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City Construction Projects Are Major Concerns For Cyclists

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We now know more about the bicyclist struck and killed after being hit by a truck in the West Loop neighborhood Thursday morning.

Angela Park was a Northwestern alum and a trainer at the Chicago Athletic Club. She worked there for the past 13 years and was known as an inspiring instructor. She was traveling in an area with significant construction.

Does the city take enough precautions to keep bicyclists safe when traveling by construction sites?

CBS 2's Vince Gereasole has the story from Chicago's River North neighborhood.

Even without construction, the corner of Ontario and Dearborn is a busy intersection. Contractors are putting the finishing touches on a new nightclub that's destined for this location. Even though there's a fair amount of signage here, not everyone is paying attention.

On Dearborn and Ontario, construction blocks an entire lane of traffic.

And it has completely shut down a bike lane. Signs warn bicyclists to take an alternate route. But time and time again, CBS 2 found bicyclists unaware of the warning or completely ignoring them, squeezing into fast moving traffic around the site. Some walking their bikes know it's risky.

"It's a little nuts," said James Webb of Roscoe Village. "I wouldn't recommend it until they finish construction. It's a little bit dangerous."

Construction projects like these must submit a traffic control plan with the Chicago Department of Transportation. Bikeway accommodations for blocked lanes are required as well as a detour plan unless CDOT deems that they aren't necessary.

"It's important for people to be paying closer attention to what's going on," said Jim Merrell of the Active Transportation Alliance. "It's more of a human issue than a bicyclist or driver issue."

At the corner of Halstead and Madison where a bicyclist was run over by a truck Thursday, there are an abundance of construction and caution signs.

Bicyclists face this choice as two lanes merge into one: should they continue on and squeeze by motor vehicle traffic on the left?  CBS 2 found bicyclists who made that choice.

"About 125,000 bike trips are happening a day in the city of Chicago," said Merrell.

He applauds the city for its expansion of bike lanes. He said control over construction sites, however, could be better.

"We haven't seen a strong degree of enforcement and we think there's an opportunity for CDOT to ramp up enforcement, to make sure construction zones are really living up to what they have committed to," added Merrell.

CBS 2 has been in touch with CDOT but the agency has not been able to confirm how many inspectors are coming out to construction sites or whether the signs belong to the city or the contractors.

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