While Chicago has improved its biking access, The Phoenix Editorial Board discusses changes to bike lanes that would benefit cyclists and the environment.
Staff Editorial: Expanding Chicago’s Bike Lanes
It’s undeniable that Loyola’s campus and its immediate surroundings are beautiful, but for bikers, the daily trip through the Lake Shore Campus can feel dangerous.
The three major thoroughfares commuters may take to campus — North Sheridan Road, North Broadway and West Devon Avenue — lack designated bike lanes, which can often make it difficult for those who cycle to get to campus.
Between 2017 and 2021, Chicago experienced 2.6 fatal bike crashes on average for every million residents, according to the League of American Bicyclists. While this is a lower rate than some other cities, it can be further decreased by adding more bike lanes to Chicago’s grid to make riding safer.
To give due credit to the City of Chicago, the Chicago Department of Transportation has doubled its biking infrastructure since 2010 and has now installed over 420 miles of bike lanes. The total will soon be above 500 miles, according to CDOT.
While there has certainly been meaningful city-wide progress, the area immediately surrounding Loyola is still a bike lane desert. Students must either go well out of their way or try to share the roads with cars moving at speeds upwards of 50 miles an hour to get home.
As the city continues to expand its bike grid, these stretches of road should be nearer to the top of its priority list as the lakefront in Rogers Park and Edgewater. These densely populated areas are prime for bikeability, and bikers seeking to get to the Lakefront Trail would benefit from the infrastructure improvements.
While hardcore cyclists may argue cement-protected bike lanes are needed, in the short term we would be thrilled by the introduction of just a painted lane.
A 2023 study published in Scientific Reports found the number of people who are riding bicycles has increased since the pandemic. National spending on bicycles and accessories rose 620% between March 2020 and March 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Unfortunately, as cycling has become more popular, the number of injuries and fatalities among cyclists hit by cars or trucks has also risen. With more cyclists on the roads, the need for proper biking infrastructure has never been greater.
Increased bike lane access is also beneficial for the environment. As human-driven climate change continues to affect our world, turning to bicycles as a transportation alternative is a great way for individuals to do their part. Choosing to ride a bike instead of a car just one time a day reduces the average person’s carbon emissions from transportation by 67%, according to the University of California Los Angeles. Additionally, 28% of all U.S. carbon emissions come from the transportation sector, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
While Chicago’s current biking infrastructure provides bike-riders with access to routes, it’s crucial to continue expanding bike lane access in order to not only improve the cyclists’ safety but is a boon to our efforts to curb the worst effects of climate change.
Featured image by Aidan Cahill / The Phoenix