Lots of people ask what a bike grid is, so let’s flesh it out in FAQs.
Q: Is a bike grid more than a bunch of connected, protected bike lanes?
A: YES! We absolutely need concrete protected bike lanes on commercial streets and we need them to be continuous and connected. The main difference is that a bike grid would use mostly residential streets that already have lower traffic volume and speeds.
Q: How would cyclists be protected on a bike grid?
A: When CDOT tested out the shared street program on residential streets, we saw that inexpensive construction barrels and signage created a much safer environment and brought more families with young kids out to the streets. Bike grid streets would be like shared streets, but would have proper signage and traffic calming. Signage would identify the street as bike-priority street with a 10mph speed limit. A concrete jersey barrier or two could be placed on each block so that motorists would have to slow down.
Q: Why are residential streets any better for the bike grid than commercial streets?
A: Two reasons: 1) they could be converted to safe streets in a fraction of the time, and 2) they would allow people to ride side-by-side.
Q: How fast could a bike grid be created?
A: To install construction barrels or jersey barriers, it could take as little as 9 weeks to roll out 450 miles (10 miles a day, 5 days a week).
Q: Why does it matter to be able to ride side-by-side?
A: Rather than just getting a sliver of a commercial street, bike-prioritized residential streets would create a space where everyone, including kids and less confident bike riders, could ride pleasantly side by side without having to constantly look over our shoulders for the next car or to yell over our shoulders to communicate with our fellow riders.
Q: What are the obstacles to having a bike grid?
A: The main obstacles are CDOT’s lack of a plan and City Council’s lack of political will. CDOT could implement a shared streets program, like they did in 2020 and 2021, if directed by the commissioner and city council. Currently Mayor Lightfoot and most alderpersons are more comfortable with the status quo than making biking safe and pleasant throughout the city. Bike Grid Now is working to change that.
Q: Do any laws need to be changed in order to implement a city-wide bike grid?
A: No laws were changed to do the shared streets in 2020 and 2021. However, to actually lower the speed limit below 20mph requires changing the Illinois Vehicle Code. We would also need to add a section to the IL Vehicle Code that spells out rules of the road for streets designated as bike prioritized: 1) bikes would NOT be required to ride as far to the right so that cars may pass, 2) bikes are permitted to ride side-by-side, and 3) motorists must keep back from cyclists by at least 50 feet.
Q: Why might motorists want a city-wide bike grid?
A: By providing a safe and pleasant way for lots of people to get around by bike, fewer trips will be made by car. Imagine how many car trips are eliminated when parents don’t need to chauffeur kids to school and other activities.
Q: Why else is a city-wide bike grid needed?
A: When Chicago is a safe and pleasant place to get around by bike, more people will want to live in and visit. When there’s more joy in the streets, there will be less violence.