No, Alderman Cardenas, Your Southwest Side Ward Doesn’t Have “Plenty of Bike Lanes”

Alderman George Cardenas. Photo: Chicago Sun-Times
Alderman George Cardenas. Photo: Chicago Sun-Times

A week ago a found myself in a Twitter battle with a full 4 percent of the Chicago City Council, including downtown alderman Brendan Reilly and 12th Ward alderman George Cardenas, whose Southwest Side district includes parts of Little Village, Brighton Park, and McKinley Park. As has happened a few times on the social media platform, Reilly and I were debating his proposed ordinance to ban cycling on the Chicago Riverwalk, which he has threatened to get passed by the end of this summer, claiming the prohibition is needed to protect pedestrians from bike riders.

When I mentioned that drivers struck 296 people walking in Reilly’s ward during a recent year, and noted that he hasn’t proposed any legislation to protect pedestrians from motorists recently, the downtown alderman called me a “troll.”

In June Streetsblog Chicago got Reilly’s de-facto prohibition on riverwalk cycling lifted — riverwalk security guards are no longer incorrectly telling cyclists that it’s illegal to ride on the promenade and ordering them to dismount. Reilly had previously requested that bogus enforcement policy from the city department that manages the riverwalk. So apparently the alderman’s definition of “troll” includes writers who help overturn his bad policies.

“I spend a tremendous amount of time and city money engineering solutions to protect peds from all modes, including cars,” Reilly said in his “troll” tweet, adding that he serves as the chair of the city’s Vision Zero crash reduction program. True, I responded via the Streetsblog Chicago Twitter account, the alderman has allowed transit-friendly mayors and the Chicago Department of Transportation to do some good walking, biking, and transit projects in his district, including protected bike lanes and the Loop Link corridor. On the other hand, I noted, Reilly has also done quite a bit to reduce downtown bike and pedestrian access besides the riverwalk ban, including:

Screen Shot 2019-08-20 at 3.35.08 PM

But enough about Reilly, except to note that his ally Alderman Cardenas backed him up by tweeting “Bikes on the riverwalk make no sense whatsoever” (except for, y’know, the fact that the U.S. Department of Transportation loaned Chicago the money to build the new riverwalk with the understanding that the path would serve as a bike commuting route.)

“Alderman, I’m glad you’re worried about safety,” responded Lennon Murphy, a teacher who lives in Cardenas ward. “Why are most of the major streets in y(our) ward essentially unnavigable due to a lack of visible bike lanes?”

“We are doing just fine thank you!” Cardenas tweeted in response. “We have plenty of bike lanes I can assure you. And Reilly is right, stop the trolling for Christ[‘s] sake!” Murphy responded:

Screen Shot 2019-08-20 at 3.49.56 PM

I seconded Murphy by tweeting out screenshots of the 12th Ward map and the CDOT bike map that showed that there are almost no bike lanes in the bulk of the ward. As groups like Slow Roll Chicago, an organization that promotes cycling in Black and Brown communities on the South and West sides, has pointed out, working-class communities of color like the those in Cardenas’ ward deserve the same mobility, health, and economic benefits of bike infrastructure that more affluent white neighborhoods are already enjoying. This afternoon I used my highly developed cartography skills to put together this map that makes it more obvious how underserved  the 12th Ward is when it comes to bike lanes (the dark blue lines on the city’s bike map.)

Scan 3

“By saying ‘We have plenty of bike lanes’ in the 12th Ward, we assume you mean ‘We have almost no bike lanes, which is great,'” I said to Cardenas in my response to his tweet. “But if by ‘Stop the trolling’ you mean, ‘Stop speaking truth to power,’ sorry, but we’re not going to do that.”

Streetsblog reporter Lynda Lopez lives in Little Village within Cardenas’ ward. “The bikeability of the Southwest side is an issue groups from across the region have brought up and it often intersects with issues of environmental justice,” she noted this afternoon. “Residents have brought up the issue of the bike lanes on Pershing Road being located right next to the controversial MAT Asphalt Plant because the factory emits pollutants into the air. Even so, groups like Neighbors for Environmental Justice agree that more bike lanes are needed on the Southwest Side.”

