Friday, December 30, 2011

A holiday gift from the federal government

Earlier this month, the Active Transportation Alliance reported that various Chicago projects important to bicyclists and pedestrians received substantial awards from two federal transportation funds. This is great news for Lincoln Park residents, since many of the programs and projects are relevant to our neighborhood.

It doesn't look like much right now, but the Bloomingdale Trail will run on the top of this old railroad line and be a fantastic new trail for Chicagoans to use for bicycling and walking. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
First, the Bloomingdale Trail project was awarded $36.5 million. This trail will be an almost-three-mile- long elevated bike- and pedestrian trail stretching from Bucktown to Humboldt Park. It has been discussed for many years but it’s finally in the design stages currently, and Mayor Emanuel has committed to completing it within his first term. The nearest access point for Lincoln Parkers will be near Cortland and Elston, easily reached by bicycle.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why is Fullerton always jammed up with cars?

We’ve been thinking about transportation gaps lately, because one of the assignments in the Streets for Cycling 2020 plan recently was to identify gaps and barriers to bicycling within north side neighborhoods. Chicago has plenty of gaps for safe accomodations for bicycles, but there are gaps in other services, as well, and it leads to visible consequences.

Did you ever wonder why Fullerton Parkway, from Halsted to Cannon Drive, is perpetually clogged with automobile traffic? It’s because people are given few alternative means of traversing that stretch: No bus service, and no bike lanes.

The Fullerton 74 bus line does not serve Fullerton east of Halsted/Lincoln. Its service begins 8.5 miles to the west, near Harlem on the city’s western boundary, but as soon as an eastbound #74 reaches Halsted, it turns south, then east on Webster for a few blocks, then makes its turnaround to head west again by going north on Lincoln. Here’s the route it takes:
The Fullerton Avenue bus does not serve the stretch from Halsted to the lake front, leaving a nearly one-mile service gap.
So this means that if a person takes the bus from any point west, with a destination anywhere close to the lake, they must disembark at Halsted and walk the rest of the way, which at nearly one mile, is not a short distance. Fullerton Parkway from Halsted to the lake is a pleasant walk, but it takes an average person 20 minutes to walk that far.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Streets for Cycling - North Side community meeting!

The North Side Community Area map was marked up with 
comments and stickers at last weekend's Open House event.
.(Photo credit: Flickr user trapgosh)
Did you drop by the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 Open House last weekend? You can read full coverage of the event on Grid Chicago on this specific post as well as elsewhere on that website.

If you weren't able to attend the first citywide event, fear not. 

Now it’s time to focus on Chicago’s North Side community area, which we’re going to do at our first North Side Community Area Advisory Group meeting this coming Saturday, December 17, and we hope you’ll join in. Who is a member of this “advisory group”? You are! It’s completely open to all who live, work or venture to the north side. 

Our first assignment from CDOT for this meeting is to identify within each North Side neighborhood the top destinations, barriers, gaps and assets. That is, the CDOT planners need our specific knowledge of our neighborhoods to tell them the places to which people already ride their bikes (or what would be a popular destination if it were safer?), and what are the barriers or gaps that make it difficult to do so currently?

They’re looking for very specific input, so think about these questions as they apply to you and your neighborhood, and come to the meeting ready to talk with others from your area, mark up maps and make lists. This input will go directly to CDOT's project team to be incorporated into the grand plan.

Streets for Cycling 2020 North Side Community Advisory Group Meeting
WHERE: Gill Park (first floor), 825 W. Sheridan Road 
WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 17 from 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
RSVP appreciated:

We hope to see you there!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crosswalks, salt, signs and inspiration

You remember how red the stamped brick crosswalks at North and Wells were during the summer, when they were first being added, right?

Here they are today, after the first day of snow and salt:

They already have that "Chicago Winter Gray" shade. Oh well, the rain in April will wash them clean again.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seize the opportunity to help shape Chicago’s north side bikeways

Lincoln Park is in the North Side Community
Area for purposes of the Streets for Cycling Plan
Hopefully you've heard the news already that the Chicago Department of Transportation has launched its Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which aims to gather community input and then use the information to “develop a citywide network of 150-250 miles of innovative bikeways that will make bicycling a safe and easy option for all Chicagoans, from 8 years old to 80.”

