Many cities have taken measures in recent years to improve bike safety. Chicago recently added some high-traffic trails to reduce risk to bicyclists and there are now vending stations to rent bikes throughout Chicago. Unfortunately, many suburban areas have not made bike safety a priority. Some of these areas have been designed to favor pedestrians and cars.
One reason few suburbs have bike and pedestrian-friendly policies in place is that the number of people biking to work may be falling; bike crashes remain stubbornly high; and large gaps remain in the regional trail network. Sadly, an average of ten bicyclists are killed annually in the suburbs, and 1,171 are injured, according to Illinois Department of Transportation statistics.
Many suburbs have roads designed to link to busy highways, which must be crossed on high-speed arterial bridges. Bill Chalberg, 74, president of the Downers Grove Bicycle Club, said that to get to the Illinois Prairie Path he has to navigate around Interstate 88 by taking Highland Avenue or Midwest Road — both busy streets in Downers Grove. He said he is a confident cyclist and does not mind doing it, but others are too nervous.
“I think there’s an opportunity to improve things by adding bike lanes,” said Chalberg. “It’s a leap of faith. If you put them in, slowly I think people will use them.”
Some suburbs are realizing that they need to incorporate more bike and pedestrian-friendly amenities like bike lanes to stay competitive with Chicago, which has gained some corporate employers at the expense of the suburbs. A few dozen of more than 280 municipalities in the metropolitan area have policies and plans in place to improve biking, according to the Active Transportation Alliance report.
“Towns realize that if they’re only designed for cars, they’re not seen as being an attractive place to live and work by young professionals,” said Barsotti. With the economy stagnating, more people would love to not have to have the expense of owning a car. Thanks to services like Uber and Lyft that can be a reality, even in the Midwest with our long winters.
One town that may serve as an example to other suburbs on how to become more pedestrian and bike-friendly is Aurora. Evanston, which also has protected bike lanes; and Bensenville, which is planning for specific trail and bike lane improvements. All of these efforts, over time can start to reduce the number of bicycle accidents.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident or are the victim of a bike accident due to someone else’s negligence, contact a skilled personal injury lawyer.