Chicago Bike Lane Envy Sweeps the Nation

Who would have thunk it just two years ago: Portland, Seattle — even some New York City residents — jealous of Chicago’s cutting-edge bike infrastructure.

Admit it: Chicago's new Dearborn bike lane makes you a wee bit jealous. Photo: Active Transportation Alliance

But here we sit, roughly a year and a half into Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first term, and the city of Chicago has a protected, bi-directional bike lane running directly through the heart of its downtown. Bike advocates from major cities are taking notice.

Here’s what Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland had to say:

That’s a segment of over one mile on a high-profile downtown street in one of America’s largest cities.

“That’s huge and symbolic,” tweeted Portland Mercury News Editor Denis Theriault upon hearing the news, “[Would] Be like putting one here on Washington or Everett.”

Yeah. If only.

While excited by what’s happening in Chicago (and D.C., and San Francisco, and so on), I can’t help but think how great it would be if Portland could muster something this big.

Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog just came out and said he’s “envious” in a recent post:

Seattle can’t wait longer. We’re suddenly in a place where we’re envious of Chicago’s bike lanes. That’s crazy. We are falling behind because we are not making bold and smart investments in cycling infrastructure where we need it most. There won’t be a huge increase in the number of people cycling until we make significant improvements to the streets people need to use the most.

Even New York City residents have been impressed by Chicago’s determination to reallocate space from cars to bikes.

I think Chicago’s burgeoning reputation for bold street redesigns was exactly what Rahm Emanuel had in mind when he got elected and picked Gabe Klein to lead his transportation department. Looks like he’s living up to his reputation as a guy who can get stuff done.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Beyond DC reports that some major Amtrak upgrades are in store for Virginia. WalkBikeJersey says that Atlantic City is making much-needed efforts to improve bike-friendliness. And WABA celebrates the official opening of the L Street protected bike lane in Washington, D.C.