There’s Still Time for Evanston Residents to Voice Support for Safer Biking

Church Street cycle track in Evanston
The two-way segment of the Church Street protected bike lanes. Photo: Steven Vance

The Evanston City Council passed an update to the suburb’s bike plan, including plans for a network of protected lanes, on July 28. However, some of these bikeway projects have hit a roadblock, in the form of opposition from two aldermen and a handful of residents.

On Tuesday, the Active Transportation Alliance launched an online petition, where Evanston residents can send a message to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and the city council asking them to follow through with building these much-needed bike lanes. Active Trans has extended the deadline for signatures through this weekend. On Monday, they’ll present the petition to the Evanston leadership before a City Council meeting to decide the fate of several bikeways.

“We want to let Evanston officials know that there are many residents who support their efforts to improve biking and want to see the plan move forward in a timely manner,” said Active Trans’ suburban outreach manager Nancy Wagner. The hearing takes place on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Avenue. It’s open to the public, and residents will have the opportunity to comment.

At Monday’s meeting, council members will discuss bikeway proposals for a number of streets. There’s currently a non-protected bike lane on westbound Davis Street between Hinman and Ridge avenues. The plan calls for extending the Davis bikeway as a protected lane from Ridge to Florence Avenue, and then through Mason Park to meet up with a two-way section of the existing Church Street protected bike lanes.

Protected and non-protected lanes are planned for Sheridan Road, between Chicago Avenue and Isabella Street. Non-protected bike lanes are slated for Dodge Avenue, from Howard to Church streets. A three-block stretch of protected lanes is proposed for Chicago between Sheridan Road and Davis.


View Proposed Evanston Bike Lanes in a larger map

Church protected lanes are shown in orange, Davis non-protected lanes are purple, proposed non-protected lanes are blue, and proposed PBLs are green.

At a hearing in August, 9th Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus said she was strongly opposed to plans to remove some car parking spaces on Chicago to accommodate protected lanes, and argued it would be dangerous to add more bikes to the downtown street, Evanston Now reported.

City staff responded that the parking spots could be replaced by reserving spaces for shoppers in the lower floors of a nearby, undersused garage. 7th Ward Alderman Jane Grover noted that people are already cycling on Chicago, and encouraging more people to bike downtown will be good for local businesses. 8th Ward Alderman Ann Rainey said that she’s heard from constituents who are unhappy about how bike lanes have been implemented so far, and asked for more public meetings to discuss the bike plan.

The stretch of bikeway on Church that Burrus opposes would link Church and Davis to planned PBLs on Sheridan, from Church to Lincoln Street. This would be a “fabulous” two-way, raised, protected lane on the east side of Sheridan next to the Northwestern campus, Active Trans’ Wagner said. The Sheridan/Chicago bikeway is endorsed by the university and the Evanston Bike Club, and the city has received $1.5 million in state ITEP funding for the project. However, if the project doesn’t happen within a certain timeframe, the city could lose the funding, she said.

Meanwhile, residents on Davis have voiced opposition to the proposed PBLs on their street. They’re upset by the possibility of a road diet on the east end of the corridor, between Ridge and Asbury, which could include parking space removals. They’ve also argued that the west end of Davis, between Asbury Street and Florence, is a low-traffic area, so protected lanes aren’t needed. They’ve also trotted out the classic NIMBY warhorse that bike lanes don’t fit in with the historic character of the neighborhood.

If you live in Evanston, be sure to sign the Active Trans petition to let city leaders know they shouldn’t water down the plans for protected bike lanes.

 

  • hughbartling

    John, you may have written this before the agenda for Monday’s meeting was published.

    There are a couple of things that should be noted.

    First, the city received a CMAQ grant last year to build a protected bike lane on Dodge from Howard to Church. The city manager had originally anticipated an Aug. 2014 completion date.

    There was never any construction work done and tomorrow the staff is asking that the project be downgraded from protected lanes to buffered lanes due to the “major impacts on parking” associated with the original plan.

    The city hasn’t released its data on the parking impacts, but from my conservative estimates the two mile stretch currently has about 616 on-street parking spaces. A ward newsletter reported in May that 65 spaces would be eliminated with protected bike lanes, so that would be an 11% reduction.

    Although there are some commercial businesses on the corridor, they all have ample surface level lots and the bulk of the corridor is residential with off-street parking.

    So apparently, 11% parking reduction is enough to trump the safety gains you would get from a protected lane vs. buffered.

    A second item on their agenda from a policy standpoint is to write a “bike ordinance” which “could begin developing additions to existing traffic ordinances that apply to bikes or identify the need for a stand-alone bike ordinance.”

    I don’t see this as constructive and there is nothing even approximating it in the Bike Plan. There are a bunch of things recommended in the Bike Plan, like developing methods for data collection or writing a bike parking ordinance into the zoning code. But these are ignored in favor of this.

    When they start talking about the traffic ordinances, my concern is that it is a euphemistic way of reintroducing the bike ban idea in commercial districts that staff floated for the bike plan but which never made it in.

  • Thanks for the additional info. Nancy Wagner said that residents came out strongly against the proposed bike bans in the survey, so those are off the table, but it will be interesting to see if that idea rears its head again at tonight’s meeting.

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