This Week in Bike News
Update: "Because it was the mid-20th century, Leech pitched the article toward car lovers, pointing out that commuting by bicycle was a fine way to save money for a second car, an idea reflected in the headline one newspaper wrote: 'Will Power, Steady Income And A Bicycle.'"
* Blair Kamin reports that the Bloomingdale Trail, which would convert an old rail line into a park and bike trail in the manner of New York's High Line, is on the verge of getting substantial federal funding, about 65 to 90 percent of build-out estimates with state and local matching; Emanuel has also introduced legislation to the City Council that would give the Trail a second entry-point park.
One of the things that excites me most about the Bloomingdale is that, in my experience, the main impediment to getting people to bike in Chicago is having to bike on the streets. Which makes total sense: even as someone who bikes a fair amount, being in traffic can be wearying. I've had fine luck as a biker, having only the most minor of run-ins with drivers and never really having a close shave with danger, but being on the street just makes me jumpy, and being jumpy is exhausting. So having a means of commute through a well-populated area that's isolated from car traffic—really the only comparable thing is the lakeshore trail—will open up another stretch of the city for casual bikers
* Chicago's not alone in trying to convert old train lines to parks.
* The new Bloomingdale news made me curious whether there were other stretches of abandoned track that, in my fantasy world, would contribute to off-street bike navigation. About the best I could do was an old line that runs from Labagh Woods on the northwest side to Northbrook.
* Speaking of bike infrastructure—and paying for it—WBEZ's Justin Kaufmann has a suggestion:
Bikes: They are getting a free pass. They get to use our streets and our sidewalks for free. I say you drop a license (like license plates) on bikes. You have to pay $30 a year to have a bike in Chicago. You apply the UPC code to the bike's frame and if you don't have one you get a $50 ticket. When you sell the bikes at bike stores, you can't walk out without one. Boom, that's a trillion in new revenue.
It's not exactly true that bikers get to use the streets and sidewalks for "free," depending on what you mean. Technically, everyone in America is paying for our streets in some way. Steve Vance has a good overview of how bike lanes are paid for, and some of it comes out of federal money. If you mean that bikes, unlike cars, are not connected to any direct infrastructure funding mechanism, then yes, it's true.
I'm of two minds about this: one, if some kind of bike license funded considerable improvements in the city's bike infrastructure (like the Bloomingdale Trail, for instance), I could see an argument for it. Two: if you want more of something, it's a bad idea to tax it. Since a substantial increase in biking, if it replaced a comparable number of cars on the road, would be a net benefit to the city and to drivers—less congestion, less wear and tear on roads, more free parking spaces—it might actually be counterproductive to tax biking. Just saying. A New York assemblyman recently tried pushing legislation for this and failed, as did an assemblywoman in New Jersey. The main problem I see with both attempts is that they were punitive in nature.
* You can't text while biking in Chicago anymore, if you were thinking of doing it, which you shouldn't. I haven't noticed this as a scourge, but someone mentioned to me they'd seen a guy biking while operating a tablet. There oughta be a law: no fine, but your tablet gets seized and given to someone who won't inevitably break it doing something dumb like using it on a bike. If you aren't sufficiently worried about your body, at least have some respect for your gadgets.
Photograph: vinzcha (CC by 2.0)