Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Our narrow, beloved Lakefront Trail takes a beating and gets TLC

by Michelle Stenzel

I've taken a lot of pictures of the Lakefront Trail in the last few weeks. It started one day in October, when I found myself on the 70th floor of Lake Point Tower for the first time, and I looked down and saw that famous landmark, beloved recreational and commuting route, and enormous point of pride for all of Chicago, the mighty Lakefront Trail:

What, you can't see it? It's right there! Okay, let me zoom in a little for you:

It's not that 16-lane wide mass of concrete taking up most of the right side of the photo -- it's that thin ribbon of asphalt to its left!
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Small improvements for people walking in Lincoln Park

by Michelle Stenzel

We're eagerly waiting for the re-paved Lincoln Avenue to materialize, and when it does, I'll be sure to post "after" pictures. In the mean time, I noticed a few small improvements made lately in the neighborhood.

There are new "Stop for Pedestrian" signs installed on Armitage, at Mohawk Street and at Cleveland Avenue:
New "Stop for Pedestrian"signs on Armitage at Cleveland. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The signs are on both crosswalks, alongside the zebra-stripe markings. These intersections are "uncontrolled", which means that there is no stop sign or red light for drivers. 

I also noticed new faux-brick stamped crosswalks at the intersection of Clark and Webster:
New crosswalks on Webster at Clark Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
This is a very busy intersection, especially before school starts at neighboring Francis Parker School. It's nice to see the fresh striping, paint and stamped asphalt. Families with kids at the school and all the neighborhood people likely appreciate the increased visibility of the crosswalks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lincoln Avenue bike lane improvements are coming

by Michelle Stenzel

Lincoln Avenue has long been a popular bicycling route within Lincoln Park because it provides a direct southeast path toward the city center, leads to DePaul University, and it has bustling commercial areas along much of its length. Unfortunately, the asphalt has been in terrible disrepair for years, with enormous cracks and potholes that often made the bike lanes virtually useless. 
Lincoln Avenue bike lane and crosswalk near Montana Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Fortunately, Alderman Michele Smith announced this week that the long wait is coming to an end: Most of Lincoln will be resurfaced over the next few weeks.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Clybourn Avenue would benefit from protected bike lanes

by Michelle Stenzel

Last week, the public was given its first glimpse of the changes being proposed to Clybourn Avenue from Division Street to North Avenue. You can read media coverage of the meeting on DNA Info Chicago and on Streetsblog Chicago.

As you know from our prior post, Clybourn north of North Avenue received buffered bike lanes last year; however, the southern section still has no bike lanes at all. 

Here's a map that shows in red the section of Clybourn that's in the current project area (it also includes one block of Division):
Red shows the parts of Clybourn and Division that are in the project area. Purple lines are existing buffered bike lanes. This screen shot was taken from the Active Transportation Alliance's Bikeways Tracker.
This project is not in Lincoln Park, but we're writing about it because every improvement for bicycling on nearby streets is important for the entire bicycling network, and in this case, it could greatly benefit Lincoln Parkers who ride on Clybourn to get to Larrabee or Halsted to head northbound. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thinking big for a better Lake Shore Drive

by Michelle Stenzel

Readers of this blog know that the North Lake Shore Drive re-design process is well underway. (Links for background reading are provided at the end of this post.) The process of identifying problems with the current state is now concluded, and the next step is submitting specific ideas for how to solve the problems.

John Krause, an architect and long-time supporter of Bike Walk Lincoln Park, has laid out his vision for how we can make this important part of our city work better for all users, and he's looking for feedback. You can see his entire proposal for North Lake Shore Drive at this link to a PDF. (John is the  Executive Director of Chicago Streetcar Renaissance, and he'll be presenting his plan for streetcars in Chicago at the Transport Chicago conference at UIC on June 6th.)
Redefine The Drive vision for North Lake Shore Drive by John Krause of Chicago Streetcar Renaissance.
John doesn't think small. And why should he? If we do it right, this project has the real potential to transform the way Chicago residents interact with our lakeside parks, to enhance the natural beauty of the shoreline, and at the same time to improve the way we transport ourselves to and through the corridor.

I've posted screen shots of the four North Lake Shore Drive segments below from John's proposal. Some of the highlights of the plan include:

  • LSD dips downward at most junctions to allow the cross street to cross at grade;
  • New junctions at Division, Diversey and Addison to relieve motor vehicle backups at the existing junctions;
  • Lakefront light rail runs through the middle of the corridor from Michigan Avenue and Oak Street all the way to Hollywood;
  • East-west buses connect to the lakefront and the light rail stations;
  • LSD is re-routed north of LaSalle Drive onto Cannon Drive and then onto "inner North Lake Shore Drive", all the way to Belmont.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Walking and biking to work is increasing in Chicago

by Michelle Stenzel

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report this week on how many Americans bike or walk to work. The strongest "take away" of their news release was that bike commuting is up 60% nationwide in 2012 compared to 2000, and that is the largest increase in commuting mode (including public transit, walking, driving alone, carpooling, and more). 

You can read the full report but here's one chunk of the table I find to be most interesting and important:

In Chicago in 2000, 5.7% of workers walked to work, but by 2012, the percent had increased to 6.4%. (I would guess that's a function of the greater number of people living in Streeterville, River North, West Loop, and South Loop who can walk to their central business district jobs.) That may seem like a modest increase, but it's actually bucking the nationwide trend of fewer people walking to work during that time period. Even on the table of the biggest 20 cities above, you can see that only Chicago and San Jose, CA showed increased rates of walk commuting. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Our suggestions for a better Lake Shore Drive Need Statement

by Michelle Stenzel

Last week, a number of citizens concerned about the future of North Lake Shore Drive met to discuss the Purpose and Need Statement draft released recently by the North Lake Shore Drive project team. We found much to like in the draft statement, but also many opportunities for improvement to better frame the current problems and futures needs of people walking, bicycling and using public transit through this corridor. As we said in this prior post, the Purpose and Need Statement is very important because if a problem is not well-described in the P&N statement, then no solutions that are proposed later on can be considered. 
The Chicago Avenue pedestrian underpass on the Lakefront Trail. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
You can read the Draft Purpose and Need Statement here.

The full letter we've submitted as feedback to the project team is reprinted below (and viewable at this link as well). Some of the suggestions we made:

  • We request that the Problem Statement in the draft be replaced with the more precise and all-encompassing Problem Statement that the seven task forces worked to produce.
  • We ask that the final Purpose and Need Statement provide more data and detail about problems facing people walking, bicycling and using public transit.
  • We ask the team to explicitly recognize that there is a need to move an increased number of people through the North Lake Shore Drive corridor through more efficient methods of traveling.
  • We ask that the focus remain on Lake Shore Drive's status as a boulevard and not a freeway.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another chance to speak up for Lake Shore Drive improvements

by Michelle Stenzel

North Avenue Beach pedestrian bridge at peak usage.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

The North Lake Shore Drive project team has released its Draft “Purpose and Need” statement. (I know this already sounds very wonky and bureaucratic -- just stay with me for another two sentences.) A "P&N" statement should describe the current situation and the problems that are in existence, so that solutions to those problems can be addressed during the course of the project. It's an important document because if a problem is not well-described in the P&N statement, then no solutions that are proposed later on can be considered. 

When the North LSD Purpose and Need draft was released April 8th to members of the task forces and published on the project website, many of us were surprised to see included only some of the issues that had been brought up during the course of the public meetings and task force meetings of the prior eight months. Supporters of Bike Walk Lincoln Park met a few weeks ago and submitted a list of 47 specific problems that we believe exist just on the Grand Avenue-to-Diversey stretch of the project. (We received a general response letter from Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, encouraging us to continue providing feedback to the project.)  -->

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Forty-seven ways to improve Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail

by Michelle Stenzel

In our last blog post, we invited you to attend a grassroots meeting to discuss North Lake Shore Drive, the Lakefront Trail, and surrounding areas. Thank you to those who joined us! 

Grassroots action at its best! Discussing the North Lake Shore Drive project at CityGrounds coffee bar.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
We met in order to generate a list of issues facing people from Grand Avenue to Diversey Avenue, and came up with a total of 47 opportunities for improving Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail for people walking, biking and using public transit.  (More -->)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Come help document problems with Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail!

by Michelle Stenzel

The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive are famous routes in Chicago, known for providing walkers, bicyclists and drivers good transportation and great views of Lake Michigan and the downtown skyline. 

However, the Lakefront Trail is far too narrow at many points to serve the huge number of users, and its proximity to the lake means that waves often effectively shut it down. It's lacking greenery and natural elements from Grand to North. Many of the access points are grimy, dark, and inaccessible to people with mobility issues.
The Lakefront Trail near Ohio Street Beach on a typical summer evening. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Because of its broad lanes and highway-like design, Lake Shore Drive acts as a barrier between the Lakefront Trail and the residents living west of the Drive. The street's design encourages speeding, leading to a high rate of crashes and injuries: 1,100 crashes per year, just on the northern section. Although it's very wide and 69,000 riders per day ride on 9 total bus routes, Lake Shore Drive has no dedicated space for public transportation. 
In this picture, I see 74 cars carrying an estimated 93 people in the northbound lanes and on ramp. All these people would   fit into one articulated CTA bus. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Fortunately, the opportunity to improve Lake Shore Drive and surrounding areas for all users is now at hand. 

In August 2013, the first public meetings were held for the "Redefine the Drive" project, which is being undertaken jointly by the Illinois and Chicago departments of transportation. The project seeks to address problems with North Lake Shore Drive and surrounding areas, and the public is invited to provide input. This is an eight-year long project, so there's much more to come.  (More -->)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bike boxes, curb bump outs and more planned for Lincoln and Halsted near Children's Memorial site

by Michelle Stenzel

The final plans for the Children's Memorial site have been released and approved by the city's Chicago Plan Commission. All documents are available for viewing via links provided on Alderman Michele Smith's website. I've reviewed them and will highlight some of the positive changes that are planned for biking and walking.


The documents include plans for continuous bike lanes on Halsted and Lincoln along the project site. Below is a document included in the plans, over which I've added green highlighting to make the lanes more visible. 
McCaffrey Interests' Planned Development exhibit, with my green highlighting added.
A few things to note: 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

How many people in Lincoln Park bike to work? Take transit? Live car-free?

by Michelle Stenzel

The 2010 Census produced a lot of data that has been made public, but it's often not very useful to ordinary citizens until someone overlays the numbers onto a map, and makes it easy for people to see the data come to life. We're fortunate that Shaun Jacobsen of Transitized has recently done just that, with the census data on how Chicagoans commute to work.

Screen shot of the Chicago Commute Mode Map by Shaun Jacobsen of
When you first open the map, it shows what the dominant mode of transportation is for each census tract, whether it's drive alone, carpool, transit, walk, bike, or telecommute. The blue tracts mean that transit is the dominant mode (not necessarily the majority, just the mode with the highest percent) of commuting for those residents, while red is drive alone, and purple is walking. You can hover over any of the tracts to get detailed data on that tract. You can also choose different layers to view by clicking on the icon on the upper left that looks like a stack of papers.  (More -->)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Opportunity is knocking: Follow up thoughts on the Children's Memorial redesign

by Michelle Stenzel

I attended the latest community meeting on the Children’s Memorial Hospital redevelopment site last week. More than 500 people came to hear the presentation by architect Joe Antunovich of Antunovich and Associates laying out the newest plan. 

There was a very big turnout of people at the Children's Memorial Redevelopment community meeting on January 14, 2013. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Although there were some concerns expressed about the heights of the proposed buildings, most community members spoke in support of the plan. You can read more coverage about the meeting and further opinions on the plan on DNA Info Chicago, Streetsblog Chicago, and Transitized.

We provided our opinions on the new plan last week based on the presentation posted online. Today we're adding just a few further thoughts that have materialized through the community meeting. (More -->)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Our thoughts on the new Children's Memorial site plan

by Michelle Stenzel

A new proposed plan has been released for redevelopment of the Children's Memorial Hospital site, and we recently reviewed the proposal to evaluate its design in terms of walking, biking, transit and public spaces. It's a large site with many facets to the plan, and you should review the PDF of the presentation, which you can download from Ald. Michele Smith's web page, or attend the community presentation on Tuesday evening (January 14, 6:30 PM at DePaul Student Center). 
View of the new Children's Memorial proposal toward the southeast, with Lincoln Avenue on the right.
(All images in the post are from McCaffrey Interests presentation PDF unless otherwise noted)
The design of all the new buildings looks very nice! The external design of the new buildings is bright, airy, clean and modern. The plans call for preservation of historic buildings worth preserving, and lots of retail right where it's needed. (More -->)