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Testimony in Support for Safe Streets Pilot Ordinance

March 10, 2023
Chicago City Council
RE: Support for Safe Streets Pilot Ordinance (O2023-874)

Members of City Council:

The Metropolitan Planning Council supports the Safe Streets Pilot Ordinance (O2023-874) because it will improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, increase the efficiency of our bus network, and encourage safer driving behavior.

Chicago’s streets have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. The city has added 264 miles of bike lanes, and 11 miles of dedicated bus lanes. The purpose of these installations is to provide safe, reliable transportation corridors for our most sustainable modes of transportation. Indeed, increasing transit use and cycling are central goals of the City’s recently adopted Climate Action Plan, and ensuring these facilities work as intended is critical to increasing use of these modes.

Our streets are crowded and complex, and the very bike lanes and bus lanes that are supposed to make these modes of transportation safe and efficient are frequently abused as loading zones, automobile driving lanes, or parking spots. These widespread violations slow down buses, which have to merge into crowded traffic lanes when they encounter a vehicle parked in a bus lane. These violations similarly force cyclists out of bike lanes and into traffic, which is dangerous, and defeats the purpose of dedicated lanes intended to enable a safe, reliable, unobstructed ride.

Chicago needs tools to protect the users and functions of these critical transportation assets. For this reason, we are happy to see the Safe Streets Pilot Ordinance in Committee today. This ordinance would enable automated enforcement technologies to ensure our bus lanes, bike lanes, and bus stops remain clear, and provide the fast, safe and reliable transportation routes intended. The ordinance explores this technology in a practical way by introducing a pilot, which will allow the city to assess effectiveness and any needed changes in the future. With this program, Chicago will join New York, San Franciso, and Seattle in adopting these technologies.

MPC urges your yes vote. We thank you for your consideration of this pilot.

Darlene O. Hightower
President & CEO