Eyes on the Street: Chicago Police SUVs That Aren’t Serving or Protecting

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A police SUV in the Morgan bike lane. Photo: J. Patrick Lynch

It goes without saying that it’s bad when motorists park or stand their vehicles in crosswalks or bike lanes. Obviously, the former makes it harder for pedestrians to safely cross the street. The latter forces cyclists to merge into moving traffic to get around the obstacle, which can be dangerous for less experienced riders. It can also partially obstruct the travel lane, creating a hazard for other drivers.

Certainly, a police officer has the right to park his or her squad car in a crosswalk or bike lane if it’s necessary to quickly access a trouble spot in the line of duty. And, personally, I don’t even have a big problem with delivery drivers briefly stopping in bike lanes when there’s no other practical option for making a fast drop-off or pick-up.

However, when motorists stand or park illegally because they don’t feel like walking a few dozen steps, or even taking the trouble to parallel park at an open spot in front of their destination, that’s just lazy and inconsiderate. When the police do that, it undermines respect for their authority.

Streetsblog reader J. Patrick Lynch spotted Chicago Police SUVs obstructing pedestrian and bike infrastructure in two different locations today. The first one was parked on a bridge over the Eisenhower expressway, in one of the Morgan Street bike lanes.

What Morgan Street bike lanes, you ask? This bikeway was installed between Harrison and Van Buren streets in late 2014, as part of the rebuild of the Morgan bridge, in conjunction with the Jane Byrne Interchange expansion project. The bridge reconstruction also widened the sidewalks.

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Photo: J. Patrick Lynch

It’s possible the police officer had some pressing business to take care of at the nearby Morgan Blue Line station. On the other hand, there are legal on-street spots just west of where the SUV was parked.

However, there’s no excuse for the other SUV standing in a crosswalk at Van Buren Street and Financial Place in the South Loop. Lynch says a police officer stopped there to pick up some lunch from Wow Bao, although there was a loading zone two cars up.

Oh well, at least it’s good to hear that some officers are eating healthier nowadays. “Fear not,” said Lynch. “Her partner was in the passenger seat snacking on French fries.”

 

  • For some reason that spot on Morgan is a constant problem. CTA staff are just as guilty. I took a picture one day, and the CTA attendant came out to tell me it was illegal to take a picture of the CTA vehicle.

  • Jin Nam

    The Morgan St. offender is the CPD Transit detail SUV. Same happens on Loomis and Racine side of the Racine blue line stop. But don’t worry! When that vehicle moves, there will be a regular civilian car that belongs to whoever works that station for the CTA early evening and weekend shifts. Without fail. To be fair, the other side of the street’s bike lane is often littered with many broken beer bottles Saturday-Tuesday. At some point the street gets swept and the cycle repeats thanks to the student residents of that building.

  • Parkwhereiwant

    Let’s be sure to get this over to Second City Cop So they can have a hey day with you. You’ve really gone too far. You have no idea what might cause a cop to park anywhere, to imply you do is just disgusting. You should really be ashamed of yourself.

  • I gave the first police officer the benefit of the doubt, but when an officer enters a restaurant and returns with a bag of food, we have a pretty good idea what caused her to park in the crosswalk.

  • neroden

    Did you get the name of the lying criminal CTA attendant who was attempting to deprive you of your rights under color of law? Or maybe get a photograph of said lying criminal CTA attendant?

    Because of course it’s legal to take a picture of the car.

  • neroden

    Best to publish the plate numbers, along with the time and date.

    We know there are corrupt, crooked cops. We also know that they very rarely get prosecuted. Only way to do anything about it is to name-and-shame them.

  • This is the equivalent of residents saying “police have so much more to worry about then traffic enforcement.” It’s a scapegoat to let them do as they please with hopes they don’t bother them. You’re afraid to criticize them if you’re a resident, if you’re an officer, you’re afraid to be criticized. It’s cowardly and part of the reason why they get away with whatever they want.