For purposes of gathering community input, the S4C team has divided the city into nine community areas, and Lincoln Park is in the North Side Community Area, which also includes the neighborhoods of Lakeview, North Center, Lincoln Square/Ravenswood, Uptown, Edgewater, West Ridge and Rogers Park.

There are three ways to get involved right now, in the next few weeks.

First, keep up on the latest of the project team by “Liking” the Facebook page . You’ll also be able to post specific suggestions and comments at that site. If you’re not a Facebooker yet, you can try checking the CDOT Bicycle Program page for Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 ,  because they will post information there as well.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three years down, 72 more to go on Chicago’s parking meter lease deal!

by Michelle Stenzel

You may have noticed that we try to keep upbeat on this blog, but there’s one topic that’s really testing our abilities to remain chipper: Chicago’s parking meter lease deal. 

December 4, 2011 marks the three-year anniversary of our city council approving the deal that traded our right to collect revenue on parking meters in exchange for a large-but-not-large-enough lump sum of money. Why are we talking about this parking meter deal on a bike/walk blog? We’ll get to that. 

First, let’s review some basics (all reference links are provided at the end of the post):
  • Under the lease agreement, Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, paid the city $1,156,500,000 in exchange for the right to keep the revenue earned from Chicago’s parking meters for the following 75 years. 
  • Chicago Parking Meters, LLC (CPM LLC) was an entity formed for the purpose of the deal. The name makes it sound like a local entity, but in fact it is made up mostly of investors from Morgan Stanley and Abu Dhabi.
  • Mayor Daley’s administration had been working on the possible deal for about 18 months but pressured the aldermen to pass the proposed deal within 48 hours of ever bringing it to their attention.
  • There was no public input or review process.
  • Only two bids were submitted, and the higher bid was quickly accepted.
  • Six months later, the city’s Inspector General released a detailed financial analysis of the bids and concluded that even using conservative estimates, we should have received nearly $1 billion more than what was accepted.
  • Most of the $1.1565 billion we received from the deal is already spent and gone. 
  • We have 72 years left to go on the contract.
  • It’s grim.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bike lanes + bus lanes = Democracy in action

Capitol Avenue in Springfield, Illinois.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
We’ve been thinking lately about the idea of democracy and equality in our streets. Not in the sense of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but about whether all people who use our streets are treated equally.

We like to talk about how everyone is equal in the United States, and we’re supposedly a classless society. Yet, when we look at our streets, there are definitely classes of street users, and automobile drivers are the ones invited into first class.

Under our system, a person driving a motor vehicle is given the most space and the most advantages on our streets. But not everyone can or wants to drive a car. There are those who are not old enough yet, or don’t have the financial resources needed to own or operate a car. There are people who have disabilities that restrict or prohibit their ability to drive. In addition, more people are choosing not to own a car or use it for many of their trips,  based on economics, convenience, concern for the environment, to get in a little exercise, or all of the above. In Chicago, about 30 percent of households don’t own an automobile. When those 30 percent take a bus or ride a bike, they shouldn’t suddenly become second-class citizens.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for positive changes favoring walking and bicycling

We have more positive changes to report for people walking and bicycling in Lincoln Park!
New pedestrian crosswalk at North Avenue and Orchard Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

A new pedestrian crosswalk has been installed on North Avenue at Orchard Street. The crosswalk not only has big zebra stripes, but two pedestrian islands to provide walkers a safe haven when crossing. This is a huge upgrade from two strips of yellow paint inches apart that was the prior "safe haven".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Plan & Ride recap, and Streets for Cycling 2020 kicks off!

