Chicago made news last week when it's #1 bicyclist, Mayor Richard Daley, introduced ordinances that would increase fines for reckless drivers who injure cyclists. The Chicago Sun-Times notes that "It's designed to reduce the number of crashes involving bikes and motor vehicles. There were 6,000 such crashes in Chicago between 2001 and 2005, killing 30 cyclists." For a quick comparison, there were more than 100 bike deaths in Los Angeles over the same period.
The Chicago bicycle federation quickly got behind the plan and wrote on its blog the details:
Specific provisions of the ordinance define three feet as the minimum safe distance to pass a bicyclist, prohibit opening a vehicle door into moving traffic, increase the fines for parking in bike lanes or marked shared lanes, clarify that left-turning motorists yield to oncoming bicyclists and prohibit motorists from turning right in front of a bicyclist.Violation of the proposed rules will result in a minimum fine of $150 and no less than $500 when the violation results in a bicycle crash. The proposed ordinance will make it easier for police to issue tickets, and for prosecutors to bring charges when motorists hit bicyclists.
Better enforcement of bike safety laws is a key part of the city's "Bike 2015" Master Plan, which aims to "make bicycling an integral part of Chicago's daily life." The plan is divided into eight sections, each with a specific goal:
- Bikeway Network – Establish a bikeway network that serves all Chicago residents and neighborhoods.
- Bicycle-friendly Streets – Make all of Chicago’s streets safe and convenient for bicycling.
- Bike Parking – Provide convenient and secure short-term and long-term bike parking throughout Chicago.
- Transit – Provide convenient connections between bicycling and public transit.
- Education – Educate bicyclists, motorists, and the general public about bicycle safety and the benefits of bicycling.
- Marketing and Health Promotion – Increase bicycle use through targeted marketing and health promotion.
- Law Enforcement and Crash Analysis – Increase bicyclist safety through effective law enforcement and detailed crash analysis.
- Bicycle Messengers – Expand the use of bicycle messengers; improve their workplace safety and public image.
As Los Angeles moves forward with it's own Master plan, Chicago's provides a useful blueprint. It shows that a Master Plan is more than just engineering, it's about creating a city where biking is safe, pleasant and affordable.
Image from bike2015plan.org