Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking back and looking forward

by Michelle Stenzel
Kidical Mass family bike rides began in Lincoln Park in 2013. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
It’s been a busy year for us at Bike Walk Lincoln Park! Before we ring in the new year, here’s a partial list of what we accomplished in 2013:
Led four “intersection evaluations”, in which we documented what’s working well and what’s not for people walking, biking, and using transit, and then submitted our recommendations to Alderman Smith for future improvements. This year we tackled the following intersections:
  • Clark and Fullerton
  • Halsted and Armitage
  • Halsted and Wrightwood
  • North and Sedgwick
Co-hosted a community workshop to brainstorm ideas for improving Clark Street from North to Armitage to make it better for people on foot, on bike and on transit.  More -->

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Using Walk Score's travel time maps

by Michelle Stenzel

You've probably heard about Walk Score, a website that aims to provide information to help people determine how walkable a neighborhood is while making decisions about where to live. While the Walk Score website used to only provide measures of walkability, in the last few years, Transit and Bike scores have been added as well.

As you may imagine, Lincoln Park as a whole neighborhood does well on all these measures. The zip code of 60614 currently merits a Walk Score of 83, Bike Score of 84, and Transit Score of 79, which is a strong showing. For comparison, Chicago as a whole receives a Walk Score of 75, Bike Score of 62, and Transit Score of 65. One can quibble about the methodology being limited. For example, the only factor that is considered for walkability is the number of amenities within close walking distance, while disregarding other hard-to-quantify factors like how pleasant, safe, direct and inviting the routes are. 

However, today I simply wanted to share an interesting feature that I saw on the Walk Score website. They have added interactive Travel Time maps that you can use to see how far you can get in a certain time period walking, biking or taking transit. You set the time period for anything from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, then choose the mode of travel. Voila! The map shows you how far you can go.

I found it fun to experiment to see how far I can bike in various time periods. Here's the map of how far you can get by bike in 10 minutes, from the east side of Oz Park:
(Please note that the window for the map on the website is not resizable, so parts of the edges of all these maps are cut annoyingly cut off.) 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Newest Lincoln Park Divvy stations!

by Michelle Stenzel

Chicago now has 300 Divvy bike share stations up and running, with 3,000 Divvy bikes available for use. Lincoln Park has been part of the system since its roll out at the end of June 2013. It took a little while to install the first 300 stations, but they were in by end of October.

Here's what the map of Lincoln Park Divvy stations looks like currently:
Map of the location of Divvy stations in Lincoln Park, per the Divvy website.
We're pretty well covered! Depending on how you define Lincoln Park, there are about 38 stations in this neighborhood. I took pictures over the last few weeks of some of the newest stations for today's post.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Much to celebrate for biking and walking in Lincoln Park!

by Michelle Stenzel

In the last few weeks, there have been much work done that helps make biking and walking in Lincoln Park safer and more pleasant; that's our mission, and so we're thrilled to see it happening. In case you haven't spotted these new changes, we'll provide you with some photos for an overview.


There are new buffered bike lanes on Halsted Street, from Fullerton to Diversey! Previously, there was only an old-style bike lane, which paint was so faded as to be pretty much invisible most of the time.
The new buffered lane on Halsted north of Fullerton has an outside buffer. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Buffered lanes are not as comfortable to ride in as separated lanes, in which the bike lane is separated from moving traffic; this is still not a lane that I would take my daughter on, or a senior citizen relative. However, for experienced current bike riders, the buffered lane is an upgrade from what we had before. --->

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Video: Morning commute on Clark Street

by Michelle Stenzel

Recently, we filmed a morning bike commute down Clark Street through Lincoln Park, from Diversey to North Avenue.
Clark Street looking north from Wrightwood. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
One mile of that route is designated as a Bus/Bike Only lane. Surprised? Even if you're a Lincoln Park regular, you may not even be aware that Clark Street from Diversey to Dickens is a designated Bus/Bike Only lane every weekday morning, from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM. These rush-hour lanes are designed to help the flow of people down a busy corridor.  (more -->)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Intersection of North Avenue and Sedgwick needs improvements

by Michelle Stenzel

Bike Walk Lincoln Park undertook our fourth and final “Intersection Evaluation” recently, this time at the junction of North Avenue and Sedgwick Street, on the southern border of Lincoln Park and the 43rd ward. During these evaluations, co-leader Michael Reynolds and I (and anyone else who join us!) observe the current conditions and make recommendations to improve the intersection for people walking, riding bikes, and taking public transit.
The intersection of North Avenue and Sedgwick Street is a busy with people using many modes of transportation. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

North and Sedgwick is a busy and important intersection for many people living, working or studying in the area.  (more -->)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Clybourn Avenue bike commute video

by Michelle Stenzel

In follow up to my post reviewing the new buffered bike lanes on Clybourn, Michael Reynolds and I rode the entire stretch during a Tuesday evening rush hour and filmed it using Michael's GoPro camera. It took us 17.5 minutes to traverse the 2.8-mile route from North Avenue to Belmont, but I edited it into a 5:54-minute video. 