It was an enthusiastic crowd at the first Bike Walk Lincoln Park "Plan and Ride" session. Thanks for hosting us, CityGrounds Coffee Bar! (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park) 

In spite of chilly air and an early start time, we had a great turn out for the Bike Boulevards Plan and Ride event this morning. There was a big range of bicycling skill sets, from very confident cyclists who have ridden in Chicago for decades, to people who rarely ride at all but would like to more often if they were provided safer facilities.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Intended speeds vs. design speeds of Chicago's streets

We mentioned in a prior post the “design speed” of a street, which is sometimes different from the intended or posted speed limit. The way a street is configured, either intentionally or not, has the effect of “telling” a driver how fast or slow to proceed. 
What works well for streets in Death Valley National Park doesn't necessarily translate well to Chicago.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Elements that make drivers comfortable going fast are: straight sight lines, wide lanes, multiple lanes of traffic going in the same direction, long distances between crosswalks/stop signs/stoplights, and a wide shoulder or lack of obstacles the driver would hit if they suddenly had to make a defensive move like swerving out of their lane. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Survey says: Bicycling is good for ... pretty much everything

The statistics are in, and they back up that bicycling is good. That sounds like a flip statement, but it’s true. In 2011, we’re facing many challenges as a nation, including an obesity epidemic, increases in air pollution, automotive traffic gridlock, and a population struggling to stretch their household finances. Bicycling is a positive force for each of those issues, and more. 

Wells Street bike lane at Ohio, heading into the Loop.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
But don’t just take our word for it. There are reams of statistics, data and research being done worldwide on the benefits of bicycling, and there a great website on which you can browse the stats to your heart’s content.

Bikes Belong is an organization sponsored by bicycle  manufacturers and retailers nationwide, and their mission is “to put more people on bicycles more often.” Their website has a great page with links to bicycling statistics. If you’re a data hound and you love reading about bicycling, settle in right now with a cup of coffee before you click on the link below, because there’s a lot to read.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let's help drivers obey speed limit laws

We’ve followed the ongoing news about the proposed traffic cameras to enforce laws against driving over the speed limit, and we remain in favor of them. The ultimate goal for using the cameras is improved street safety. Driving in excess of the speed limit endangers all other users of the road, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists. 
The posted speed limit on Stockton Drive is 25 mph.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Using cameras to ticket speeders is a legitimate enforcement tool, but instead of just catching speeders, we’d like to propose that the best initiative would be to take steps to reduce speeding before it happens.  But how to do that?

When we bring up the topic of speed limits while chatting with our  fellow Chicagoans (yeah, we’re really fun at cocktail parties), it’s amazing to find out how many people don’t know what the speed limit is in the city in general, or on main streets near their homes, or even on the stretch on which they live. Even if they’ve lived in one place and driven regularly, they often simply don’t know. Do you know any of the above with certainty?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Art on the street makes walking a pleasure

One of the many benefits to walking on city streets is that it allows us to enjoy our surroundings at a leisurely pace. Instead of racing by everything along the street in a motor vehicle, we’re able to take it all in from the sidewalk as we pass relatively slowly. In Lincoln Park, we’re lucky to have plenty of things to look at as we walk, and one of the most enjoyable is works of art. 

We were inspired to cover this topic in today’s blog post because of the newest piece of art that has been added to our neighborhood landscape, pictured below. Have you seen it yet? It’s at the corner of Armitage and Burling, kitty corner from Lincoln Park High School.
A new sculpture in Lincoln Park resembles a giant blue windmill. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lincoln Avenue and Wells Street TLC - The "After" pics

You remember the "before" pictures from this Bike Walk Lincoln Park post a few weeks ago. CDOT crews have now made major improvements up and down the stretch of Lincoln Avenue that runs through Lincoln Park. There have also been exciting maintenance work on Wells Street for pedestrians and bicyclists. Read on for details!

Crosswalks got a lot of attention the entire stretch of Lincoln. Many were not only re-painted, but upgraded from two thin lines to the much more visible zebra-crosswalk type. 
The new crosswalk striping at Lincoln Avenue and Larrabee Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The new white thermoplastic tape is so shiny, it glints in the afternoon sun. Yes, we have become geeky enough that this makes us very happy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Bicycle Boulevards Post

(Note that in January 2012, it was announced that in Chicago, these bikeways will be called "neighborhood greenways".)

