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If the bus is rockin’, don’t bother knockin’: A risqué bikeway obstruction on Randolph St.

The bus parked in the Middle Randolph bike lane Wednesday morning. Photo: Bike Lane Uprising

The Chicago-based website and app Bike Lane Uprising, launched a few years ago by tech wiz Christina Whitehouse, does a great service for people who ride bicycles in our city, as well as many other cities across the U.S., by providing a free platform for reporting bikeway obstructions. To prevent future blockages, Whitehouse and her team find trends in the data to highlight trouble spots, and hold repeat violators, such as particular delivery or trucking companies, accountable.

Bike Lane Uprising also does direct outreach about these issues to the Chicago Department of Transportation and Finance (which is responsible for ticketing bikeway blockers.) On top of all that, BLU raises money to distribute hundreds of free bike lights to cyclists.

On Wednesday Bike Lane Uprising drew attention to a recurring bike lane blockage site on the middle level of Randolph Street, near Columbus Drive, where there are bike lanes delineated with plastic posts that connect the Lakefront Trail with the protected lanes on Randolph west of Michigan Avenue. Multiple Streetsblog readers have previously mentioned issues with CTA bus drivers parking in the lanes.

Workers installing the Middle Randolph bike lanes in July 2018. Photo: Anne Alt
Workers installing the Middle Randolph bike lanes in July 2018. Photo: Anne Alt
Workers installing the Middle Randolph bike lanes in July 2018. Photo: Anne Alt

Early Wednesday morning the Bike Lane Uprising Twitter account tweeted out photos of a CTA bus parked in the westbound Randolph bike lane, stating that the driver "appeared to be having sexual relations" in the vehicle, adding that the operator emerged from the bus buttoning their shirt, while another person was carrying cleansing wipes. BLU said the bus was parked just east of a bus stop, which they asserted allows the GPS on the bus to register it as being at the stop.

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BLU also tweeted out a roughly minute-long video of a confrontation between the person taking cell phone footage and the other person from the bus, who was wearing a pink top. In the clip, the person repeatedly waves off the videographer while exhorting them to "Go about your day."

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Bike Lane Uprising's tweet about the situation sparked a heated online debate about when, if ever, it's appropriate to tweet out images of people involved in bikeway obstruction incidents. Many commenters, including Kyle Lucas, cofounder of the sustainable transportation advocacy group Better Streets Chicago, asked whether it was really necessary to broadcast the faces of those involved, especially the person in pink, since they weren't responsible for the decision to park in the lane. Others argued that if people make decisions that endanger cyclists, and/or have public sex, they deserve to be shamed for it. After multiple tweets through the day asking BLU to delete the posts, they were taken down by Wednesday evening.

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Setting aside the question of whether Bike Lane Uprising's tweets outing of the participants were warranted (for what it's worth, Streetsblog Chicago's current policy is not to publish the faces of bike lane blockers), what if anything is the CTA doing to address the issue of bus drivers regularly blocking the Middle Randolph lanes?

"CTA regularly reminds its employees that bike lanes are for the exclusive use of bicyclists and that parking a personal or CTA vehicle in a bike lane is prohibited at all times – as it can pose numerous safety hazards," said a CTA spokesperson. "Every effort is made to keep this top of mind among our employees, including during orientation and ongoing/routine Bus Operator training."

The CTA rep also noted that the images posted by Bike Lane Uprising showed the bus parked near a location on Randolph where the transit agency has a temporary bus storage facility on weekdays. "With our storage location so close by, it would not be unusual to see a bus stationed in this general area. But again, we have re-issued our policy on not parking CTA vehicles in bike lanes as a reminder to operators storing their buses in this area."

Bike Lane Uprising didn't immediately provide a response to the CTA's explanation. But if you regularly see buses parked in bikeways on Middle Randolph, or anywhere else in the city, you can use BLU's website or app, and/or the city's 311 system, to report the issue, and it wouldn't hurt to call the local alderman's office for good measure.

And if any CTA bus operators are reading this, thanks in advance for not obstructing bikeways.

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