Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Aldermanic candidates voice opinions on bike, walk + transit issues

by Michelle Stenzel

We're thrilled to share with you that all four candidates who will be on the ballot for the 43rd ward aldermanic election responded to our questionnaire on bicycling, walking and public transportation issues! The questionnaire began with eight citywide questions posed by the Active Transportation Alliance, and then Bike Walk Lincoln Park provided five ward-specific queries as well. 
Crosswalk with in-street Stop For Pedestrians sign on Diversey near the L station. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The citywide questions touch on many topics of interest, including separated trails for biking and walking on the lake front, support for participatory budgeting in the ward, and support for photo enforcement technology of existing traffic laws. 

We encourage you to read the full questionnaire responses of all four candidates: 

Jen Kramer


                               Jerry Quandt

Michele Smith

                         Caroline Vickrey 

For your convenience, we've posted the five 43rd ward Bike Walk Lincoln Park questions below, followed by each candidate's answer.

BWLP's Question #1

What do you believe is working well for people walking, riding bikes or taking public transportation in the 43rd ward, and what do you believe are some of the most important changes that would make it more safe, convenient and pleasant?


One of my roles at the City of Chicago - Mayor's Office of Special Events was Director of Sports Development. I was on the original team that helped actualize Bike the Drive, Chicago's Bike Week and oversaw the City's collective event called Bike Chicago. I can speak with experience that education on bike safety and creating cycling events can help promote cycling, safety, and educate our neighborhood on the importance of alternative transit. 


         Working Well
  • Lincoln Ave. resurfacing and the bike lanes getting repainted.
  • Brick crosswalks on Clark St. make the crossing more visible
    * (Concerned about their sustainability with Chicago winters and snowplows)
  • Renovations of the underpasses in Lincoln Park.
  • Establishment of bike lanes per the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan
  • Proliferation of Divvy stations in Lincoln Park and the sustained usage by our own
  • Crosstown bike lanes established on Armitage and Fullerton

    Important Changes
  • Public transportation access to the lakefront at Fullerton.
  • #11 Bus being reinstated to run all the way down Lincoln again
  • 24/7 Access at Oak Street underpass.
  • Redesigning the Lakefront path for multimodal use.
  • Establishment of protected bike paths on main thoroughfares.
  • Connection of our network of bike paths to the 606.
  • Increase in places to lock your bike on the street.
  • Clearer crosswalk markings at all major intersections.
  • Wider Sidewalks on Clark Street for pedestrian strolling/shopping
  • More consistent bus scheduling for cross town routes and better connecting across the
    CTA network
  • Reduction of lakefront bound traffic during the summer by using current underutilized
    parking west of Lincoln (RTA and DePaul) and shuttling visitors to the lakefront attractions. 


The 43rd Ward enjoys a network of buses and transit that are very efficient for getting residents from the ward to downtown.

I welcome input and feedback about better facilitating public transportation, cycling, and pedestrian traffic in the ward. I believe that means of transportation outside of personal automobile travel should be encouraged and promoted to reduce congestion and pollution while promoting public health. That’s why I constructed nearly three miles of buffered bike lanes.

As part of the Children’s Memorial Hospital for redevelopment, I required the developer to design and fund (for the first time) full bike lanes through the Halsted/Fullerton/Lincoln intersection.

We must continue to explore different ways to make our bike lanes safer given the narrow width of our roads. We will continue to upgrade our intersections and make pedestrian safety improvements a top priority. While we are one of the best served wards in the City, improvements need to be made to increase the number of bus shelters and bus tracking kiosks, we must continue to invest in technology to decrease bus bunching, and we intend to pursue a wayfinding system to our ward to make it easier for residents and tourists to access all of the ward’s wonderful attractions. 


The dual bike/walk paths through Lincoln Park, on the inside of Lake Shore Drive and the outside of Lake Shore Drive between North Avenue and Diversey are the best places in the city to walk and biking. I am a huge fan of Olmsted’s underpasses in the park near the zoo, where pedestrians do not have to interact at all with cars to cross Stockton, and Stockton remains a free flowing car space. We need more of those types of structures underpasses or overpasses -- on our lakefront. 

BWLP's Question #2 

Clark Street from North Avenue to Diversey Parkway is an important street in Lincoln Park, but problems that have been noted by residents include: speeding cars, inadequate pedestrian crossings, narrow sidewalks, lack of bus shelters, lack or inadequacy of bike lanes, underused storefronts, lack of community space. What are your ideas to alleviate these problems and make Clark Street safer and more attractive to all users?


I would consider utilizing menu money to commission a study with CDOT to review the entire area. With the number of issues, community needs (residents as well as businesses) and travel modes (walking, biking, transit, etc.), a comprehensive review should be done. Once we have identified those needs, I would be work with the budget office, CDOT, and our state representative to find financing.

I also have a plan for helping fill vacant storefronts, which will be on my campaign website very soon.


