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Gabe Klein Pursues a Pedestrian-Friendly Message in Chicago

After instituting new bike lanes and one of the nation’s largest bikeshare programs in D.C., Klein hopes to have similar success as Chicago’s new transit chief.

At one point or another, Chicago’s 2.7 million inhabitants become pedestrians. Whether they’re running an errand or catching a bus, Chicago’s new Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein wants to make sure they’re safe. “Our priority has to be the people walking,” Klein says, “because they have the least armor.”

Appointed in April, Klein was brought to Chicago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replicate some of the successes he had as director of the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. The bike enthusiast is best known for expanding bike lanes in the District and its popular bike-sharing program, which is one of the nation’s largest. Since its inception in 2008, it has grown from a membership of 1,600 people to more than 18,000 today.

Building on that success in Chicago, Klein has implemented the city’s first protected bike lane, giving bicyclists a safe route downtown and pedestrians a bigger buffer from vehicular traffic. It’s a step toward a pedestrian initiative that includes employing friendlier intersections, executing a public awareness campaign for walkers and motorists, and potentially installing video screens at the city’s 2,200 lighted bus shelters. These screens would convey a bevy of information on how close the next bus is, current inventory for car- and bike-sharing programs and calculations of how long it would take to walk to nearby destinations.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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