Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What have you done for me lately? A look back at 2012

by Michelle Stenzel

A few weeks ago, after our Bike Walk  Lincoln Park bike share meeting,  a young journalist posed a very reasonable question to me that nevertheless took me completely off guard: So, what has your group accomplished? As I struggled to formulate a semi-coherent response, I made a mental note to work up some talking points on that subject, so I would be better prepared next time someone asked. This column will serve as my crib sheet.
In 2012, Bike Walk Lincoln Park successfully advocated for the use of Stop for Pedestrian signs in dozens of locations.
Michael Reynolds and I co-formed Bike Walk Lincoln Park in June 2011 as a way of providing a forum for people who were interested in making our neighborhood even better for walking and bicycling. It was that simple. We spent much of 2011 just trying to get the word out about our group, establishing a web presence with the blog, and getting to know Alderman Michele Smith and her staff.

More -->

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What's in store for Lincoln Park under the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan?

by Michelle Stenzel

The visually exciting news of last week was the opening of the Loop's first two-way protected bike lane on Dearborn Street, of course. Who can resist the sight of our mayor high-fiving smiling bicyclists? Well not me, that's for sure

Somewhat overshadowed was the release on the same day of the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan, which lays out the upgraded infrastructure that we hope to see installed citywide over the next eight years. You may remember that I was a volunteer leader of the north side Community Advisory Group, and Bike Walk Lincoln Park co-chair Michael Reynolds attended all the meetings faithfully, as did many other BWLP supporters. (You might spot yourself in a picture or two in the plan.)

Please download the plan and read it (link directly to PDF here)! Don't rely on this flimsy blog entry to summarize for you; there's just too much there. It's a beautifully done 57-page document that takes you through the process of putting together the plan, and then describes the recommendations for each area of the city. 
(More after the jump)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Loop's first protected bike lane is open for business!

by Michelle Stenzel

You'll remember that in August, Mayor Emanuel announced publicly that Chicago would be getting its first two-way protected bike lane in the Loop on Dearborn, by the end of 2012. As the weeks and then months went by and there was no sign of it materializing, I began to lose hope, but suddenly, construction began. I've been stalking the new lane every opportunity I had while it was being installed, and I still can't believe it's done, but it is! 

It opened on Friday, December 14th, at a press conference hosted by Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, and attended by Mayor Emanuel. I rode on the lane for the very first time on the way to the event, and was pleased to immediately be in the midst of five or six other riders heading the same way. It was like a little slice of Europe, right here in Chi-town:

Way more to be seen after the jump!  ---------->

Monday, December 3, 2012

Our suggested bike share station locations!

by Michelle Stenzel

Map showing the initial bike share rollout area in yellow,
and the planned second phase, in the pink border.
Bike Walk Lincoln Park supporters and friends met recently to discuss recommended bike share station locations within the 43rd ward. Please see our prior post on the basics of Chicago's planned bike share system here

We used a map taken from the current suggested locations on the Chicago Bike Program's website seeking community input, and worked through each area of the ward, discussing reasons why a specific place would justify a station location. Chicago Department of Transportation staff have said they would like to have the stations every half mile quarter mile apart at the most, so we made sure there were no gaps in our suggested network.

We produced a map (link to view the PDF map is here), a list and a letter. The map is below, and you can see the letter we sent to Alderman Michele Smith and CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein here.

We had two journalists join us at the meeting to discuss bike share locations, and you can see the DNA Info Chicago article here, and Medill student journalist Sonali Basak's video coverage here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Strangely placed objects

Have you ever noticed how certain things have been placed oddly along the Lake Front Trail?

Benches provide a great place for people to sit and enjoy a little rest while taking in the peaceful nature of the lake, and the stunning scenery. Except this bench, which is not only yards from noisy Lake Shore Drive, but also directly facing an enormous tree trunk. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A treasure trove of sculptures in Lincoln Park

by Michelle Stenzel

You may have noticed in the last few months that Lincoln Park, both the park and the neighborhood, has been flooded with new sculptures. There are new permanent sculptures installed as well as two temporary exhibits, adding up to a treasure trove of art. A warm November day is the perfect time to get out there on foot and on bike to enjoy these pieces.
"Fountain Girl" by George E. Wade has been installed in the southernmost part of Lincoln Park near the LaSalle Drive underpasses. Its original version was installed in 1921 but stolen in 1958, so it was recently replicated. In the background to the right is "Love/Embrace" by Leslie Bruning. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The McDonald’s Cycle Center: Barriers and irony

by Michelle Stenzel

The McDonald’s Cycle Center is often held up as one of the features that makes Chicago among the top “bike-friendly” cities in the nation. Read the Wikipedia entry on this Millennium Park bike station if you’re not already familiar with it. StreetsFilms and NACTO even featured it once on a video

