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Watch: Discussing Chicago’s 2023 bikeway wins and challenges at an ATA City Advocacy discussion

The Active Transportation Alliance graciously invited Streetsblog Chicago to talk about what we learned by visiting every bikeway built in 2023.

6:24 PM CST on January 22, 2024

Some of the 40-plus participants in Friday’s discussion.

This post is sponsored by Ride Illinois.

The Active Transportation Alliance, Chicagoland's leading walk/bike/transit advocacy organization, graciously invited me to join their City Advocacy online discussion last Friday. I talked about Streetsblog's Chicago Bike Lane Week series, in which I visited all of the 55 miles of new bikeways that the Chicago Department of Transportation installed in 2023:

Check out Day One: Mid-South Side here.

Check out Day Two: Far Southwest Side here.

Check out Day Three: Near Southwest and Near South Side here.

Check out Day Four: Mid-North Side here.

Check out Day Five: Near Northwest Side, Far West Side, Near West Side, Near North Side here

ATA has been hosting a Zoom talk monthly since summer 2023 to update sustainable transportation advocates about the group's top campaigns, and let them provide their own updates and ask questions. You can watch three other online events they have hosted so far here.

If you're short on time, my segment on Chicago Bike Lane Week starts at 2:30 and runs through 16:30, with some additional Q & As later. But if time allows, you should watch the whole hour-long discussion for great info about other recent initiatives.

ATA told me their motivation for having me talk was to give the Chicago Department of Transportation a pat on the back for building so many bikeways this year, which I also think CDOT deserves. They also wanted to make a pitch for renewing the Chicago Works infrastructure plan that helped pay for these projects, since the current program ends later this year.

During my segment, I also discussed points that were reinforced during my travels during Bike Lane Week. It reminded me of the need for a citywide, connected grid of low-stress bikeways, so that finding a safe bicycle route is as straightforward as determining driving directions. It also hammered home the need for better maintenance of protected bike lanes as the system expands. No one wants to ride in a PBLs clogged with trash, broken glass, leaves, or snow. Fortunately, CDOT recently debuted nifty miniature snowplows to help clear all the new miles of protected lanes.

During the talk, ATA advocacy managers Julia Gerisamenko and Alex Perez provided updates on the group's recent projects and opportunities. These include advocating for a more robust Better Streets for Buses program, responding to CTA's plan to double 'L' operator hiring, and announcing the Regional Transportation Authority citizen's advisory board is seeking members.

Also presenting was Alex Nelson from the grassroots advocacy group Better Streets Chicago. She discussed their successful #PlowTheSidewalks campaign to get the city of Chicago to pilot municipal snow clearance on walkways, which passed the City Council last July. Since then, a working group has been developing a more specific plan for implementing the pilot, will be presented to the City Council this May.

During my segment, I talked a bit about how ATA and Streetsblog Chicago play somewhat different, but complementary, roles when it comes to advocating for safe streets projects:

"[ATA's] job is to explain to people why these things are for the community, good for public health, the environment, traffic congestion, and equity... Alex Perez recently did a really good job [expressing that] in a recent Chicago Tribune article about the [controversial] Dickens Greenway. Streetsblog Chicago's role is, we can take the gloves off a little more, and be critical about people who are saying untrue things about safe streets infrastructure."

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