It's also terrifying if you live in a city as packed with activity as mine. With cars, pedestrians, other bikes, and poorly-maintained roads, Chicago can be a scary place for a cyclist. And keeping it that way isn't going to encourage more people to quit the gas habit and take to the pedals--something that this automobile-clogged metropolis desperately needs to start doing.
So what's the solution? Better bike infrastructure. Most of Chicago's bike lanes, if present at all, are narrow, cracked paths that do little to separate different kinds of traffic. The Green Lane Project seeks to change that. It's about to become operational in six cities around the U.S., building wide, protected, highly visible bike lanes.
The project will implement an entire system of bike transport never before seen in these cities. Instead of faint painted lines on the roads, bike lanes will become bold green pathways. They'll be twice as wide to allow bikers of different speeds to pass each other safely. And there will be physical barriers, where possible, between bike lanes and car lanes.
This is how you build sustainable cities. Hiking gas taxes only does so much; people who prefer the safety and comfort of their own cars will still shell out the extra dollars. But building a culture of bicycling that's reflected in the very infrastructure of the city will change the way people think about transportation. It'll help people think of bikes as an "official" form of traffic. It'll encourage those previously too frightened of traffic to bike to pick up a three-speed and start learning how to move forward on it. This is essential work and I'm so glad it's finally being done in the city I call home.
For more information and to see if your city will be included in the initial round of the Green Lane Project, read the mission statement here.