06/07/2011 05:27 pm ET | Updated Aug 07, 2011

Chicago Bike Lanes: Downtown Gets First In Citywide Network Of New Protected Paths (VIDEO)

Anyone who's biked around Chicago knows that it's an easy and convenient way around the city, cheaper than our nation's-highest gas prices and way faster than waiting for the bus always seems to be.

But it can also be a harrowing experience at times, with bike lanes at worst nonexistent, and at best narrowly wedged between lunatic traffic and parked cars whose doors might open at any moment.

A half-mile stretch of Kinzie Street downtown is the first in the city where bikers' minds can be put at rest, as the city rolled out the beginning of a proposed 100-mile stretch of protected bike lanes.

As the city-planning blog Steven Can Plan reports, the lanes will be the closest thing to the curb: to a rider's left, there's a three-foot "buffer lane," likely to be filled with soft posts or bollards; parked cars are on the left of the buffer; then moving traffic is in the middle of the street.

In short, there will be at least twelve feet of space (and maybe parked cars and white posts) between bikers and the nearest moving vehicles.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press event at the site of the new lane, which will connect Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street on Kinzie, and reaffirmed his support for biker safety. He also repeated his campaign pledge to expand protected bike lanes by 25 miles a year for each year of his four-year term. And Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said his department was up to the challenge.

Watch Emanuel and Klein speak, and see construction of the new lane:

View more videos at: