CHICAGO — The city of Chicago could soon give out tickets to drivers who park and block bike lanes in and around downtown.
If the new ordinance passes, the fine could be up to $250 and sent to violators by mail.
Christina Whitehouse, Bike Lane Uprising founder, is devastated by the data.
“It has been horrible. The amount of deaths that have taken place within the biking community within pedestrians, it has just skyrocketed,” she said.
But she, along with many others, remains skeptical about the motive and timing of the proposal. According to city records, drivers hit more than 430 cyclists in a bike lane from 2020 through July of 2022.
“More than double the amount of people have been getting killed biking, walking, you name it, around Chicago and at no point in time did the mayor address the issue,” Whitehouse said.
After Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gia Biagi, commissioner of the Department of Transportation, spoke about the new Smart Streets pilot program ordinance. Lightfoot said the ordinance’s introduction “will help enhance safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and speed up public transportation.”
“It will discourage drivers from illegally parking places that put our most vulnerable users at risk, folks on bikes, folks walking, folks in wheelchairs,” Biagi added.
Under the program, cameras would be added to street and light posts and CTA buses to capture vehicles illegally parked in bike lanes, bus lanes and loading zones and ticket them.
The pilot program would last two years in the downtown Chicago area, from Lake Michigan to Ashland and North Avenue to Roosevelt.
But Whitehouse remains skeptical.
“It seems incredibly reactive after Jan. 17,” she said. “Just two days ago, we had a press conference where the city, itself, was actually listed as defendants in the death of a 3-year-old child that was killed while biking.”
In June, Elizabeth Grace Shambrook was riding in a bike seat with her mother as she tried to maneuver around a ComEd truck blocking a bike lane in Uptown. A collision with the truck caused fatal injuries to the 3-year-old girl. Her parents are now suing the city, ComEd, Penske and a semi-truck driver who collided with the bike.
Many in the biking community support the new ordinance’s concept but question the timing.
“[Lightfoot] waited until just a month before potentially leaving office to address the issue,” Whitehouse said. “She has been stone silent to the biking community all of this time.
“If the mayor thinks this is some last-ditch effort to try and get some votes before the election next month, she’s sadly mistaken.”