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Eyes on the Street: The Case of the Missing Bike Lane Bollards

broadway at sunnyside before after

The Broadway protected lanes before and after bollard removal. Photos: John Greenfield

Uptown’s Broadway protected bike lanes, installed earlier this year, are a great example of the power of a road diet with PBLs. By converting a former four-lane speedway to two travel lanes, a turn lane, and protected lanes, the city transformed a hectic, dangerous stretch of Broadway into one that’s calmer and safer for pedestrians and drivers, as well as cyclists.

Recently, however, all of the plastic posts that separated the curbside bike lanes from the parking lane mysteriously vanished. This isn’t the first time that posts, also known as bollards, have disappeared from Chicago PBLs. They’re commonly taken out by careless drivers and construction projects.

Last winter, one of the snowiest on record, was particularly rough on the city’s protected bike lanes. Snowplows knocked out plenty of PBL posts on streets on Dearborn and Kinzie. By springtime, every single bollard on Milwaukee, the city’s busiest bike lane street, had been obliterated.

But we haven’t even had significant snowfall yet, so what happened to the Broadway Bollards? A few theories sprang to mind. Broadway is one of the few retail streets in Chicago with protected lanes. Perhaps business owners complained about losing access for curbside deliveries, so the posts were removed to make it easier for truckers to temporarily park in the lanes?

On the other hand, crews recently filmed scenes for the movie “Batman Vs. Superman” in Uptown. They temporarily turned the Lawrence Red Line stop into a fictional “Gotham Transit Authority” station. Maybe the producers felt that bike lane bollards would look out of place in the Caped Crusader’s hometown.

While the bollard removals are puzzling, some feel that plastic posts are superfluous on parking-protected bike lanes. For example, the posts generally aren’t installed along parking-protected lanes in New York City.

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States That Ban Traffic Safety Cams Put Their Own Residents’ Lives at Risk

In France, speeding cameras are credited with saving more than 15,000 lives over seven years. Image: Accident Analysis and Prevention

Speed cameras are credited with saving more than 15,000 lives over seven years in France. Image: Accident Analysis and Prevention

In Ohio, lawmakers are now poised to outlaw traffic safety cameras, needlessly obstructing efforts to save lives. Similar bills were taken up this year in statehouses in Iowa, South Dakota and Missouri. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 12 states have laws that forbid speed cameras under most circumstances.

If enacted, these laws will certainly end up costing a lot of innocent people their lives. A 2010 review of dozens of studies indicates that speed cameras always have a positive effect on street safety, typically reducing fatality rates by around 30 to 40 percent where they are installed. One of the most impressive case studies, on a national scale, is France.

Since the French government began its crackdown on speeding about a dozen years ago, annual traffic fatalities have been reduced by more than half, from 7,242 in 2002 to 3,250 in 2013. That is more than double the rate of improvement in the United States over the same period. Researchers attribute a major portion of that reduction to the installation of about 3,000 speed cameras across the nation.

Following the adoption of a new set of street safety policies by President Jacques Chirac in 2002 — including stricter penalties for traffic violations — and the installation of cameras in 2003, enforcement of speeding increased dramatically, from about 100,000 tickets per month to about 500,000. About 87 percent of those citations were issued by cameras.

In a 2012 study in the Journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, researchers set out to determine how many deaths and injuries were prevented by France’s wide-scale adoption of automated speed enforcement, developing statistical models to isolate the effect of the cameras. In the first two years following implementation, they estimate that speed cameras prevented 4,498 fatalities.

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Seattle Advocates Convince City to Make Major Avenue Safe for Biking

Roosevelt Way in Seattle is slated for a slew of safety improvements, including a protected bike lane. Image: The Urbanist

Roosevelt Way in Seattle is slated for a slew of safety improvements, including a protected bike lane. Map: The Urbanist

A crucial Seattle street is getting the protected bike lane treatment thanks to the hard work of local advocates.

Roosevelt Way is a direct and convenient bike route to get downtown, writes Scott Bonjukian at Network blog The Urbanist, but it also has a high rate of cyclist injuries. At first, a proposed redesign did not include a protected bikeway, but timely advocacy convinced the city to upgrade its plans, Bonjukian reports:

Roosevelt Way is a one-way southbound street with two drive lanes, two parking lanes, and a painted bike lane. The street carries bus routes and the speed limit is 30 mph. Roosevelt is one of the most dangerous streets for cyclists in the entire city; between 2007 and 2014, the street has seen at least 63 bike-car collisions. But Roosevelt Way is popular with bicyclists because it is the fastest and most direct route to Downtown via the University Bridge, which is one of only two Ship Canal crossings in the area.

