LINCOLN SQUARE — A Lincoln Square alderperson wants to step up enforcement of drivers who block bike lanes after 3-year-old Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook was killed in an Uptown crash earlier this month.
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) plans to introduce an ordinance to City Council on Wednesday that would allow the city to tow a car blocking “the free-flow of traffic on a street path or lane designated for the use of bicycles,” similar to how the city already tows cars that are blocking a fire hydrant.
The ordinance also would require anyone doing city-approved work in a bike lane to post sings warning bicyclists that a bike lane is closed, and alerting drivers to yield to bicyclists.
Vasquez is introducing the ordinance amid broader City Council debates about traffic safety in the wake of several deadly crashes.
Lily Shambrook was riding on the back of her mother’s bicycle June 9 in the 1100 block of West Leland Avenue when they approached an “illegally parked Com Ed truck” in the bike lane, according to a police report. The semi “began to move forward,” as they biked between the semi and the ComEd truck, police said. The mother “became startled, over-corrected her bike and hit the step” of the semi-truck “causing her to lose balance and fall,” the police report said. The semi then rolled over Lily, police said.
Drivers have hit and killed at least 17 pedestrians and four bicyclists so far this year, including Lily and two other children in the past month.
“If something needs to be fixed and it requires a little bit of a change to current legislation to solve a problem then we should do that,” Vasquez told Block Club. “And with all the people who have been in accidents over the past month, especially on the North Side, we need to do the right thing and keep our neighbors safe.”
Vasquez said the ordinance is an attempt to streamline how the city addresses the dangerous conditions created when cars block bike lanes.
Currently, a police officer will verify a car is blocking the public way, then contact Streets and Sanitation Department to move it, Vasquez said. That is an overextension of two different city resources, Vasquez said.
Vasquez’s ordinance would have the Department of Finance, which already enforces parking restrictions on streets, take lead in ticketing and possibly towing cars blocking bike lanes.
The measure would also require anyone conducting city permitted construction on the public way blocking bike lanes to post signs warning bicyclists about the lane closure at least 24 hours in advance.
Whoever is doing the construction would also need to put out signs on both sides of the street telling drivers they need to yield to bicyclists, according to the ordinance.
Not posting warning signs could result in a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and could lead to the construction permit being revoked, according to the draft ordinance.
“If we’re not taking into account how people’s modes of transportation have been changing, not making adjustments, then that’s a failure of government. That’s why for me, it makes sense to fix what we can,” Vasquez said.
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