  • berkeleygirl

    This is nothing. When I lived in Armour Square, SUVs with CPD/CFD stickers routinely double-parked in front of whatever home they were visiting, even if there was a parking space two doors away. Once, I was unable to move my car because it was blocked by four SUVs, all double-parked on Wells, between 31st and 32nd. Didn’t even bother to call the cops, since they’d surely be loathe to tow their buddies.

  • Bernard Finucane

    This is why bike lanes should be on curb or protected by bollards. In the case of the crosswalk, a bulbout (with bollards) would prevent this antisocial behavior.

  • Thanks for writing about this! Chicago’s bike lanes are increasingly serving as long thin parking lots for all sorts of motorists, not just police. Here’s a photo I took of a Chicago TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT vehicle plugging up a bike lane!!

  • RW

    One of my favorite ever interactions with a CPD officer came when I documented a SUV illegally parked in a bike lane. This conversation came after the officer used the car’s spotlight to blind my camera to stop me from taking photos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM0hGTV8Zf8

  • R.A. Stewart

    Indeed. We aren’t the new Soviet Union.

    Yet.

  • tooch

    we’re all forgetting how delicious Wow Bao is…it forces people to do crazy shit.

  • What is needed, and I haven’t a clue how, is for cops et al to become aware they need to spread the pain of their actions. I get that there is an element of utopianism in what I am saying. The cop in the top picture needed to either drive up and block some of the sidewalk and some of the bike path or park left and block some of the street car lane and some but not all of the bike lane. Blocking all the bike lane is only unfair to bikers. And I get that cops don’t do fair. Just saying.

  • VVV

    The problem I’ve found with bollard- or curb-protected bike lanes is that cars (fine, they’re usually SUVS) just park right. at. the entrance. So instead of having access to the bike lane, I’m forced to skip the protected lane entirely and just ride in the street. Which I don’t mind all that much, but I sure get harassed by cars more often when they think they see me ditching the bike lane for their road..

  • Bernard Finucane

    Sounds like you need to practice your slalom skills!

  • Kelly Pierce

    I can’t believe all the cop hating here. If someone has an issue with an officer parking in a bike lane, take a picture of the vehicle and its license plate and send it to CPD internal affairs. They may be able to respond more effectively than this blog. I appreciate that most Starbucks locations offer free coffee to officers in uniform. It is a great thank you for the service and commitment officers provide to the community. Early in their careers, officers must work overnight, holidays and weekends, causing many friends to drift away. They must also dissociate from anyone with a criminal record. Many people, including relatives and friends, are uncomfortable around anyone who works as a police officer. They also are required to carry their firearm every minute they are off duty and are expected to use it if they are in the presence of violent crime off duty. I do not resent in any way small benefits companies provide to officers in recognition of the sacrifices they must make for their service to the community.

  • I tagged the CPD when I tweeted this post.

    “They also are required to carry their firearm every minute they are off duty and are expected to use it if they are in the presence of violent crime off duty.” The spouse of a police officer just confirmed that this is not true. In fact, in some cases, off-duty police officers are prohibited from bringing guns into public places — NFL games, for example: http://www.bizpacreview.com/2013/10/07/new-nfl-policy-bans-off-duty-officers-from-having-guns-at-games-84805

    No disrespect to police officers in general is intended by this post. Certainly, no one is begrudging them the occasional thank-you perk from businesses. I’m simply pointing out that, when officers needlessly break parking rules, it can inconvenience, or even endanger citizens. That’s counterproductive to their mission of serving and protecting, and it undermines respect for law enforcement.

  • You’re upset with “cop hating” that is expecting them to be respectful of the law and, above all, courteous of others?

    There’s a ethical conflict taking free items from businesses also, would you believe that?

    Oh, and the whole pity party description of an officer’s life? It’s historically accurate, sure, but it’s also historically accurate to suggest it’s partly self inflicting based on how officers, from all over, have utilized their authority in improper ways.

    Could you even imagine how CPD internal affairs would respond to this? “You’re upset because they parked in the bike lane?” *trash can* That’s enforcement of public safety for you.

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