Protected Bike Lanes Should Be the Default on City Streets
[This piece originally ran as a letter to the Chicago Tribune.]
I moved to Chicago from Little Rock, Arkansas, because I wanted to live in a city that didn’t require a car to get around. Over the past year and a half, I have greatly increased the amount of biking I do in the city. I’ve had some great bike rides that filled me with gratitude for being alive. I have also had some terrifying and rage-inducing moments on Chicago streets. I’ve encountered drivers who cluelessly and sometimes willfully park in bike lanes, large trucks that take over the whole bike lane when they park, and more than a few instances of people trying to seriously injure me or kill me.
When I think about biking somewhere, my first thought is, what’s the safest route? Which route will expose me to the least amount of car fumes? Which route will expose me to the fewest drivers? I don’t recall ever having to ask myself these questions when I drove. Physically protected bike lanes need to be as standard as stop signs and stop lights. Otherwise, how can we call ourselves a Vision Zero (road fatality-free) city? Good infrastructure protects us all. By not having physically protected bike lanes as standard, the city ensures we will continue to have a two-tiered transportation policy that puts cyclists last and motorists first. The planet we all share and public health demand we do more to create safe cycling conditions.