In our recent post about different types of bikeways, we touched on the idea of “bicycle boulevards” and today we’re going to elaborate on that concept so that you’re ready to participate in the upcoming bicycle boulevards planning session on November 20, 2011. (Full details at bottom of this post.)
Bicyclists ride on Lincoln Park West at Webster on the morning of the Chicago Marathon, when traffic volumes are low.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park) 
Bike Walk Lincoln Park is working to put together an overall plan for suggested bicycle infrastructure improvements in Lincoln Park, to submit to the CDOT team putting together Chicago’s Streets For Cycling plan. Part of the city’s plan and our recommendations will be installing bicycle boulevards. (These will be in addition to, and not instead of the protected bike lanes that will also be installed.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mannequins occupy Wacker Drive

Chicago has unveiled a new installation to bring attention to the number of pedestrian deaths last year within city limits, and to launch a pedestrian safety campaign. Thirty-two mannequins representing the 32 pedestrians killed in Chicago in 2010 by motor vehicles have been placed on the sidewalk along Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Wells Street. The mannequins wear black T-shirts that say on the front "One of 32 pedestrians killed last year in Chicago", and on the back, "It's up to you. Be alert. Be safe. We're all pedestrians." 
Each mannequin on Wacker Drive symbolizes "One of 32 pedestrians killed last year in Chicago."
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Traffic cameras to curtail speeding? Yes, please

You may have read recently that Mayor Emanuel is proposing using cameras at intersections to measure speeding and issue $100 citations, similar to the “red light cameras” already in place in the city. As reported in this Sun Times article and elsewhere, he proposes that they be installed near schools and parks, as a way to protect children from speeding vehicles.

So who could be against that? Don’t we all want to protect children from speeding vehicles? Getting people to drive the speed limit by penalizing violations of the law seems to be a legitimate traffic-calming measure to us.
The posted speed limit on Lincoln Avenue is 25 mph. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Apparently not everyone sees it that way. The arguments from the public against the proposal are numerous, but the main one seems to be: This is not about safety; it’s just a money grab by the city to increase revenue.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Quick and Easy Primer on Bicycle Infrastructure

The city of Chicago has exciting plans for people who choose to ride bikes as a mode of transportation, or those who would love to, but are still understandably hesitant.

We’ll be talking a lot on this blog about the upgrades and changes to Lincoln Park’s and the city’s bicycling infrastructure. As we’ve mentioned before, Mayor Emanuel is committed to putting in 100 miles of protected bike lanes in the next four years. In addition to that, CDOT is creating a new bike plan for the city's bicycling infrastructure revising our city’s grand plan for bicycling, upgrading the current Chicago Bike 2015 Plan to a new one  called Streets for Cycling 2020, which covers the next eight years.  (Note: This was edited 02/12/12 to correct that the Streets for Cycling 2020 plan does not replace the Chicago Bike 2015 Plan, which addresses policy, education, and enforcement.) That upgraded plan will go beyond the protected lanes to add even more bicycling-friendly infrastructure. (Read about many of these items on the Chicago Bike Program web page here.)

Since there will be some familiar concepts involved as well as new ones, we thought it would be worthwhile to provide you with basic information about the types of bikeways that are available.


These are the off-road trails that bicyclists and pedestrians often share. The one that is best-known to Lincoln Parkers is probably the Lake Front Trail, but there are others not too far away, like the North Shore Channel Trail, which runs north along the Chicago river starting near Lawrence and Kimball. These trails are often used for purely recreational purposes, but many people use them as their bicycle commuting route as well.
Chicago's much-loved Lake Front Trail, as seen near the 47th Street overpass. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The advantages to these trails are that they are well separated from motorized traffic, and therefore feel very safe to all users. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lincoln Avenue to Receive Some TLC

Some good news for all of you who walk or bike on Lincoln Avenue. Alderman Michele Smith has advised that Lincoln, from its start at 1800/Wells Street to 2800/Diversey Avenue, will receive some much-needed attention from the Chicago Department of Transportation. CDOT workers will repaint pedestrian crosswalks as well as re-mark the bike lanes on that two-mile stretch. Just in case you don't think this area needs work, take a look at these "before" photos.

Pedestrians cross at Lincoln and Altgeld. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The crosswalk at Lincoln and Webster is barely visible even in bright sunlight.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Using Humor to Effect Change on the Streets

Sure, we can try changing street-user behavior through the use of large signs, or burly Traffic Management Aides flapping their arms, or Chicago Police officers writing tickets.

