Two Wednesday’s ago, the University of Chicago held a public meeting about a new draft bicycle plan for the campus. A total of 3 students, including myself, were in attendance. The possible range of initiatives for such a plan is very broad. As a friend of mine noted before the meeting, “what does a bike plan mean?” Essentially, it is a plan to develop infrastructure and policies to make cycling safe and convenient on campus.
The plan is still being drafted, but the presentation shows an ‘all-of-the-above’ set of improvements on campus and streets near campus. This includes:
- On-street bicycle facilities on nearly all streets between 55th, the Midway, Cottage Grove, and Lake Park.
- Separated off-street cycle paths in the quadrangle and other pedestrian areas.
- Increased and higher-quality bicycle parking.
- Increased bicycle safety outreach and enforcement.
- Policies to encourage cycling and reevaluate needs over time.
There are several significant projects that have been recommended. Protected bicycle lanes on University with a traffic light at 55th would provide a much needed north-south connection through Hyde Park. Contraflow bicycle lanes on all one-way streets would legalize what is already a common practice in the neighbourhood. Along with improved infrastructure, enforcement against dangerous practices such as sidewalk riding and failure to cede right-of-way will improve safety for cyclist and pedestrians and make the road more comfortable for all users. While these individual recommendations would significantly improve cycling conditions, it is the broad scope of the improvements that would transform cycling and cyclist interactions with other road users.
Except for a traffic light at 55th and University, none of the plan’s proposals are expensive, CDOT is supportive, and the plan would not remove automotive lanes or parking. One significant barrier may impede the plan’s implement: support from the university administration and the community. The plan’s consultants have been hired by Facility Services, who are presently in charge of bicycle parking on campus. The Sustainability Office and Transportation & Parking offices are also aware of the plan, but no champion yet within the university administration with the ability to fund these improvements. Without a website and with only 3 students in attendance at the plan consultation meeting, public input will also have to be dramatically increased to legitimize the plan. I’d suggest reading through the plan.