Protected Bike Lanes Debut Friday Downtown

Cyclists must obey new signals and could get ticketed for running them

Chicago's new protected bike lanes are set to debut Friday downtown along North Dearborn Parkway, from West Kinzie Street in the north to West Polk in the south.

It's part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to make Chicago one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. The first two-way bike route with dedicated bike-traffic signals debuts at 1 p.m.

Along the stretch of Dearborn, city officials removed a car lane and replaced it with a bike lane protected by traffic with a lane of parked cars. The 12-block route features 38 bike signals that cyclists must obey and could get ticketed for running them.

"It's a very big deal for people who want to bike, and we've found that people want safer streets, and more people do want to get out on their bikes," said Ethan Spotts with the Active Transportation Alliance.

The new lanes are intended to make the commute safer for those on two wheels, but some drivers wondered if the new lane configurations will really work.

"Sometimes they don't obey their signals," truck driver John Green said. "They just fly up, you know, red light or green light. You've got to keep your eye open for them."

"You know, I think it's probably a great idea because there are a lot of bike riders down here in the Loop area," pedestrian Petra Trotter said, "but I don't know, it just looks really dangerous right here for the cars. Like they're out in the middle of the street. Plus he's taken away a whole lane in the downtown area."

The city plans to add 25 miles of protected bike lanes every year, not only downtown but throughout neighborhoods as well. Emanuel vows to install 100 miles of bike lanes by 2015.

The first route, on Kinzie between Milwaukee and Wells, debuted in July 2011.

"Chicago moved up dramatically [on ranks of cities] on people who bike to work," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this month. "It's part of our sustainability plan. Third, it's part of my effort to recruit entrepreneurs and start-up businesses because a lot of those employees like to bike to work."

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