O’Shea Can You See? Formerly Anti-Bike Alderman Now Wants Divvy

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19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea.

DNAinfo’s Ted Cox provided a nice write-up of an entertaining discussion of bike issues that took place at yesterday’s City Council budget hearings. You should definitely check out the original article, but here’s some additional background and analysis.

It’s great that aldermen on the Far South Side are clamoring for Divvy stations in their wards. Currently, the bike-share system’s coverage area only extends to 76th Street. Both 9th Ward alderman Anthony Beale, whose district includes parts of Roseland and Pullman, and 19th Ward alderman Matthew O’Shea, whose territory includes Beverly and Mount Greenwood, asked when their constituents will be getting stations. O’Shea said his constituents are “anxious for Divvy.”

That represents a major about-face O’Shea. At a Chicago Department of Transportation budget hearing back in 2012, he told CDOT, “If you never put a bike lane in my ward, that’s too soon.” However, Southwest Side residents have recently lobbyied to get Divvy, and the Beverly Area Planning Association launched a petition for stations in the neighborhood, which has garnered almost 400 signatures. It’s nice to see that O’Shea has changed his tune and is now responding to his constituents’ desire to make the ward more bike-friendly.

At yesterday’s hearing, downtown alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) questioned CDOT’s practice of hiring the Active Transportation Alliance to do outreach to residents and businesses in advance of the construction of new bikeways. He complained that Active Trans “targeted” him after he proposed an ordinance to force CDOT to remove the Kinzie Street protected bike lanes removed, at least temporarily, during the construction of a tower at Wolf Point.

In response to Reilly’s move, the Active Transportation launched a petition asking other alderman to oppose the ordinance, which garnered more than 1,400 signatures. They also got almost 50 businesses to sign a letter to Reilly asking for the Kinzie lanes to be left in place but improved. Eventually CDOT and Reilly reached an agreement, and the bike lane was refurbished last summer.

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Crews recently restriped the Kinzie protected bike lanes.

“I don’t think it smells right for tax dollars to be used for an organization that lobbies,” Reilly said.” CDOT chief Rebekah Scheinfeld noted that Active Trans has been paid with federal, not city funds, and Northwest Side aldermen Ariel Reboyras (30th) and Joe Moreno (1st) put in a good word for the group.

Reilly astutely pointed out that Reboyras is on Active Trans’ board, and Moreno acknowledged that he is as well. “They are a fantastic, fantastic organization,” Moreno said. “They’re not involved in politics.”

At the hearing, Edgewater alderman Harry Osterman (48th), who’s one of the city’s more bike-friendly reps, made a rare misstep by suggesting that the city require cyclists to register their vehicles and use the revenue to fund bike infrastructure. As Streetsblog Chicago pointed out when 3rd Ward alderman Pat Dowell proposed the same idea two years ago, a bike tax makes no sense.

The bureaucracy needed to enforce the licensing fee would probably cost more money than the tax would bring in. Moreover, the city should be promoting cycling because it’s good for health and the environment, and it causes minimal wear-and-tear on roads. Why would we want to discourage it with a new tax?

  • Anne A

    I find it encouraging that our alderman and a major community organization want to see Divvy come to the 19th ward. It’s a step in the right direction. It would be more meaningful if and when I hear them articulate support for bike lanes and neighborhood greenways, which would make Divvy use a workable option for more people here – whenever the service area expands to the point where Divvy reaches us.

  • Kelly Pierce

    It makes sense when one considers that Harry Osterman is a big government advocate more interested in imposing his brand of American socialism rather than doing what is good for the community. Bigger government at any cost, regardless of the implications, seems more important than healthier community members or clean air. We talk a lot about bike equity. More than a fifth of Chicago residents live in poverty, which is under 12k for a single person and more than two-fifths are on the brink of a financial disaster that could lead to homelessness. Imposing a bike tax on top of a $600 million property tax creates incredible burdens on those who can least afford it.