But sometimes, a message is received louder and clearer when a little humor is mixed in.
Mimes hired by the city of Caracas, Venezuela help manage the streets' traffic.
(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Caracas, Venezuela apparently has streets and sidewalks even more chaotic than ours, including people riding down sidewalks on motorcycles (!). In order to draw attention to the problem, the mayor of one section of the city has hired 120 mimes to reinforce good behavior and call people out on bad behavior. The mimes wag their fingers at scofflaws and give smiley faces to those sharing the road. This innovative  technique has apparently been used in Bogota, Colombia with good results. I mean, really, who wants to get a frowny face from a mime? No one, that’s who.

Clowns in New York patrol for cars parked in bike lanes.
(Photo seen on
In New York City, the environmental action group Time’s Up has had “Bike Lane Liberation” events in which clowns ride bikes to find cars parked in the bike lane, give out mock tickets to remind the driver that it’s illegal to park in the bike lane, and encourage the driver to clear the lane, all with a good-natured smile. (Check out a longish video of the event here for full coverage.) Should we try one of these events in Chicago? We certainly wouldn’t have to ride far to find vehicles parked in the bike lanes ….

Toronto citizens show that building safe cycling infrastructure is easy as child's play.
(Photo seen on
And in Toronto last week, where the regressive mayor currently in office is actually removing existing bike lanes, anonymous citizens called the Urban Repair Squad protested the ongoing removal by installing a row of Lego blocks to re-create the bike lane stripe. The campaign’s name is “Lego My Bike Lane”

A little humor goes a long way, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stamped brick crosswalks at North and Wells!

More hopeful signs!

As part of the North Avenue street resurfacing, the intersection of North and Wells is receiving new stamped brick crosswalks! You've probably noticed these elsewhere in Lincoln Park, and it's great to have them at a large, busy intersection like this one. The combination of texturized asphalt and bright red paint makes it clear to other users of the road that crosswalks are actually an extension of the sidewalk, and NOT a part of the street, as is often assumed. They'll go a long way to improving the visibility of pedestrians. Plus, they're beautiful.

The picture on the left was taken three days ago, and the one on the right was taken today. They're not quite done, but we couldn't wait to spread the news to those of you who haven't been to this intersection recently. The CDOT workers will probably still paint the edges white to finish it off, and we'll post updated pics then.

We need these everywhere!

Have you seen any positive changes for pedestrians or bicyclists in your neck of Lincoln Park? Share with us in the comments below, or send pics to  We'd love to hear from you.

Sign up for Bikeways 101

Do you want to learn how cities across the country are making their streets safer for bicycling? Join us in attending a mini-seminar on the topic on Saturday, October 15 at 10:00 am at Jak's Tap in the west Loop (full details in the RSVP link below). Speakers from Portland, San Francisco and New York will share their insights. This seminar is presented jointly by the Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago's Department of Transportation and NACTO. 

That last group's full name is "National Association of City Transportation Officials", which sounds boring, but they have a great program called Cities for Cycling and have published an inspiring online document called Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Check it out to view all the different configurations that are available to cities to put in safe bike lanes. We don't have many in Chicago yet, but they have been used in Europe and elsewhere in North America with great success. In the next years and months, as Chicago puts in 100 miles of protected lanes for bicyclists, we'll probably need to make use of many of the options described in the design guide.

Maybe something like this protected lane in Budapest could work on narrow streets like Armitage?
(Photo from David Baker + Partners Architects)
The meeting is free and open to the public, but you must RSVP and you can do so on the Active Transportation Alliance website at this link. We hope to see you there!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Bike Walk Lincoln Park meeting on October 4th

Join Bike Walk Lincoln Park to help keep our neighborhood's streets safe and beautiful for pedestrians and bicyclists.
We're holding an open meeting on Tuesday, October 4th for the community, and welcome everyone to attend.

Bike Walk Lincoln Park is a community group that was formed in June 2011, in conjunction with the Active Transportation Alliance as well as Alderman Michele Smith's office, to work on issues of interest to anyone who walks or bikes in the 43rd ward. We'll focus on safety for all users of the street, because that's paramount to making our streets and sidewalks pleasant for everyone.

