Reporting Lisa Fielding
CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago’s first two-way protected bike lane opened on Friday, on a mile stretch through downtown.
Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said the mile-long two-way protected bike lane on Dearborn Street, stretching from Wacker Drive to Polk Street, is the nation’s first protected bike lane through a central business district.
“What we’re seeing is Chicago becoming the nation’s leading city for protected bike lanes,” he said.
WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports 20,000 people ride their bikes to work in downtown Chicago every day.
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Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke said that commute will now be a much safer experience.
“Whether you were driving a car or riding a bike, you’re going to appreciate having physical separation between you and the cyclists,” he said.
Klein said it’s a much-needed improvement, and will make the road safer for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians alike.
“Too much space, not enough cars caused it to feel more like a highway, rather than an urban street, which led to speeding and accidents,” he said. “Protected bike lanes create a more organized traffic flow on our streets that’s safer for everyone.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said more and more people are cycling to work downtown on a daily basis, “and having these protected bike lanes improves the quality of life in our city, improves our economic competitiveness.”
Officials removed one lane of traffic along Dearborn to make room for the protected bike lane. Dearborn will continue as a one-way northbound street for cars, but will be a two-way street for cyclists. For parts of Dearborn, a lane of parked cars will sit between cyclists and motorists, with southbound cyclists riding next to the west curb.
The mayor has vowed to install 100 miles of protected bike lanes by May 2015.