City leaders, promote public transportation and more shared streets

Every day, tens of thousands of suburbanites drive to Chicago to visit our city’s cultural attractions, civic institutions, jobs and more. Those cars degrade the streets, air, safety and mobility of the people who live in Chicago.

So while we applaud the desire for visitors to help maintain the infrastructure they enjoy, mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson’s recent proposal to tax suburban Metra riders will only drive more people into cars, further degrading the quality of residents life. Instead of erecting barriers to public transportation, we must encourage Chicagoans and visitors to park their cars and use public transportation.

Permanently clogged streets, fast-paced traffic accidents, sickening pollution, and rising deaths and injuries are the result of a decades-long love affair with personal automobiles. Since 2018, more than 1.2 million people, the equivalent of nearly half the population of Chicago, have been involved in traffic accidents. In 2022, more than 200,000 people were involved in one of the 100,000 traffic accidents that occurred in Chicago. (City traffic data was analyzed for these statistics.)

The large number of crashes not only generate millions of dollars in damage, but also injure and kill hundreds of people simply trying to travel through the city. In 2022, more than 150 people died from traffic violence.

For suburban visitors to support the infrastructure they use, consider a congestion tax for drivers entering the city, particularly downtown. Many cities have successfully implemented congestion taxes, decongesting streets, boosting public transportation use, and increasing revenue all at the same time.

walk and roll

Clearly, much remains to be done to rebuild our anemic public transportation systems, historically among the best in the nation, and a recent survey by WBEZ highlights public frustration with CTA’s cleanliness, reliability and safety. Many of the interviewees have left the system because it no longer meets their needs. Transit rebuilding will require building cleaner, safer and more reliable systems, but city leaders must also discourage residents from driving. This is especially true for short trips.

For these shorter trips, it is crucial that Chicago develop a shared street system. The Chicago Department of Transportation successfully implemented dozens of shared streets during the pandemic. Before the program closed, almost 55% of people wanted Shared Streets to be expanded. Our vision at Chicago Bike Grid Now! is to designate 10% of the city’s 4,500 miles of streets as a shared street system that prioritizes people who walk and roll (on wheels) over those who travel in cars.

A shared street design would use Chicago’s existing grid system to create a connected network of pedestrian- and bicycle-centric streets, allowing residents to move safely and easily throughout their neighborhood and the city. The current patchwork of stop-and-go bike lanes, trails, and greenways is ineffective at best and dangerous at worst.

slowing down traffic

Shared streets in the bike network would be designed for traffic moving at 10 mph and would have traffic calming mechanisms such as limited access, potholes in sidewalks, and chicanes: extensions of sidewalk or islands to force drivers to slow down. speed. CDOT has already shown that these conversions can be done quickly and inexpensively by using temporary infrastructure until upgrades can be made permanent.

Other features of shared streets include the elimination of through traffic and allowing two or more people to ride bikes at the same time.

Since city officials adopted “Vision Zero” in 2017 with the goal of eliminating deaths caused by traffic violence, more than 500 Chicagoans have been killed in car crashes. These are pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. They are parents, grandparents and our children. They are more than numbers. We know how to prevent deaths from traffic accidents. The answer is to discourage personal car driving and encourage active transportation alternatives such as walking, bicycling, and taking public transportation. Urban engineers have known since the 1960s that widening streets and accommodating cars only leads to more traffic and all its negative impacts. Now is the time for vision and action.

Chicago Bike Grid Now! has asked elected officials to endorse a bike network in Chicago. As of this writing, 40 mayoral and council candidates have pledged to pursue this vision. We hope others will too. We can not wait. We deserve safer streets now.

Rony Islam and Andrew Mack are organizers of the Chicago Bike Grid Now!

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