We already have a list of projects we'd like to tackle, but we want to hear your ideas, and we want to work with you to make them all become a reality.

WHEN:  Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

WHERE:  Lincoln Park Library Community Room -- 1150 W. Fullerton -- Fullerton and Racine

Please RSVP to let us know to expect you, or just come at the last minute. E-mail Michelle Stenzel at to RSVP.

If you can't make it to the meeting but would like to get involved, e-mail us to get on the mailing list or to share your suggestions. We look forward to meeting you!

* Addendum on October 5, 2011: A summary of the meeting can be found here

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Come play in the street!

State Street in the heart of the Loop doesn't seem like a great place to have a hula hoop contest, does it? But on Saturday, October 1, there won't be any cars on the street, and plenty of hula hoops. And yoga mats, and skateboards, and a dunk tank, and people walking around, having fun.

State Street in Chicago's Loop will be the site of the city's first "Open Streets" event. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
During Open Streets on State Street, that great street will be closed to motorized traffic from Van Buren Street to Lake Street, and instead taken over completely by people strolling, playing four square, watching break dance demonstrations, and just plain relaxing. 

It's a free event (click here for the official website), open from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm, and will provide Chicagoans a way to experience the Loop in a completely new way. There will be something for everyone, from an Imagination Station playground for little tykes, to competitive races for adults in hotly contested events like three-legged races. We're already practicing riding our bikes at a snail's pace so we can dominate in the competition to see who can ride their bike the slowest.

There will be pop up performance classic Broadway hits by Broadway in Chicago Players, under the Oriental Theater marquee. You can shoot hoops with members of the DePaul University men's and women's basketball teams, or test your heart health with a jump rope challenge.

On October 1st, this man's activity will be transformed from "jaywalking" to "just walking".
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Many other cities have done these, and the nature of them seem to be linked to how much space is blocked off. Many South American cities have cyclovias, like the one in Bogota, Colombia, in which 75 miles of city streets are closed off to motorized vehicles one day every weekend, making them popular for bicycling. Some are hybrids, like New York's Manhattan Summer Street events, which closes off four miles of Park Avenue for recreation, with periodic rest stops for activities like improv workshops and salsa lessons.

Summer Streets event in New York City. (Photo: Jeff Pranton on Streetsblog)
Other city's events are just a few blocks long, and so are more conducive to sitting, strolling, and letting the kids play. Since this State Street event will be on a very wide street but only seven blocks long, don't expect to get a good workout on two wheels (although there will be a bike valet and bike rentals available). Hopefully there will be ueber-cute tykes on tricycles and training wheels, though. We're hoping there will be "pop up lawns" with chairs to sit in. Maybe we'll bring chalk and start a sidewalk mural.

This temporary lawn in London even had a pop up library included. (Photo seen on The Londonist)
But really, we're just looking forward to the unique feeling of ambling down the middle of State Street with our dogs, and our kids, without worrying about cars. At least for a few hours.

The rain is clearing out and the forecast for Saturday is sunny and mild, so we'll see you on State Street!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bike Share Coming Soon to a Corner Near You

This week, Chicago put out its request for proposals for vendors to create Chicago’s first large-scale bike-share system. The city is going big: They’re planning to install 3,000 bikes at 300 stations by next summer, with another 2,000 bikes and 200 stations possible by 2014. Read the Tribune's coverage of the announcement here.
B-Cycle rack at the Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The first thing you should know about bike share systems is that they are NOT geared toward tourists, but to people who live and work in Chicago. The system is designed to encourage people to use them for short trips of half an hour or less, for commutes to work, school, shopping, or for short recreational rides. The RFP states as its very first point that the purpose of the system is to enhance the city’s public transit system by providing bikes to complete the first or last leg of a trip. 

So it’s meant to be another mode of transportation, instead of or in addition to walking, riding the bus, or taking the El. Although visitors to Chicago are welcome to use the system, it’s envisioned that they’ll only be a small portion of users.

