DC Laws: Comparison with other cities (Chicago)

22 Aug

Since the Nats are playing the Cubs, this might be a good week to look at Chicago’s bike laws. I’ll admit I don’t know Chicago as well as I know the cities I’ve profiled so far. The only time I actually lived there, it was January and my NYC non-profit was trying to get me to take over their Chicago office. I was just out of college at the time and I think they thought they could pull a fast one on a young woman interested in advancement. Or maybe they’d never been to Chicago in January, where the Lake is often frozen over and the wind blows fiercely all month. Needless to say, after my stay hunkered down indoors for most of the month, I politely refused the offer and took my chances something would else would turn up in NYC. But I’ve been to Chicago many times since, always carefully scheduling my visits between June and September and it is a great town. There are not many physical similarities with DC other than that it is a big city and spread out over miles.

Chicago too does not allow bicyclists to ride on the sidewalks. Here’s one excerpt from their laws that makes that pretty plain:

9-52-020 Riding bicycles on sidewalks and certain roadways

(a) No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district. (b) No person 12 or more years of age shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in any district, unless such sidewalk has been officially designated and marked as a bicycle route…

The next section provides a specific penalty for persons age 18 and older riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in an area near Loyola University and the ability of police to disable the offending bike. My uneducated guess is that there must have been some problem with this activity from college students in the area and this rule was an attempt to address it.

Here’s the link to the Chicago laws, including state law, municipal code and contact with the Chicago Department of Transportation”s Bicycle program as well as other helpful documents and publications:

http://www.chicagobikes.org/bikelaws/

From speaking with a friend who works for Northwestern and lives in Evanston, which is just north of the Chicago boundary, it appears that there are a number of what we would know as “protected bike lanes”, particularly in Evanston, like the one on 15th street here. But that is not universally true. But neither she nor my other friends who live in Chicago or environs have seen bicyclists riding on the sidewalks even though there are plenty of bicyclists.

So, yet another example that it can be done. Stay tuned for more cities in the future. Without suggestions from readers, your blogger may just use the remainder of the Nats schedule to spotlight future city stops.

Meanwhile, here in DC, the weather’s supposed to be great for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington celebration and just about anything else you want to do. Just remember to STAY ALERT AND STAY STAFE.

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