Our impressions remain the same as my original review: It's a nice upgrade for experienced bicyclists, in that the lane is wide and clearly marked. The long stretches in between intersections are smooth and calm: Notably, on this evening, there was not a single driver exiting or entering their car, pulling in or out of a parking spot, nor a single taxi, truck or other vehicle blocking the lane. The weakness is that the lanes disappear before, during and after intersections. So Clybourn could certainly be improved, but it's a solid diagonal street for now.

Enjoy the video!

Clybourn Avenue bike commute from Michelle Stenzel on Vimeo.

We're on Twitter @BikeWalkLP

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Show up and speak up for better bicycling on local IDOT streets

by Michelle Stenzel

This Thursday afternoon, Illinois Department of Transportation representatives will be at the Thompson Center in the Loop to gather input for the state's very first bicycle plan, and it's important that you make an effort to drop by. I know what you're thinking: 1/ Irrelevant: I never ride my bike outside the city and therefore don't have any stake in what goes on in the suburbs and downstate in terms of bike lanes and 2/ Useless and boring! 

On the first point: This does affect every person who rides a bike in the city. Perhaps you don't know that many of our streets are under the jurisdiction of IDOT. The agency's decisions about their design and management indeed have direct impact on whether Chicago's streets become more livable and people-oriented, or whether they remain just for the sole purpose of moving motor vehicles through at high volumes and high speeds. (For example, read background on how IDOT is currently not allowing protected bike lanes, even on streets with plenty of room for them.)
Six lanes for motor vehicles and nothing for bicyclists on the IDOT-jurisdiction North Avenue, at Larrabee.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Join us for the "Beyond the Lakefront Trail" social bike ride

by Michelle Stenzel

Do you know someone who loves to ride their bike, but really only on the Lakefront Trail? They're not alone. I spent many years riding only on the side streets to and from the LFT, which served as 95% of my commuting and recreational purposes. 

Many people are anxious at the thought of sharing a street with moving motor vehicles. However, Chicago streets have benefitted from the addition of miles of bike lanes of various types, which are a great help to keep vehicles separated as much as possible, and to raise the comfort level of people new to urban bicycling.
Waiting for a red light on the Dearborn protected bike lane in the Loop. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
To help encourage people to go "Beyond the Lakefront Trail", we're hosting a social ride next Saturday that will give people a chance to practice riding on Chicago's streets. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Join us at upcoming social and advocacy events!

by Michelle Stenzel

Autumn is here, and it's going to be a busy few weeks for Bike Walk Lincoln Park. We hope you join us for some of the social and advocacy events we've planned, or that we're supporting.
Touches of autumn seen in Chicago's Olive Park. (File photo, Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Lincoln Park Kidical Mass

Date:  Sunday, September 29, 2013
Time:  Gather at 9:30 AM for a 10:00 AM departure
Place:  Oz Park, near main gate of playground, Webster and Orchard, 701 W. Webster

Kidical Mass is a free, fun, family bike ride, organized through the umbrella group Chicago Kidical Mass. Children of all ages, accompanied by their parents or caregivers, are invited. See the CKM website for details. No RSVP required to join the ride, but to be added to the Lincoln Park Kidical Mass e-mail list, send a note to Lacey at LPKidicalMass@gmail.com

More -->

Monday, September 16, 2013

Creating a Better Clark Street workshop summary

by Michelle Stenzel

On August 20, 2013, dozens of community members came together to evaluate Clark Street from North Avenue to Armitage in a workshop co-hosted by Bike Walk Lincoln Park, 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith, and Active Transportation Alliance.