On paper, it seems like a great amenity for Chicago’s bicycling community, given that it offers covered bike storage, bike repair services, showers and lockers. According to the Wikipedia entry, there are 500 dues-paying members, as well as a waiting list, so it must be well used.
Chicago's McDonald's Cycle Center on Upper Randolph Drive alongside Millennium Park.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
But I almost never hear my fellow bicyclists talk about it, and even though I work three blocks away and commute by bike daily year round,  I’ve only stepped foot it in once. Occasionally someone will ask me whether I use the center, and recently I decided to go snap a few pictures to illustrate why I don’t. It turns out it’s all about location and access.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Come talk about Lincoln Park bike share stations!

by Michelle Stenzel

Well, after a few delays, it looks like Chicago will finally roll out its bike share program some time in spring 2013, and we are hosting a meeting to suggest station locations. Will you join us?

Minneapolis already has a bike share system called "Nice Ride". (Photo by Flickr user afagen via CC.)

First, let’s review some basics: Bike share is not the same thing as a bike rental company for tourists! No, it’s a transportation system for residents of the city, in which you take a bike from one station, ride it to your destination a mile or two away, and return it at another dock. Although you’ll get some exercise and fun during the process, the main purpose of the system is to provide people a way to get where they want to go,  by giving them another choice in transportation. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A bevy of reasons to ride your bike for transportation

by Michelle Stenzel

I've been meaning to compile a list of great reasons to start riding a bike for transportation -- or to continue doing it if you're already on board with the idea. But the numerous benefits are already well documented, so instead of reinventing the bicycling wheel, I'm providing a short round up to introduce you to some of the great articles out there. (Also, take a look at this prior post for more resources on stats and research on the benefits of bicycling.)

A bicycle rider in the bike lane on Wells Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
This article from Forbes made a big splash in May with the title, “Pedaling to Prosperity: Biking Saves U.S. Riders Billions A Year” because, well it's from Forbes, and they're all about saving and making money. The article points out that 
If American drivers replaced just one four-mile car trip with a bike each week for the entire year, it would save more than two billion gallons of gas, for a total savings of $7.3 billion a year, based on $4 a gallon for gas.
Just one four-mile trip each week! Two miles each way takes 10 minutes by bicycle, going at a leisurely pace. If every driver did this, we'd save $7.3 billion each year. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beautiful autumn day in Lincoln Park

It was a perfect day to ride a bike or walk, and enjoy the beauty of "our" park.
The Ben Franklin statue near LaSalle Drive. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Tree-lined paths are especially beautiful when the leaves change color. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
There's more! --->

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Do you know the laws for drivers and bicyclists in Chicago?

by Michelle Stenzel

The Chicago Police Department has a great training video on YouTube about rights and responsibilities of bicyclists in Chicago, and about laws affecting drivers when interacting with bicyclists. Even if you think you already know the laws, as a driver or a bicyclist, I encourage you to take 14 minutes to watch "Traffic Enforcement for Bicyclist Safety", because you may learn something. I know I did. 

For those of you who want to skim instead, here's my Cliff Notes version.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Revisiting the unfortunate Fullerton Parkway bridge redesign

by Michelle Stenzel

The construction on the Fullerton Parkway bridge began in March and is scheduled for completion in December. I had written previously about how the project will be detrimental to people who are walking or riding a bike to the Lake Front Trail in this prior post. The information I had then was from a written description of the project provided to the public, and notes taken at a presentation I attended.

I’ve since obtained the drawings of the planned finished product so you can clearly see how this will be a step in the wrong direction for our city’s walkability and bikeability.

This shows the scope of the project:

This shows the existing conditions from an aerial view:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Can this idea help improve the Fullerton/Halsted/Lincoln intersection?

by Michelle Stenzel

The six-way intersection of Fullerton, Halsted and Lincoln is in need of improvement, that's for sure. 

Crossing it as a pedestrian is a hassle, since the width of each leg is very wide, and the amount of time given to cross is relatively short. Worst of all, if the direction of your travel requires you to cross more than one leg, just to continue walking on the street you're already on, the signals are timed J-U-S-T so that you will always have to wait another entire cycle before continuing on your way.
Google map view of the Fullerton/Halsted/Lincoln intersection.
According to the Chicago Department of Transportation's 2011 Pedestrian Crash Analysis, this intersection is tied for 9th in the city for the highest number of crashes between motor vehicles and pedestrians, with 19 crashes between 2005 and 2009. 

These problematic six-way intersections are common in the city, and Chicago's new Pedestrian Plan contains an intriguing graphic of an intersection that can be improved. The initiative is under the "Connectivity" section of the Plan, which highlights ways to build a more connected network that prioritizes pedestrian access.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Critical Mass: Legal, joyful and fun

by Michelle Stenzel

It turns out, everything I always thought about Critical Mass was pretty much wrong.

Before this year, my only exposure to this monthly event was occasionally seeing the hundreds of people pass on their bicycles, while I was walking on the sidewalk or sitting on my front stoop. The Mass participants always looked like they were having fun, and I enjoyed returning their friendly greetings of “Happy Friday!” 

