Sunday, October 6, 2013

Show up and speak up for better bicycling on local IDOT streets

by Michelle Stenzel

This Thursday afternoon, Illinois Department of Transportation representatives will be at the Thompson Center in the Loop to gather input for the state's very first bicycle plan, and it's important that you make an effort to drop by. I know what you're thinking: 1/ Irrelevant: I never ride my bike outside the city and therefore don't have any stake in what goes on in the suburbs and downstate in terms of bike lanes and 2/ Useless and boring! 

On the first point: This does affect every person who rides a bike in the city. Perhaps you don't know that many of our streets are under the jurisdiction of IDOT. The agency's decisions about their design and management indeed have direct impact on whether Chicago's streets become more livable and people-oriented, or whether they remain just for the sole purpose of moving motor vehicles through at high volumes and high speeds. (For example, read background on how IDOT is currently not allowing protected bike lanes, even on streets with plenty of room for them.)
Six lanes for motor vehicles and nothing for bicyclists on the IDOT-jurisdiction North Avenue, at Larrabee.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

A full map of all IDOT-jurisdiction streets has been created by Steven Vance of Streetsblog Chicago.
A screen shot from Steven Vance's map of IDOT streets shows Lincoln Park and surrounding areas, with IDOT-jurisdiction streets in red.
The main IDOT-jurisdiction streets in Lincoln Park are Lincoln Avenue, North Avenue, LaSalle Drive, Fullerton west of Halsted, and Clybourn Street. Other streets nearby include most of Elston, Addison, Irving Park Road, Michigan Avenue, Ohio and Ontario streets in River North. Many of these streets are among the worst in the city for bicyclists! (Mostly this is due to complete lack of bike lanes, but also sometimes due to the condition of the street, like the pot holes we documented on Lincoln Avenue.) 

We need to continue to show up in force at these sessions to ask IDOT to consider street users beyond the automobile driver. 

On the second point: Useless? Not at all. Public agencies are required to carefully collect and publish all public input. When you write a comment on a notecard or on a sticky note, that's actually transcribed and (hopefully) considered. For example, the recently launched Redefine North Lake Shore Drive project is being managed jointly by IDOT and Chicago's Department of Transportation, and take a look at the some of the input you provided for the area near Diversey Harbor:

Screen shot of transcribed public comments made during one of the initial Redefine Lake Shore Drive meetings.
Your comments will certainly be noted and tracked.

Finally, the IDOT input session on Thursday won't be boring because it doesn't require a huge time commitment. It's an open-house style session, where you can just drop by after work for 10 minutes, talk to the staff members, provide a written comment or two or three, and be on your way.

Don't know what to say? Here are some ideas:
"I live right on (IDOT jurisdiction street) and would love to ride my bike on it, but it's way too scary with car traffic!" 
"The potholes in the Lincoln Avenue bike lanes are like moon craters! Please resurface this street ASAP." 
"There seems to be plenty of room on (IDOT jurisdiction street) for bike lanes; please install those so I can ride my bike to (work, the grocery store, school) safely." 
"Please lift the ban on protected bike lanes and add the highest protection possible for bicyclists on (IDOT jurisdiction street)."
You're much more creative than I am. Just show up and speak up. It matters.

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Statewide Bike Plan Input Session

Date:  Thursday, October 10, 2013
Time:  2:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Place:  James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, at Clark and Randolph in the Loop

Join the IDOT Bike Plan list serve to get notices by sending a blank e-mail to

Follow us on Twitter @BikeWalkLP


  1. Thanks for posting this info. I will definitely stop by after work and advocate for complete IDOT streets!

    1. I hope you do stop by on Thursday. Thanks for reading, and I like your blog! -- MS

  2. Michelle,
    Thanks for posting this, somehow this meeting is not all that well advertised. I plan on stopping by. Alos thanks for linking to Steven Vance's map. That is very useful

    1. You're welcome and I'm glad you'll go. I notice that IDOT is also seeking feedback on the effectiveness of their public outreach, so there's another talking point:

      "The Department is specifically seeking comments concerning four areas:
      1. Overall transportation system performance in your regions;
      2. Regional transportation priorities that might affect the development of the next Multi-Modal Transportation Improvement Program;
      3. Provide suggestions on how to make bicycling a more effective mode of transportation for Illinois' residents and visitors
      4. Specific comments concerning projects that should be considered for inclusion in the program. The Department is also seeking comments on how to improve the effectiveness of our public outreach efforts"

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.