The many comments and suggestions have now been distilled into a document that reflects the overall assessment of the current state of the street and possibilities for changes.
Crossing Clark Street at Menomonee. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

The problems include:

  • Unsafe to cross Clark Street;
  • Speeding car traffic makes other streets users feel unwelcome;
  • Confusing mix of all traffic modes makes for chaotic experience for all users.
The suggestions include:
  • Right-sizing the width of the street;
  • Separation of travel modes for clearer delineation of space;
  • Addition of assistance for pedestrians, like refuge islands or raised crosswalks;
  • Better enforcement of traffic laws.
The next step is that this document and an even more comprehensive list of all the comments and suggestions will be forwarded to the city planners at the Chicago Department of Transportation, and then we'll wait to see what they suggest to help create a better Clark Street!
It's scary riding on Clark Street right along the green expanse of Lincoln Park, but it shouldn't be.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Follow us on Twitter @BikeWalkLP

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review of the new Clybourn bike lanes

by Michelle Stenzel

New buffered bike lanes have been installed on Clybourn Avenue. I rode the new lanes from North Avenue to Belmont to check out how they look, and how they "feel" to a bicyclist. 

My quick takes: These buffered lanes are definitely a big improvement over what we had before, which was nothing. For experienced bicyclists, they are a nice upgrade. However, due to factors preventing the installation of ideal bike facilities, they contain many stretches with little or no help for bicyclists. Those "weak link" sections will be challenging for cautious riders, and they won't help us to attract many people to give bicycling in Chicago a try.

I'll show you what I mean with pictures, but first, a little background.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

New Divvy stations are popping up everywhere

by Michelle Stenzel

Chicago's Divvy bike sharing system has been up and running now for eight weeks. At first there were only 75 stations installed, but the Divvy crew are installing more every day, and currently there are more than 160 in use citywide, with a goal of 300 stations by summer's end on September 22, 2013.

Those of us in Lincoln Park are lucky to have had a number of stations since the launch, and you may have noticed new ones popping up in the neighborhood over the past weeks. I went around and snapped pictures of a few of them.

One of the new stations is at the busy corner of Clark/Diversey/Broadway. This 11-dock station is on Diversey, on the sidewalk next to Walgreen's. This is a very busy shopping area, and I'm sure this will be a popular station for picking up or dropping off bikes. 
The Divvy bikes at Clark and Diversey are ready to roll. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
More --->

Friday, August 23, 2013

Good turnout, great ideas at the Clark Street workshop

by Michelle Stenzel

The Clark Street workshop was a great success. About 45 people attended the event, which Bike Walk Lincoln Park co-hosted with Alderman Michele Smith and Active Transportation Alliance this past week. The group included neighbors from Lincoln Park, people who travel through the area on their commutes, and many representatives of the buildings bordering the area being studied.
Alderman Michele Smith addressed the crowd at the start of the workshop. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
More --->

Three more Lincoln Park Kidical Mass rides are coming up!

by Michelle Stenzel

The inaugural Lincoln Park Kidical Mass ride in July was a great success, so three more have been planned, for the last Sunday of the month, in August, September, and October. Mark your calendars now! 

This family social ride will always depart from Oz Park at 10:00 am. The route will vary but always be mostly on quiet side streets. Children of any age, accompanied during the ride by their parents, are welcomed. 
Screen shot from the Chicago Kidical Mass website.
You can get on the Lincoln Park Kidical Mass e-mail list to receive reminders by dropping a note to Lacey Cordero, the main organizer of the rides, at lpkidicalmass@gmail.com

The next ride is Sunday, August 25, and the weather is forecast to be perfect. See you there!
Alderman Michele Smith joined the inaugural Lincoln Park Kidical Mass in July. (Photo: W. Cordero)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Help create a new vision for Clark Street along Lincoln Park

by Michelle Stenzel

Do you walk, bike or drive on Clark Street between North Avenue and Armitage? If so, you may have noticed a need to make the street safer for everyone on it. Well, now you have a chance to speak up: We're very excited to announce that Bike Walk Lincoln Park will be co-hosting a community workshop on how to improve this very stretch of Clark Street! 
Crossing Clark Street at Menomonee is a stressful experience. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Together with Alderman Michele Smith and Active Transportation Alliance, we invite you to participate in the event on August 20. Led by Brenna Conway of ATA, we'll walk along the street to observe, discuss, and brainstorm ideas that can then be shaped into initial recommendations.  -->

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Gifts to the street" make Lincoln Park neighborly and walkable

by Michelle Stenzel

Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park
Once in a while, I read an article or blog post that really stays with me for a while. One of these was Steve Mouzon's post on his Original Green blog called "A Gift to the Street," in which he discusses how the walkability of a neighborhood is enhanced by neighborly features provided by the people who occupy residences or commercial buildings in the area:

There is no greater expression of neighborliness than showing kindness to someone you may never know. We can give gifts to strangers in person, of course, but our buildings can do it, too. Imagine what your neighborhood would be like if every home and shop gave a gift to the street! Wouldn’t it encourage you to walk more, where you could savor those gifts, rather than just zipping by in a car? 
For example, lovingly kept flower boxes provide color and a point of interest to people walking by, while a water fountain on the edge of a park allows people to refresh themselves. In his blog post, Steve provides various categories of "gifts", including gifts that delight, inform, entertain, and more. 

