21
August , 2018
Tuesday

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City Council Committee holds hearing on the 2013 Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Ordinance

 

CHICAGO, IL–All people who use Chicago’s roads–whether walking, driving, or riding a bike–will be safer under a Chicago Department of Transportation proposed Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Ordinance, to be heard today in Chicago City Council.

The ordinance would bring Chicago traffic code into compliance with state bicycle and pedestrian laws, facilitate police traffic enforcement with updated fines for recklessness, and combat “doorings”–instances where drivers open doors onto passing cyclists–which cause one-fifth of Chicago crashes involving bicycles.

“With nearly 4,500 reported bike and pedestrian injury-crashes every year in Chicago, there is still much to be done to improve traffic safety and to make our neighborhoods inviting places to walk and bike,” said Ron Burke, Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance. “Today’s ordinance will help prevent doorings and improve how people on bikes, people walking, and people in cars share the road.”

Among the ordinance’s most impactful provisions, according to Active Trans, is the doubling of the fine for motorists who cause a dooring crash, from the current $500 to $1,000. The ordinance accompanies a new initiative at the Chicago Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP), announced in late May, to place warning stickers on taxi windows, alerting passengers to “Look!” before opening their car doors.

“With more and more people riding bikes in Chicago, we’re seeing more and more doorings,” said Burke. “It’s imperative for motorists to look for oncoming cyclists before opening car doors. This ordinance and the Look! Stickers will help people in cars get in the habit of checking for cyclists first.”

In each of the last two years, 300 dooring crashes were reported on average in Chicago. Burke noted that actual number of doorings is certainly higher because Chicago police and the state government have only recently undertaken to comprehensively document doorings, and some dooring crashes with relatively minor injuries and damage are not reported at all.

The ordinance would also increase fines for cyclists who violate traffic laws, from the current $25 fine to a range of $50 to $200.

“Cyclists are responsible for only a very small percentage of crashes in Chicago,” said Burke. “But with more and more people biking comes a greater responsibility to ride respectfully. That responsibility is also shared by drivers, whose 3,000 pound vehicles need to share our streets with increasing numbers of pedestrians and cyclists.”

Burke emphasized that reckless road use should be ticketed, whether walking, biking or driving, but that his organization opposes ticketing cyclists or drivers for minor violations that put no one at risk.

“The police should focus on more important matters. But if you’re putting people at risk, a ticket is warranted whether you’re biking, walking or driving,” said Burke. “Combating recklessness through enforcement of traffic laws is an important way to improve safety–along with better education and bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure.”

That better infrastructure is coming, Burke also noted. In May, Chicago announced a new public bike sharing program, called Divvy, which will launch this month with hundreds of “Chicago blue” bikes docked at 75 public bike sharing stations. Within the next year, that number will grow to 4,000 bicycles at 400 stations, making the Divvy the nation’s second largest bike sharing program. The city is also building new protected bike lanes every month as part of its Streets for Cycling Plan, which includes 645 mile bike lane network that is already well-underway.

“Chicago is perfect for cycling with flat, wide roads, and these planned infrastructure projects put our city is in line to be the most bike friendly city in the nation,” said Burke. “Today’s ordinance is necessary and timely to ensure it will also be among the safest—for all road users.”

The City Council’s Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee will hold a hearing on the ordinance this afternoon. The full City Council could vote on it as soon as Wednesday.

The Active Transportation Alliance is a non-profit, member-based advocacy organization that works to make bicycling, walking and public transit so safe, convenient and fun that we will achieve a significant shift from environmentally harmful, sedentary travel to clean, active travel. The organization builds a movement around active transportation, encourages physical activity, increases safety and builds a world-class transportation network. The Active Transportation Alliance is North America’s largest transportation advocacy organization, supported by nearly 7,000 members, 1,000 volunteers and 40 full-time staff. For more information on the Active Transportation Alliance, visit www.activetrans.org or call 312-427-3325.

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