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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Activists Formed A Human Bike Lane To Call For Safer Streets For Cyclists: ‘Why Do We Have To Wait For Someone To Be Killed?’

Transportation activists want better-protected bike lanes — and for the city to make drastic and immediate changes to its biking infrastructure.

(Left) Courtney Cobbs, one of the founders of Better Streets Chicago, leads a line of protesters as they create a people protected bike lane.
Francesca Mathewes/Block Club Chicago
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LOGAN SQUARE — Activists formed a human bike lane Thursday night on Logan Boulevard as they protested for an overhaul of Chicago’s biking infrastructure.

The protest was organized by Better Streets Chicago. Its members gathered at the intersection at Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue at the Kennedy Expressway to highlight the dangers faced by bicyclists in Chicago, as a driver hit and killed 32-year-old Kevin Clark at the intersection earlier this summer. 

The intersection, which has painted bike paths, has long been flagged by activists as dangerous. Clark is one of at least five people killed citywide while biking this year.

“We personally have all experienced a lot of harrowing situations as people who ride bikes and as pedestrians and in the last year. Driver aggression is significantly worse, it seems,” said Kyle Lucas, one of the co-founders of Better Streets Chicago. 

A protected bike lane is now being planned for the Logan and Western intersection. But the Chicago Department of Transportation needs to take a more immediate and sweeping approach to the city’s bike infrastructure, organizers said.

The protesters called for Chicago’s transportation agency to take over biking infrastructure so there can be a citywide approach to protecting pedestrians. And that approach should include making protected bike lanes where there are physical barriers between drivers and bicyclists, they said.

Lucas has personal experience with the dangers faced by bicyclists: He was the victim of a hit-and-run in Wrigleyville several weeks ago, he said.

“I am not interested in waiting anymore. My blood has been spilled on these streets, and I’m demanding action. It’s very personal,” Lucas said. “Why do we have to wait for someone to be killed or for someone to be hit? Why don’t our leaders care that these are the things that we need?

“Thankfully, the alders right here did care — but we need something citywide.” 

The group of about 20 protestors created what they dubbed a “people-protected bike lane.” They lined up along the paint of the Logan Boulevard bike lane to physically separate bikers from drives. 

The protest started about 7 p.m and ran until sunset. Some drivers honked in support and bicyclists used the protected line — but drivers also continued to speed just feet away from the group.

Bikers ride through the people-protected bike lane created by the protesters. Francesca Mathewes/Block Club Chicago
Protesters hold up signs that advocate for cyclist safety. Francesca Mathewes/Block Club Chicago

Better Streets co-founder Courtney Cobbs said that although she is “grateful” for recent recognition from the city that more needs to be done to protect cyclists, changes need to be drastic. 

“Currently, the way we do bike lanes in the city is on a ward-by-ward basis, based on whether or not the alderman is supportive,” Cobbs said. “That is unfair, inequitable and unsafe.” 

Cobbs, Lucas and others at the protest said pushing for more comprehensive bike infrastructure in the city is not only a matter of safety but of sustainability. 

“We’re currently in the midst of irreversible climate change and 50 percent of car trips in Chicago are less than five miles,” Cobbs said. “These are trips that could be taken on a bike if we had infrastructure that made it safer for people. I do this because I care deeply about the environment and I recognize that we can do things differently. We need to make [bike travel] the sensible choice.” 

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