Confused Walter Jacobson Worries BRT “Bike Plan” Will Create Gridlock

In a recent CBS Chicago TV editorial, veteran news personality Walter Jacobson panicked that the city’s proposal for the Central Loop BRT corridor would “create a gridlock of the world,” but he’s wildly unclear on the concept. The plan would create dedicated bus lanes with island boarding platforms on Washington and Madison; the proposed Washington configuration includes a protected bike lane between the platform and the curb. However, on the CBS website this bus rapid transit project is erroneously branded the “Washington Street Bike Plan.”

Claiming to be a bike commuter himself, Jacobson thanked Mayor Emanuel for providing a bike lane on Washington but fretted that the street layout would wreak havoc on car traffic. “I can’t wait for the pedal, but I’m worried about the jam,” he said. “The mayor’s plan for Washington Street is to make space for bikes and buses by reducing these five lanes to just two. All the cars in line … waiting to turn [left], will force the [through] traffic into one lane. You sure, sir, you want to do that? Jam up the Loop, inconvenience people in cars for who knows how long?”

Washington Street BRT configuration with protected bike lane.

Jacobson obviously didn’t take a close enough look at the rendering of Washington the city released last week, which shows that the island platforms would taper off to make room for a left-turn lane, so there would still be two through lanes for eastbound car traffic. Crisis averted.

The newsman concludes by telling Emanuel, “It’s OK to dream, as you say you do, of making Chicago the biking capital of the world. But before you actually do it, your honor, please wake up.” Actually, Mr. Jacobson, before you go on TV to trash the city’s BRT proposal, which would make the streets safer and move people more efficiently through the Loop, please take a few minutes to study the plan. The “do nothing” strategy is a great recipe for stagnation, but cities around the country are advancing past the “move as many cars as possible” mindset. Fortunately Chicago is one of them.

  • Adam Herstein

    I’ve noticed that people who claim to be a bike commuter or an “avid cyclist”, then proceed to complain about bikers or how something will affect car traffic, are almost always lying.

  • BlueFairlane

    As an avid cyclist, I hate the way bikers always accuse avid cyclists of lying.

  • Perhaps he’s being tongue-in-cheek here, implying that people are crazy for biking in downtown traffic. Of course, that’s the point of the protected bike lanes.

  • True, it’s possible that these people do their cycling late at night or in the early morning when no one’s around. For example, a bike shop owner I know whose shop is near Richard M. Daley’s house swears he used to go riding on the lakefront with the old mayor before sunrise. Nobody recognized Daley in his Lycra. On the other hand Mark Konkol, the ex-Sun Times columnist who trashed the Kinzie protected lanes several times claims he bikes in Chicago but refused my invite to ride the protected lanes with him.

  • Anonymous

    I think Adam is referring to the fact that writers who write a negative column about bicyclists always go out of their way to say that they have nothing against bikers and that in fact they themselves like to bike, just before they go on a rant against those scofflaw grid lock creating bicyclist.

    Sorta like the Christian conservatives who will state that they have nothing against gays and that some of their friends are in fact gay, right
    before they emphatically deny gays marriage equality.

  • BlueFairlane

    I was attempting humor. I feel Adam’s assertion is largely correct.

    Also, if I saw Daley in Lycra, I’d claim ignorance, too.

  • BlueFairlane

    76 is included in 8 to 80. And with his dubious driving record, shouldn’t Jacobson be riding a bike in the Loop?

    As an avid cyclist, I am appalled at the tendency of bikers to miss a joke.

  • Rob Sullivan

    Walter is just worried that he’ll be confused when he’s out and about late at night trying for his 3rd DUI since 2004. Perhaps his avid biker lifestyle has more to do with suspended licenses than cleaner living.

  • Wow, I don’t remember hearing about the DUIs. Talk about wreaking havoc on the roads!

  • Jennifer

    As an avid late night cyclist…

  • Joseph Musco

    More people will move through Washington under the new configuration. Those people will move faster. Oh, the humanity! That said, I like Walter Jacobson. He makes me feel like less of a curmudgeon.

  • Has he really had two DUIs?

  • I think we got it, Clint. This has definitely been the most entertaining thread.

  • Streetsblog NYC has documented this, as has Brooklyn Spoke…and I can’t find the links.

  • Adam Herstein

    I nearly got doored one time, and when I turned around to tell him, the offender claimed that he “bikes all the time”. As if that excuses him of opening his door into a bike lane without looking.

  • A bunch of links coming at you…

    Bike lane critics usually state first that they “love cycling.”

    They also often assert their status as a former avid cyclist:

    NYC mayoral candidate John Liu, who has been a big opponent of bike lanes and the city’s bike share program, recently stated that he’s an “avid cyclist.”

    Christine Quinn, the favorite to win the Democratic nomination in NYC, has not been that big a bike lane booster — she’s blatantly misrepresented the community process behind city bike lanes — claimed that she often bikes “on the weekends” at her vacation house.

    And closer to your backyard, the Chicago Tribune’s John McCarron stated in 2011, “Mind you, I have nothing against biking or hiking. I can change inner tubes on my single-speed AMF Roadmaster; and the Ira J. Bach Walkway overlooking the river along Wacker Drive is, for me, a sacred path.”

    I have about a million more examples if you want them, but Adam is correct. The more a person states how much he “loves” cycling or is an “avid cyclist” himself, the more likely he is to oppose the expansion of cycling infrastructure.

    I call this “Some of My Best Friends are Bike Lanes.” However, Adam Sternbergh of the NY Times has what I believe is the definitive guide to writing an anti-cycling screed. Bookmark this link and refer back to it the next time a columnist goes off on bike lanes.

  • Rob Sullivan
    The charges listed in 2004 were for driving drunk in Lincoln Park.

  • Seen it in NYC

    Know-nothing, baby-boomer, windshield perspective “journalists” like this guy Walter Jacobson are absolutely insidious. Dude’s opinions are based on nothing and he has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

  • I always find it very ironic when a vehicle (usually huge SUV) carrying bikes on a rack either cuts me off in traffic or almost doors me. Absolutely ZERO street awareness.

    If one “bikes all the time” but never on the street, is it like that proverbial tree falling in the forest? ;)

  • John

    I don’t give much credence to someone who can’t count the existing number of traffic lanes correctly. There are not five lanes out there.

  • Actually there are currently five lanes at Washington and Dearborn, as shown in Jacobson’s clip and confirmed by Google Maps: three through lanes and two left-turn lanes. Pretty crazy but it’s true.

  • Adam Herstein

    There seems to be a clear line drawn between those who bike for sport and those who bike for transportation. An avid mountain biker who never rides on city streets can still be quite unaware of how to act around cyclists when driving their SUV up to Kettle Moraine.


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