You may have noticed that Lincoln Park is full of these gifts! They make our neighborhood interesting and beautiful, and encourage us to walk. I appreciate the gifts immensely, and thought I'd share some of of my pictures of them with you. (Much more -->)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fun new bike racks along Clark Street

Have you seen the new bike racks at two corners of Clark and Fullerton? There's a green one at the southwest corner, next to Five Guys.
Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park
There's also a yellow one on the northeast corner, in front of Bank of America.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
These are a nice addition to the neighborhood! As you can see, they're already being very well used. We love the colors, and their urban-architecture theme. On a practical note, the design of the rack allows a user to lock up at various heights, which is a key feature to making a bike rack truly useable.  (More-->)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Improved crosswalk installed on Stockton!

by Michelle Stenzel

Have you noticed the upgraded crosswalk on Stockton Drive at Belden? It's between the Shakespeare statue and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. This is a very busy crossing for joggers, walkers, guests of the Belden-Stratford Hotel, visitors to the zoo, and many others.
The improved crosswalk on Stockton Drive at Belden. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Do you remember what it looked like before? Here's a picture to remind you of its sorry original state:
This "Before" pic shows that the marked crosswalk was very wide, and nearly invisible.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The improvements include re-painting of the "zebra-style crosswalk markings, of course. However, what makes the most difference is the wide curb bump-outs that narrow the distance that pedestrians are in the roadway.  (More -->)

Successful first Lincoln Park Kidical Mass!

by Michelle Stenzel

Dozens of families participated last weekend in a festive inaugural Lincoln Park Kidical Mass family bike ride! 
Lincoln Park Kidical Mass sets out. (Photo credit: Chicago Kidical Mass via Facebook)
It was perfect weather on a quiet Sunday morning to gather in Oz Park for a little socializing before heading out onto the ride.

We were joined by Alderman Michele Smith, who greeted the families and expressed support for family bicycling in the ward.
Alderman Michele Smith expressed support for family bicycling in Lincoln Park. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
There were kids as young as a few months old in a cargo bike, all the way to grade-school aged kids riding strong on their own bikes. 
Lincoln Park Kidical Mass waits for the green light on Belden at Lincoln. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Here's the route we took:

Many thanks to Lacey Cordero for organizing the event, Alderman Smith and her staff for supporting the ride, Chicago Kidical Mass founder Ash Lottes for joining our ride, Performance Bicycles Lincoln Park's Micah and Jakub for providing free pre-ride adjustments as well as ride support, Active Transportation Alliance for providing tattoos for the kids, DNA Info Chicago and many others for helping to publicize the event!

If you want to know about future Lincoln Park Kidical Mass rides, do any or all of the following:

You can also follow @BikeWalkLP on Twitter and we'll definitely tweet notices of any future rides. We'll participate whenever possible, but the rides will be under the umbrella of the Chicago Kidical Mass movement! 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Help count bicyclists to document demand for better bike lanes!

by Michelle Stenzel

The Chicago Department of Transportation conducts monthly and quarterly counts of bicyclists, in order to gather data on current levels of bicycling, and to produce cool graphics like this:

Chicago Department of Transportation graphic.
Look at that! Lincoln Park had the location with the second-largest volume of bicyclists counted last month. That location is at the intersection of Wells, Clark and Lincoln, three very popular bike commuting routes. A total of 1,239 bicyclists passed through that intersection in just four hours.

As better lanes are installed, it will be interesting to watch the numbers rise even higher. These counts are done with actual humans, who sit or stand at a designated spot with a clip board, and count riders. Although CDOT staff, interns, and contractors do plenty of the work, they also rely on citizen volunteers to pitch in as well, especially for the quarterly downtown count, because they need people at so many different sites simultaneously.

