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Eyes on the Street: Chicago Police SUVs That Aren’t Serving or Protecting

4:36 PM CDT on September 18, 2015

A police SUV in the Morgan bike lane. Photo: J. Patrick Lynch

It goes without saying that it's bad when motorists park or stand their vehicles in crosswalks or bike lanes. Obviously, the former makes it harder for pedestrians to safely cross the street. The latter forces cyclists to merge into moving traffic to get around the obstacle, which can be dangerous for less experienced riders. It can also partially obstruct the travel lane, creating a hazard for other drivers.

Certainly, a police officer has the right to park his or her squad car in a crosswalk or bike lane if it's necessary to quickly access a trouble spot in the line of duty. And, personally, I don't even have a big problem with delivery drivers briefly stopping in bike lanes when there's no other practical option for making a fast drop-off or pick-up.

However, when motorists stand or park illegally because they don't feel like walking a few dozen steps, or even taking the trouble to parallel park at an open spot in front of their destination, that's just lazy and inconsiderate. When the police do that, it undermines respect for their authority.

Streetsblog reader J. Patrick Lynch spotted Chicago Police SUVs obstructing pedestrian and bike infrastructure in two different locations today. The first one was parked on a bridge over the Eisenhower expressway, in one of the Morgan Street bike lanes.

What Morgan Street bike lanes, you ask? This bikeway was installed between Harrison and Van Buren streets in late 2014, as part of the rebuild of the Morgan bridge, in conjunction with the Jane Byrne Interchange expansion project. The bridge reconstruction also widened the sidewalks.

Photo: J. Patrick Lynch

It's possible the police officer had some pressing business to take care of at the nearby Morgan Blue Line station. On the other hand, there are legal on-street spots just west of where the SUV was parked.

However, there's no excuse for the other SUV standing in a crosswalk at Van Buren Street and Financial Place in the South Loop. Lynch says a police officer stopped there to pick up some lunch from Wow Bao, although there was a loading zone two cars up.

Oh well, at least it's good to hear that some officers are eating healthier nowadays. "Fear not," said Lynch. "Her partner was in the passenger seat snacking on French fries."

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