Users in bike-share systems can typically become members for periods of one day, a month, or a year. The pricing structure in Chicago is yet to be determined, but in other cities, the prices run about $5 for daily membership, $25 for a month, or $75 for annual.
Bike share terminals typically have information for users about bike routes and bicycling safety.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The stations will have terminals that will accept credit cards, so you can join on the spot, and be on your shared bike within a few minutes. Once you have your membership, you can undock a bike and take it for half an hour for no additional charge. As long as you continue to redock the bike at other stations within half an hour, you can take unlimited rides during your chosen membership period for free. 

If you do keep a bike out more than half an hour, additional fees are added on, typically at increasing rates like $1.50 for the next half an hour, $3.00 for the half an hour after that, and $6.00 for every subsequent half an hour. This pricing structure encourages hub to hub riding, with users returning the bikes to the system at their destination, so another member can make use of it.

Other American cities like Washington DC (Capital Bikeshare), Minneapolis (Nice Ride) and Boston (Hubway) have had bike shares in place with good success. (If you’re familiar with any of those cities, it’s fun to check out their maps to get an idea where their stations are located, and at what level of density.) Boston’s program just launched in late July 2011 with 60 stations and 600 bikes, and by August had already sold 2,300 annual memberships, when the original goal of the planners was to hit 2,000 members by Thanksgiving. 

Where will Chicago’s bike share stations be located? Good news for Lincoln Parkers: We’re predicting they’ll be everywhere in our neighborhood, kind of like Starbucks. The RFP says that the stations will be placed in areas that are already popular for bicycling, with high transit use, and dense commercial and residential development. Check, check, check and check. We’ve got two much-used El lines, high density living, Lincoln Park Zoo, DePaul University, commercial centers, restaurants, shopping and theater galore. 
Plenty of room for bike share users on streets in the Loop, on the Madison bike lane.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Other points to note:
  • The bikes themselves are typically on the heavy side, have height-adjustable seats, upright riding position, headlights, basket, and fenders. 
  • Chicago is requiring that the bikes have three speeds and are encouraging five speeds. 
  • The city is open to a 12-month system or seasonal (usually halting operations in winter).
  • They are also open to a 24/7 system or one that shuts down at night. (Really? Please no shut down at night. We’re not in Des Moines here.)

The RFP also mentions the tantalizing fact that the stations should be configurable to add on other vehicle share systems, like motor scooter sharing! Now THAT would be fun, too. Very Roman Holiday.

You may be thinking, this is all good for others, but I already own a bike and therefore don’t have any use for bike-share. But think of the level of flexibility this could bring: Maybe you typically commute downtown by bike, but bus it when there’s any threat of rain. If you’re a bike share member, you could grab a bike, ride it to work while it’s nice out, and then at 5:00 pm decide which way to get home. 

We’re very excited by this plan. It will be a game-changer for the streets of our city, in a positive way. Seeing thousands of ordinary Chicagoans using bicycles for transportation will make cycling be perceived as mainstream and, well, ordinary, and not as something only done by children, or sweaty athletes on the lakefront trail. 
Seeing ordinary people in the Loop riding for transportation will become a common sight.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
People will use these bikes to get from Union Station to their jobs in Streeterville, to go from Old Town to Wrigley Field for a game, or to go to dinner with friends. Motorists will be much more accustomed to seeing bikes on the streets, and will become more comfortable sharing the road. Riding bikes to get somewhere will seem as normal as taking the El. 

We’ll be signing up for bike sharing as soon as it launches. How about you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Make Clark a Liveable Street!

Members of Bike Walk Lincoln Park are starting to advocate for improvements in the 43rd ward to help make walking and biking safer and more pleasant! Alderman Michele Smith is also very concerned about safety issues, and shares our enthusiasm for making improvements. 

One of the first projects we'll focus on is one that we used to kick off this blog: improving Clark Street from North Avenue to Armitage. In another post, we compared crossing Clark Street to playing the game of Frogger.

Four wide lanes of auto traffic on Clark Street at the Lincoln Avenue intersection.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Why make any changes? The southeast corner of the Lincoln Park neighborhood is one of the most walkable areas of the city, and yet this half-mile section of Clark Street is not friendly to anything but motorized traffic.

