The famous Bostonian Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, once famously wrote, "All politics is local." The idea of this political principle is that for a politician to succeed, they must be able to meet their constituents' basic needs. To fail at meeting one's constituents' needs is to fail poltically. This is why the issue of protected bike lanes will be at the heart of a battle between the "locals" (Mayor Rahm and City Hall) and the "outsiders" (the Springfield-based Illinois Dept. of Transportation).
Bike 2015 Plan for the city of Chicago and his ambitious goal of
installing 100 miles of protected bike lanes. However, the Tribune
has recently reported that IDOT, has decided to exercise its authority over
state-designated routes that fall within its jurisdiction. A direct
result of IDOT's intervention in the city's bike route planning is that
any protected bike lane proposed for installation on a state-designated
route will be stalled while IDOT compiles and analyzes data. Their
stated justification is that the current statistical information
available is insufficient to satisfy the state's safety requirements.
With the IDOT superseding the Chicago Department of
Transportation over these state-designated areas, plans for installing
protected bike lanes--lanes that have actual physical barriers
separating cyclists from motorists--may be compromised with outcomes
that could fall short of expectations.
For example, the strip of road on Jackson Street between
Western Avenue and Ogden Avenue has a protected bike lane, complete with
physical barriers, installed for cyclist use. However, the route between
Ogden and Lake Shore Drive has only a buffered lane painted since that
area falls under the State of Illinois's jurisdiction.
The Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law
Offices have been firm supporters of the Mayor's ambitious plan to
improve the city's infrastructure for not only its cyclists but for its
motorists and pedestrians alike. While news, like that mentioned in
today's Tribune, may signal that progress may be stalled for the
short-term future, we remain hopeful that the momentum for better
cycling conditions will ultimately roll forward unhindered for Chicago. Tip O'Neill was right, all politics is local. And if the City of Chicago wants to move forward with the protected bike lanes, then Springfield shouldn't stand in the way.