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Chicago Passes New York, Named 'Best Bike CIty' In America

By Alex Nitkin | September 19, 2016 11:23am
 Cyclists on Milwaukee Avenue
Cyclists on Milwaukee Avenue
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

CHICAGO — Chicago has surpassed New York as America's "best bike city," according to a comprehensive list compiled by the magazine Bicycling this month.

The magazine sifted through census data, tabbed infrastructure projects and surveyed advocacy groups to build a ranking of the 100 best cities to get around by bike. In the magazine's last ranking, published in 2014, Chicago came in second behind the Big Apple.

Bicycling credited the city's continually expanding Divvy bike network, new public paths like the 606 Bloomingdale Trail and the ongoing rollout of protected bike lanes for earning it the top spot.

The list's authors singled out Mayor Rahm Emanuel, saying he made good on his 2011 promise to designate 100 miles of new bike lanes, and so far he looks to be following through on a 2015 promise to lay out 50 more.

Emanuel accepted an award for the title during a public event Monday morning in Julia de Burgos Park, 1805 N. Albany Ave., under the shadow of the 606 in Logan Square.

"Our goal has been to make it easier and safer for everyone — no matter their age or ability — to get around on a bicycle, whether it’s for work, school, exercise or fun," Emanuel said, according to a city press release. "If you live in Chicago, or are visiting and want to take advantage of our great Divvy system, we want everyone to feel comfortable biking in our great city.”

Leaders of the Chicago-based Active Transportation Alliance celebrated the announcement Monday, trumpeting their own role in nudging many of the city's advances in biking infrastructure.

"Five years ago, a lot of people thought Active Trans was asking for the moon and stars when we called for a network of barrier-protected bike lanes and launching a bike sharing program,” said Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke, according to a press release. "But those ideas — like so many others we have promoted — have caught on and have since come to fruition.”

Divvy has expanded its reach every year since it launched in 2013, with almost 600 stations now covering about 60 percent of the city's area, plus parts of Evanston and Oak Park.

The Illinois Department of Transportation built the city's first-ever stretch of concrete-protected bike lanes along Clybourn Avenue in Old Town last year, and city officials say they plan to build more of them downtown as a continuation of the Loop Link project.

Chicago has added more than 108 miles of bike lanes since 2011, bringing the city to 292 total miles of bikeways, including 47 miles of off-street trails, officials said.

The news comes during a dangerous summer for Chicago cyclists. 

Earlier this month, a 20-year-old man riding a bicycle along Irving Park Road near Marmora Avenue was critically injured when he was hit by an SUV. Last month, Francisco Cruz, 58, was killed by a car while biking in the 4000 block of West Maypole Avenue. On August 16, 20-year-old Lisa Kuivinen was struck and killed by a massive truck on Milwaukee Avenue. The nation's first bike-share fatality happened in Chicago on July 1, when 25-year-old Virginia Murray was hit by a flatbed truck while riding a Divvy bike at Belmont and Sacramento avenues. On June 15, Logan Square man Blaine Klingenberg died after being hit by a double decker bus while biking on Michigan Avenue.

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