“As someone who lives, bikes, and has worked in the 12th ward and other parts of the Southwest Side, I believe that bike lanes are one part of creating a safe environment for cyclists. There aren’t many bike lanes on the Southwest Side, and there is also heavy truck traffic, further amplifying the dangers of biking.The 12th Ward by no means is a safe ward for people on bikes. A conversation about bikeability on the Southwest Side has to consider the lack of bike lanes, the heavy truck traffic, and pollutants from heavy industry.”
  • Jeremy

    In 2015, Cardenas was unopposed in the election. In 2019, he received 50.28% against three opponents.

  • Joe Klonowski

    Give em hell

  • Michael Alarcon

    Great job, as a McKinley Park resident and avid biker I also joined the “trolling”

  • Anthony Moser

    When constituents raised concerns about truck traffic along Pershing as a result of the newly constructed asphalt plant, Cardenas publicly suggested (it’s on video) that the answer was *removing the existing bike lanes.*

  • truthseeker

    He escaped a runoff with Pete DeMay by 25 votes. We the residents observed several incidences where the alderman was participating in illegal electioneering. For example the luncheon he had for Asian families at the McKinley Park field house in February 2019. The same building, which at the time, was where early voting was taking place. Nothing was done by the Board of Election even after several calls were made reporting the Alderman.

  • truthseeker

    The MAT asphalt plant is currently operating on an expired construction permit from the IEPA. The plant’s owners have applied for a 5 year operating permit with the IEPA. This permit would allow an increase in their production of asphalt. This means an increase in truck traffic, air emissions, and less safety for those cycling on Pershing. Elected officials like State Representative Theresa Mah and State Senator have come out publicly stating that they oppose the issuance of the IEPA 5 year operating permit. Even Congressman Jesus Garcia said at a public forum that he would write a letter in opposition. Other elected officials like Alma Anaya and Aaron Ortiz vocally expressed their concern for the MAT operation and its effects on public health. The only elected official who stands with MAT asphalt is Alderman George Cardenas. This was proven on August 5,2019 at a meeting hosted by Neighbors For Environmental Justice at the National Latino Education Institute. Present in the audience were several gentleman who campaigned for the Alderman. Prior to the start of the meeting these men were seen passing out pro asphalt plant brochures. Also in the audience was a gentleman filming the meeting. He is the asphalt plant’s liaison
    who also works for the alderman and assisted in his re-election campaign.

  • Tooscrapps

    Not his ward, but there is no reason there can’t be a SW bound PBL on Archer from the Halsted Orange Line stop to Loomis.

    It’s either no parking with a painted lane or its seriously underutilized street parking as there are no businesses on the north side for much of it.

  • TI

    Ms. Lopez’s comments are great,but this is getting to be a BIT much. There’s already one Ben Joravsky so does Chicago transportation journo need a John Kass?Nobody likes these aldermen, this doesn’t seem like trolling, but it is you as an individual pushing back at them (and keep on keeping on!!!!).

    Can we get a follow up on the aspects of the bigger picture story instead? Remember when Cardenas was totally wrong on BRT? truthseeker down there seems to have good info

  • Anne A

    A bit much? Seriously?

    Greenfield is the anti-Kass, IMO.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Thanks. The only thing John Kass and I have in common is a mutual appreciation for classic Chicago diners.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “Remember when Cardenas was totally wrong on BRT?” Of course:

    But between Cardenas and Reilly, there was too much bad transportation policy to squeeze into a single Streetsblog post.

  • FlamingoFresh

    I don’t see anything wrong about calling out our elected officials and holding them accountable for false statements that they made to the public. Those in office shouldn’t be trying to walk the line and do what they can to keep their seat for next election they should be over-extending themselves and do what’s BEST for their constituents and the city.

  • planetshwoop

    They were scraping it last week, so it’s possible that is what is happening. It started on Friday but I haven’t been back since.

  • kb

    Active Transportation Alliance is in the early stages of a planning process for Archer Avenue between Canal and Western – looking at ways to make Archer safer for bikes/pedestrians – and all users. Would be great to get more Archer cyclists to participate in those meetings!

  • Scroller

    That, and that you both enjoy writing articles that are actually about yourselves and not the issues you claim to be writing about.