Eyes on the Street: Windy City Limousine Blocks Downtown Bike Lanes

Windy City Limousine buses are frequently found blocking Chicago’s precious few downtown bike lanes. Photos: Brian Elmore

As if bicycling downtown, where there is little space to safely pedal, wasn’t hard enough, private limo bus company Windy City Limousine frequently blocks bike lanes on Franklin Street outside Walgreens and Orleans next to the Merchandise Mart.

Brian Elmore bicycle commutes from Madison Street and Wacker Drive to Ukrainian Village by taking the bike lanes on Franklin and Orleans, to Hubbard, Kingsbury, and Kinzie. He says that Windy City Limousine chauffeurs are parking their wide charter buses in bike lanes on both streets “constantly” during rush hour. Elmore sent in these photos and explained the issue.

It’s problematic because it’s a very congested area around rush hour, and motorists are traveling at a high rate of speed down Franklin & Orleans. More so than anything, it’s inconsiderate to the vast number of cyclists that commute to and from The Loop daily.

The law is on Elmore’s side, and the city’s website succinctly explains why: “motorists parking in bike lanes endanger bicyclists by forcing them to merge unexpectedly with faster moving motor vehicle traffic.”

If you encounter this situation you can call police dispatchers at 911 (calling 311 will transfer you to 911) to report a bus blocking the bike lane, or go straight to the source. Windy City Limousine’s phone number is right on the back of the bus.

  • Scott Sanderson

    Is it really appropriate to call 911 for this? I have done it for cars parked in the Kinzie PBL, and sometimes the operator seems annoyed.

    Also, those damn buses on Franklin are terrible. Cars usually drive really fast and drift into the bike lane North of that spot in the photo, and it is tough when you can’t use the lane at all.

  • Pat

    Private vehicles aren’t the only ones we should be shaming.

    The temporary no parking restrictions on the east side of Halsted between Eastman and Clybourn have turned the parking & bike lanes into a de facto bus lane. Cars see the buses using it to pass by the rush hour backup from the Clybourn light and follow behind. Now we have 2 travel lanes and no bike lane from Eastman to North!

  • David Altenburg

    When I’ve called 311 to report cars in the bike lane, I’ve been transferred to 911. I’ve also experienced operators who sound annoyed, as though the problem were too trivial for them. I’ve also experienced courteous operators.

    I think it speaks more to the professionalism of the operator than to the appropriateness of 911 for these calls. My understanding (which comes from officers at CAPS meetings, primarily) is that 911 should be used for reporting anything that is currently happening, regardless of importance. 311 should be used for reporting things that have happened in the past.

    I think the idea is that, rather than asking citizens to prioritize requests by deciding between 311 and 911, let the dispatchers, etc. do the prioritization. I think this policy is relatively new-ish (within the last couple years) because I have also seen documents contradicting it.

  • Charlie Short

    I’ve been riding around downtown lately in the last month or so for work and have noticed that this happens quite a bit with Windy City. Twice one day and three times the next I was beeped at by their buses riding behind me in the bike lane. The first day I couldn’t safely stop to see the bus number but the second day I made sure to stop and write down the information and file a report with 311 and the company. I got a voicemail when I called the company.

  • Yes. 311 is to get information and to request city services. 911 is how you inform police of active violations.

    Also, the lane ends shortly after the bus (in a CTA bus stop) with no indication of where to go next/what to do next.

  • Do you have an idea what these buses are being used for?

    This is a “party bus” operator but I believe some of these buses are being used for charters (for downtown workers) and tours.

  • +1 to letting 911 dispatchers prioritize calls.

  • Charlie Short

    Yeah, based on one of the experiences (South Water and Columbus), I think they are used as shuttles for hotels and/or touring groups out of hotels. I’m going to do some digging. I haven’t had much of a chance to follow up about this, but I’m sure it’s no coincidence that you’re reporting this and I had some bad experiences all within a couple of weeks.

  • what_eva

    I’ll ditto that the city wants you to call 911 for stuff like this. I’ve called 311 to report illegally parked cars (blocking crosswalks or driveways) and get transferred to 911. IINM, 311 can’t dispatch police, only 911 can, so they send you to 911 to get details and then put it on the call list for the police (presumably at a low priority). It has worked for me, an officer will show up and ticket the car and call for a tow if needed.

  • JacobEPeters

    As I biked downtown on Tuesday I had to call in an SUV blocking Milwaukee protected bike lane with his flashers on, because after kindly asking him to exit the lane he cursed me out. Then I had to do the same at Kinzie and Clinton where someone was parking in the bike lane and blocking the crosswalk, when I asked her to move her car because it made the street unsafe she laughed at me, flicked me off and walked inside that apartment tower with her friend. I always ask the user before calling it in, but have only had someone heed my request once or twice.

  • Karen Kaz

    *They* honked at *you* for riding your bike in the BIKE lane? Now that’s some serious BS. I’m not sure I’d be able to control my anger if someone did that to me.

  • Fred

    This awareness might be working! I walked past the west side of the Mart (Orleans) this morning on my commute to work, and there appeared to be a Mart security person telling a Windy City bus driver that he could not be stopped in the bike lane like he was at the time and was pointing out places further down where he could park.

    Also, these shuttles appear to be for Motorola, who just moved to the Mart. Hopefully this is just a matter of new service working out the kinks.

  • Ryan Wallace

    Any reason why you guys didn’t just reach out to Windy City Limousine for a comment?

  • The thing that frosts me is when people don’t understand how to park on the bike lane streets. I think drivers just aren’t used to not being curbside.

  • Fred

    Update: This morning I noticed the Windy City buses were loading at the south Mart entrance on the private roadway connecting Orleans and Wells. Hopefully this issue is resolved.