Residents at a 1st Ward meeting Tuesday night pressed officials to crack down on bicyclists who ride on downtown sidewalks.

Police Community Strategies Officer Scott Sengenberger told residents 14 citations had been issued to bikers since March.

Several audience members, however, said they were fed up with the situation. Concerns about bikes on downtown sidewalks have been a recurring issue for decades.

“If you don’t enforce it, they’ll ignore it,” said one resident.

Sengenberger said he would work with his supervisors “to establish something as a goal for increased citations.”

Officer Scott Sengenberger.

But, he said, “probably about 20 to 25 percent of people riding downtown that end up on the sidewalks at some point.”

Sengenberger said it’s often easier to verbally order people off the sidewalks than to issue a $15 citation or written warning.

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said the city planned to launch a new information campaign to inform riders of the city’s ordinance banning cycling on downtown sidewalks. She added that the city would work with Northwestern University officials to inform students in the community as well.

Despite some residents’ assumptions that the problem stemmed mostly from NU students, Robinson said high school and middle school students contribute to the problem as well.

She said the city intends to study travel patterns to offer young bikers a safe corridor that is not on city sidewalks.

“All of this became an issue because we have so many bikes, there are so many people out there biking,” she said.

“That’s a good problem to have, now we have to figure out how to manage all those modes.”

Alderman Judy Fiske.

But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said, “People are getting hit by bikes. We can’t come to every single meeting and talk about this for half an hour”

Addressing Robinson and Sengenberger, she added, “We’re going to ask you guys to be a little more aggressive in terms of enforcement and planning as to how to get the word out.”

Top: Bike photo by Alex Anon.

Join the Conversation


  1. Are you serious?

    People are getting shot, robbed, assaulted, etc with a low conviction rate and this is what you're worried about?!

    Yeah, its obnoxious that the bikers don't follow laws while riding in the middle of the street, cutting off cars, and whistling at women; but there are much bigger things to worry about as well.

    1. I have to agree with the

      I have to agree with the above. Our schools are performing well below other north shore schools, we have a gang problem, and there have been several shootings in Evanston. Get over the bike situation and focus on the real problems. I also agree with the fact that any biker who has ridden the streets of Evanston knows they are not a safe place to ride. I ride with two toddlers in  baby seats attached to my bike. There is no way I am going to risk their lives in order to avoid a $15 citation. The new bike lanes are a great start and will add to the quality of life in Evanston. But, there aren't many bike lanes yet.  I ride on sidewalks all the time and I walk on sidewalks all the time. I have never hit anyone nor have I been hit by a biker in my life. Let's prioritize.

      1. I see bikers in the special bike lanes rarely

        I HOPE I see more bikers in these expensive special-purpose lanes eventually to justify them, otherwise it's just another pricey project for a special group. Sidewalks are for walking, not riding, but I get the fact that cyclists and drivers do not always co-exist. Regardless, controlling this environment really should rest on the individuals not the police.

      2. Get your facts straight and stop slamming the schools

        Our schools are not performing below other north shore schools and certainly not well below. ETHS is ranked nationally as one of the best schools in the Nation.

        Better yet ask who pushed these bike paths through. There is 1st ward alderman Ms Fiske speaking about how dangerous the bikes are when she is one of the ones pushing them through even on Church where there is a parking lot with cars coming and going and a Church drop off door for the elderly and disabled right across the street. Just wait until that collision course is finished. Once again she speaks with fork tongue!!!

  2. Ridiculous…

    There are two sides to every story.  Has it ever occurred to these non-biking oldsters that it's DANGEROUS to ride bikes on the street downtown?  I bet they'd be on the sidewalks in 30 seconds if they had to ride on Church or Sherman.  The quote:

    “All of this became an issue because we have so many bikes, there are so many people out there biking,” she said."

    is so telling — there are not "so many people out there biking" in Evanston OR Chicago. 

    Copenhagen has "so many people out there biking."  So does Seattle.  Portland.  Evanston and Chicago bikers are lone, brave souls who often ride in packs for safety.

    This general metro area is often rated by cyclists as one of the most biker-and-pedestrian-unfriendly regions. 

    Compared to Seattle or Portland where, you know, cars will actually stop for you when you want to cross the street on foot, and drivers know how to deal with bikers. 

    The fact is, Evanston is shelling out a lot of money for bike lanes (which aren't even done yet…) because IT WAS UNSAFE for bikers to share the street, the way things were.  Anyone who has actually tried to cross the street on a major Evanston street knows that Evanston drivers don't share.  They don't even obey traffic lights.

    People can yell and give out all the citations they want — bikers are aware how vulnerable they are against the cars.  Any sane person woul take the risk of getting a ticket over a hit-and-run or getting doored, and a much more expensive trip to the ER.  Especially when biking with children, who don't have the experience of handling traffic *and* their smaller bikes and bodies are harder to spot.

    To make things truly safe for bikers, it will take a massive shift in culture.  Soccer moms n dads will have to give up one of their minivans and take up the handlebars to really get what this is all about.  A lot more people would have to choose open-air commuting.  Only then will drivers really become aware of cyclists.

    I am a careful, occasional sidewalk-rider who has never hit ANYBODY.  I have eyes in my head — I walk my bike when the sidewalk is occupied.  But I will never stop being safe, especially with my young son, even if it comes with a citation.  I know what I'm up against — in a collision, the cars always win.  I would much rather not go to the hospital, or have to see my son with a cast.

    1. You are a prime example

      You are a prime example of why motorists do not respect bicyclists: you don't obey the law.

      1. Bikes on the sidewalk because cars are deadly

        It is simple fact.  There is NO WAY to get to downtown Evanston safely, especially if you are riding with a child, without being on the sidewalk at least some of the time.

        More drivers, including buses and city vehicles, routinely drive in bike lanes, than bikes ride on sidewalks.

        As a city we made a poor design choice by having bike lanes between "parking" and traffic lanes.  It means drivers treat those bike lanes as extra space.  It means car doors slam into bikers.

        I'll take a $15 ticket over death any day


  3. Why is that?

    LOL, driving down Church st. the other day, ETHS had just let out, no bikes in the bike lanes but several bikes on the sidewalk right next to the bike lane.  I see the same thing downtown all the time, people riding down the sidewalks or people riding on the north side of Church where there is no bike lane.  

    They just installed these expensive bike lanes, what is up with that?

  4. The usual responses

    1. "People are getting shot, robbed, assaulted, etc with a low conviction rate and this is what you're worried about?!"

    2. "Anyone who has actually tried to cross the street on a major Evanston street knows that Evanston drivers don't share.  They don't even obey traffic lights."

    3. "I see the same thing downtown all the time, people riding down the sidewalks or people riding on the north side of Church where there is no bike lane. They just installed these expensive bike lanes, what is up with that?"

    I bike a lot around Evanston. I find the city a pretty bike friendly place. I wear a helmet and make it a point not to ride my bike on downtown sidewalks, and to at least stop at red traffic lights and stop signs at four-way intersections. There are many others like me, but I'll admit we represent a minority of Etown bike riders.

    Most cyclists you'll find on the sidewalks are casual, weekend-and-summertime-only recreational riders, or parents (no helmets) with young kids (helmets). Oh yeah, and NU students (no helmets) who aren't really into biking, but who brought the one they kept in the garage back home to help them get around Evanston. They're the ones you always see driving northbound against traffic on Sherman Ave.

    If you confront the parents about riding on the sidewalk, they are going to point at their kids and complain that it's dangerous for them to ride in the street. If you confront the NU student riding the wrong way down a one-way street, they will just ignore you and keep on riding. 

    The only solution to the problem is aggressive enforcement of the no biking on sidewalks ordinance. But I don't think the city has the will or resources to make that happen, especially in the face of a citizenry who 1) don't believe the rule applies to them; or who 2) don't think ignoring it warrants a fine.

  5. Here’s a thought….

    Why don't we worry more about the bike thefts and other crimes that occur downtown and do something about it instead of ranting like a bunch of ninnies about the evil of bicycles?  I guess that would be more work for the beat cops that sit in their police cars at the corner of Sherman and Church.  Come on boys get out of your squad cars and do someting.  Here's an idea, get on a bike and keep moving till you solve some crime!

    I'd love to see how many reported bike thefts there are downtown in one calendar year (if anyone knows, please post).

    It never seems to amaze me how so many Evanstonians are short sided and hypocritical.  Typical not in my backyard stuff!  

    Here's a thought, let's make Evanston more bike friendly with more bike lanes and more places to park them safely; who knows maybe a more bike friendly Evanston may encourage folks to abide by the laws. 

    1. Pidgin English (or is that Pigeon Inglish)

      "It never seems to amaze me how so many Evanstonians are short sided and hypocritical."

      I think the terms you are looking for, in order for your comments to make any sense whatsoever, are: "It never ceases to amaze me" and "short-sighted." Show me a short-sided Evanstonian and I'll show you someone who shouldn't be on a bicycle in the first place

      1. Sorry about the typos

        Yes you are right, I'm truly sorry for the typos and thank you for taking the time to point them out.  You ought to consider a career as an English teacher.

        I'll stick to my points even though they may have been poorly worded.

  6. I ride through downtown

    I ride through downtown Evanston frequently and the blocks on Sherman between Clark and Davis are the absolute worst. I do not ride on the sidewalk, ever.

    It will be great if there is enforcement of all traffic laws, not just selectively on cyclists. In those two blocks, car drivers are completely erratic, trying to get parking or just stopping to wait for someone. They stop randomly in the right lane and will cut across the left lane to get to a spot and viceversa. It can be nerve wrecking to ride through.

    You stop at the traffic light and you can see the drivers checking and respondning to email and texting. I am all for traffic law enforcement, on all parties.

    1. Nerve wrecking to say the least!

      Are these bikers not worried about getting killed.  Even by someone opening their car door while a biker is just flying by?  How these bikers not completely on edge just waiting for the accident to happen?  I'm just astounded!  So scary!

    2. texting drivers

      Hey Downtown,

      My latest pet peeve as a cyclist is texting drivers. You pull up to a 4-way stop and stop for the car to go, but  . . . no. They have their minds lodged elsewhere in cyberspace while everyone is waiting for them to PULL THEIR HEADS OUT AND DRIVE!

      1. Many drivers do not use their

        Many drivers do not use their turn signals at all, anymore. Must be that their hands are busy with something else or they, perhaps, they have forgotten the rules of the road (assuming they ever learned them).

        As I said before, I am in favor of a crackdown on everyone when it comes to traffic laws: cyclists and drivers. Selectively singling out cyclists for enforcement while drivers speed with impunity, are aggressive to pedestrians on crosswalks, never use turn signals, stop in bike lanes, yap on their cell phones, etc. would be ridiculous.

  7. Easy to solve this problem: reinstate two-way streets

    This is a really simple problem to solve: reinstate two-way streets.

    One way streets make getting from one block to another difficult for both cars and bikes.  Traffic would flow much more smoothly if you gave vehicles and cyclists more options to get from Point A to Point B instead of forcing traffic to go one way.

    The one-way orientation makes no sense and is largely responsible for cyclists riding on the sidewalks.



  8. So scary!

    I can't believe more bikers are not killed on the streets of Evanston.  They should be driving on side streets when at all possible for their own safety.  And they drive like maniacs. Are they supposed to be following the pedestrian laws or traffic laws??

  9. New bikela(m)es

    I wouldn't be surprised if a good number of these "sidewalk" incidents occurred in the pastoral/puke green bike lanes. The others probably involved pedestrians glued to their smartphones who didn't see some otherwise harmless wobbly kid coming down the sidewalk on her trike.  

    The new bike lanes are ridiculously hazardous to cyclists and to pedestrians alike who unwittingly step into the lanes after exiting their vehicles or linger waiting for the WALK signal (or to jaywalk). Poor planning all around, with no attention to how cars, pedestrians, and bikes actually move around d-town Evanston. I ride every day and choose to avoid the crummy bike lanes and travel in the flow of traffic –at the speed of traffic — where I can see and *be seen.* Some biker is going to get the "right hook" traveling east bound on Church at Sherman someday. That intersection makes me cringe, and we're still building more of these collision courses where someone is going to get blindsided and seriously hurt or killed.

    1. Bike Lames (LOL!)

      True that on the "right hook" commuter. Most drivers have their cell phones (idiots) up to the right side of their vision field when rounding that corner. Nearly been clipped there several times myself while on 2 wheels.

  10. Hey, judy, leave those kids alone

    So Judy Fiske has a "1st ward meeting"…which means that a bunch of old people who voted for Fiske come out and complain about Northwestern students and young people in general.

    "I don't like bicycles…I don't like beer….I don't like hippies with long hair playing that rock & roll music..why, back in my day you didn't see this kind of behavior.."

    Judy, how about doing something about high taxes, panhandlers, empty stores, and crime?   Leave the kids alone.

  11. Respect each other, not necessarily the traffic laws

    After all, they are written by engineers and bureaucrats, and are no substitute for paying attention and giving respect. Until there is a culture of respecting each other's right to share the road space, until drivers understand  what it is like to bike in the street, until there are a whole lot more people cycling, our streets will not be safe. If you are a driver complaining about cyclists,  how about get off your butt and try it yourself, and see how long it takes before you take refuge on the occasional sidewalk. Until then you cannot understand how vulnerable it feels to be traveling without armor, hoping you are seen. 

    Of course, it feels wonderful to take off the armor, to travel freely in the fresh air and sunshine, wind and rain. If you are full of stress and rage, take a bike ride! Please let us all share the road with peace, respect, and heightened awareness. Streets could be wonderful places, places that people actually wanted to be in,  rather than death traps and sewers, if only we could change our mental habits.

  12. pedestrians in the bike lanes

    Slightly off topic, but what's up with the pedestrians who get testy with bikers biking on the lakefront bike path? There is a foot path alongside of the bike path. I don't ride my bike on the foot path.

  13. What’s fair is fair!

    "Evanston and Chicago bikers are lone, brave souls who often ride in packs for safety". That is totally wrong. They ride in "packs" so they can "chit chat" as the ride down a 2 lane street blocking the only lane that the cars can use without crossing the center line to pass them. OH & don't ever honk your horn at any of them blocking traffic you will get words thrown at you that are not repeatable here. And have you noticed that those on the expensive 2 wheelers & fancy outfits will NEVER obey the same traffic laws that us 4 wheelers must OBEY! If we run a red light or stop sign we get "nailed" but these folks complaining, never get pulled over or  ticketed. What's fair is fair if all you "bikers" want respect then obey the same laws & rules that the rest of have to follow. Or why not just go ride in the country where your only problem may be those BIG 18 wheelers, Now go argue with them!!!!

  14. Bikers

    Not only is there problems with bikes on sidewalks downtown, but how about the bikers on their cell phones?  That's worse than car drivers.  And the bikers feel they have the right of way on the streets.  Bikers have the same rules as car drivers, need to stop at stop signs, ets.  This is a requirement of the State. 

  15. Bike racks and parking bikes

    Perhaps the City should have studied the design for Church street further before installing the racks and lights. The Racks and Bike Parking should only be on one side of the street. Bikers should not be allowed to use the fancy lights as racks. Just cut the lock and pick up Bike and when they come for bike pay fine.  Between the bike racks,l fancy lighting and outdoor cafe hardly enough room to walk.

  16. Sidewalk cyclists – Just enforce and publicize the law

    Chicago avenue from Main is an accident waiting to happen with all the cyclists using the sidewalk and office/store doors that swing into the street. Cyclists don't seem to be aware ( or care) that there is a no cycling on the sidewalks rule.

    Could it be because the only signs against it are either missing or miniscule and totally ineffective ? Larger signs and the occasional policeman  to enforce the law will go a lot further to prevent accidents then any other actions.

  17. Who’s being hit by bikes?

    "But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said, “People are getting hit by bikes. We can’t come to every single meeting and talk about this for half an hour”

    How big is this "problem"?  How many people were hit by bikes in the last year?  

    I do recall a story a few years ago about Judy Fiske being hit by a bike.  But other than that, I don't recall any other stories.

    A bigger problem is people being bitten by dogs.  Let's crack down on dog owners!

  18. Let’s focus on the bigger issues

    As a cyclist, I understand the fear of not riding in the correct place because there is so much focus on this rule.  As a pedestrian, it seems that I constanly get bounced off the sidewalk by other pedestrians – rarely "bully" cyclists. People are either distracted, or just rude.

    However, as a citizen of this city, I have more concern about crime.  Don't you? 

    Recant the rant and focus on ensuring that Evanston is a safe place to live.

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