Biking Down Milwaukee? Be Careful, Says the Data

A map of 150 crashes from Sept. 12 to Oct. 2 of 2019, with the bike paths highlighted in blue underneath. | Source: Chicago Data Portal, 2019

Chicago is hailed by Bicycling magazine as one of the best cities for bikers — time and time again, shooting from 5th place in 2012 to 1st in 2016.

But last year, Chicago dropped down to 6th. What changed?

Safety, they find. Pulling in only a 28/40 for the “safety” category, Chicago’s lack of progress on protected bike lanes hasn’t just docked it points, but also hurt its riders.

From September 12 to October 2, 150 bike crashes occured within city limits. The majority of them? Streets surrounding the Loop — as well as Milwaukee Ave.

A map with a light grey background centered on the Fulton River District and River West areas of Chicago. Bike lanes are marked in blue and bike crashes are marked with red dots.

Bike crashes from September 12 to October 2 were highly concentrated in the areas directly surrounding the Loop downtown. |Source: Chicago Data Portal, 2019

Areas like River North, River West, and the Fulton River District saw the most crashes concentrated in a region, with the most happening on streets directly adjacent to bike paths.

Crashes are clustered around intersections on bike-heavy Milwaukee Ave., as well, making one of Chicago’s busiest bike paths outside of the Bloomington 606 Trail and the Lakefront Trail a danger zone.

This isn’t a surprise to the City of Chicago — in 2012, the city released a report on studies done between 2005 and 2010 of bicycle crashes and rider habits.

The findings? Crashes were most likely to occur at intersections (55 percent) and the six community areas directly to the northwest of the city contributed the most to bike ridership — and bike crashes.

So what can we do? The answer is clear to urban planners and bikers alike: protected bike lanes. CityLab reports that as bike lanes increased, Chicago’s level of fatalities and injuries dropped by nearly 60 percent.

Until more protected bike lanes are put in place, however, it might just be safer to cruise down the Lakefront Trail or take a ride down the 606.

Interested in learning more about biking in the city? Check out Curbed Chicago’s article here.

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