Residents express worries about impact of bike improvements


Stephanie Kelly/The Daily Northwestern

Community residents gather at the Erie Family Health Center, 1285 Hartrey Ave., to discuss the proposed bike improvement plan. City officials presented the plan for the area around Evanston Township High School, Church Street and Mason Park.

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

Community members expressed concerns about proposed bike improvements in the area around Evanston Township High School at a meeting held by city staff Thursday.

City officials discussed plans to develop bike routes and other renovations in the area surrounding ETHS, Church Street and Mason Park.

Officials presented the plan for the area to an audience of less than 15 people, mostly made up of Evanston residents. The meeting at the Erie Family Health Center, 1285 Hartrey Ave., was intended to be a workshop for staff to present the plan, which includes bike lanes, and then discuss it with residents and other attendees.

The improvements are in part meant to create a network of bike paths by connecting the various routes that exist throughout the city, including the area between the bike paths on Davis Street and Church Street, said Suzette Robinson, the city’s director of public works. The changes are supposed to serve as a part of a developing grid so residents can get around safely, she said.

“Part of our establishing a network is preventative. We don’t want to wait until we end up with multiple encounters,” Robinson said. “We do want to be thoughtful and try to get ahead to connect the dots before we end up with any type of issue.”

Some residents said they were concerned about the impact on parking spaces that the biking lanes would have and told Robinson that the city was not taking into consideration those that the lack of parking would affect.

At a City Council meeting Sept. 29, city officials presented a plan with two options: Either construct protected bike lanes with a bigger impact on parking spaces or construct unprotected bike lanes with less impact. Council voted in favor of the protected bike lanes.

There were many opportunities at previous city meetings for residents to voice their opinions about the bike lanes, Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said.

“This conversation about the bike lanes has been taking place for quite some time, even before I was on council,” he said.

Some residents said they were worried about the potential contact between bicyclists and people getting out of cars next to the bike lanes. Attendees also expressed concerns that bicyclists would not obey the rules of the road.

Once infrastructure for bicyclists improves, they are more likely to acknowledge laws more appropriately, attendee Justin Haugens said.

Robinson said all users of the road have to comply with regulations, as they are all responsible for following the rules.

“Bad behavior is bad behavior,” she said. “It happens from the drivers, to pedestrians, to bikers.”

However, another attendee said she was particularly upset that certain groups weren’t being taken into consideration when decisions were made about the bike lanes.

“When you do not consciously take into account every segment of your community that is going to be traveling on these roads, there is a group that will be greatly impacted and they will be disenfranchised from Evanston and move from Evanston because you are making it harder and harder for them to get around,” she said.

Richard Goodrow, a father and an Evanston resident since 2013, said he has not owned a car since 1999 and was soon going to take the training wheels off his daughter’s bike.

“Evanston again is looking at building something bold,” Goodrow said. “There is a point at which some people’s inconvenience doesn’t trump my kid’s safety.”

Robinson told The Daily she wished more people had come to the meeting since it spreads awareness and educates residents about the process.

“It also helps everybody respect each other and the use of the roadway better,” she said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @StephanieKellyM