University Greenways, a neighborhood group that advocates on bike and walking safety, examined the 30 percent design drawings (PDF) last month. (Disclosure: I am a volunteer with the group.) At that point, the project did not include a protected bike lane at all, despite the City’s Bicycle Master Plan designating the route for a buffered facility. The group also conducted a walking audit of the project area. In a letter to SDOT (PDF) and a guest post on Seattle Bike Blog, they highlighted a laundry list of problems that the City should focus on, and some of those are being addressed. Many new curb ramps and sidewalk bulbouts will be built at intersections to comply with ADA guidelines and to reduce crossing distances.

In a surprising response, the 60 percent design drawings (PDF) released this month shows SDOT will remove the right-side parking lane south of NE 45th Street (where the most bike-car collisions have been) and replace it with a 7-foot bike lane and 5-foot buffer with plastic, reflective bollards. Similar to the rapid construction of Downtown’s 2nd Avenue cycle track in September, SDOT is going above and beyond by creating this lane almost immediately instead of waiting until the full repaving next year. This is a great victory for bicyclists both in the neighborhood and citywide, and illustrates how grassroots efforts can influence the outcome of multi-million dollar projects.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Montgomery County, Maryland, is considering legislation to mandate safer design standards for all streets in urban areas. The City Fix explains why Brazil’s streets are getting a little safer, though they remain extremely dangerous compared to European countries. And Urban Milwaukee says that plans are progressing for that city’s long-awaited streetcar.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Ferguson Decision Protesters Take Over Lake Shore Drive (Crain’s)
  • CTA Buying 9 Properties for 95th Street Red Line Renovation (RedEye)
  • Off-Duty Cop Accused of Firing Shots at Officer Who Pulled Him Over for DUI (Sun-Times)
  • 7 Injured After Driver Crashes Into Bus, Building in East Garfield Park (Tribune)
  • Multiple People Hospitalized After 2 Different Crashes at Same Site in Gurnee (Tribune)
  • Cyclist Injured by Driver Who Blew Stop Sign Gets $190K Settlement (Keating)
  • Lincoln Square’s Semi-Pedestrianized Block to Get “Main Street Makover” for Holidays (DNA)
  • CTA Tattler Looks Inside the New Holiday Bus
  • LGRAB Finally Embraces the Cold-Weather Biking Season
  • Check Out This Old-School Bike Safety Rap Video (Kevenides)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Despite Saturday’s Tragic Crash, Divvy Has a Strong Safety Record

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Travis Persaud.

Last weekend, medical student Travis Persaud was struck by two different drivers while riding a Divvy bike on Lake Shore Drive, a limited-access highway where cycling is prohibited. Persaud, 25, is the only person ever to have been critically injured while riding bike-share in Chicago since the system launched in June 2013.

Around 2:50 a.m. Saturday, Persaud was biking north on the highway near the Belmont exit, according to Officer Ana Pacheco of News Affairs. The 27-year-old male driver of a Mitsubishi told police the cyclist “was swerving between the two rightmost lanes” of the drive, Pacheco said. Persaud then “collided with and was thrown under” the car, according to Pacheco.

Another driver in a Nissan stopped in the second-rightmost lane to try to help Persaud, Pacheco said. However, a third motorist in a Honda was unable to stop, striking first the Nissan, the cyclist, and then the Mitsubishi, she said.

Persaud was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition, according to Pacheco, and was the only person injured during the chain-reaction crash. The Honda driver, a 22-year-old male, was cited for driving without insurance. “Alcohol is believed to have played a factor in this accident, as the investigation revealed that the bicyclist had a high level of alcohol in his system,” Pacheco said.

A passenger in the Mitsubishi, which was in service as an Uber vehicle at the time, told DNAinfo on Saturday that Persaud’s left foot was severed and that there was a large cut on his head. However, an update DNA posted this morning stated that the cyclist did not lose his foot, but instead suffered a broken leg and a dislocated shoulder.

Persaud is currently in a medically induced coma, his father Frank told DNA. “His prognosis is critical, but he is stable… It will be a long road to recovery, but it’s looking upward.”

