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.