In a year when many cities used the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink public space and implement ambitious initiatives to improve walking and biking infrastructure, writes Courtney Courtney Cobbs, Chicago’s progress on similar projects has been disappointingly slow. However, Cobbs hopes that a renewed focus on mobility justice and equity in the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)’s Complete Streets division shows promise for the future of transportation equity in the city.
Although the agency suspended their quarterly bicycle and pedestrian advisory council meetings last year, a notice sent out in September announced CDOT’s plans for a Transportation Equity Network to “develop closer relationships with communities and long-term strategies for mobility justice.” To make walking and biking safe and accessible for Chicago’s most vulnerable communities, Cobbs argues, the agency has to “make a concerted effort to increase the representation of women, gender-nonconforming individuals, Black and Brown folks, people with disabilities, and other marginalized people whose mobility needs have not been centered in previous transportation decisions” as well as decrease the power that car owners and individual aldermen have over the city’s land use and transportation decisions. “Part of ensuring [transportation equity] means making sure the community engagement process centers those who have been missing from the decision-making process.”
The Transportation Equity Network is one of two significant equity plans to focus on transportation in recent months. The city also released an Equitable Transit-Oriented Development policy plan in September 2020.