Maybe you can volunteer for one two-hour shift? I've been doing this for a few years, and it's truly easy and fun. You're given a few instructions on line, print out the count sheets, go to your assigned spot, count bikes, and turn in your data sheets. CDOT needs more people for three different shifts during the week of July 23rd. Details are in the flyer above. (If you can't read it, volunteer by e-mailing david dot smith at tylin dot com) Please consider signing up!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Join the inaugural Lincoln Park Kidical Mass on July 14th!

by Michelle Stenzel

The first Lincoln Park Kidical Mass bike ride will be held on Sunday, July 14, 2013, and we hope you'll join us! 
Kidical Mass is a nationwide movement of people organizing family events to encourage parents and children to ride bikes. There are already organized monthly rides in Logan Square, Hyde Park, and Lincoln Square, and you can get information and see a video on the Chicago Kidical Mass website or check out the photos on the Kidical Mass Chicago Facebook page.  The rides are slow-paced and designed to allow children of all ages to participate. Kids can be on their own bikes, or riding along in a trailer, on a seat on their caregiver's bike, or any other bike-related means of conveyance. 

We're helping to bring this event to Lincoln Park through the vision of Bike Walk Lincoln Park supporter and Lincoln Park mom Lacey Cordero. We'll meet up in the Oz Park playground starting at 9:30 am, and plan for a 10:00 am departure.  We'll take quiet side streets and have extra adults on hand to help keep everyone together! 

If you have questions, please e-mail Lacey at lpkidicalmass at gmail dot com or post them below.

See you on Sunday at Oz Park!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Divvy bike share starts up in Lincoln Park

by Michelle Stenzel

Bike share is now available in Lincoln Park! As of Thursday, June 27th, there were a handful of bike share stations that had bikes available to use for people who had either signed up for a yearly membership ($75) or a 24-hour pass ($7). I've used the bikes now twice and took a ride around today to visit the six activated stations. 
Divvy bike share station on Lincoln Avenue south of Armitage. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
You can sign up for a membership or check where there are currently functioning stations on the Divvy Bike website. You can also use the free CycleFinder app to see real time information about how many bikes are currently available at each station. However, at each of the six stations, the actual number of bikes available was always higher than the CycleFinder app stated. For example, the map said that the Lincoln Avenue station above had six bikes available, when there were actually 12 when I arrived.  I guess it's better to have more available than the map says, but this is something that CDOT/Divvy/CycleFinder needs to improve. For people to use the app, we have to feel that it's reliably accurate information.  (more -->)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Found: Scores of potholes in the bike lanes

by Michelle Stenzel

We held our first annual Bike Lane Potholepalooza yesterday! It took a little over two hours for Michael Reynolds, Andrew Herman and I to ride up and down Wells, Lincoln, Armitage, Halsted and Clark spotting the craters that pose a danger to bicyclists. 
A notoriously bad stretch of bike lane potholes on Lincoln Avenue, north of Armitage.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Join us for Bike Lane Potholepalooza on Saturday!

by Michelle Stenzel
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."  Dr. Seuss in The Lorax
Pothole in the bike lane. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Are you tired of swerving to avoid potholes in the bike lanes in Lincoln Park? Yes, so are we, and we're ready to take action to get them fixed! We're hosting the first "43rd Ward Bike Lane Potholepalooza" on Saturday, June 1, starting at 9:00 am, and we hope you'll join us.

In April, the Chicago Department of Transportation held a citywide "Potholepalooza" in which they encouraged citizens to report as many potholes as possible via 311 and various means, so that city crews could get out in force to repair them. I never read whether it resulted in an increase in reports, but Michael Reynolds and I thought the basic idea was great, so we're going to do the same thing for bike lane potholes.

We plan to ride up and down every marked bike lane in the ward, and document each pothole via photo and address, then report them in bulk to Alderman Smith's office and CDOT. So this means we'll be scoping for craters on Wells, Lincoln, Armitage, Halsted and Clark. I'm predicting Lincoln will be the most work. Although Lincoln is a state route and therefore not under the direct control of CDOT for resurfacing and other major work, we've been advised by Ald. Smith's infrastructure specialist that CDOT is nevertheless permitted to do patchwork like potholes in the bike lanes. 

We hope you can join us! This is a big job, and it would be great to have at least 5 or 6 people to help with the tasks and just provide fun companionship as we spend some time helping to make bicycling in our area a little safe and more enjoyable for all users.

WHAT:    43rd Ward Bike Lane Potholepalooza
WHEN:    Saturday, June 1, 2013 - 9:00 am
WHERE:  Meet near the corner of Wells and Lincoln (at 1820 N. Lincoln)

Please RSVP so we can expect you and communicate in case of inclement weather: bikewalklincolnpark@gmail.com or to @BikeWalkLP

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Are you ready for bike share, Chicago?

by Michelle Stenzel

After a few delays, bike share is finally coming to Chicago in the next month!

As you know, bike share systems are transportation systems that give ordinary citizens one more way to get around their neighborhoods in their city. You can read some basics about what a bike share system is and is not on this prior post. The most important thing to know is that this is not for tourists, but for people who live, work and study in the area serviced by the bike share stations. These bikes are meant to be taken to reach destinations that are perhaps one, two or three miles away. 

So we've finally begun to hear details about what bike share will look like in Chicago. First, the system will be called "Divvy"and the bikes will be light blue, with black and white details.
Screen shot from the Divvy Bikes website.
(Continued -->)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why are signs needed forbidding bikes on the Fullerton sidewalk?

by Michelle Stenzel

Street signs help us remember what is and isn’t allowed on the streets and sidewalks of Lincoln Park. However, I’ve noticed lately that they sometimes reflect unmet needs of people wishing to undertake legitimate actions. I wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to solve the problem of the unmet demand rather than simply forbidding the behavior. 

This is the first of a two-part post on this subject. Today I'll discuss signs forbidding riding bikes on the sidewalk, and in the next installment I'll provide examples of other signs and behaviors.
Signs threaten arrest of people riding bikes on the sidewalk along Fullerton. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
I noticed an entire series of signs forbidding bicycles on the sidewalk along Fullerton from Lincoln Avenue to Stockton Drive.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Proposed changes to city laws mostly favor bicyclists

by Michelle Stenzel

You may have read that last week, Mayor Emanuel proposed some changes to the laws pertaining to bicycling and driving in the city. Most of the coverage in the large media outlets of the changes was focused only on the increased fines for both bicyclists and drivers, and those are indeed part of the proposal. But after reading the full amendment (it’s only a four-page PDF, which you can download yourself from the city clerk’s website), I found there are many more changes that are interesting and important to people who ride bikes in the city, so here’s my round up:

If a person opens the door of a motor vehicle into the path of a bicyclist, there is a fine imposed of $300. If a person opens the door of a motor vehicle into the path of a bicyclist and thereby causes a collision, there is a fine of $1,000.

These fines are double from what they were before. In order to help raise awareness of how important it is to look to check for oncoming vehicles before opening a door, the city will also be requiring taxicab operators to place anti-dooring stickers on windows for passengers. 
Large-scale markings and signs reinforce the message that bicyclists are allowed to use the full lane, here on Wells Street in the Loop. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
People of any age are allowed to ride on a sidewalk if it is marked as a bicycle route, or if they are riding on it to get to a bike share station, or if they are using the sidewalk to enter the nearest roadway.

This is obviously in preparation for the bike share stations that we’re going to see installed in the city in the next few weeks. Due to our unfortunate parking meter lease deal, I expect that many (maybe most?) stations will be on the sidewalk, instead of on the street, and people should be able to ride conveniently to and from the stations on the sidewalk to the nearest curb cut, to get onto the street. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Choosing the low-stress routes when riding a bike

by Michelle Stenzel

When you drive a car from one place to another on the north side of Chicago, you usually take the most direct route. This mostly involves major arterial streets like North Avenue or Halsted Street, which may have too many stoplights for your liking, but when traffic is light, you can drive fast and get to where you’re going in minimal time.

When you ride a bike from one place to another, you could also take the most direct route and use major arterials if you’d like, the same as if you were driving. However,  the advantages to a major street for a driver – fast speed of motor vehicle traffic – is a huge detriment to a person on a bicycle. Unless you’re in a bike lane that is separated from motor vehicle traffic with a physical barrier, fast-moving cars, buses and SUVs whizzing by you on the street are nerve-wracking, to say the least.

This part of Lincoln Avenue has a full-width bike lane, but in other sections, there are only "sharrow" markings, and it makes the street feel too stressful for many bike riders. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
To make your bike trip more pleasant and relaxing, you’d be better off choosing quieter streets with fewer vehicles that are moving at slower speeds. These might be secondary streets like Sedgwick and Webster, or better yet, very quiet neighborhood streets like Cleveland or Dickens. The route that you patch together to avoid main arterials may mean that you’ll have to cover a slightly longer distance than you would on the more direct route, but you’ll arrive in a happier, more relaxed state.
Bicyclists riding on Altgeld Street, a calm east-west route through Lincoln Park. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The best route to take on a bicycle may be very different from the one you’d choose if you were driving. This seems like a very basic idea, but honestly, it took many years for it to occur to me, so I’m writing about it now in hopes of encouraging others to consider the concept, and perhaps inspiring you to plan a low-stress route yourself.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What we noticed at Halsted and Wrightwood

by Michelle Stenzel

We undertook our third Bike Walk Lincoln Park intersection evaluation last weekend, this time tackling  areas on Halsted in the northwest section of our ward, starting with the crossing at Wrightwood. I was joined by Robert Wallace and Karl Anderson of Alderman Michele Smith's staff, as well as Ryan Wallace (no relationship to Robert), a transportation engineer and observer of our city's streets. Ryan kindly provided many of the statistics and measurements that I include in the post below.
The intersection of Wrightwood and Halsted, looking southwest on Halsted.

Halsted is an arterial street with around 14,000 motor vehicles passing through at this intersection daily. The #8 Halsted bus stops at Wrightwood Avenue and around 500 people board or alight daily here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Join our next intersection evaluation "party"!

We are planning to hold our next intersection evaluation "party" on Saturday morning at 9:30 am, April 20, 2013,  and we'd love to have you join! We will meet at Halsted and Wrightwood to tackle that intersection and hopefully others in the near vicinity.
Complete Your Street: Envisioning a better neighborhood, one street and one intersection at a time.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
At these events, we meet at a designated intersection in the 43rd ward to observe its current state, document any problem issues in terms of the comfort and safety of street users, and then make suggestions for improvements. We've done two so far, at Armitage and Halsted, and at Clark and Fullerton. Alderman Michele Smith and her staff have told us that the resulting input is very helpful and will be carefully considered during the process of allocating the ward's menu funds.

If you've noticed problems with this particular intersection or if you just want to help improve our neighborhood one intersection at a time, now's your chance to join in and speak up. This is open to anyone and everyone. If you're reading this, you're invited! They're not technically parties in that there are no hors d'ouevres or music, but we do try to have fun.

Please e-mail us (Michelle Stenzel and Michael Reynolds, co-leaders of Bike Walk Lincoln Park) at bikewalklincolnpark at gmail dot com to let us know to expect you, so we can notify you if weather forces a cancellation. 

Hope to see you there!

Follow us on Twitter @BikeWalkLP

WHAT:     Bike Walk Lincoln Park Intersection Evaluation
WHERE:  Meet at Wrightwood and Halsted
WHEN:     Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 9:30 am
OTHER:   E-mail to bikewalklincolnpark at gmail dot com is appreciated

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Complete Streets guidelines: Designing streets for people

by Michelle Stenzel

“When we say ‘complete streets,’ we mean designing streets for people...for all users and all modes.”  

That’s how Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein summarizes the concept in the new “Complete Streets Chicago - Design Guidelines” that were released last week. It’s a pretty simple idea: We need to make sure that a street is safe, efficient and comfortable for all people, whether they’re on foot, on bikes, in buses or trains. 
A view down Michigan Avenue at Randolph Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
This way of thinking has been discussed to an extent in Chicago for a number of years, but this new 134-page document spells out the details, and more importantly, lays out how the transportation department is going to define a complete street, and the process of managing projects to get the end result that’s desired.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Observations on the way to Chicago's SoNo district

by Michelle Stenzel

I decided to walk to the SoNo area today to pick up some items at Whole Foods. What? You've never heard of the SoNo neighborhood? Well, it's that "no name" area that's SOuth of NOrth Avenue, and west of Halsted. You know, where the giant Whole Foods is. When I first saw a billboard years ago for a developer trying to tout that new moniker, I wondered whether they had thought through the negative connotations of the phrase "So No". The name doesn't seem to have caught on, as the Whole Foods itself claims to be in Lincoln Park, when the border of Lincoln Park is actually more than a block away.

In any case, I walked mostly along North Avenue starting at Sedgwick, snapping pictures along the way, and thought that I'd share my observations about the state of walking, bicycling and generally the  feel of the area. There's not much to celebrate.
North Avenue is a state route that was designed for high-speed, noisy motorized vehicle traffic.
To begin with, North Avenue west of Sedgwick is a wide, car-oriented highway with a design that encourages high speeds. Drivers regularly exceed the 30 mph speed limit, induced by the wide open lanes and long distances between signallized intersections. There are no bike lanes of any kind. There are sidewalks, but not much to look at but the sides of townhouse developments and mini-mall parking lots. (More -->)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Clark and Fullerton: Busy, crowded, and in need of TLC

by Michelle Stenzel

On a recent cold and overcast Saturday morning, Michael, Andrew, John and I converged at the intersection of Clark and Fullerton to observe, document and make recommendations for improvements. We evaluated that intersection as well as nearby Fullerton and Lakeview. Although our focus was on making the intersections better for pedestrians, in the spirit of applying a "Complete Streets" philosophy, we kept in mind all all users, including bicyclists, transit riders, and drivers.

The crosswalks at Clark and Fullerton in Lincoln Park are always busy.  (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
We began with noting that this is a very busy intersection for all modes of transport. The housing stock is dense, with many high rise condos close by along both streets. To the north and south on Clark, there are dozens of commercial establishments. Two well-used bus lines, the 22 Clark and 36 Broadway, go through the intersection on Clark. (There is no Fullerton bus line here because the service ends at Halsted.) Clark Street is also a very popular bicycling route, and is in fact a designated Spoke Route on the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan. Fullerton is a main access route to get to DePaul university and other points to the west, as well as the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Lakefront Trail and other points to the east.

We evaluated the intersections of Clark and Fullerton, and Lakeview and Fullerton.
All of this "busyness" is a positive for the intersection: We noticed that all users seemed to be aware that this is a place where it's necessary to be alert and careful. Vehicle speeds did not seem to be excessive, and this may be partly due to the presence of the red light cameras here, but the sheer number of vehicles and people in the space itself keeps speeds down, and that's good.
Much more ---->

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I'm walking here! Improving the Halsted and Armitage intersection

by Michelle Stenzel

One of our goals this year for Bike Walk Lincoln Park is to continue to encourage Alderman Michele Smith to use a portion of our ward's $1.2 million in annual menu funds to improve conditions for people walking, and we decided the best way to do that is to evaluate one important intersection or stretch of street at a time. The plan for each location is to observe and document current conditions, and produce written recommendations for Alderman Smith to use when planning infrastructure upgrades for the year. The changes we'll be suggesting are all tools included in Chicago's Pedestrian Plan (download the plan from the official website here).
We evaluated the sidewalks and crosswalks at the intersection of Armitage and Halsted.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
In gray and damp weather this past weekend, BWLP Co-Chair Michael Reynolds and I tackled the first intersection: Halsted and Armitage. This is an important intersection for pedestrians at all times of day, on weekday and weekends, largely due to the CTA Brown line stop three blocks to the west, two active bus lines, nearby shopping and dining destinations, density of residences in the area, and the location of Lincoln Park High School two blocks to the east. 

More ---->

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Think spring! Three upcoming bike events

by Michelle Stenzel

Sure, it snowed six inches yesterday, but it’s March, so spring can’t be far away, and that means more time riding our bikes!  There are a few local upcoming bike-related events that you should know about.
Early January on the Lake Michigan shoreline. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Chicago Bike Swap

The Chicago Bike Swap will be held on Saturday, March 9 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on the UIC campus. Although you can indeed go there to try to sell your ride or look for a new one, there’s a lot more to this event than swapping bikes.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pedestrian signs are taking a beating but are still working well

by Michelle Stenzel

The Stop For Pedestrians crosswalk signs went up in Lincoln Park about seven months ago, in July 2012. You may have noticed that they've already taken a beating. Many are scratched and bent, and I  presume that it's from people driving into or over them.
This "Stop for Pedestrians" sign has already suffered damage during its seven months of service on Stockton Drive.

My first thought upon noticing this is that it's unfortunate that there will be yet another piece of worn-out looking infrastructure our streets. So many of our street signs are bent, hanging askew or upside down, faded, obsolete or otherwise in a pathetic state, and this will just add to the decrepitude. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Linear parking lots: Is this the best we can do for our streets?

by Michelle Stenzel

Parked cars are visual blight. 

Many people may not realize how much the sight of these massive, inert vehicles degrades the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Lining practically every curb of every block in Lincoln Park, there are rows and rows of them. Some of their drivers are paying by the minute and will return soon to move on, but the vast majority stay for days or weeks on end. We're so used to their presence that we mentally "erase" them from what we see when we look around. I know this because, unlike my brain, my camera lens refuses to erase the sight of parked vehicles from the pictures I take, and makes the pictures unusable for purposes of promoting walking and biking.

One fall day I went out seeking to take some nice pictures of autumn foliage on our neighborhood streets. I got a lot of this:
Linear parking lots line are found on every street in Lincoln Park. I think this is Mohawk, but it's really Everystreet, Chicago.
The colorful leaves look nice, of course, but the linear parking lots stretching endlessly along both curbs? Not so inspiring. 

There's more! -->