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Although people of color make up about one third of the population, they make up 46.1 percent of pedestrian deaths.

Lake St. protected bike lane can be successful

A recent Tribune story about Chicago bike lanes zeroed in on problems with the advanced bike lane on Lake St., which currently runs from Damen to Central Park and is scheduled for an extension to Austin Blvd.

I ride this corridor a lot to and from Oak Park where I live, and I often avoid the Lake St. lane because the glass and debris problem is so prodigious.

The pavement condition is lousy, too, and you’ll typically encounter a few cars parked in the lane. Liquor bottles are the main source of glass, along with broken car windows and years of glass accumulation.

It’s good the article calls attention to these problems, and CDOT is well aware and working to clean the lane more frequently. Lake is also slated for repaving, which will help a great deal.

I have heard from many suburban commuters and Chicago residents who are excited about the extension. But the story quotes some who oppose extending the lane on the assumption that the glass and debris problem will continue, and they won’t be able to use Lake St.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The city just needs to clean the lane more often. Then it will be a good bike lane that will also narrow Lake St and calm traffic that currently travels fast and recklessly, weaving between El supports and using empty parking spaces for additional travel lanes.

With El tracks overhead and the debris problems, Lake St. isn’t ideal for a bike lane. But then again, every street on the underserved and depressed West Side has issues. Lake is the only continuous corridor on the West Side that CDOT believes they can run an advanced bike lane all the way to the border with Oak Park, serving as a “Spoke Route” for the broader Streets for Cycling Plan.

The West Side deserves good bike facilities, too, and with more TLC and more bikes (which I believe will happen over time), the Lake Street lane can be an important segment in the city’s bike network.

One thing is for sure: it’s pretty cool that we are in a place to debate where to put protected bike lanes, when less than four years ago they weren’t even on the table.