Bikes + Buses in Chicago


Creative Commons Mindfrieze

A guest post by Brian Jones, subject of TreeHugger Post A Story about Losing, Leaving and Buying It All Back and author of ::Buy By Brian

Last Friday, at the end of Chicago's Bike to Work Week, Mayor Daley made an interesting proposition at the week's culminating rally; bikes should share the bus lanes on downtown streets to accommodate the surge in bike traffic. Mayor Daley told a group of reporters following the rally,

"I hear from the bike shops that more and more people are buying bikes. That's why you have to adjust. You're gonna see more and more people biking—whether to and from work [or on] weekends — to save money,"

Mayor Daley, who is an avid cyclist himself, went on to explain this idea further,

"You have the car. You have bike lanes. Then, you have bus lanes. As we improve the quality and movement of buses, the safest place [for cyclists] could be in the lane for buses . . . That's what we're really looking at because, many times, bus lanes are not filled . . . These are the wider streets. When you have wider streets, you'll be able to move 'em."
While I applaud the thought given to the cycling infrastructure and acknowledging the rise in the number of cyclists on the streets, my first thought is that putting the most vulnerable vehicles on the road in the same lane as the largest vehicles on the road, isn't the greatest solution. However, buses are the most predictable of all the other vehicles, and I've heard this type of shared lane is quite effective in places like Paris, Copenhagen and even Milwaukee.

I have already noticed, while commuting these last couple months, that bike traffic has increased to a point that primary bike routes need more than the 3 foot lane that bikes are currently provided with. Whether it's making certain roads bike boulevards during rush hour or designating a full lane to bikes during peak commuting times, something needs to be done as the price of gas and the number of cyclists rise. One of the biggest barriers preventing people from giving the bike commute a fair chance, is their fear of traffic. If local governments are truly devoted to encouraging bikes as a form of transportation, they need to work on making riders feel much safer.

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