There's a lot of love shared during Critical Mass rides. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
And yet, I refrained from ever joining the ride, nagged by these thoughts:
  1. It’s an illegal activity and I don’t want to be part of that;
  2. It creates traffic jams for car drivers, who get really mad, and I don’t want to be the target of their anger;
  3. It’s a free-for-all ride that’s spontaneous, with an unplanned route, and who knows when they leave, and where they go?
Wrong, wrong and wrong!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pedestrians v. cafes: Sidewalk space has to be balanced

by Michelle Stenzel

Chicago’s Department of Transportation released its first-ever Pedestrian Plan recently (download it from the Peds Plan website). I had planned to write a highlights post on it, but it’s 124 pages long, and chock-full of goodness for people walking; in fact, far too much to fit in one post. So, I’m going to borrow a page from the award-winning sustainable transportation website Grid Chicago and do a series of posts highlighting items that are particularly interesting or applicable to Lincoln Park.

First up: Sidewalks that don’t have enough room for people to walk on need to be better planned!

On page 64 of the plan, the initiative is “Ensure clear pedestrian routes on sidewalks” and the description of the problem is:
Sidewalks, like streets, must provide the proper balance of space to allow pedestrians to safely and comfortably use them. Pedestrians share sidewalks with a number of objects, such as bus shelters, newspaper boxes, tree pits, sidewalk cafes and signage. To ensure a clear pedestrian route, policies need to balance the free flow of pedestrian movement while accommodating pedestrian amenities.
This is a big issue in Lincoln Park and Old Town. Of course we all love things like flower planters and sidewalk cafes because they add an element of liveliness to our neighborhood. However, space is at a premium, and the current standards only require a few feet of room left for people walking by a cafe.
People walking on Wells Street have to dodge an obstacle course on the sidewalk, which is already narrowed by
cafe fixtures. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
When you combine the narrowed space created by an outdoor cafe with the presence of trees and tree grates, sign posts, parking meter pay boxes, newspaper boxes and other items, the effective width is often barely enough for two people walking in opposite directions to pass. When it gets to that point, the sidewalk cafe is beginning to detract from the street's walkability. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Come scout locations for potential People Spots in Lincoln Park!

by Michelle Stenzel

The Chicago Department of Transportation recently launched a new initiative aimed at making more room on our streets and sidewalks for people to sit, relax and play. The "Make Way for People" program is partnering with aldermen and neighborhood groups to transform streets, parking spots, plazas and alleys into active public spaces.
Taken from Chicago Department of Transportation's "Make Way for People" site.
We at Bike Walk Lincoln Park are very excited about this initiative and are beginning to work with Alderman Michele Smith's office to help bring these to the 43rd ward. We're planning to ride our bikes around the ward with a member of Ald. Smith's staff to scope out potential spots on Saturday, September 22, details below, and you're welcome to join us. (Details below.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

So much work to be done...

by Michelle Stenzel

There are good things happening in Chicago for people walking and biking, which we've covered in prior posts. Just this week, the city released its first-ever Pedestrian Plan, an encouraging document I'll try to highlight in a separate post. 

But this weekend, honestly, walking and riding my bike around Lincoln Park and beyond, it was just  depressing to see how far we have to go. The state of the crosswalk stripings nearly everywhere is horrendous. Sidewalks are tiny slivers of pavement. There are potholes on main streets and side streets. Where there are bike lanes, they end at every intersection. On LaSalle Street, I saw four cars parked in a No Parking/Tow Zone/bus stop area, completely blocking the curb cuts for two crosswalks. No tickets on their windshields, and I don't think the owners had any fear of actually getting towed. Pedestrians, be damned.

There are good intentions in our current administration, but there's so much work to be done. I certainly don't envy them their task of organizing the effort to fix, maintain, and right-size our streets.

I rounded up some pictures I've taken over the last month or two to illustrate.

Green City market vendor truck blocking the pedestrian crosswalk on Clark at Menomonee.  It's already a horrible place to cross, and this only makes it more dangerous.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Perfect bike/walk vacation found on Mackinac Island

by Michelle Stenzel

You can go to many cities and vacation spots nowadays and rent a bike or walk to your heart's content, including rural towns like Galena, Illinois, and big cities like New York City. But the problem is that the really safe routes on which to bike are limited, and you're often mixing it up with motorized traffic. 

But not on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Motor vehicles have been banned pretty much since they appeared on the scene, and so bicycling and walking are the main forms of individual human transport, along with horse-pulled carriages and carts for carrying larger loads. The result is a charming city well worth a visit. 

(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park -- CC)
The main street is lined with Victorian-era hotels, shops, and lots of bikes. The bikes are parked along the side of the street, behind a white line. They're a mix of rental bikes, bikes brought onto the island by tourists, and the locals' bikes. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New nearby bike lanes on Halsted, Elston and Clark!

