Jul 17, 2023 - News

Report says our local cycling stinks

Illustration of a pattern of bicycles.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Chicago's bikeability ranks near the bottom of the barrel, per a new report from cycling advocacy group PeopleForBikes (PFB).

Driving the news: Chicago scored seven out of 100 points in the analysis, which rates 1,484 U.S. cities on factors like protected bike lanes, safe crossings, speed limits and connections throughout the city.

Why it matters: Great bike infrastructure can boost participation and, in turn, improve local health, traffic and air quality.

Yes, but: In a city with more than 425 miles of bikeways, some local bike activists find our continued horrible ratings from PFB misleading.

  • StreetsBlog Chicago editor John Greenfield pointed out last year that PFB's formula "rates any street without bikeways and a 30 mph speed limit as 'unsafe' for cycling."
  • Because Chicago's default speed limit is 30 mph, PFB classifies tons of quiet, bikeable side streets without buffered bike lanes as "high stress" — akin to super-busy roads.

Between the lines: PFB's Rebecca Davies told Greenfield last year, "Trips must be 100% safe to receive any points."

  • So a mostly Lakefront Trail commute that requires two minutes of biking on side streets would be considered unsafe.

What they're saying: "Chicago scores so poorly in this analysis because we allow cars to drive too fast on our roadways," Jim Merrell, managing director of advocacy at the Active Transportation Alliance, tells Axios.

The intrigue: A recent Street Light Data report applauds Chicago because more than 60% of our busy streets, where pedestrians cross, show traffic speeds lower than 25 mph.

What we're watching: Equiticity CEO Olatunji Oboi Reed told Axios he hopes the report spurs officials to "do more and invest more to make our city more bikeable, especially in Black and Brown communities."


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