Having a wide range of safe transportation options is vitally important to the physical, mental and business health of our community. Our children should be able to walk or bike to school. Commuters should be able to walk or bike to transit. Seniors should be able to enjoy walking or biking or getting to transit easily. Our business districts could serve more customers with fewer cars and become more vibrant. When more of us walk and bike to our destinations instead of speeding past in cars, we become more positively engaged in our community. Having more eyes on the street helps to reduce crime. We have less air pollution and less traffic congestion if there are fewer cars making short trips on local streets. Real estate prices can be up to 30% higher in walkable, bikeable neighborhoods.
Bicycles are healthy and affordable transportation, not just recreation. Whether someone is shopping by bike, riding to school or library, going out to eat or just getting around, they should be able to arrive safely and find good bike racks at their destination so they can secure their bike. When painted or decorated, racks can enhance the branding of adjacent businesses.
Several years ago, the city and a team of volunteers worked to develop Streets for Cycling 2020, a comprehensive bike route network plan covering the entire city. While nearby wards have added many miles of protected and regular bike lanes, contraflow lanes and other infrastructure, the 19th ward has added almost none. Making progress towards a real network of bike lanes could improve quality of life for ward residents as well as making our ward a more attractive destination for local and regional bike touring and bring more customers to our businesses.
A real bike route network could encourage more schools to develop Safe Routes to School programs. If more students walk or bike to school, conditions on our streets and in school drop-off zones become safer for everyone – students, parents, neighbors and anyone else getting around the ward. Instead of sitting in cars, students get exercise and gain opportunities to learn basic street safety skills. Walking or biking leads to better health outcomes and better cognitive function.
Working to improve conditions for transit riders makes our business districts stronger. Employees, customers, and owners can all see benefits when bus stops are clear of snow and ice in winter, when we have bus shelters at all locations where they’re needed, and when transit is reliable. Reliable transit improves quality of life for commuters, students, seniors and anyone else who relies on CTA, Pace and Metra. It also helps to reduce traffic congestion.
Green infrastructure can be part of our solution for safer streets and reducing flooding. Curb bumpouts with native plant bioswales can slow down drivers, shorten crossing distance and after rain events reduce the amount of water standing on streets and going into sewers.
If we can get around safely regardless of our means of transportation, our ward becomes a healthier, more vibrant place to live.