In the past few weeks, new or upgraded bikeways have appeared close to Lincoln Park! It's funny that many have come near, but none are within the boundaries of our neighborhood. Below is a screen shot of the Active Transportation Alliance's ongoing bikeways tracker, taken on August 25, 2012 (I added the circle).
Blue lines = completed bikeway upgrades. Red lines = proposed/future upgrades. Purple line = bike lane
upgrade in progress. Green circle = invisible force field keeping improved bike lanes out of Lincoln Park. 
Even though none of the new bikeways are in our neighborhood, they are useful when we ride to and from other destinations, of course. I checked them all out and took a few pictures to share.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Do refuge islands discourage drivers from stopping for pedestrians?

I was on Clark Street today checking out the new bike lanes currently being installed on that street. I was on foot, so I used the pedestrian refuge island just south of North Avenue to cross Clark. Here's a vintage picture of the island from July 2011:
Pedestrian island on Clark Street at Germania Place, being used in July 2011. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Since then, a "State Law/ Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk" sign has been installed at the southern tip of the island. You would think that the dual presence of the crosswalk and the sign would "make" drivers stop for pedestrians who are trying to cross the street. But curiously, I noticed that drivers there seem to be LESS inclined to stop.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Protected Bike Lane coming to Dearborn Street in the Loop!

by Michelle Stenzel

This news is really huge: Mayor Emanuel announced that the first protected bike lane in the Loop will be in place by the end of this year! One year ago, the Loop got its first bike lane of any sort on Madison Street (see our review of that lane in this prior post), and now we’re about to get an actual protected lane.

Here’s part of the official announcement:
By the end of this year, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will install 34 miles of new bike facilities, including: 
  • A two-way north-south protected bike route through the Loop on Dearborn Street from Polk Street to Kinzie Street.  The City will also extend the Kinzie bike route east to meet up with this new route.  The Dearborn bikeway will separate bicyclists from high-speed traffic and include bicycle signals to separate bicycle and motor vehicle conflicts.
Here’s my map with the Polk-to-Kinzie stretch marked. I measured for you: It’s 1.2 miles long:
Map showing the stretch of Dearborn that will receive a protected bike lane, from Polk Street in the south to Kinzie Street on the North.
I’ve got lots of experience riding on Dearborn already, since it’s part of my northbound bike commute home, and let me tell you, it’s the worst part of my commute. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bike parking, CTA service and other suggestions for the Children's site

Dear Alderman Smith,

You have expressed that the redevelopment of the Children’s Memorial site should be environmentally friendly. An important part of making a residential and commercial site sustainable is encouraging people to use bicycles, public transportation, and other sustainable modes of transportation. In order to make those choices as convenient as possible, we suggest the following:


Indoor bicycle parking considerations:

Residents of multi-unit housing need to be given an indoor, secured area where they can lock their bikes overnight or for the season, and know that it is safe from theft.

The site should provide generous amounts of secure indoor bicycle parking that can be accessed with relative ease from the street.

Outdoor bicycle parking considerations:

The new site is planned to have 85,000 square feet of commercial space, including potentially a large health club facility, in addition to restaurants, coffee shops and retail outlets. This will attract multitudes of visitors daily, in addition to employees of the business. 
 We think residents and visitors to the redeveloped Children's Memorial site would love a covered bike shelter like this one in Portland, Oregon. (Photo via CC by Flickr user Thomas Le Ngo)
In order to encourage employees and patrons to ride bicycles to the site, there should be plenty of well-placed outdoor bike racks near all the entrances/exits of the development, in particular near the retail areas and the planned health club.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts on "Lincoln Park Plaza" at the Children's Memorial site

by Michelle Stenzel

Recently, Alderman Michele Smith held the latest of several community meetings to facilitate communications between all parties about the ongoing design of the now-vacated Children's Memorial Hospital site at Lincoln, Fullerton and Halsted. I encourage you to review the video of the meeting and the PowerPoint presentation on this link to her newsletter in order to get the complete overview of the current proposal.

Here's what the site would look like when completed, as viewed from the north, on Lincoln Avenue approaching Fullerton. (All images in this post are taken from the presentation, prepared by architects Antunovich Associates, SOM, and developers McCaffrey Interests.)

More after the jump.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pedestrian signs update: New locations, and some wear and tear

by Michelle Stenzel

More "Stop for Pedestrian" signs have been placed in Lincoln Park, and they're working well. From my observations at various installations over the past few weeks, it seems that most drivers are much more likely to drive slower as they approach, and stop when needed to allow pedestrians to cross. Sure, there are always the occasional drivers who have no problem buzzing past people in the crosswalk in spite of the signs, but that's now the exception.

There are now five signs at uncontrolled intersections (where there is no stop sign nor stop light) on Clark, between Fullerton and Diversey. These crosswalks see a very high volume of people crossing due to the wonderful variety of shops and restaurants on both sides of Clark.

