It’s one thing for moderate-weather cities like Amsterdam and Portland, Ore., to boast of being bike-friendly. But when blustery Chicago rolls out the welcome mat for cyclists, that’s something else.
While Toronto has dithered over how to make cyclists feel safer on city streets, Chicago has adopted a Bike 2015 Plan, with 150 strategies.
Cabbies are being taught to share the road, and Mayor Richard M. Daley in February introduced bigger penalties for motorists who endanger cyclists. Laws state that drivers can’t turn in front of a rider, can’t open a vehicle door if a cyclist is riding by, and can’t pass one with less than a metre three feet of space.
Former Torontonian Ben Gomberg, Chicago’s bike program co-ordinator, said that for 15 years a fraction of U.S. gas taxes has been devoted to bike and pedestrian ideas. “You can’t do anything without funding,” he said. Since 1992, Chicago has received $49.6 million for bike projects.
Chicago has 184 kilometres of bike lanes and expects to add 32 this year, plus eight 8 kilometres of bikeways with markings that indicate cars and cyclists share the lane. Toronto’s master plan calls for 500 kilometres of bike lanes, but only 70 have been created. Officials hope to add 50 kilometres this year.
“You need political leadership, and we have that in Mayor Daley,” Gomberg said. “His goal is to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the States. He’s an active cyclist and he grills us on our work.”
Chicago isn’t the only beneficiary of Washington’s gas-tax largesse. Portland got a federal grant to create a complete sign system for bikeways. It’s hard to imagine Ottawa doing that for Toronto.

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