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Drivers Caught On Camera Blocking Bike Lanes Downtown Could Soon Be Ticketed

A proposed ordinance would have cameras added on CTA buses and light posts to catch drivers parked illegally in bike lanes, bus lanes and loading zones — and they'd be ticketed.

A cyclist rides along the Milwaukee Avenue bike lane in Wicker Park on Nov. 9, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — Parking scofflaws and idling drivers who block bike lanes, bus lanes and loading zones in parts of Downtown could soon receive automated tickets in the mail.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and several alderpeople proposed an ordinance Wednesday that aims to establish two pilot programs that would use cameras on city vehicles and other infrastructure to identify parking violators and mail them a ticket.

The pilot area would extend from Lake Michigan to Ashland Avenue and North Avenue to Roosevelt Road. If passed by City Council, the pilot programs would last for two years, transportation commissioner Gia Biagi said at a press conference.

The “Smart Streets” pilot program will “discourage drivers from illegally parking in places that put our most vulnerable users at risk: folks on bikes, folks walking, folks in wheelchairs,” Biagi said. “Through this program, we’ll develop best practices … We’ll collect a lot of data to better understand our streets.”

To enforce the automated program, the city is looking to install cameras on “fixed posts” like street poles facing a bus lane, as well as potentially on CTA buses themselves, Biagi said.

“So as the bus is coming up a bus lane, if there’s a car parked in it, the camera can then record the violation,” Biagi said.

The second pilot program will be set up similarly but focus on parking enforcement in commercial loading zones, officials said.

Offenders would get one warning letter before being issued a ticket by the Department of Finance, according to the ordinance.

Credit: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
A driver incorrectly uses a red CTA bus-only lane to drop off passengers on Western Avenue in Bucktown.

More transportation advocates and local leaders have pushed for tougher enforcement of traffic laws in the wake of a deadly year of crashes.

Citywide, drivers have crashed into at least 439 cyclists in the bike lane from the beginning of 2020 through July 2022, according to the city’s crash data.

Several pedestrians and bicyclists were killed in those crashes in 2022, including at least four children in June alone

Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook, 3, died June 9 when her mother attempted to navigate around a ComEd truck blocking a bike lane in Uptown. Her parents announced Tuesday they are suing city, Commonwealth Edison, Penske and Mondelēz in their daughter’s death.

City Council last month increased the fine for vehicles blocking a bike lane from $150 to $250. Under the pilot programs introduced Wednesday, those fines will stay the same, Biagi said.

On top of safety, Biagi said the pilot could also speed up bus service by keeping drivers out of dedicated lanes and stops.

“One driver illegally parked in a dedicated bus lane creates slowdowns for the passengers on the bus … For the folks are waiting for the bus who’d like to get on it, for the cars behind that bus, trying to get through,” Biagi said.

Alds. Daniel La Spata (1st), Brian Hopkins (2nd), Gilbert Villegas (36th), Andre Vasquez (40th) Brendan Reilly (42nd), and Matt Martin (47th) are co-sponsoring the proposed ordinance. It will next be considered by the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety.

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