More after the jump!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The scoop from Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan guru Mike Amsden

by Michelle Stenzel

If you’ve been to any of the citywide Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan meetings, you’ll probably recognize Mike Amsden, who is a Bike Program Project Manager at CDOT. He and others are working hard to create the final eight-year S4C2020 plan, and also concurrently drawing up new and upgraded Chicago bikeways to be installed this season. 

For bicyclists who are dying to know what’s next on the horizon for Chicago’s bike network, he’s THE man to talk to.
Mike Amsden presents at the north side Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan meeting in February 2012.
(Photo by Flickr user saumacus, used with permission)
He also happens to be a resident of Lincoln Park! I worked with Mike in my role as a volunteer community advisory group leader for the S4C2020 public input gathering, and he graciously agreed to answer questions recently about the ongoing bikeways being installed right now and in the coming year.

Bike Walk Lincoln Park: There are seven miles of protected bike lanes installed in Chicago so far, almost all on the west and south sides. It seems like to date, they’re being put in where it’s easy to put them in, meaning extremely wide street width and no parking meter issues. Would you say that’s true?

Mike Amsden: Well, we began with areas in which aldermen actively expressed an interest in having them, and in which there were fewer design problems to overcome. It also gave us a chance to get experience designing them, and they give us examples within the city to show that they can be implemented successfully.

BWLP: Will the north side ever get protected bike lanes?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lakefront Trail gets new signage and striping

by Michelle Stenzel

It's summer in Chicago, and that means peak season for traffic on the Lakefront Trail. The Lincoln Park neighborhood's section of the LFT from North Avenue to Diversey is among the heaviest used portions, usually filled with beachgoers, runners, bicyclists, and strollers.
Chicago's popular Lakefront Trail on a Friday afternoon in July, at Fullerton Avenue. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Lots more after the jump!

Friday, July 20, 2012

City bike riders and Tour de France competitors have little in common

by Michelle Stenzel

The Chicago Tribune printed an opinion piece recently by John D. Thomas (you can read it here on Chainlink), who expresses anger about seeing what he perceives to be "egregious driving infractions by cyclists". These include failing to stop at red lights, and appearing alongside his car when he's trying to turn right. 
I don't think Tour de France competitors face potholes
like those on Lincoln Avenue.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
What he doesn't seem to understand is that one's perception depends on one's viewpoint. To Mr. Thomas driving a car, he may see a bicyclist going through an intersection on a red light and perceive her to be breaking the law. The bicyclist, however, may have entered the intersection just as the light turned yellow, and due to the enormous size of the intersection, was in the middle of it on red. To the bicyclist, the signals are unfortunately timed only for the benefit of cars, and she's not given enough chance to cross safely.

To Mr. Thomas driving in his car, a bicyclist may seem to appear "out of nowhere" just as he turns on his signal and begins to turn right. The bicyclist, however, perhaps rolled up to the intersection on red, and was just trying to stay close to the curb while intending to go straight. To the bicyclist, the bike lane disappeared 10 yards ago, and Mr. Thomas was "suddenly turning right" and nearly T-boning him.

What really struck me in Mr. Thomas' essay was that in order to make the argument that he is sympathetic to people riding bicycles and presumably understands the issues they face, he cites his personal history of road bike tours and mountain bike racing in his youth. His more recent experience with bicycling seems to be limited to watching the Tour de France for hours at a time. He never mentions riding a bike in Chicago.

I don't believe that riding on rural highways for leisure or watching Tour de France provides the same experiences as riding a bike on our city's streets to get to work, or to bring a child to an activity. An entirely different problem set faces each rider, and causes them to behave differently. I worked up a Venn diagram, to illustrate.

(Much more after the jump!)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's the Bike Walk Lincoln Park mission statement!

by Michelle Stenzel

Now that Bike Walk Lincoln Park is one year old, we decided it's time to formulate a mission statement. 

During our recent BWLP meeting (minutes coming soon!), we reviewed and adopted these principles, to help guide us as we go forward. 
Nice stamped brick crosswalk at Clark and Dickens for pedestrians. Not much for bicyclists here, yet.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Bike Walk Lincoln Park’s mission is to work to ensure that riding a bicycle and walking for transportation and recreation in the 43rd ward is pleasant and safe.

More specifics after the jump! --->

Saturday, July 7, 2012

More crosswalk signs installed!

by Michelle Stenzel

Why yes, we are excited about these signs. This month marks the two-year anniversary that it's been state law that drivers must STOP for pedestrians in crosswalks, not just swerve around them. These signs are helping to finally educate drivers, and make life easier for people walking!
In-street "Stop for Pedestrians" signs are appearing all over Lincoln Park. (Photo: BikeWalkLincolnPark)
In addition to the first in-street stop for pedestrian sign that we reported about in this post, we've now spotted five more locations.

