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There’s Still Time for Evanston Residents to Voice Support for Safer Biking

7:28 PM CDT on September 26, 2014

Church Street cycle track in Evanston
The two-way segment of the Church Street protected bike lanes. Photo: Steven Vance

The Evanston City Council passed an update to the suburb’s bike plan, including plans for a network of protected lanes, on July 28. However, some of these bikeway projects have hit a roadblock, in the form of opposition from two aldermen and a handful of residents.

On Tuesday, the Active Transportation Alliance launched an online petition, where Evanston residents can send a message to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and the city council asking them to follow through with building these much-needed bike lanes. Active Trans has extended the deadline for signatures through this weekend. On Monday, they’ll present the petition to the Evanston leadership before a City Council meeting to decide the fate of several bikeways.

“We want to let Evanston officials know that there are many residents who support their efforts to improve biking and want to see the plan move forward in a timely manner,” said Active Trans’ suburban outreach manager Nancy Wagner. The hearing takes place on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Avenue. It’s open to the public, and residents will have the opportunity to comment.

At Monday’s meeting, council members will discuss bikeway proposals for a number of streets. There’s currently a non-protected bike lane on westbound Davis Street between Hinman and Ridge avenues. The plan calls for extending the Davis bikeway as a protected lane from Ridge to Florence Avenue, and then through Mason Park to meet up with a two-way section of the existing Church Street protected bike lanes.

Protected and non-protected lanes are planned for Sheridan Road, between Chicago Avenue and Isabella Street. Non-protected bike lanes are slated for Dodge Avenue, from Howard to Church streets. A three-block stretch of protected lanes is proposed for Chicago between Sheridan Road and Davis.

View Proposed Evanston Bike Lanes in a larger map

Church protected lanes are shown in orange, Davis non-protected lanes are purple, proposed non-protected lanes are blue, and proposed PBLs are green.

At a hearing in August, 9th Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus said she was strongly opposed to plans to remove some car parking spaces on Chicago to accommodate protected lanes, and argued it would be dangerous to add more bikes to the downtown street, Evanston Now reported.

City staff responded that the parking spots could be replaced by reserving spaces for shoppers in the lower floors of a nearby, undersused garage. 7th Ward Alderman Jane Grover noted that people are already cycling on Chicago, and encouraging more people to bike downtown will be good for local businesses. 8th Ward Alderman Ann Rainey said that she’s heard from constituents who are unhappy about how bike lanes have been implemented so far, and asked for more public meetings to discuss the bike plan.

The stretch of bikeway on Church that Burrus opposes would link Church and Davis to planned PBLs on Sheridan, from Church to Lincoln Street. This would be a “fabulous” two-way, raised, protected lane on the east side of Sheridan next to the Northwestern campus, Active Trans' Wagner said. The Sheridan/Chicago bikeway is endorsed by the university and the Evanston Bike Club, and the city has received $1.5 million in state ITEP funding for the project. However, if the project doesn’t happen within a certain timeframe, the city could lose the funding, she said.

Meanwhile, residents on Davis have voiced opposition to the proposed PBLs on their street. They’re upset by the possibility of a road diet on the east end of the corridor, between Ridge and Asbury, which could include parking space removals. They’ve also argued that the west end of Davis, between Asbury Street and Florence, is a low-traffic area, so protected lanes aren’t needed. They’ve also trotted out the classic NIMBY warhorse that bike lanes don’t fit in with the historic character of the neighborhood.

If you live in Evanston, be sure to sign the Active Trans petition to let city leaders know they shouldn't water down the plans for protected bike lanes.

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