Better Streets Chicago launches email campaign asking officials to fix the Clark Street bike lanes

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Earlier this week the sustainable transportation advocacy group Better Streets Chicago, which I cofounded, launched an email campaign to let city officials know that fixing the largely non-functional protected bike lane on Clark Street in Edgewater should be a top priority. Last month I wrote that the bike lane needs a redesign in the face of constant blockages. The Clark St bike lane Twitter account created for this lane documented close to 400 obstructions in its first month. Bike lane violation tickets are $150. With 400 violations, that’s $16,000 in unrealized fines and 400 obstructions. Given that this bike lane was requested by Edgewater community members and a number of folks have tagged Better Streets in social media posts with complaints or concerns about the bikeway, an email campaign was an obvious way to show local aldermen Andre Vasquez (40th) and Harry Osterman (48th) there is a solid contingent of people who want action on this issue.

The email campaign acknowledges the role that Osterman made in bringing the bike lanes to fruition, and Vasquez’s efforts to keep the bikeway clear by asking the Chicago Department of Revenue to ticket illegal parkers. The Better Streets letter asks for more enforcement and outreach to businesses where parking in the bike lanes is a recurring problem. The letter also requests that the Chicago Department of Transportation go back to the drawing board to redesign the bikeway to make it more difficult to park in, and for the aldermen to keep Better Streets updated on the status of the project.

A little over 24 hours after the email campaign went live, 100 people had sent letters. We received a response from Vasquez’s office, which said the ward is looking into ways to divert business parking on cross streets. Vasquez has also reached out to CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi to asking about the possibility of installing more flexible plastic posts so that there aren’t large gaps between the posts that motorists can drive between in order to illegally park, and/or adding adding sturdier barriers like concrete curbs. Vasquez will also meet with Osterman to discuss next steps. I personally would prefer to see concrete planters surrounding the bike lane and the unprotected bike lane at Clark & Thome be movedc against the curb. If the city is serious about increasing the number of people biking for transportation, and it should, they must stop compromising on bike lane design for the sake of a few vehicle storage spaces and driver convenience.

An image of bike lane blockages on Monday Dec 6th, hours before the email campaign was launched. Parents of Hayt elementary queueing for school pick-up at Clark & Thome. The car in the forefront is parked in the “bike lane” and the SUV in the bike lane is blocking folks on bike from passing through the intersection. Photo: Courtney Cobbs
This photo was taken hours before the email campaign was launched. Parents of Hayt Elementary students were queueing for school pick-up at Clark and Thome. In addition to the car parked in the bike lane in the foreground, an SUV driver was blocking the intersection. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

Due to an initial error in the email campaign setup, the vast majority of the letters went to Vazquez’s office instead of both wards. Since the 40th ward has been responsive to the issue, we reached out to explain the error. So I’ve asked the 40th Ward office to give Osterman’s staff a heads-up about this issue when they meet.

Given that a decent number of bike lane violators are businesses and/or their customers who know that the space they are parking in is a bike lane, ticketing is the correct short-term response. But Better Streets doesn’t want the city to rely on enforcement by police or Revenue staff in order to keep the bikeway clear, which would be a waste of city resources when a better design for the bike lane could eliminate the majority of the blockages.

We look forward to substantive improvements in the Clark Street bike lane. If you would like to voice your support for these changes, the email campaign will be live for a few more days. Click here to send a letter to the aldermen.

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