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South Loop Voters Concerned about Bike Lanes

Voters in the South Loop expressed their displeasure as they headed to the polls on Tuesday for Chicago’s mayoral and aldermanic elections.

Voters at a polling place in Grace Episcopal Church in the South Loop on Tuesday said they were passionate about bike lanes and other issues.

“Our city is being set up for bikes, and I have an issue with that,” said Millie Hemphill, an election worker at Grace Episcopal Church on south Dearborn St.

Residents line up to vote at Grace Episcopal Church in the South Loop

Hemphill said too many new bike lanes are popping up at once and it is all happening too fast.

“We need more time to get accustomed,” she added.

Chicago has over 200 miles of on-street protected, buffered and shared bike lanes, as well as many miles of off-street paths, according to the city’s website. This, along with over 13,000 bike racks throughout the city, makes the Chicago area friendly for residents who prefer to commute via bicycle.

Despite the concerns of some, the city is showing no plans of halting the bike lane’s spread.

The Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 calls for a 645-mile network of biking facilities to be implemented by 2020. This plan, backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, seeks to make Chicago the “best big city for bicycling in America,” proclaims the city’s website.

In addition to the uptick in bike lanes, there are also more bikes. In 2013, Emanuel allocated $3 million to expanding the bike sharing service Divvy, resulting in the addition of 175 Divvy stations in 2014. There are now 475 Divvy stations in Chicago.

Barbara Kerner, who lives in the South Loop across the street from Grace Episcopal, also criticized the bike lanes, which she said have become especially troublesome during the tough Chicago winters.

“They blocked buildings by plowing snow [from the bike lanes] toward building entrances,” Kerner said of the city’s snow plows.

Removing snow to accommodate winter bicyclists has made commuting difficult for both drivers and pedestrians, she said.

“This is supposed to be a historical area,” Kerner said of her block on Printer’s Row.

“[Emanuel] has ruined it with bike lanes.”

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