As you may have heard, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly has been calling for the Kinzie Street protected bike lane to be temporarily removed in order to accommodate construction traffic and congestion associated with new development at Wolf Point. The Chicago Department of Transportation does not believe removing the lane is necessary and the disagreement has led to a months-long stalemate with the fate of Chicago’s first protected bike lane project hanging in the balance.
The letter from business leaders is the latest in a series of public displays of support for protecting the Kinzie Street bike lane as a key link in Chicago’s growing downtown bike network. Here’s another chance for you to get involved.
To: Mayor Emanuel and Chicago City Council
Re: Keep the Kinzie Bike Lanes
As businesses vested in Chicago, we support investment in cutting-edge infrastructure improvements like the protected bike lanes on Kinzie and other streets. In addition to making our streets safer and better for everyone who uses them, these types of improvements help our city attract the high-quality human capital upon which businesses like ours depend.
Talented people we want to work for us are choosing to live in places that provide a high quality of life and the ability to use alternative forms of transportation, like bikes. We want to make Chicago an obvious destination for the designers, engineers and other professionals of tomorrow’s economy, and the city’s growing bike lane network helps position us to achieve that goal.
Chicago's first protected bike lanes were built on Kinzie Street, and the number of people biking there increased by more than 55 percent in the first few weeks after the lanes were installed in 2011. The numbers have grown consistently since then, and today the Kinzie corridor between Milwaukee and Dearborn is one of the most popular bike routes in the country, connecting the north and west sides of Chicago to downtown.
The Kinzie bike lanes and many other “Complete Streets” improvements have been made downtown with the leadership of Alderman Reilly, who has proposed temporarily removing the Kinzie bike lanes due to concerns about accommodating a higher density of people and vehicles associated with construction of the new Wolf Point development. It’s important to address the alderman’s concerns and to ensure that Chicago’s streets accommodate all modes of travel, including cars, but we don’t think removing the Kinzie bike lanes is the best way to achieve this goal.
Rather than removing the bike lanes across that small stretch of Kinzie, which would do little to lessen congestion, let’s focus on improving the Kinzie Street design — including the bike lanes — to accommodate existing users plus the new Wolf Point tenants who will benefit from having protected bike lanes next door that connect to routes all over the city.
Ald. Reilly has proposed installing a new bike lane on Grand Avenue as an alternative, which we would welcome. However, we’re concerned that people would continue to bike on Kinzie because it is a more comfortable street than Grand with fewer cars and no buses, and it provides the most direct connection to the central business district. Without the bike lanes, Kinzie would be less safe for everyone who uses it whether you're walking, biking or driving your car.
At the same time, it’s clear that some improvements are overdue on Kinzie in order to better accommodate all modes of travel and enhance safety, from filling potholes to better protections for pedestrians. We encourage Ald. Reilly and Chicago Department of Transportation to get started on these changes immediately in advance of peak cycling season.
[List in formation, sign your business on here]
Senior Vice President and General Counsel