Pencil It in: Reilly’s Riverwalk Bike Ban May Get a Committee Hearing Next Thursday

Photo: Barry Kafka
Photo: Barry Kafka

Update 7/9/19, 2:30 PM: Per the City Clerk’s office, Reilly’s bike ban ordinance is not on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting as of the noon deadline, so there’s no need for bike advocates to show up for the meeting. The next meeting isn’t scheduled yet, but we’ll keep you posted if the ban appears on the agenda in the future. 

According to a reliable source, two local aldermen recently said that 42d Ward alderman Brendan Reilly’s ordinance to ban bicycling on the Chicago Riverwalk will be presented at the next Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee hearing on Thursday, July 11 at noon at City Hall in the second floor Council chambers. If you’re not familiar with the controversy over the riverwalk, read this article to get up to speed.

I haven’t heard back from the two aldermen yet, but an assistant to 27th Ward alderman Walter Burnett, who chairs the committee, told me that the bike ban will not be on the agenda at the meeting. “Alderman Burnett doesn’t have a position on the ordinance yet because we haven’t been briefed about it yet.”

City Clerk’s office spokesperson Kate Lefurgy confirmed that Reilly’s ordinance is not currently on the docket for the July 11 meeting. However, she noted that Reilly could still get the ordinance on the agenda up to 48 hours before the meeting.

Therefore, if you care about the issue and can spare the time to show up, I’d suggest penciling in the meeting in case Reilly adds it to the docket in the near future. We’ll let you know on Tuesday whether or not you should plan on attending.

One of the committee members has already told me they plan to oppose the ordinance. Having a number of bike advocates present at the hearing could influence the positions of other aldermen, especially if there’s an opportunity to testify.

Without rehashing the entire issue, it’s important that the riverwalk, which was funded as a bike/ped facility, stay open to cyclists, for several reasons. The riverwalk is currently a useful car-free route from cyclists traveling between the Lakefront Trail and the Loop via the Dearborn protected bike lane. As Active Transportation Alliance director recently noted, banning cycling on the promenade “threatens Chicago’s ability to grow cycling and connect the Lakefront Trail to a future Chicago River Trail.”

Moreover using the promise of a new bike facility to gain political support and federal funding for a new riverwalk section, and then retroactively banning biking would set a terrible precedent. It would pave the way for more bike bans the next time a shared facility becomes crowded with other users.

Active Trans is currently in talks with Reilly, riverwalk designer Ross Barney Architects, and local stakeholders about adding protected bike lanes to Upper Wacker Drive, which would help relieve riverwalk crowding. However, it wouldn’t be a full substitute for riverwalk access, because it’s not clear how cyclists would safely access Upper Wacker from the Lakefront Trail.

1st Ward alderman Daniel LaSpata, who’s on the committee, is seeking input on the bike ban. “It is crucial to our office that we represent our constituents to this matter,” the ward said in a statement. “If you would like to leave written feedback on a potential river walk bike ban (or any other matter), please writing zoning@the1stward.com. Please share that email address if you know other people that are passionate about this issue.”

You can also let the city know where you stand on the issue by emailing chicagoriverwalk@cityofchicago.org.

It also wouldn’t hurt to contact your local alderman if they’re on the committee (use this website to find out which ward you live in if you’re not sure.) Here’s a list of the committee members:

  • Roberto Maldonado (26th)
  • Ed Burke (14th)
  • Brian Hopkins (2nd)
  • Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33nd)
  • Stephanie Coleman (16th)
  • Marty Quinn (13th)
  • Felix Cardona (31st)
  • George Cardenas (12th)
  • Andres Vasquez (40th)
  • Anthony Beale (9th)
  • Sophia King (4th)
  • David Moore (17th)
  • Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th)
  • Daniel LaSpata (1st)

Read more recent coverage of the riverwalk bike ban issue in Chicago Magazine and Curbed Chicago.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG