Exciting new infrastructure combined with growing ridership and a strong voice for advocacy has made Chicago a biking mecca. CHICAGO, IL — Chicago has taken first place among best US cities for bicycling, moving up from #2 since Bicycling Magazine’s last national ranking two years ago, it was announced.
The ranking recognizes that Chicago has become a national leader for bicycling thanks to a flood of newly minted riders and bold new projects like the 606 rail trail and a rapidly growing bike sharing system.
Particularly transformative has been the effort since 2011 to build a network of low-stress bike routes in Chicago. This included construction of 23 miles of protected bike lanes and more than 80 miles of buffered (wide) bike lanes. And over the next three years the city will add 50 more miles of these types of bike lanes.
“It’s wonderful to get recognized for the great strides bicycling has taken here in recent years,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit group that works for better biking, walking and transit throughout Chicagoland. “We’ve come a long way and it’s taken lots of work.”
Another recent triumph for Chicago is the announcement of separate biking and walking paths coming to the Chicago Lakefront Trail — a plan that Active Trans has been lobbying for several years.
These and other developments would not have happened without a highly engaged advocacy community, an enthusiastic department of transportation and a keenly supportive mayor. Credit also goes to a vibrant local biking culture comprised of bike clubs, online communities and blogs, nonprofit organizations, racing teams and grassroots groups.
During its three decades of working for a bike friendly region, Active Trans has played a role in every major step toward making the city safer and more welcoming to people biking. “Five years ago, a lot of people thought Active Trans was asking for the moon and stars when we called for a network of barrier-protected bike lanes and launching a bike sharing program,” said Burke. “But those ideas — like so many others we have promoted — have caught on and have since come to fruition.”
While this is a perfect moment for everyone involved to take a bow, it’s also a good time to acknowledge the extensive work that still needs to be done. Active Trans believes that Chicagoans of all ages and abilities should have easy access to safe and comfortable bikes routes that take them where they need to go. Last fall, we laid out our Bikeways for All vision that identifies priority streets for protected bike lanes, neighborhood greenways and urban trails.
Another important initiative that will dramatically improve bicycling in Chicago is Vision Zero, an international movement that works to greatly reduce and ultimately eliminate serious traffic injuries and fatalities. This fall, the City of Chicago plans to release a Vision Zero action plan, which Active Trans has been calling for the city to develop for several years. The three-year Vision Zero action plan will set forth the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2026.
The Active Transportation Alliance is a nonprofit, member-based advocacy organization that advocates for walking, bicycling and public transit to create healthy, sustainable and equitable communities. The organization works to build a movement around active transportation, encourage physical activity, increase safety and build a world-class transportation network. The Active Transportation Alliance is supported by more than 7,000 members and 1,000 volunteers. For more information about the Active Transportation Alliance, visit www.activetrans.org or call 312.427.3325.