More after the jump -->

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A fun inaugural 43rd ward bike ride!

by Michelle Stenzel

On the last Saturday in June, on the final day of the 43rd Ward Green Week, Alderman Michele Smith and her staff led an inaugural 43rd ward bike ride! It was a beautiful warm, sunny morning. 

The route was easy and chosen to showcase how many streets we have that are safe and beautiful for riding bikes.

More after the jump -->

Thursday, June 28, 2012

First "Stop For Pedestrian" sign appears on Stockton!

by Michelle Stenzel

As you may recall, we asked Alderman Michele Smith to allocate a portion of her annual aldermanic menu funds to install "Stop for Pedestrian" signs at unsignallized crosswalks, to help drivers remember that it's the law to stop for people crossing the street. She committed to installing 19 of them, listed on Alderman Smith's 2012 menu request document, which you can find here. You'll see them soon on Stockton, Lincoln, Clark, Diversey and Belden. 

The first sign appeared today! (At least, it's the first one we've seen. Tell us if you've spotted any others.) It's on Stockton Drive, at about 1700 North, near the surface parking lot owned by the Chicago History Museum.

 More pictures and post after the jump --->

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Clark Street near the Green City Market, revisited

by Michelle Stenzel

It's been nearly a year since we first posted on the section of Clark Street from North Avenue to Armitage, which has four lanes of fast-moving car traffic, no bike lanes, and little help for pedestrians trying to cross it. I spent a little time recently in the area during the Green City Market morning hours, to see if there are any new developments.

The good news is that more people than ever are doing the "green" thing and riding their bikes to the market. There were bikes locked up to every street pole and fence.

This also makes it very clear that we need more parking for bicycles during on Green City Market days!  Locking to a chain link fence is not ideal, since the fence links can be very easily snipped with wire cutters. Since the Green City Market has a "special events" permit, perhaps they can arrange to have bike racks placed just for the May to October market season?

Post continues after the jump --->

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Upcoming Events: Family Bike Ride, Green Week, and More

Hello Bike Walk Lincoln Park members, supporters, friends!

Please mark your calendars and plan to join us for a few upcoming local events, including our next Bike Walk Lincoln Park meeting on July 10th.
Is this the future of bicycling in Chicago? Protected lane on Kinzie Street at Wells. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park) 
PANEL DISCUSSION  “Chicago Cycling: What’s Next? “ – JUNE 21

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum will be hosting a free event this Thursday evening, with a number of panelists discussing the future of cycling in the city, including Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.  Doors open at 5:30 pm and the discussion begins at 6:00 pm.  Afterward, you can mingle with panelists and view the ongoing Nature Museum exhibit "Bikes! The Green Revolution!" until 9:00 pm. More details at this PDF.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Get rich slowly riding your bike to work!

by Michelle Stenzel

I donated my trusty red balloon-tire Schwinn cruiser to Working Bikes Cooperative a few weeks ago and was sad to part with it. The bike had served me well commuting to work as well as running errands in the neighborhood for many years, but I had purchased a more lightweight one that was more suitable to my height, and space considerations forced me give the Schwinn away. It helped to know that Working Bikes would fix it up and provide it to someone in underserved communities within the Chicago region or internationally.

My beloved Schwinn bike helped me save more than $3,000 by transporting me to work for nine years.

Although I knew the cruiser had been a reliable mode of transport for me for nearly 9 years, I didn't realize how much money I had saved until I crunched the numbers, and that figure turned out to be more than $3,000!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Counting bicyclists, for fun and civic duty

by Michelle Stenzel

As Chicago embarks on the process of creating a network of upgraded bicycling infrastructure heretofore unseen in North America through the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan, it will be absolutely crucial to document data, in order to track the increase in numbers of people bicycling. So, we need to know who is bicycling currently, how many, and where. To obtain the voluminous data, the Chicago Department of Transportation staff relies partially on citizens to volunteer a few hours of time to count bicyclists at designated locations.
You'll be busy if you're assigned to count bicyclists on the Lake Front Trail.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

They're currently looking for volunteers for any one of three separate two-hours shifts during the last week of June (see flier below for details). 

I can tell you from experience that you don't need any prior knowledge, it's easy, it's fun, and people will like you! These people include nice strangers who stop to ask questions and chat, as well as friendly CDOT staffers, who are fellow bicyclists, and who thank you profusely, even though the task is easy!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thoughts on Clybourn Avenue

by Michelle Stenzel

The Clybourn Avenue retail corridor between North Avenue and Cortland (Armitage) has fantastic potential. Specifically, the .3 miles from Willow to Kenmore could be downright charming. The buildings are mostly beautifully refurbished buildings that used to house warehouses or light industry. They're  of approximately uniform height and built close to the street, forming a nice border.

