Today’s Solutions: July 24, 2024

BY THE OPTIMIST DAILY EDITORIAL STAFF

Chicago is preparing to drastically improve its bicycle infrastructure, with plans to build about 47 miles of new bikeways in 2024 alone. This effort is part of a larger pledge to build 150 miles of new and enhanced bikeways over the next few years, reflecting the city’s commitment to sustainable urban development.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) just updated its public spreadsheet and interactive map of 2024 bikeway constructions. This comprehensive plan includes bike trails, protected bike lanes, and local greenways in an effort to make cycling safer and more accessible throughout the city.

Progress and plans

Currently, ten bikeways have been installed, 17 are under construction, and 56 more are planned for various neighborhoods and streets in Chicago, the third largest city in the United States. This work is being spearheaded by Complete Streets, a CDOT program that focuses on building accessible, environmentally sustainable, and pedestrian-friendly streets.

“2023 really was an exciting year, and I think sets the tone and the stage for how we move forward in the years to come,” said David Smith, Complete Streets manager, during a city council hearing. Last year, the city set a record by adding more than 50 miles of bike-friendly paths.

Community & accessibility

In addition to increasing bikeways, the initiative provided 1,350 free bikes to residents and saw a record number of people use the Divvy bike rental system. “When we design our streets and adopt policies that prioritize those most vulnerable, we improve the safety and accessibility for everybody using the street,” Smith pointed out.

The project is consistent with a recent declaration by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to improve the city’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. “CMAP is thrilled to continue supporting communities in their planning and implementation efforts through our technical assistance program,” said Erin Aleman, CMAP executive director. She emphasized the tremendous demand for planning assistance, citing an “unprecedented number of applications” for city upgrades received by the Regional Transportation Authority.

The ON TO 2050 Plan

Chicago’s bikeway expansion is a critical component of the ON TO 2050 Plan, a 30-year strategy aimed at improving transportation safety and accessibility, equity, and environmental health across the city’s seven counties. The plan focuses on resilience, inclusive growth, and prioritized investment.

“CMAP’s technical assistance program aligns with the region’s comprehensive plan ‘ON TO 2050,’ and its principles of resilience, inclusive growth, and prioritized investment,” Aleman explained. This strategic alignment demonstrates the city’s commitment to building a more sustainable and equitable urban environment.

Toward a sustainable future

Chicago’s expanded number of protected bike paths, enhanced ADA compliance for public transportation, and the broader ON TO 2050 plan all help to achieve the city’s overarching goal of running totally on clean, carbon-free energy by 2050. Howard Learner, an attorney at Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center, voiced confidence in Illinois’ capacity to meet this target. “It’s ambitious, it’s practical, it’s doable,” Learner told CBS News, reinforcing the optimistic outlook for the city’s future.

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