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UIC Bike Lanes - Petition for Co-Snow Removal

Shortly after launching Bike Lane Uprising, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)'s campus quickly became a hotspot for bike lane obstructions. While many obstructions involve vehicles illegally blocking bike lanes, snow has been a big problem on UIC's campus as well.


Each winter, our database collects records documenting bike lanes near the campus filled with snow and ice (photos below). In general, it is the responsibility of Department of Streets and Sanitation and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to clear bike lanes near the UIC campus. Our database has also documented university employees illegally plowing snow into bike lanes on numerous occasions. If snow is plowed into a bike lane that has been cleared, that snow will remain there indefinitely, since the city has likely marked the lane as clear. Plowing snow into bike lanes is illegal and can fetch responsible parties up to $500 fines for each day.


Video of UIC Grounds Department illegally plowing snow into the Halsted bike lane:


Many cyclists in snowy environments bike all year round. Bike lanes that are not maintained during the winter can be a big safety problem. In order to understand how we might improve bike lanes we've spent the last two years learning everything we could about how bike lanes are created, maintained, and the politics behind them. From our learnings, we believe 80% of bike lane obstructions can and should be solved by design and process transformation. While the data we collect can identify problem bike lane locations and repeat obstructors, the data we collect can also hold insights to solve problem locations. Photos show context of what is actually going on. Anyone involved in design innovation understands that it's actually a good thing to identify problems, pain points, and how systems aren't working. Those problems often unlock unique opportunities to make things better. By learning about the technical limitations of bike lanes and pairing those insights with data submitted to our database, unique opportunities to solve bike lane obstructions often unveil themselves.


For example, a month ago, we had the pleasure to talk to UIC's Vice Chancellor John Coronado. During that call he acted swiftly to request the Chicago Police move their line of cruisers from the Halsted bike lane. Vice Chancellor Coronado shared our desire to improve biking conditions on the UIC campus. He shared the campus is working on internal initiates to make the campus more bike-friendly. We also learned through our advocacy work recording the Mayors Bicycle Advisory Council meetings, that UIC helped pay for the improvements to the Harrison street bike lane.


Over the course of the last 2 years, we have learned just how difficult it is for the city to clear bike lanes. Cleaning protected bike lanes requires smaller plows that can fit in bike lanes. The city simply does not own enough of these plows to clear bike lanes in a timely manner. Based on the equipment we have witnessed on UIC's campus plowing snow into bike lanes, we feel UIC could be good candidates to become our allies and actually take on aiding in snow removal from campus bike lanes. So...we figured it was worth a shot to pitch the idea to Vice Chancellor Coronado. We have emailed inquiring if UIC would be willing to help clear snow from campus bike lanes. Fingers crossed this works🤞 We will update you when we hear more, but it probably wouldn't hurt for UIC to hear directly from staff, students, and neighbors who would benefit from clear bike lanes on campus. (Link to Twitter post. Link to Facebook post. Link to Instagram post)


Email sent to UIC's Vice Chancellor John Coronado requesting aid in clearing campus bike lanes:

"Hello Vice Chancellor,


We spoke on the phone a month or so ago regarding blocked UIC bike lanes.  During that call, it was clear you share our interest in keeping bike lanes clear.  I think I may have a tangible opportunity for UIC to help us improve bike lanes on/near the campus.  As you might already know, clearing bike lanes of snow is the responsibility of Streets and Sans and CDOT.  These two departments have a great deal of area to cover and subsequently clearing bike lanes are typically a lower priority task.  When bike lanes are cleared, many businesses tend to plow their sidewalk snow into bike lanes.  Our database shows UIC facilities maintenance crews routinely plow snow illegally into bike lanes.  This has made many campus bike lanes near campus incredibly dangerous.  Even worse, if the lane was already cleared by Streets and Sans and CDOT, the snow pushed into the bike lanes will remain in the bike lane for days, weeks, and even months. 


To help illustrate what UIC bike lanes look like during the winter, below are a few photos and a video. Based on our last conversation, it's clear your team is seeking opportunities to improve biking conditions near campus.  We also realize UIC helped pay for part of the installation of the Harrison bike lane (thank you).  Perhaps UIC would be willing to help clear bike lanes of snow during winter?  


Protected bike lanes often require smaller equipment to clear lanes. The city only owns a few of these smaller pieces of equipment, which can cause further delays in clearing bike lanes. I believe the university owns equipment that could potentially fit in these lanes.  I'd be happy to chat further, but overall, this type of commitment from the university would not go unnoticed.  If the university were able to help clear bike lanes, this could dramatically improve the safety of cyclists and help promote year round cycling. "


Photo of snow illegally pushed into bike lane by UIC grounds department:


Photo of snow uncleared from protected bike lane on UIC campus.

When submitting this to 311, this was cleared stating the snow had been cleared. Read more on issues with the 311 system here


Photo of bike lane that had not been cleared of snow as well as snow plowed into it.

When submitting this to 311, this was cleared stating the snow had been cleared. Read more on issues with the 311 system here


Uncleared bike lane on UIC's campus that turned into a sheet of ice.


Polk Street bike lane on UIC's campus that had snow illegally plowed into it by university grounds department as well as a UIC van illegally parked in it.


Harrison Street bike lane on UIC's campus that had snow illegally plowed into it by university grounds department.


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