-turn lane, so there would still be two through lanes for eastbound car traffic. Crisis averted.

The newsman concludes by telling Emanuel, “It’s OK to dream, as you say you do, of making Chicago the biking capital of the world. But before you actually do it, your honor, please wake up.” Actually, Mr. Jacobson, before you go on TV to trash the city’s BRT proposal, which would make the streets safer and move people more efficiently through the Loop, please take a few minutes to study the plan. The “do nothing” strategy is a great recipe for stagnation, but cities around the country are advancing past the “move as many cars as possible” mindset. Fortunately Chicago is one of them.