Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Forget about Rahm's first 100 days: What's next?

Rahm Emanuel took the oath of office on May 16, 2011 and this week, the media outlets are all talking about his first 100 days as mayor. We say forget about that; he already has. The mayor held his news conference addressing the topic on Day #99. Clearly he's already BTDT. So let's all move on, shall we?

Mayor Emanuel has promised big things for Chicagoans in the realm of biking and walking for his first year in office, and given his track record so far, we're confident these things will indeed happen. He outlined the specifics in his transition plan (PDF - check out sections 18 and 25 for the meaty bits).

Here are the four things we're most excited to see happen between now and May 16, 2012:

Walkable, bikeable Wells Street on a summer evening. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
1/ Encouraging the human scale of Chicago's neighborhoods

The plan says the city will use street design, public education, and enforcement of traffic laws to help tame our streets. We're hoping this means widening sidewalks for pedestrians, repainting crosswalks, and ticketing cars that speed through our quiet side streets.

The MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive event in May 2011 allowed thousands of people to enjoy a car-free Lake Shore Drive. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
2/ Car-free street events!

Certain streets will be temporarily closed to motorized traffic, and open to walkers, bicyclists, tricyclists, strolling violinists and anyone else without a motor attached to them. These are typically held on Sunday mornings in other cities and have been wildly popular. Think Bike the Drive, except out in the neighborhoods, held more often, and no fee to participate!

The B-Cycle stand at Buckingham Fountain has bikes ready to ride. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
3/ A big bike-share program

The plan specifies it will have thousands of bikes, and we're assuming dozens of drop-off/pickup locations. You may have a few B-Cycle or Bike and Roll stands around already, but they're currently clustered near the lakefront, and geared to tourists. We're hoping Chicago's program develops like those in other cities, where it's so inexpensive to have an annual membership and there are so many stands available, even locals with their own bikes use the shared bikes regularly.

A bicyclist enjoys the protected bike lane on Kinzie. (Photo Credit: Chicago Bicycle Program)
4/ Another 24.5 miles of protected bike lanes!

Protected bike lanes run along the curb, and have a buffered area that separates the bicyclists from parked cars or moving traffic lanes. In June, Chicago got our first protected bike lane on Kinzie Street, just north of the Merchandise Mart. It's nice, but at half a mile, it's not enough. And it's not in Lincoln Park! We need protected bike lanes in our neighborhoods, where families, senior citizens and other intrepid-but-sane Chicagoans would like to bike, but need more protection than a four-inch-wide strip of paint. The mayor's plan says there will be 25 miles installed in his first year.

Good start, Mayor Emanuel, and here's to the next 265 days. Actually, 2012 is a leap year, so you get an extra day: Use it wisely.

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