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The City Has Posted Signs Threatening Prosecution for Biking on Riverwalk

4:35 PM CDT on October 10, 2018

The new sign. Photo: Dan Korn

At the risk of sounding like a broken record here, it's currently legal to cycle on the Chicago Riverwalk, which was originally conceived and pitched to the federal government as a bike facility and appears as an off-street trail on the city’s bike map. That's despite the fact that the Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management, which manages the promenade posted (reasonably polite) signs this summer stating "Share the riverwalk: Walk your bike."

Heck even downtown alderman Brendan Reilly, the guy who introduced an ordinance last month that would ban cycling on the riverwalk 24/7/365, acknowledged at the time on Twitter that it was still legal to pedal on the promenade.

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 3.49.34 PM

Granted, Reilly was trolling us, but he did admit we were right.

Streetsblog followers are probably getting a little tired of reading about the issue, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out this latest bit of riverwalk-related absurdity. Bike advocate Dan Korn spotted new signs at entrances to the facility that ratchet up the anti-bike rhetoric. The placards state that, along with unleashed pets, smoking, skateboarding, and peddling, pedaling is prohibited. "Bicycles must be walked: Violators will be prosecuted," the signs threaten.

Once more for those in the back: That's not true.

While Fleet and Facility Management and Reilly didn't respond to inquiries about the new signs, city records confirm that the alderman's ordinance hasn't passed City Council yet, but has merely been referred to the council's Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety.

The text of Reilly's ordinance states that, if the legislation passes, people of all ages would be prohibited from biking on the riverwalk, not just folks 12 and over, as is currently the case on Chicago sidewalks. It also dictates that, in the event that the ordinance passes, city officials "shall erect and maintain signage indicating that the operation of bicycles is prohibited on the Chicago Riverwalk." But the ordinance hasn't passed yet, so why has the city already done that?

The details of Reilly's proposed ordinance.
The details of Reilly's proposed ordinance.
The details of Reilly's proposed ordinance.

In the meantime, you can contact your alderman (find your ward here) to request that they vote against Reilly's ordinance in the event that it comes before the full council for a vote.

Obviously cyclists should always yield to pedestrians on the riverwalk, and pedal slowly or dismount in crowded sections. But if anyone gives you guff about biking there, let alone threatens to have you arrested and prosecuted, please let us know the time and location of the incident and, if possible, the name of the security guard or police officer involved, and we'll try to straighten out the situation.

Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 10.37.26 AM
Screenshot from the Chicago Riverwalk website.

Update 10/11/18: As if things weren't confusing enough, Dan Korn pointed out that the Chicago Riverwalk website's FAQ section (above) indicates that bicycling is legal on the riverwalk, except in designated locations with posted signage. Obviously the new signs seem to contradict that policy by implying that bicycles must be walked on the entire riverwalk.

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