Given the rapid innovations on city streets over the last four years, New York cyclists and pedestrians don’t yet have much cause to be envious of their counterparts in Chicago. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little green watching Mayor Rahm Emanuel express such unqualified support for an ambitious bike lane plan while elucidating the benefits of cycling as transportation. Less than three weeks after being sworn in, Emanuel joined his transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, for the groundbreaking of the city’s first protected bike lane. What’s good for cyclists, says Emanuel in this news clip, is good for the city.
More than that, Emanuel has thrown down the gauntlet to other big-city leaders. By declaring his intent to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the nation, and walking the walk from the outset, he has effectively placed the onus on his peers to keep up. For an idea of how high Emanuel has set the bar, he’s talking 25 miles of protected bike lanes per year — more than New York City has installed to date.
While New York, Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles have all made strides recently, none that we can think of have been accompanied by this level of high-visibility commitment from their respective mayors. Emanuel campaigned on transportation reforms and is enacting livable streets policy right away, without apology. As if making a city’s streets safer and more accessible is the most obvious thing in the world.
Go Rahm go.