Chicago's Pedestrian & Cycling Plans

Project: Planning for Pedestrians and Cyclists
Chicago, Illinois

Year Completed: Pedestrian & Cycling Plans released in 2012

Project Sponsor: Chicago Department of Transportation

Lead Consultant: Sam Schwartz Engineering D.P.C.

Project Summary: The City of Chicago has set a high standard for creating more walkable and bikable streets. Two recent plans have created a framework to make this transformation possible: The Chicago Pedestrian Plan and the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan. Both plans were initiated by the Chicago Department of Transportation, and supported by a consultant team led by Sam Schwartz Engineering. Project leaders coupled comprehensive data analysis with public outreach efforts to ensure that key community priorities, such as connectivity and livability, were effectively addressed. Both plans also aim to address the health needs of Chicagoans by working towards the city’s target goal of reducing obesity for both children and adults by 10%, as stated in the Healthy Chicago Public Health Agenda.

The city’s very first Pedestrian Plan aims to make Chicago the most pedestrian friendly city in the country. With an emphasis on pedestrian health and safety, the plan’s ambitious “Zero in Ten” initiative seeks to eliminate pedestrian fatalities in 10 years, and has sparked a national discussion on the topic of street safety. Another section of the Plan is fully dedicated to discussion of the health benefits of increasing walking opportunities for Chicago’s residents. With the goal of increasing the total number of pedestrian trips made daily, the Plan sets out strategies to eliminate barriers and promote walking. The policy actions found in the plan stretch beyond the purview of the Department of Transportation, involving a variety of City agencies and community partners in the development and maintenance of vibrant, livable streets. For example, several strategies highlight the value of conducting temporary closures in conjunction with community programming – including Play Streets, Open Streets, and Car Free Day.

The Streets for Cycling Plan began with a challenge from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to create 100 new miles of protected bike paths throughout the city. Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein is up for the challenge, commenting "We're making everyone safer at a very low cost and getting people out of their cars on top of it -- that's what you call a no-brainer.” In addition to protected lanes, the plan has a guiding principle of providing bicycle accommodation within ½ mile of every residence – eventually reaching an overall target of 645 miles of bike routes throughout the city. This emphasis on geographic equity means that currently underserved neighborhoods in the Southern and Western portions of the city will also begin to benefit from the city’s investments in bicycling infrastructure. Building safer streets and sidewalks will encourage pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities to actively commute to their destination.

Both plans have seen successes and met their interim goals since their initial release. Exceeding its initial goal set out in the Bike Plan, the city installed 28 miles of protected bikeways in 2012. Another 35 miles are planned for installation in 2013-2014 in order to reach its subsequent goal of 100 miles installed by May 2015. Miles of neighborhood greenways are under construction to meet the goal of 10 miles developed by 2015. The city has also launched “Divvy,” its bike share system, with 300 bike stations and 3000 bikes.

The Pedestrian Plan has itself seen many successes as the first all-way pedestrian crossing, or “Barnes Dance” was installed at the busy intersection of State Street and Jackson Boulevard. The city also launched several programs aimed at promoting pedestrian safety, including one that allows people to report unsafe driver behavior. The city also launched a Play Streets program in collaboration with a Partnership for a Healthier America.

The City of Chicago with support from Sam Schwartz Engineering are well on their way to developing a city with better access and support for health and physical activity.

The full Chicago Pedestrian Plan is available here; the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan can be reached here.

  • User Side Images Image 229
    Chicago Pedestrian Plan; Chicago Department of Transportation.
  • User Side Images Image 230
    Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan; Chicago Department of Transportation.