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Chicago cyclists face dangers despite 'best bike city' award

Chicago bike road.jpg

It's been a deadly year for Chicago cyclists. Despite the honor of best bike city in the U.S. by Bicycling magazine award last month, six people have been killed while biking in or around Chicago in the past year, four of which were in a two-month span over the summer. Although the bike paths and lanes built as of lane have been a boon for the cyclists in the city, there are still obvious dangers which need addressing.

20-year-old SAIC student Lisa Kuivinen was killed in August when a semi-truck making a right turn in the bike lane and struck her. Northwestern University international student Chuyuan Qiu was struck by a truck driver in Evanston in September - the driver was not cited. Recent Loyola graduate Asastasia Kondrasheva was hit by a truck making a right turn next to her at the intersection of Addison and Damen. These are just three of the six cyclist deaths this year, and all of which involved a large truck or van. Six is the average number of bike deaths in Chicago every year, yet there is still a month and a half left in 2016.

What can make cycling in Chicago safer?

Chicago has made great strides over the past five years to make the city more safely bikeable, including more protected bike lanes and the Divvy bike share system. However, Chicago is missing several key attributes which make other cities rank high on the list. For example, fellow Midwestern city Minneapolis has off-road bike paths than can take cyclists from various neighborhoods safety to the city center and business district.

The bike lanes the city does have are often full of potholes and other construction issues, full of illegally-parked cars ignoring the law or shut down entirely by utility or construction work. Protected lanes, or streets that are designated specifically for bikers and pedestrians, would be the ideal situation to help cyclists feel safe on the road and encourage novices to start biking more.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced the Vision Zero plan to work with 10 different departments in the city to keep improving bikeability. Emanuel announced plans for 50 more miles of mostly protected bike lanes, provide accommodation for biking within half a mile of everyone in the city and provide more bike lanes and other accommodations in residential areas.

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