700+? Let’s keep going!
Apr 11, 2020 —
It’s Kyle here! I hope everyone is ok, staying home as much as possible and maintaining distance when you have to go out. For those don’t know who I am, I’m an architecture student and what’s now known as an essential worker living in Chicago, and if you’re seeing this that means you’ve probably signed my petition, or someone shared has it with you. If you’ve signed already, thank you SO much for your support. If you haven’t yet, I’m going to take a little bit of time to share with you why I started it and I hope you’ll consider joining the now over 700 people who have. 700. Wow. Seriously, thank you.
We’re all navigating an unprecedented era, and for many of you that means working from home while homeschooling your kids, for many it means waiting to hear from unemployment and searching for whatever few jobs there may be.
For me, it’s meant trudging on and commuting into work at 2 jobs everyday while trying to keep positive and keep myself and others safe. But with this comes a lot of fear, and as someone living with HIV, the simple task of commuting is a whole new ballgame. Taking transit is pretty scary for me. I don’t own a car, I can’t afford a car. So my preffered method of commuting to work is by bike and for a while now that’s been primarily along the Lakefront Trail. It’s my bike, nobody else is touching it, and when I’m on the trail it means I’m also safe from cars.
Now, the city made decisions to close the lakefront due to people ignoring calls for social distancing, but little regard was give for those who rely on the trail to commute safely from the virus and from cars. No alternatives were provided. A lot of people think of the trail as something that’s a source of recreation, and while I do enjoy using it for that when I have time, for me it’s a vital transportation route. It’s really the ONLY major bicycle commuting route in the city of Chicago that’s fully separated from cars. And that’s HUGE for safety for someone who’s riding a bike. And a pandemic doesn’t change that. If anything, it makes it even more vital.
Additionally, I’ve witnessed and experienced how difficult it is to socially distance when walking for essential trips, like going to the grocery store or picking up my ART meds from the pharmacy. I’ve had to take the street as a pedestrian just to maintain distance from others because the sidewalk is too narrow – and yes, I’ve had close calls with cars.
I’ve been thoroughly disappointed by the response from city leaders and organizations to questions about making more space for people to walk and bike. Aldermen have stated making space for people would be just an “attraction,” vs seeing the real need in their community. Just this morning, the mayor was asked about the lakefront trail for bicycle commuting, and gave a FIRM no with no recognition for the need for alternative car-free routes. The city’s largest transportation advocacy organization boiled it down to “it’s too bad people feel less safe.”
I don’t just FEEL less safe. I AM less safe.
While they were right to fight for bus commuters and won rear-door boarding and additional bus capacity, where is their fight for those of us who know the bus is still too dangerous, and really need to be on our bikes as much as possible.
Our aldermen should be reaching out to their communities to identify places in their ward where people need more space. Our transportation advocacy organizations should be asking bike commuters in essential jobs where they’re seeing the most risk. Our mayor should be seeing bikes a as a valid form of transportation for some essential workers in the midst of a global pandemic.
Here’s the reality: we don’t know when we’re going to be out of this, but it’s likely going to be longer than any of us could have imagined. It already is. And the longer our city leaders let our streets be dominated by cars and refuse to give more space for people, the more we put people at unneccesary risk.
So consider this video a call to action. If you can sign this petition and share it with others, that’s a great way to add to the growing support for this movement. But we need to do more than that. If you live in Chicago, I’m working with a few others in the community to write a letter that you can send to your aldermen asking them to provide more space for people. If you can’t wait for that letter, go ahead and give them a call, send your own email. While you’re at it, let other leaders in your community know your concerns. If we don’t speak up, we won’t be heard.
These are...terrible times. And in terrible times, it’s more important than ever that we come together and lift each other up. Right now, I’m asking that you lift up me and others who rely on bikes to get to essential jobs. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors, genders, orientations and backgrounds. We deserve to be safe. And we deserve your support.
Keep fighting for people power!
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