RIVER NORTH — The Downtown alderman's push this week to remove protected bike lanes from Kinzie Street has prompted an online campaign that has already solicited "thousands" of complaints from Chicago bicyclists, a local transportation group said Friday.
One day after Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) filed a City Council order pressuring the city's transportation chief to remove the protected bike lanes, the Chicago-based Active Transportation Alliance posted a "Save the Kinzie St. bike lane!" webpage urging supporters to relay concerns to their aldermen.
The webpage led to 300 complaints within 10 minutes Thursday, with the number of messages "probably in the thousands" now, ATA Executive Director Ron Burke said.
"Removing the bike lanes to what amounts to a couple blocks of Kinzie isn't going to do much. It's congested regardless," Burke said. "The answer shouldn't be 'let's create more space for cars.'"
Burke added that removing a bike lane wouldn't prevent bikers from using the street, since most city streets don't have dedicated bike lanes anyway.
Reilly, who did not immediately return a message seeking comment, filed the order Wednesday directing Chicago Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld to remove the Kinzie bike lanes from Dearborn Street to the west bank of the Chicago River. Reilly said the order, which has since been referred to a city council committee, is part of the approved Wolf Point development agreement.
The Kinzie bike lanes would be removed temporarily and new protected bike lanes would be installed on Grand Avenue while Wolf Point construction is underway. The first of three Wolf Point towers is scheduled to open this fall.
@DearbornBikeLn it is a temporary move (3 blocks north) during heavy construction of a couple million square feet of new buildings.— Brendan Reilly (@AldReilly) April 17, 2015
Despite their disagreements on Kinzie, Burke pointed out that Reilly has done "a lot" for making Downtown Chicago bicycle-friendly, and in 2013 the ATA presented him with an award for his efforts.
A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation told DNAinfo Chicago that Scheinfeld plans to talk with Reilly in hopes of working out the issue.
Read Mark Konkol on the story behind the fight for Kinzie's bike lanes.
There's also a sentimental factor. Kinzie Street in 2011 received Downtown's first high-profile protected bike lanes, which remain a main connector for North Siders bicycling to the Loop off Milwaukee Avenue, among other streets. The thoroughfare affords a scenic ride near the Chicago River, and Burke argues the intersection of Milwaukee and Kinzie is less "tricky" than Milwaukee and Grand.
"We'd love to see bike lanes on Grand, don't get me wrong, that would be fantastic," Burke said. "But not instead of Kinzie."
Opinions among bicyclists heading east on Kinzie near Canal Street were mixed Friday morning.
Gold Coast resident Stephen Goodman, 70, said he often rides the protected lanes on Kinzie but is "not all that wed to a particular street" when cycling Downtown.
"As long as they got decent bike lanes and make a little better effort to connect them," he said.
But Theresa Kettler, 29, of Avondale, thought the proposal was "kind of ridiculous."
Kinzie "is not even that busy of a street. This is the part of my trip where I'm least likely to be hit," Kettler said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: