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Successful people support bike lanes

Last year, billionaire Ken Griffin wrote an email to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel complaining the "lakefront bike path is a disaster."

It wasn't an idle complaint. This week, workers are finishing the first stages of a $12 million, 18-mile face-lift of the path along Lake Michigan, courtesy of a check from Mr. Griffin, the founder of hedge fund Citadel LLC.

The new path will separate bike and jogging traffic, making a safer experience for everyone, including Mr. Griffin, an avid biker himself.

In Arkansas, the Walton Family Foundation, run by the family of Wal-Mart founders, has invested at least $15 million in bicycle-trail development.

In Philadelphia, the Haas family, through the William Penn Foundation, has donated about $40 million for bike infrastructure in recent years. And in Carrollton, Ga., Laura Richards, founder of Carrollton Greenbelt LLC, gave about $12 million to help fund an 18-mile bike path in and around her hometown.

The total number of trips taken on bike shares increased to about 28 million in 2016 from 320,000 in 2010, according to a study by National Association of City Transportation Officials. But the U.S. bike infrastructure isn't keeping pace. While the rate of cyclist fatalities has fallen by 30% in the U.S. between 1990 and 2014, Australia, Japan and Canada all saw reductions closer to 50%, according to a Virginia Tech study.

In seven large cities--New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore.--the number of miles of bike lanes rose to 2,499 in 2014 from 1,602 in 2007, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Chicago has made significant strides in building out its bicycle infrastructure. The city now has more than 200 miles of on-street protected bike lanes, and the mayor has made it a priority of his administration. Still, the Lakeshore Pathway that runs along Lake Michigan remains a trouble spot. The pathway is among the busiest in the nation: About 100,000 people cram on it during summer weekends, according to Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago nonprofit advocacy organization. It carries a chaotic mix of pedestrians, roller bladers, cyclists and joggers moving in proximity in different directions and at different speeds.


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