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Infuriatingly, the new Chicago budget lowered bike lane parking fines from $500 to $250

A truck parked in a dashed bike lane last week on Leland Avenue near Winthrop Avenue in Uptown, where Lily Shambrook, was fatally struck due to a ComEd trucker parking in the lane last June. Photo: John Greenfield

Downtown alderperson Brendan Reilly (42nd) and I have certainly had our, uh, differences over the years, and we still don't see eye to eye on every issue. But one department where even I have to admit the man has been doing great work in recent years is fighting bike lane obstructions.

He seems almost obsessed with the problem of illegal parking and construction blockage endanger bike riders, and that's a great thing. Here's a recent example of what I mean. Soon afterwards, this construction barrier was moved out of the bikeway

My office is currently reaching out to CDOT to request a bike lane accommodation at this location.

— Brendan Reilly (@AldReilly) November 2, 2022

On November 1, Reilly did a nice job of standing up for bike lane safety at a City Council Finance Committee discussion of a proposal in Lori Lightfoot's $16.4B budget to reduce bike lane parking fines from the current $500 to only $250 in order to comply with a court ruling. The budget passed on Monday. Reilly also pushed back against the plan to lower the penalty for driving with tinted windows or covered license plates.

As reported by the Sun-Times' Fran Spielman, the downtown alder said during the hearing, “I understand there’s a court decision. But we’re being asked to cut in half fines that protect peoples’ lives.” Reilly said. He argued that that lowering the fee for bike lane blockages “that cause collisions between a [driver] and bicycle [rider]” would send a message at a time when alders like him are being "bombarded" with reports of clogged bikeways from local cyclists and representatives of the website Bike Lane Uprising.

“This is a chronic and consistent problem," he added, according to the Sun-Times. "We’ve been asking for increased enforcement. It has not shown up. This body was wise enough to raise these fines… What is the wisdom in reducing the fine for something that, potentially, could kill people?”

The problem, according to city of Chicago attorney Mark Siegel is that the Illinois Appellate Court decided last August that standing and parking tickets, as well as tinted windows and covered license plate fees, can't be higher than $250, according to Spielman.

Edgewater alder Harry Osterman (48th), didn't accept this explanation. "Given the seriousness of this — given the amount of people that have been killed this year on bikes and given the epidemic of carjackings that we’re having — why cannot the city of Chicago ask the courts to give us a window of time?”

Lily Grace Shambrook by a fountain at McCormick Place during a bike ride on the Lakefront Trail. Photo: Provided
Lily Shambrook by a fountain at McCormick Place during a bike ride on the Lakefront Trail. Photo: Provided
Lily Grace Shambrook by a fountain at McCormick Place during a bike ride on the Lakefront Trail. Photo: Provided

The urgency of the bike lane blockage issue was laid bare in June when a Mondelez trucker fatally struck Lily Shambrook, 3, who was riding on the back of her mother's bike, after the woman had to merge out of a dashed bike lane to get around an illegally parked ComEd truck near Leland Avenue and Winthrop Avenue in Uptown.

@chicagosmayor can you please explain why your people are planning on lowering the fines for parking in a bike lane as a way to close the budget gap and promote safety for cyclists like my family? #bikechi @MattMartinChi @Andrefor40th @bikelaneuprise

— TGS (@LilyBeansDad) November 2, 2022

The committee decided to meet again two days later to reconsider the ordinance. Ald. Reilly confirmed to Streetsblog that the fines ultimately were lowered to $250 in the final budget. "It's ridiculous," he fumed.

That does, in fact send a very bad message to drivers about a life-and-death matter for bike riders.

Read the Sun-Times article here.

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