Dozens of Residents Showed Up for This Week’s South Side Bikeways Meetings

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Tuesday’s meeting. Photo: Anne Alt

After poor turnout from locals at last month’s two West Side bikeways hearing, with a total of only five area residents attending, there was a much better turnout at the two South Side meetings this week. The input sessions are part of a strategy by the Chicago Department of Transportation to improve bike equity for these parts of the city, which have historically gotten sparser bike lane coverage than the North and Northwest Sides, where more residents have advocated for them.

Monday night about 20 people attended a hearing at the Vodak-East Side Library in the East Side neighborhood, according to CDOT officials. I went to Tuesday’s meeting in Pullman where about 40 people showed up, including a staffer for 9th Ward alderman Anthony Beale. Many Pullman residents were there, along with people from the Riverdale community area, Beverly, and South Shore. Both meetings focused on the area roughly bounded by Vincennes, 91st, the lake, Indiana, and the Calumet River.

CDOT’s Mike Amsden of CDOT did a presentation explaining the planning process for the city’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which was released in 2012. “What happened to the Bike 2015 Plan?” asked one attendee. Amsden explained that Bike 2015 was all about policy, while Streets for Cycling focuses on building a citywide bike network.

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The South Side study area

Prior to these meetings, CDOT reps met with Beale, 10th Ward alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, and staff for aldermen Carrie Austin (34th) and Greg Mitchell (7th). Aldermen Howard Brookins (21st) and Michelle Harris (8th) were notified but did not schedule meetings.

Additional meetings were held with community organizations and institutions, including Southeast Environmental Task Force, Southeast Chicago Commission Pullman Civic Organization, Chicago State University, LISC Chicago, and Beverly Area Planning Association.

CDOT is taking public input on a draft of the proposed route map and weighing it along with technical criteria (route and feasibility analysis, as described in the presentation) in order to prioritize which routes should be built next.

Funding for route design is available now, although construction funding is not available for all mapped routes. Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds can be used, but planning and approval for CMAQ-funded bikeways takes a few years. Locally funded projects can be built faster, but city and state budget issues limit that option.

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Residents provide input on the proposed bike routes. Photo: Anne Alt

In the past, many South Side cyclists have asked about getting bike lanes on 95th, a key corridor because it connects to the south end of the Red Line. Amsden said building a bikeway on the street would be extremely complicated because it’s a U.S. route under Illinois Department of Transportation jurisdiction.

After the presentation, each person had the opportunity to place 3 green dot stickers on the route map to indicate their highest priority routes, ask questions of CDOT staff and consultants, and provide written comments.

Pullman folks added two new route ideas to the map. 1) To reach the forthcoming Big Marsh bike park, cyclists could be routed on 115th across I-94, then a trail could be created along the south edge of Harborside golf course using a land bridge bordering Lake Calumet to reach Stony Island. 2) To connect Pullman with 130th St., a route could follow Cottage Grove through an industrial area bordering the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant.

Our “coming soon” highlight from the meeting was the news that bike lanes will be striped on Cottage Grove from 93rd to 115th later this year. This three-mile bikeway will improve access to the Pullman National Monument.