The challenge in our Ward is to identify the most suitable network of pathways that best supports this mode of transportation based on the current and planned infrastructure. With how tight Clark Street and its sidewalks are I am not sure Clark St. is the best option from supporting a protected bike pathway. As we assess a comprehensive network of thoroughfares for biking and walking throughout the ward, my hope is that we find more strategically integrated routes for protected bike paths.

This solution also has to dovetail with the revitalization of Clark Street and our other 5 key commercial districts. Once a comprehensive vision for these is completed we should have a better perspective on the transportation needs and specifications. 


Working to improve Clark St has been a major priority for me over the last four years. I have fought to fill vacant storefronts, even bringing a delinquent landlord to court, resulting in many stores being rented. Today, as a result of our efforts, vacancies on Clark St are at a four year low.

Since becoming alderman, I have pioneered the use of in-road pedestrian stop signs and today we have more of these signs in our ward than in any other ward, significantly improving pedestrian safety.

We have also built, as part of an overall plan developed with Bike Walk Lincoln Park, the first pedestrian island on Clark St to make access to the Green City Market safer. We also removed significant amounts of vendor truck parking for the market off of Clark St and onto Stockton Drive, creating a safer experience for pedestrians and cyclists.

We have also striped many pedestrian crossing locations with the improved continental-style crosswalks. One of the first things I did as alderman was to install a new crosswalk in front of Francis Parker with a pedestrian crossing sign to make it safer for students to cross Clark St.

I have supported the efforts of the Clark St SSA to bring community activities onto Clark St, making it a more attractive area for shoppers.

I have also pressed the city to come up with a design solution for making our bike lanes safer throughout our neighborhood because of the narrow width of our streets.

However, more needs to be done: pedestrian crossings are too often ignored and it creates a dangerous situation for everyone involved.

I have long been a supporter of automobile-free transportation. I believe that Clark St should be part of a larger transportation infrastructure initiative focused on making alternative transportation (bicycle, foot, public transit) safer, easier, and more attractive to Chicagoans.

Making Clark St safer and more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists will increase foot and bicycle traffic in the area, which would be a boon for local businesses.

I look forward to continuing to partner with Bike Walk Lincoln Park to improve our community.


Hear hear. This stretch of Clark is super tight because the street itself is so narrow and there is so much happening on it cars, bikes, pedestrians, high rises, stores, and restaurants. My husband and I walk this stretch on a very frequent basis on the way to the Century Theater, and it is difficult to navigate on foot sometimes because the sidewalks are so narrow. Many stretches are uninviting because it is cramped, has few mature trees and few outdoor dining venues (the small area by Cycle Smithy and Fournette is such a welcomed open space!) The crosswalks with the pedestrian signs, I believe, are simply hazardous, and really need to be replaced with fewer signs, but full stop signs. As a pedestrian I would choose to cross at a stop sign far more than I like to venture out into a pedestrian sign where I’m not sure if people will stop. As a driver, I also prefer stop signs and more definite rules. As for sidewalks versus bike lanes, it is a difficult choice, because both have their benefits to the city and to the local economy. But what I’d like to see is a re-imagination of that entire corridor to make it more inviting and avoid the parking lot effect, taking into consideration the fact that Stockton to the east is a perfect thoroughfare through the same area. Stockton itself is a much more ideal place to bike, since many of the crosswalks go under or over it, so fewer opportunities for biker/pedestrian collisions. Connecting it to Clark Street at North Avenue and Diversey would be a good first step in the right direction. 

North Lake Shore Drive is an eight-lane expressway cutting off access to lakefront amenities.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
BWLP's Question #3

The “Redefine the Drive” project to redesign North Lake Shore Drive is currently underway. After numerous public meetings, a list of the top 20 ideas for improvement has been released. The second-most popular idea is “Improve transit service/Install exclusive Bus Rapid Transit facility/Increase transit/Install light rail”. What are your thoughts on the state of public transit on Lake Shore Drive currently, as well as on dedicating a portion of Lake Shore Drive to exclusive public transit use?


CDOT is doing an excellent job reaching out to the community to get input on this once in a life time project. Improving transit is a must along the Lake Shore corridor. The conversation needs to also incorporate the CTA, but the bus stops along the inner Drive need immediate improvement. There is not enough room for shelters and the elements particularly on winter days can be brutal while waiting for a bus. We are in need of some shelters that will prevent snow and slush from splashing on people. 


I fully support the BWLP statement provided to the NLSD Project:

Lake Shore Drive is part of Chicago’s beloved boulevard system, and remains classified as a boulevard. It used to look much like Midway Plaisance, Humboldt Boulevard, and others; unfortunately, it was changed over the decades to add many elements that made it look and feel more like a highway than the boulevard-through-the-park that it should be. Therefore, many drivers envision it to be a high-speed, high-volume expressway and treat it as such; however, that is not what Lake Shore Drive is currently defined as legally, and not what it was ever meant to be. Lake Shore Drive remains a boulevard and any changes should enhance its boulevard characteristics.

