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.