Frame stores, hot dog shops, grocers and national retailers are found on Clybourn between North Avenue and Cortland/Armitage. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
There are national retailers already in place, and they must be doing a decent business, because most have been there a number of years. These include Patagonia, Talbots, Loft, Gymboree, and the Crate and Barrel outlet store, among many others. Shop windows have nice displays of merchandise. There are two major grocers: Aldi and Trader Joe's (although the TJs is hidden away, on the second floor, off of a parking garage, requiring a serpentine route to reach it on foot from Clybourn). 

This density of retailers is enough to make this a potentially charming destination for people strolling along for a little window shopping before popping into Frank and Dawg's for lunch. But the reality is far from it. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Masses of people on bicycles

by Michelle Stenzel

This weekend, I saw masses of people riding bikes, on Wells Street ...
Waiting at a red light on Wells Street at Lake Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chicago's proposed bike network unveiled!

by Michelle Stenzel

If Chicago's proposed bike network materializes over the next eight years as planned, it will be fantastic. The Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 contains hundreds of miles of bike facilities, and will ensure that every resident living anywhere in the city will not be more than half a mile from a bike route.

When we worked in the North Side Community Advisory Groups, we dreamed that at least some of the routes we were suggesting would actually become part of the proposed network, and they certainly have.  

You can view the entire citywide map at this link to the City of Chicago Bike Program under Draft 2020 Network. (Also check out the slide show presentation and other documents provided at that link to gain a full understanding of the plan.)

In this post, I'll just provide some overview, without much commentary, because it's a lot of information. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 to be revealed tomorrow!

by Michelle Stenzel

Now that we've all survived NATO or enjoyed our NATOcations, it's time to re-engage with the process of building a better bicycling network! The long-awaited Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 draft will be released to the public TOMORROW, Tuesday, May 22, starting at 4:00 pm in the Copernicus Center. Come by any time between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm to see the maps, provide your comments, ask questions, and get excited about the safer network that will be shaping up over the next several years!

The draft maps will likely be posted on the Chicago Bike Program's Streets for Cycling 2020 page, which you can find linked here. (Please note that the maps currently loaded onto the page as of this posting on the morning of May 21 are NOT the maps of the draft plan.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Plenty to love in Chicago's new transportation plan

by Michelle Stenzel

Chicago’s Department of Transportation released its two-year plan last week, and if you’re interested in what will be happening on our city’s streets and sidewalks in the very near future, it’s a must read. (You can download the 100-page PDF directly at this link.)
(Source: Chicago DOT)

My impression: Awesome! It’s very clear that we’re in a new era in Chicago, where city leaders like Commissioner Gabe Klein recognize that our streets are public places that must be made safe and accessible to everyone, and that we need a variety of transportation means beyond just the car or SUV. 

Of course, motor vehicles are here to stay for now, but this plan makes it clear that the choice of walking, riding a bicycle, or using public transportation instead will be made even more attractive through hundreds of policy and design improvements in their favor. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Come view the draft Streets for Cycling 2020 plan on May 22!

by Michelle Stenzel

This is it, Folks, the big reveal! 

This past winter, the Chicago Department of Transportation Streets for Cycling 2020 team asked the citizens for our input about where we'd like to see safer conditions for bicycling, and we gave it to them. 
Citizens at the North Side Community Area Group of the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan discussing "Upgraded Bikeways" in February 2012. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Many of you took part in the process, showing up at meetings, taking online surveys, or e-mailing your comments, suggestions and feedback. The CDOT team took that input from the north side and from all over the city, and came up with their draft plan, which will be revealed at a series of four community meetings starting on May 22! 

Join the Chicago Streetcar Renaissance!

A streetcar runs down Clark Street near Wrightwood in the 1950s.

by Michelle Stenzel

Do you remember streetcars in Chicago? Probably not.  In the first half of the twentieth century, there were dozens of streetcar lines that reached into all corners of the city. They were a very popular and efficient means of transportation; however, as automobiles took over Chicago’s streets, the number of streetcar lines diminished and then were completely eliminated by the 1950s. In 1957, Lincoln Park’s streetcar lines #22 Clark and #36 Broadway were among the last to be “bustituted”  -- substituted with buses. (Read more at the Wikipedia site for Chicago Surface Lines.)

John Krause, an active member and supporter of Bike Walk Lincoln Park, is trying to change that. He’s the founder of the Chicago Streetcar Renaissance, which is seeking to use the streetcar to bring back Chicago. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

50 crashes a day in Chicago due to speeding drivers

by Michelle Stenzel

The ordinance allowing speed cameras to be placed near schools and parks to improve safety passed last week, and we're thankful that Alderman Michele Smith voted in favor of it. In her newsletter explaining the basis for her decision, she includes a link to a report with data on traffic crashes provided by CDOT (link directly to PDF download is here) to help the city council members make their decision. 