From the US DOT Federal Highway Administration website (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/qandas/qatap.cfm):
A boulevard is defined as a: 
Walkable, low-speed (35 mph or less) divided arterial thoroughfare in urban environments designed to carry both through and local traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists. Boulevards may be long corridors, typically four lanes but sometimes wider, serve longer trips and provide pedestrian access to land. Boulevards may be high- ridership transit corridors. Boulevards are primary goods movement and emergency response routes and use vehicular and pedestrian access management techniques. Curb parking is encouraged on boulevards. ...
An eligible "boulevard" project should demonstrate some of the following elements:
  1. Traffic calming measures
  2. Context-sensitive bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
  3. Compliance with accessibility requirements and guidelines.
  4. Promotion of transit corridor through additional protected stops and routes. 
  5. Environmentally efficient lighting, landscaping, and water-saving systems.

We encourage you to emphasize in the Purpose and Need Statement the need to add all five of these boulevard characteristics to the future LSD during the design process.

Because Lake Shore Drive is a boulevard and not a freeway, the use of the Level of Service criteria for freeways as a way to measure how well LSD is serving motorized vehicle traffic is wholly inappropriate, and should not be included in the Purpose and Need Statement.


I think we should look towards dedicating space for public transit on Lake Shore Drive. The Redefine the Drive initiative gives us an opportunity to make big plans. Those plans should include dedicating space to ease public transit use on Lake Shore Drive.


The ingress and egress to and from Lake Shore Drive is the cause of many bottlenecks and traffic patrols need to be better placed to release these bottlenecks. With respect to transit service, I would love to see part of Lake Shore Drive dedicated to public transit or light rail. I’d love to see a light rail down the center of the drive with access to the lakefront at all points, which would loosen up car congestion by allowing visitors to park further away and ride light rail to the beach.

BWLP's Question #4 

The third-most popular idea of the “Redefine the Drive” project is “Improve east-west pedestrian/bike connections and facilities”. What are your thoughts on the state of east-west pedestrian, bike and public transportation connections to the Lakefront Trail within the 43rd ward currently?


I completely agree with this idea. There are not enough connections. The underground connections that exist are too narrow and can be a haven for unwanted activities. I want to study whether the roadway can be lowered and the pedestrian crossings can be at street level or slightly above. It would be safer and more pleasant than some of our underpasses. 


Having been a contributor to the BWLP statement, I fully support this recommendation:

"We would like to reiterate the  the dire need for better east-west bike lanes and transit service to and from the parks, zoo, beaches and other amenities along the lakefront. Efficient, reliable bus service and safe bike lanes leading from the L stops to the lakefront amenities are especially needed."


The East-West connections are inadequate. The Armitage bike lanes are neither adequate nor safe. I support the implementation of greenways. Again, I look forward to partnering with Bike Walk Lincoln Park and the community at large to creating a more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.


The east-west traffic to the lakefront is one of the biggest problems in our city, and especially in Lincoln Park. We have only a few streets in all of Lincoln Park that cross the river and go directly to the lakefront. Every one of those arteries is completely clogged throughout the summer. I believe that we need to take serious action to alert visitors to the lakefront area of existing parking spaces to prevent them from driving in and circling unsuccessfully for parking. Creating parking spaces west of Lincoln Park and providing shuttle service to areas east is a great idea, but only if the traffic is flowing enough to have it make sense. Setting up an app that tells visitors about available parking would help manage visitor traffic. At the very least traffic alerts and parking lot status should be posted at the el overpasses. Extra Divvy bike stands should be located further from the lakefront and certain east-west streets like Dickens should be encouraged for biking only. 

No bike lanes or crosswalks are present directly under the Armitage L stop due to car parking spaces.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
BWLP's Question #5 

How do you feel about redistributing parking spaces in the 43rd ward to improve access and safety for people walking, biking and riding public transit? For example, moving metered spaces under L tracks or near intersections to add marked crosswalks and continuous bike lanes.


This is a broad question and it would need to be answered on a case by case basis. That said, I would be in favor clearing corners and moving parking under “L” tracks to improve public safety.


This solution needs to be a core component of a comprehensive and sustainable vision of our commercial districts so that we are not trying to solve for one problem only to create others. We are at a very exciting time in the 43rd Ward, with all of these needs converging at the same time. This will allow us to create the most optimal and sustainable solutions.


We have already redistributed parking places as a part of the Childrens Memorial Hospital redevelopment plan. However, as residents are well aware, the City faces severe financial penalties when it moves metered spaces. This is a result of the ill-conceived parking meter deal that occurred during the previous administration.


All fantastic ideas for solving the parking conundrum in our ward. I would be very much in favor of these and other ideas to encourage biking and walking as much as possible – especially to patronize the new local restaurants I will be recruiting to move into the neighborhood! 

Responses to the Active Transportation Alliance survey from all aldermanic candidates citywide will be posted on the ATA website soon and we'll link to it here.

We'd like to thank all the candidates sincerely for taking the time to respond, and for providing thoughtful -- and thought-provoking -- answers. We hope this has been useful to our blog readers, and we encourage everyone to vote on February 24th. Good luck to all the candidates!

We're on Twitter @BikeWalkLP

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