SOUTH LOOP — Bike advocates fear that plans for new bike lanes in the South Loop are being shelved, but the alderman for the area insists that’s not the case.
At a recent town hall meeting, Ald. Sophia King (4th) unveiled an infrastructure plan that appeared to remove Chicago Dept. of Transportation-approved bike lane plans from several South Loop streets — Polk and Plymouth.
When an attendee at the town hall asked about the lanes, King reportedly told her it “might not happen,” according to bike lane watchdog Christina Whitehouse of Bike Lane Uprising.
The city’s Department of Transportation announced that new and improved bike lanes were coming to the South Loop in 2016, saying they would extend the protected bike lanes on Dearborn Street south to 9th Street, add two new bike lanes on Polk Street from Dearborn to Plymouth Court, and stripe out new bike lanes on 9th from Dearborn to Michigan Avenue.
The changes were supposed to be rolled out in 2017. King’s comments concerned Bike Lane Uprising, a civil tech platform that tracks bike lane obstructions in over 60 cities.
Whitehouse said she has tried to contact King several times since starting Bike Lane Uprising but hasn’t heard anything from the alderman, who is up for reelection this month.
“Bike lanes are a gateway into biking. They make people more comfortable with trying it,” said Whitehouse, who started her crowdsourced initiative in 2017 after nearly being run over by a commercial truck driver while in a designated bike lane.
“Removing them becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there isn’t infrastructure in place to make people feel safe, they won’t try it.”
When reached for comment, King said that the notion of her not being “pro-bike” is inaccurate.
“I’m not against bike lanes, I’m for figuring out solutions for the entire community,” said King, who added that lanes along nearby Harrison Street have caused issues for both cars and pedestrians.
“The plan for Polk and Plymouth isn’t scrapped,” said King, who noted that a plan is still being explored.
King said that she’s looking to have something similar to the set-up on Dearborn and Polk streets, which currently have beloved two-way bike lanes protected by cement barriers.
“We’re trying to retrofit areas that didn’t have bike lanes, and that’s difficult,” said King. “And most of my concerns are for the residents who live right there, so I have to take a holistic approach to this.”