If you've ever walked or biked this stretch, you know already that some of the current problems include:
  • Wide lanes of car traffic moving at speeds in excess of the speed limit
  • Poorly marked pedestrian crossings that span six lanes of street with no safe haven
  • Long distances between safe crosswalks
  • Absence of bike lanes means bicyclists are squeezed between fast-moving cars and parked cars
  • Excessive noise from fast-moving cars is unpleasant and makes it hard to enjoy parks and restaurants
  • Lack of wayfinding or historic signage and nowhere to sit in the park
Pedestrians at Clark and Wisconsin crossing six lanes of street with no safe haven.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
What can be done to improve?
  • Reduce moving lanes for motorized traffic from four lanes to two
  • Install protected bike lanes
  • Widen the east sidewalk
  • Install well-marked pedestrian crossings and new crosswalks where needed
  • Add signage, landscaping and benches

What will the result be?
  • Traffic calmed to safer speeds
  • Less traffic noise
  • Easier and safer for pedestrians to cross the street along the entire half-mile stretch
  • Safe bike route for bicyclists of all abilities
  • Easier for neighbors and visitors to enjoy existing parks, plazas, and restaurants
  • Clark Street from North Avenue to Armitage Avene becomes a pleasure, not a hazard!
This lovely park at Clark and Wisconsin will be more enjoyable when traffic noise is reduced.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The points listed above are only excerpts from our full list of ideas.

You can read the full details on our information sheet about the project here.

And take a look at our visual presentation of Clark Street as it is currently, and our ideas for changes.

We'll be holding a public meeting in the near future open to all to share ideas and discuss the proposal. Keep checking this blog for more information, or e-mail us at to join our mailing list. Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below! We welcome your input.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Signs of progress

There have been some small but encouraging changes happening lately that you may want to know about.

First, we called the attention to our friends at the Chicago Department of Transportation to the fact that part of their website was not reflecting the new law requiring motorists to STOP for pedestrians in a crosswalk. After we discussed it in this post and reached out to them, we're happy to report that they've updated their page, which you can view here.

Specifically, some of the updated wording now says,
If oncoming drivers don’t stop for the pedestrian—as required by law—the vehicle will be pulled over by a police spotter further down the street.
Thanks, CDOT!

Portable sign on Wells Street reminds motorists it's state law in Illinois to "Stop for Pedestrians Within Crosswalk". (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

In a related item, Lincoln Park commuters to the Loop who take Wells Street may have noticed these fantastic new signs on Wells south of Division Street, by Walter Payton High School. They are in the middle of the crosswalk but out of the way of motorized traffic, and they clearly remind motorists to STOP for pedestrians within the crosswalk.

Pedestrian crosswalk sign at 1100 North Wells, by Walter Payton College Prep.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

We've noticed that the signs are on wheels, and only out during the day time, so perhaps the Payton operations staff puts them out and takes them in on school days? Whatever the method is, this is a great tool to use to calm traffic and make the street safer for pedestrians. We noticed that vehicle drivers slow down considerably when they see the sign, whether there are pedestrians present or not. 

We need more of these, all over! Especially since they seem to be portable, we're envisioning them placed on Stockton Street on busy summer weekends with all the families crossing over to the zoo and beach area. 

Also, they could be placed periodically on streets like Clark, Armitage, Webster, and others, just to start acclimating drivers to the fact that they indeed have to STOP for pedestrians in a crosswalk. Maybe individual merchants can take responsibility for a sign and make it part of their routine to place the sign in the morning and take it in at closing.


New markings extending the Wells bike lane through the intersection at Superior Street.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Finally, bicycle commuters on Wells Street may have noticed that as part of finishing the street surfacing project near Chicago Avenue, bike lanes have been striped all the way through the intersections! This is a great way to add to the visibility of bike lanes and bicyclists, giving motorists a visual clue that there are other users of the street that they need to be aware of.

The Wells Street bike lane on the east side now extends through the span of the intersection at Chicago Avenue.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
These cross-intersection bike lanes were added at the large intersection of Chicago and Wells, as well as the smaller side-street meeting point of Superior and Wells.

It would be wonderful if this were the new standard for bike lanes in Chicago. Details like this matter, and changes like this give us hope for a safer city for all of us. We're seeing all the great improvements, CDOT: Keep it up!

Have you noticed any other signs of hope for bicyclists and pedestrians in your neighborhood?