Vasquez’s ordinance to allow towing of bike lane blockers gets final vote next Wednesday

A trucker parked in a bike lane on Leland Avenue in Uptown, near the location where Lily Shambrook, 3, was killed on June 9. Photo: John Greenfield
A trucker parked in a bike lane on Leland Avenue in Uptown, near the location where Lily Shambrook, 3, was killed on June 9. Photo: John Greenfield

When drivers illegally stand or park in bike lanes, it’s not just an annoyance for people on bicycles. Because this violation forces bike riders to merge left into traffic, the result can be a serious or even deadly crash.

Tragically, that’s what happened on June 9, when a ComEd truck driver chose to illegally park in a bike lane on Leland Avenue near Winthrop Avenue in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Lily Shambrook, 3, was riding on the back of her mother’s bike when the woman had to enter the travel lane to detour around the truck, and was then clipped by a Mondelez trucker. The toddler fell under the wheels of the second vehicle and was fatally struck. Lily’s father marked the six-month anniversary of her passing today.

Frustratingly, Chicago’s recently approved 2023 budget actually lowered the fine for illegally parking in bikeways from $500 to $250. This was done in order to comply with an August Illinois Appellate Court ruling that standing and parking tickets can’t be higher than $250.

However, there was some good news on this front today, as the City Council’s Transportation Committee approved an ordinance introduced by Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) on June 22 that would allow the city to tow vehicles inhibiting “the free-flow of traffic on a street path or lane designated for the use of bicycles.” Forty-five of Chicago’s 50 alderpersons had previously signed on to support of the legislation. The measure goes before the full Council for a final vote next Wednesday, December 14.

The ordinance would allow police, traffic control aides, parking enforcement personnel, and other authorized people to ticket for bikeway parking violations. The Chicago Department of Finance, which handles parking tickets, would be required to submit a proposed ordinance for a pilot automated camera bike lane enforcement program by February 15.

Vasquez’s legislation also requires traffic control devices to be placed to warn bike riders and drivers about approved bike lane closures, with violations carrying a fine of $500 to $2,500. In addition, all bikeway parking violations would result in a $250 fine. Currently an illegal bikeway parking incident that doesn’t result in a crash only involves a $150 penalty.

The bike lane parking ordinance would direct Finance employees to refer bike lane parking violations to the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation for towing. And the Chicago Department of Transportation would be required to revoke the service vehicle permits of anyone who blocks bikeways or fails to put up warning signs about bike lane closures.

“We’re getting this stuff done, as we we said we would,” Vasquez said in a video he tweeted out yesterday, partly about the bike lane tow legislation.

While the ordinance looks likely to pass next week, it wouldn’t hurt to contact your local alder and let them know you support this commonsense law to help prevent future heartbreak.

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