Travis Persaud is a third-year medical student who had recently moved to Chicago to do a ten-month rotation at Mount Sinai Hospital, his father said. The family told DNA that Travis lives in an apartment near the crash site, and they think he was trying to cross Lake Shore Drive in order to go home when he was struck.

This is the third media-reported case of a Divvy rider on a limited-access highway in Chicago, including a woman who was spotted on Lake Shore Drive in the summer of 2013, and a woman who was seen on the Dan Ryan in October. Several commenters on the DNA articles about Persaud ridiculed the cyclist for his poor judgment in biking on the drive while intoxicated, and argued that this case is evidence that Divvy is inherently dangerous.

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Congress Gives Itself More Free Parking Than Its Own Rules Allow

How much are these free parking spots worth? Probably more than the $250 parking benefit Congress allows. Photo: ##http://www.jmt.com/project-portfolio/us-senate-parking-lot-study/##JMT##

How much are these free parking spots worth? More than the $250 per month in tax-free parking benefits that Congress allows. Photo: JMT

As TransitCenter and the Frontier Group reported last week, the federal government pays a huge $7.3 billion subsidy to people who drive to work by making commuter parking expenses tax exempt. There are countless reasons for Congress to scrap this poorly-conceived, congestion-inducing subsidy. While policymakers consider the big picture, they also ought to examine how their own parking benefits are administered.

Here’s the short version: Congress is breaking its own law, and it’s shorting the Treasury hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, by providing free parking far in excess of the allowable limits.

USC 26 Section 132f of the tax code allows employers to provide each worker with up to $250 in free parking per month tax-free, which can add up to $3,000 in tax-free perks per employee each year. That’s a pretty big amount to pay people for exacerbating congestion, but the parking at the U.S. Capitol is worth significantly more than that.

It’s hard to know exactly how many free parking spaces we’re talking about. The Architect of the Capitol and relevant committees don’t like to talk about it, but Lydia DePillis reported in the Washington City Paper a few years ago that a plan for the southern part of the Capitol complex completed in 2005 shows that the House office buildings alone have 5,772 parking spaces assigned to them.

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Why Aren’t American Bike-Share Systems Living Up to Their Potential?

This chart shows the performance of the world's bike sharing systems. U.S. systems, by en large, are lagging. Image: ?

U.S. bike-share systems, which tend not to have dense networks of stations, also tend to lag behind other bike-share systems on ridership. Graph: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

As policy director at the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to June, 2014, Jon Orcutt shepherded the nation’s largest bike-share system through the earliest stages of planning, a wide-ranging public engagement process, and, last year, the rollout of hundreds of Citi Bike stations.

That makes Orcutt, formerly of Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a leading U.S. expert on bike-share. In a recent exchange about what some cities are passing off as bike-share, Orcutt told he has some concerns about how bike-share systems are being rolled out in cities around the U.S. Intrigued, I asked him to elaborate in an interview.

Here’s what he had to say about what separates a successful bike-share system from one that’s not meeting its potential:

So you’ve come to some conclusions about how certain bike-shares are functioning?

They’re not my conclusions. There’s a fair amount of research out there now and you can see pretty clearly what some of the variables are. There’s a huge variation across cities, especially in the United States.

Can you summarize the research?

The most useful metric is rides per bike per day. You can compare a system with 600 bikes to 6,000 bikes in different size cities pretty easily. You just see, how many rides is it getting?

I’d say the breaking point internationally is about three-and-a-half or four rides. High performing systems are seeing four rides per day on average or more, and then there’s everybody else. A lot of them in the United States are under two.

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Rochester Residents Add Their Own Bus Stop Seating

This "bus stop cube" was one of two tested recently in Rochester to help give bus riders a place to rest. Photo: Rochester Subway

Reconnect Rochester put out this “bus stop cube” to give riders a place to take a load off. Photo: Rochester Subway

Rochester residents are experimenting with a simple idea to make riding the bus a little more comfortable.

Mike Governale at Rochester Subway reports that a group called Reconnect Rochester is testing out two brightly colored “bus stop cubes” to give bus riders a place to rest at stops that currently have no seating. Governale went around interviewing bus riders at cube sites. Here’s what they had to say:

The volunteers at Reconnect Rochester recently tested a prototype bus stop seat shaped like a cube at two locations: The PriceRite at Dewey & Driving Park and N. Union St. at the Public Market. As the video above shows, the results were very positive.

