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Editorial: City’s new bike paths point in right direction

Chicago TransportatiCommissioner Gabe Kle(left) Mayor Rahm Emanuel Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) watch cyclists use bike lane Sunday Malcolm X College.

Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (left), Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) watch cyclists use a bike lane Sunday at Malcolm X College. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 9, 2012 6:14AM

In theory, any cyclist willing to dodge cracked pavement, oblivious motorists and the sudden opening of car doors could always have biked around Chicago.

But these days, the city is bent on making it much easier, in part to lure high-tech workers and their employers, who think the ability to commute by bicycle is a big plus.

On Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled plans to significantly expand the city’s protected bike lanes, including one that will run through the Loop on Dearborn and even have red lights for bikes. It’s part of his plan to make Chicago the “bike-friendliest” major city in the country by next year, with the most miles of protected bike lanes. Protected bike lanes use barriers to separate cyclists from cars. They make life easier for bicycle riders and motorists, but they cost $140,000 a mile to build and aren’t suitable for every roadway.

By the end of this year, Chicago will have 22 miles of new protected bike lanes, along with 11 miles of “buffered” lanes. Emanuel has promised to build 100 miles by the end of his term.

Protected lanes are superior to buffered lanes, which are set off only by painted markings. Cyclists in buffered lanes must dodge passenger-loading taxis, valet services and double-parked cars.

But as streets get more bicycle-friendly, it’s important that bicyclists get more street-friendly. No more blowing through stop signs and red lights, weaving through traffic and ignoring pedestrian crosswalks.

The city is off to a good start on its ambitious bike plan. It’s up to the rest of us to make it work.

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