ThinkBike Workshops Chicago – A Word From Hans Voerknecht

Hans Voerknecht, the international manager for the Dutch agency on cycling policy Fietsberaad was part of the team of Dutch transportation officials that were in Chicago last week.  They were here as part of the Netherlands’ ThinkBike Workshops that are taking place across North America this fall.  Hans lead the Blue team and while I have summarized their findings along with those of the Orange team in the previous post he also wrote up his own summary for bloggers like me to re-post around the interweb.  Thanks to Bert Bentsink with the Royal Netherlands Embassy for gathering up all the documents including Hans’ write-up  and sending them out.   Now.. here’s Hans!

So, after Toronto we went for one of the most vibrant cities in de World: Chicago. Should it be possible to implement more cycling in this challenging part of the world. Of course there were differences. But also there was this vision of possibilities. With benefits for everybody. In the Lincoln Park area, it is really possible to make safe cycle routes compared with ‘green zones’. All the residential areas within the arterial boundaries could be really calm zones for the residents with car traffic prevented from taking shortcuts:

ThinkBike Chicago - Safe Zones

This would mean great benefits for people living in these streets. For Clark and Halsted new cross-sections were designed, as well as for the bicycle provisions connected to the newly developing Bus Rapid Transit system around Randolph Street.

What keeps to be very alarming in cities like these is the lack of protection for bicyclists. Bicycle lanes are used as temporary parking lots for cars and car drivers get very upset when you tell them that this forces bikers to make very dangerous manoeuvres getting around all these parked ‘objects’ on the bike lane.

One of the strangest experiences we had was that a UPS delivery van just parked along a very very busy road on a bicycle facility, where the building had a special alley for loading and unloading. But on top of it, the driver just went first for a cup of coffee, leaving his van on the road for 15 minutes, blocking bicycle traffic and most of the car traffic. Apparently this driver, too, seemed to consider this behaviour as one of his fundamental rights. A fine would be the only measure to end this sort of behaviour (can’t this be done by the TMA’s).

Furthermore, also in Chicago there is an overwhelming lot of low hanging fruit, needing only a bit more push by politicians and staff. I will just provide you with some quality improvements that Chicago could benefit from:

  • colour (red carpets)
  • texture
  • buffers
  • continue bike infra on intersections
  • elevated facilities
  • bike boxes
  • green waves for bikes
  • safe bike routes
  • parked cars protect bikes

Benefit for everybody, especially in terms of sustainability, health, safety, liveability without harming anybody else. So Chicago, show how vibrant and daring you are!

Hans Voerknecht

Team Blue leader

(Manager International Dutch Fietsberaad/Bike Council)

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