These women [pictured above] had just finished shopping and were waiting for their #10 bus when they were introduced to the CUBE seat. One of the women said that when she’s waiting for her bus, sometimes her legs give out. And she says the bus stop cube is the perfect height for her. She said many of the standard benches throughout the city are actually too low for her to get up out of easily.

Reconnect Rochester also shot this video of live interviews with bus riders — the reviews were mostly good. The group is asking community members to pin spots on an interactive map to recommend future locations for cubes. They’re also seeking donations to support the project.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Bike Walk Lee says the principles outlined at the recent Vision Zero symposium in New York should help guide street safety efforts in Southwest Florida. I Bike TO asks whether Toronto should build bike infrastructure for “cyclists” or for people of all ages and abilities. And the Urbanophile weighs in on Tony Hsieh’s bid to transform downtown Las Vegas into a live-work neighborhood.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Divvy Rider Injured on LSD Is a Med Student, Did Not Lose Foot in Crash (DNA)
  • 3 Injured in Wrong-Way Crash on Ohio Feeder (RedEye)
  • 2 Hurt in Hit-and-Run on the Dan Ryan (RedEye)
  • Video Footage Released of October Crash That Killed 3 People on 95th in Oak Lawn (NBC)
  • IL Senate Overrides Quinn’s Veto of Bill to Raise Speed Limit on Tollways (Expired Meter)
  • Most of Chicago’s “Stop for Peds” Signs Have Already Been Replaced (Tribune)
  • CMAP Discusses Its Infrastructure Funding Proposal (Daily Herald)
  • Rosenthal: Uber, Licensed in Chicago Last Week, Has Been Playing Hardball (Tribune)
  • More Lincoln Parkers Discuss the #11 Lincoln Bus Cut (DNA)
  • Bridgeport Merchants Say They’re Panicking Over Halsted Street Closure (DNA)
  • Man Charged After Taking “Extremely Dangerous” Ride on Back of Metra Train (Tribune)
  • Late-Night Car Alarm Malfunction Results in Hilarious Note From Neighbor (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Montrose Green Planner: The Time Is Right for Transit-Oriented Development

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Rendering of Montrose Green, a proposed mixed-use, parking-lite development by the Brown Line.

Montrose Green is a new mixed-use, parking-lite building proposed for a vacant lot at 1819 West Montrose in Ravenswood. The location has all the transit access you could ask for in a development. The parcel sits just west of the Brown Line’s Montrose station, and is served by the #78 Montrose and #50 Damen buses. There’s a Divvy station across the street, and Metra’s Ravenswood stop is three blocks north. The lot sits on a bustling pedestrian-oriented retail strip, full of shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes.

Developer Harrington Brown plans to take advantage of the prime location, and Chicago’s 2013 transit-oriented development ordinance, to build a five-story building with 24 rental units and 10 parking spaces. That’s far below the city’s standard requirement of a 1:1 ratio. “People are seeking opportunities to live, work, shop, and dine near transit hubs,” said Harrington Brown owner David Brown. “This approach reflects where we are as a society — not every single renter has a car or needs a car.”

The building would mostly be made up of one-bedroom apartments, with a few two-bedroom units. The 5,300 square-foot ground floor space would likely be leased to a restaurant. A 3,000 square-foot, penthouse-like structure on the 5th floor is planned as office space for tech startups and other innovative small businesses. The developer hopes to start construction next spring.

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The development would be in a transit- and retail-rich location. Image: Google Streetview

Harrington Brown purchased the land during a CTA auction five years ago, during the depths of the Great Recession, and Brown said it was his intention to hold onto the property until the real estate market improved. In the meantime, the space has housed the Montrose Green community garden, as well as events like an outdoor Irish Christmas market, held last December. “That turned out to be more of a Polar Vortex street party,” he joked.

Brown said he’s not a developer by trade, but comes from a public policy and urban planning background, and that his strategy for the new building reflects his planning philosophy. “What we’re finding in neighborhoods today is that the demand for parking among renters is much lower than what was previously perceived,” he said. “If we’re wrong about that, we won’t be successful in renting the apartments.”

Typically, Chicago parking requirements mandate the construction of at least one parking spot per residence. The city’s TOD ordinance relaxes the rules near transit, requiring developers to provide one parking spot for every two housing units in buildings within one full block of a transit station, or within a two-block radius on designated Pedestrian Streets. Harrington Brown is also taking advantage of a provision that allows developers to apply for a variance to reduce the number of spots by an additional 20 percent. The 10 spaces would be located behind the building.

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