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Beyond Chicagoland

The new Bike Lane Uprising app makes it easier than ever to report bikeway obstructions

4:29 PM CDT on October 29, 2020

While biking has been booming during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when people are looking for socially-distanced ways to commute and get physical activity, tragically we're also seeing a correlating spike in bike fatalities, with Chicago on track to have its deadliest year this decade. Motorists driving and parking in bike lanes surely isn't helping the situation.

Fortunately, the Bike Lane Uprising platform, founded by local tech worker Christina Whitehouse, exists as an easy way to report bikeway obstructions. When submitting an obstruction through Bike Lane Uprising, a user is asked to share information like photos, license plate numbers, companies associated with vehicles and more.

That data is helpful for identifying problem spots, as well as lobbying city agencies to take action, and pressuring companies to educate their drivers about safe and considerate practices around cyclists and bikeways. You can now report bike lane issues via BLU in almost 100 cities and growing, and since 2017, the platform has collected more than 26,000 obstruction submissions via a web browser form.

“In 2016—coincidentally, a year Chicago was named the most bike-friendly city in America—a driver of a commercial truck almost ran me over when he entered the bike lane, right hooking me and almost sending me under his back wheels,” Whitehouse said in a statement. “Cyclists are killed each year, and many more are injured. That’s why I founded Bike Lane Uprising... Having safe space on the street for cyclists to ride is critical for keeping us alive. If cars are parked in bike lanes, or the lanes are otherwise illegally blocked, that creates an incredibly unsafe situation. Blocked bike lanes force people on bikes into faster moving car traffic that isn’t expecting us.”

“If we’re seeing a particular area that is being obstructed on a regular basis, or if we’re seeing a particular company or agency whose vehicles regularly block bike lanes, that data empowers cyclists to go to the decision-makers and say, ‘Look, this is a real problem, and I have proof,’” Whitehouse added. “We meet with city agencies, elected officials, private companies and other advocacy groups so that we can take action and prevent future obstructions from happening."

Whitehouse credits BLU's data, maps and advocacy with helping bring about infrastructure improvements, plus bike-friendly laws and company policies. She said she expects the new app, available across North America, will lead to many more reports.

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To celebrate the release of the app, Bike Lane Uprising will be holding an outdoor party tonight at 6 p.m. at Haymarket Brewing, 725 W. Randolph St. Attendees will be encouraged to maintain social distance. There will also be a costumed bike ride (obviously, please be sure not to ride intoxicated), with a free Timbuk2 pannier awarded to the person with the best outfit. RSVP for the party here.

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