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2013 in Cycling in Chicago: Groundbreaking Highs and Heartbreaking Lows

By Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | December 31, 2013 7:14am | Updated on December 31, 2013 12:17pm
 A look back at a year of highs and lows for cyclists in Chicago.
The year in cycling
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CHICAGO — It was a big year for Chicago cyclists, packed with groundbreaking highs and heartbreaking lows.

It's the year we saw protected bike lanes expand citywide, with plans for more on the way in 2014. Chicago welcomed its first fleet of sky-blue Divvy bikes this year, and white bikes joined the memorial landscape for cyclists Hector Avalos and Bobby Cann.

Take a look back at the cycling news that made headlines in 2013:

Divvy Debuts Bike-Share Program
Chicagoans and visitors no longer need their own Schwinn to hit the road on two wheels. In June, the city's first bike-share program hit the streets, and by September users had pedaled more than 1 million miles on the rentals. As of Monday, Divvy riders had taken 763,790 trips, covering 1.7 million miles. There are now 12,133 annual Divvy members.

Some drivers were irked to lose parking spaces to Divvy stations when the program first launched, but business owners welcomed the foot traffic that accompanied new bike docking sites.

Billing glitches caused some headaches for early adopters (though it paled in comparison to Ventra commuters' woes), but the program is poised to expand next year into the largest bike-share system in North America when it adds 175 stations to its current roster of 300.

Milwaukee Avenue's "Dooring Epidemic"
Car-related crashes were adding up along a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue nicknamed "a hipster highway," largely involving cyclists colliding with doors being opened from parked cars.

In February, 27-year-old bike messenger Dustin Valenta suffered serious injuries in a hit-and-run. In June, Colin Croom, 22, was "doored" in the same month that the City Council passed a new bicycle safety ordinance that included a $1,000 fine for drivers involved in doorings.

The dooring "epidemic" prompted Heritage Bicycles in Lakeview to suspend its rental program after a cyclist who was injured by a parked car won a $700,000 settlement for the incident.

Cyclists Killed in Run-Ins with Cars
In May 26-year-old Bobby Cann was struck and killed on his bike while riding home from his job at Groupon. An outpouring of support from the bicycling community followed, including a Critical Mass ride organized in Cann's honor.

The driver accused of hitting Cann was charged with driving under the influence, and the city now has plans to install protected bike lanes on the roadway where the crash occurred.

Three weeks before Christmas, former Marine Hector Avalos, 28, was also killed while riding his bike home from his job as a cook at El Hefe, in a run-in with a driver whose blood alcohol content was also over the legal limit at the time, according to authorities.

Protected Bike Lanes Expanded
The first stretch of barrier-protected bike lanes came to Dearborn Street at the end of 2012, but in 2013 the city and activists made amenities for cyclists a priority.

Milwaukee Avenue's paths, installed in June, debuted a passing lane and bike traffic signals. More ambitious projects now in the works include a bike lane buffered from traffic by bus stations and a two-way bike lane on Roosevelt Road that separates cyclists from cars with a line of trees.

A new, buffered bike lane was installed on Wells Street in Old Town this year, and more buffered lanes are currently in the works for Broadway Avenue in Uptown.

At the end of 2013, the protected Dearborn Street bike lane was named the best protected bike path in the country.

"Sucker Poles"
If nothing else, biking news this year taught Chicago cyclists an important lesson about locking up their wheels: A U-lock is no match for an organized theft ring armed with a sucker pole.