Chicago planning 500-mile bike network by 2015 CHICAGO - To encourage more people to bike to their destinations, the city of Chicago is about to unveil a plan for a 500-mile network of designated bicycle routes, one that would include elevating bi
CHICAGO June 11, 2006- To encourage more people to bike to their destinations, the city of Chicago is about to unveil a plan for a500-mile network of designated bicycle routes, one that would include elevating bike lanes slightly above street level in a bid to make the city a bicyclist's heaven.
Realizing the biggest danger to bicyclists are car doors and right-lane passers, city planners looked around for safety ideas and decided to adopt a practice in Geneva, Switzerland of putting a layer of pavement above street level and below the curb, the Chicago Tribune reported in its Sunday editions.
The city hopes to experiment with raised lanes in several locations by 2010. By 2015, planners say they hope 5 percent of all trips shorter than five miles will be made by bicycle.
"It's truly putting Chicago on the forefront of improving cycling across the country," Andy Clarke, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists, said of the city's track record of delivering for cyclists.
Chicago's Department of Transportation is putting together the 500-mile network of bicycle routes. The current plan does not say where in the city the new miles of bike lanes and improvements will be located.
When the city and its consultant, Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, began researching a plan to replace one released in 1992, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley encouraged them to seek inspiration from other cities.
Next year, there are plans to shut down several streets for biking on Sunday morning - something that is already done in Bogota, Colombia and Guadalajara, Mexico.
A key to encouraging bicycling, experts say, is to make riding safer.
Ben Gomberg of the city's transportation department said the city hopes to try teal markings at 10 intersections. The color could catch the eyes of motorists who may not be paying attention, said Joseph Schofer, a professor of civil engineering at Northwestern University.
Then there's the raising of bike lanes to see if it discourages motorists from entering the lane.
One potential drawback is that the raised lanes might make it harder for bicyclists to merge into the center travel lane to turn left, said Christopher Hagelin of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida.
Chicago planners are also considering specially marked boxes at intersections where cyclists can line up ahead of cars. That gives them a head start when the light turns green and makes them move visible to motorists.