The report makes for some shocking reading, and provides strong support for why the city needs to take more steps to make our streets safer. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

In-street pedestrian crosswalk signs? We’ll take a few dozen, please!

by Michelle Stenzel

It’s been Illinois law now for nearly two years that drivers of motorized vehicles must stop for pedestrians crossing the street in a marked crosswalk, even on crosswalks where there is no stop sign or stop light. That type of crosswalk is called an “uncontrolled crosswalk”, an apt name that reflects the often-chaotic feel fro the perspective of a person on foot trying to cross it! So under the law, when a person is on a crosswalk trying to cross the street, a driver must stop completely to allow them to cross, as if there were a red stoplight signal that had suddenly appeared.
Portable pedestrian crosswalk signs on Wells Street near
Walter Payton College Prep high school.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Of course, we know this rarely happens.

Perhaps it’s because drivers are unaware of the law. Perhaps they need a visual reminder of the law. Perhaps there needs to be a physical object present that registers in their mind and makes them suddenly recognize that there’s a crosswalk and other street users present who have the right of way.

There’s now a tool available that covers all three of those factors: The in-street stop for pedestrian signs. These are three-feet-high signs that are permanently mounted in the middle of the street at a crosswalk and that clearly proclaim “State law/Stop for (pedestrian symbol) within crosswalk”.

You may have seen the non-permanent version on Wells Street south of Division, which we featured in this prior post. We have learned in an interview with a staff member of the community center nearby that they purchased the signs after a woman picking up her grandchild from their daycare was hit and injured by a car driver. The staff rolls the signs out each morning and takes them in at night.

The permanent in-street pedestrian signs are one of the items available to aldermen citywide to be purchased using their annual menu funds. We have requested Alderman Michele Smith use a portion of her menu funds to install them in our ward, and she has expressed support for the initiative. Her staff is currently working to analyze the best spots to place these new pedestrian safety tools.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Data doesn’t always tell the whole story

by Michelle Stenzel

I saw a question on Twitter posed recently by @stevevance, one of the co-authors of the Chicago sustainable transportation website Grid Chicago. He asked: “Americans always call for safer streets AFTER people get hit. Why don’t we demand safer streets before people are hit?”

My non-Twitter-length reply: Because we’re focused on making decisions based solely on data, and it seems that according to the general zeitgeist, there “must” be data proving that a person has been injured or killed before a street is considered worthy of upgrades. In my opinion, that’s often a flawed belief. Looking at data to make decisions is often rational, but when we’re evaluating our streets, data doesn’t capture all factors that should be considered. 
A woman and her dog wait on eight inches of yellow paint as cabs and SUVs speed by her on a marked pedestrian crosswalk at Clark and Menomonee. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Injury and fatality data doesn’t reflect factors like: Is crossing this street as a pedestrian a relatively safe and stress-free experience? Does automotive traffic regularly exceed the posted speed limit? How does the speed of the auto traffic affect people walking along or crossing the street? Do drivers follow the law and stop for people in the crosswalks? Does this street have accommodation for a person riding a bicycle? Is riding a bicycle on this street a relatively safe and stress-free experience? Do drivers follow our state’s three-feet passing law when overtaking a person riding a bicycle? How does the speed of auto traffic affect people riding bikes on this street?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Still in favor of speed enforcement cameras

by Michelle Stenzel

The city council will be voting next week on the speed enforcement camera ordinance. In support of the measure, my husband and I submitted to Alderman Michele Smith the statement below.

Grid Chicago has provided detailed coverage of this week's committee-level hearing with lots of information about the proposed measure, which you can read in three parts starting with this one

I encourage you to share your own opinions with Alderman Smith before the vote on Wednesday, April 18, as she is actively seeking her constituents’ input. You can call her office at 773-358-9400 or e-mail her at

We’re writing today to express strong support for the speed camera initiative. This is on behalf of ourselves only, but our opinions and thoughts are summarized in three posts I wrote for Bike Walk Lincoln Park on the subject, which are linked below, and I invite you to read those if you haven’t already.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fullerton Parkway access to the lake front is third-highest in the city

by Michelle Stenzel

You've heard our thoughts on the Fullerton Parkway bridge project on this prior post. We have had many conversations with people on- and off-line on the topic, and in the end, we're not fully convinced that the final result will be a net gain for people walking and riding bicycles to the Lake Front Trail; however, we're going to take the positive steps of working within the confines of the project to try to make the design as pleasant as possible for users who are choosing active transportation to traverse the area. (Join us at our next Bike Walk Lincoln Park meeting on 4/16 to contribute ideas, details below.)
Pedestrians head east over the Fullerton Parkway bridge on a Sunday afternoon in March 2012, the day before demolition and removal of the sidewalk was scheduled to begin.  (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
But today's post is to point out why this little segment of Fullerton is so important. You already know from our prior post on the subject that there is NO public transportation service on Fullerton within a mile of the Lake Front Trail, because that ends at Halsted. So, to access the trail, many people walk or ride bicycles across the bridge to the LFT. It always feels crowded, but we never knew there were statistics on the usage rates. Until now.