Eyes on the Street: Twitter User Calls Attention to Drivers Blocking Bike Lane

Twitter user @CJettR has started a campaign to focus the attention of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department on clearing illegally parked and standing vehicles from bike lanes. Using the hashtag #enforce940060, Clement Robinson is calling attention to ordinance 9-40-060, which bans motorists from parking or standing in bike lanes.

The city evidently agrees that drivers should pay attention to this ordinance: They recently mailed a flyer about it to all 1.5 million motorists whose cars have city stickers. According to the city’s flyer, blocking a bike lane forces bicyclists to merge into faster moving traffic, “endangering them and other motorists.” The fine for offending motorists is $150 — or $500, if a blocked bike lane sends a bicyclist into a collision.

A 26-year-old analytics professional, Robinson biked recreationally when he first moved here — but it “soon became my main form of transportation,” he said. He bikes between Old Town and the Loop for work every day, and to run errands. He started the hashtag five days ago, disappointed at how he saw the city’s growing bikeway infrastructure “slipping away…due to lax enforcement.”

I was very excited about the city’s plan to install 100 miles of protected bike lanes — but when cars are allowed to park and drive in them, we are put in danger. If a car is in the bike lane on Dearborn, a biker going southbound must either ride into oncoming traffic, or onto the sidewalk to get around it.

He contacted the Chicago Department of Transportation, who asked him for a list of problematic locations. Robinson sent them one, “but it didn’t seem to accomplish anything, and the problem is pervasive across the city.” One of the worst spots, he says, is along Old Town’s historic shopping street. “Wells between Oak (where there is a ghost bike) and North Ave is pretty terrible,” Robinson said, adding, “It is full of cabs, delivery trucks, and people in nearby buildings unloading their cars.” He kept listing them:

The Dearborn bike lane is also particularly bad. Kinzie can be tough too, especially with more than half the original barriers missing. Really though, I’ve seen it all over the city.

Spending “just five minutes” double-parked in a bike lane might not seem like a long time, but it can matter to plenty of other people. Along a popular cycling route like Milwaukee Avenue, a car blocking the bike lane for just five minutes in the afternoon could put 42 people in danger.

Robinson said he hasn’t gotten a response from Emanuel, the police department, or CDOT, despite inundating their Twitter feeds with evidence of dangerous motorist behavior. “I hope to see more people tweeting these photos at the mayor and CPD, so we can get the momentum going.”