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Chicago’s Chainlink Social Networking Site Launches New Branch in Memphis


Memphians cycle along tracks for the city’s vintage trolley system. Photo: Ronit Bezalel

You know your city has a vibrant bicycle culture when its starts exporting good ideas to other places. Founded in 2008 in Chicago, The Chainlink social networking site (a Streetsblog sponsor) has become an indispensible resource for local cyclists, with info on commuting, recreational rides, and racing, a busy discussion forum and events calendar, and over 12,000 members.

Officials in the up-and-coming bike town of Memphis, Tennessee, heard about the website’s success and contracted its owner Yasmeen Schuller to create a new site to encourage more biking, as well as transit use, in the Bluff City. The Chainlink Memphis went live a few weeks ago, and today Schuller formally unveiled the site, inviting Memphians to sign up as members.


Yasmeen Schuller

Recently civic leaders in Memphis have embraced the promotion of cycling and construction of bike facilities. They see it as a strategy to help improve health outcomes for residents, reduce congestion and pollution, and make the city a more attractive destination for companies and workers. In recent years Memphis has begun building dozens of miles of bike lanes, including the city’s first buffered and protected lanes.

About a year and a half ago, the city’s Office of Innovation, which houses its bike program, reached out to Schuller about creating the new Chainlink site. “It sounded like a great opportunity because they have tons of enthusiasm for getting more people on bikes, they’re building lots of infrastructure, and it’s already a very bikeable place.”

A year ago Schuller and photographer Ronit Belazel traveled to home of Stax, Sun, and Graceland to document existing conditions for biking. “We rode everywhere we could and found that it’s even easier to get around by bike than Chicago because traffic is a a little mellower,” she said. “We visited bicycle shops and the owners were very excited to talk to us about the local bike scene.”

Schuller soon set to work on building the new website. While the Chicago site is strictly bike-centric, the city of Memphis requested that their Chainlink also include info and articles about the Memphis Area Transit Association’s bus network and trolley line, as well as a separate forum and calendar for public transportation-related topics and events. “With Streetsblog in Chicago, we don’t really need to cover transit and other forms of active transportation,” she said. “But Memphis decided transit needed more exposure.”

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London Is Going to Ban the Deadliest Trucks From Its Streets

Photo: Transport for London via Treehugger

Image: Transport for London via Treehugger

Heavy trucks with big blind spots are a deadly menace to cyclists and pedestrians.

In Boston, eight of the nine cyclist fatalities between 2012 and 2014 involved commercial vehicles, according to the Boston Cyclists Union [PDF].

Between June and September this year, there were six cyclist fatalities in Chicago, and all six involved heavy trucks.

In New York City, drivers of heavy trucks account for 32 percent of bike fatalities and 12 percent of pedestrian fatalities, despite the fact that they are only 3.6 percent of traffic.

U.S. cities are starting to take steps like requiring sideguards on some trucks. But no American city is tackling the problem like London is.

In London, city officials estimate that 58 percent of cyclist deaths and more than a quarter of pedestrian deaths involve heavy trucks, even though trucks only account for 4 percent of traffic. Evidence suggests trucks pose an especially large risk to women cyclists.

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Tesla’s Vision for the Future of Autonomous Cars Should Scare Us

What impact will self-driving cars have on cities?

Will self-driving cars be part of shared fleets or have the old individual ownership model? The answer will be important to the health of cities. Photo: Flickr/David van der Mark

Will self-driving cars also bring about shared fleets or will they operate in the old individual ownership model? Photo: Flickr/David van der Mark

The range of potential outcomes is enormous. In the best-case scenario, private car ownership gives way to shared fleets of autonomous cars, freeing up vast amounts of land that used to be devoted to vehicle storage.

Then there’s the scenario promoted by Tesla, in which everyone owns their personal autonomous vehicle. The consequences would be frightening, says Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic:

Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar, has laid out an intuitive way of understanding this issue using a binary “heaven or hell” construction (note: I’ve interviewed her in the past on how autonomous cars will impact the transit system). According to this formulation, we could have “heaven” if we had fleets of shared, electric, driverless cars powered by renewable energy, plus a redistributive economy that ensures that people who once had jobs in the transportation sector have access to a minimum income. On the other hand, we could have “hell” if everyone owns his or her own driverless car that does our errands, parks our cars, and circles the neighborhood waiting for us to need it again.

Tesla seems to be resolving this issue for us.

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Today’s Headlines for Friday, October 21

  • Active Trans‘ #ClearTheWay Campaign Garnered 500+ Reports of Bikeway Blockage
  • Wrigleyville Residents Worry New Developments Will Cause More Congestion (Tribune)
  • Short Stretch of Orleans Will Become 2-Way to Handle Wolf Point Traffic (DNA)
  • Cyclists Rejoice! Construction Canopy by Wicker Park’s Coyote Tower Is Gone (DNA)
  • Food Truck Operators Say Strict City Rules Make It Difficult to Be Profitable (Tribune)
  • Photos From Hospital’s Helipad Before Demolition to Make Room for TOD (Chicagoist)
  • Survey: Where Do You Like to Sit or Stand on the ‘L’? (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Chicago Vets Swept the North American Cycle Courier Championships


Christina Peck at the NACCC in NYC. Photo: Caroline Pauleau

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. We syndicate a portion of the column on Streetsblog after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print.]

In two-way radio speak, “10/9” means “please repeat.” That’s exactly what Christina Peck and Nico Deportago-Cabrera, former and current Chicago bike messengers, respectively, did at the North American Cycle Courier Championships in New York City earlier this month.

The NACCC (pronounced “nack”) tests the mettle of messengers from all over the continent, as well as visitors from other parts of the world (although they’re not eligible to win), with races meant to simulate a day of two-wheeled delivery work. Back in 2009, Peck won top overall honors at the championship race in Boston, and her good friend Deportago-Cabrera was the top male finisher.

This year, on October 9—which is also 10-9 Day, or international Messenger Appreciation Day—the pair repeated those very same feats in New York. Peck, who now works for Godspeed Courier in San Francisco, was also the overall winner in the 2013 NACCC in Seattle—that’s a total of three overall North American championships. On top of that, she’s been the first-place female in two Cycle Messenger World Championships, in Mexico City in 2014 and Melbourne in 2015.

Deportago-Cabrera, who rides for Chicago’s Cut Cats Courier food delivery collective and as an independent contractor, is no slouch either. In addition to being the top male finisher in the main NYC race this year, he was the first-place out-of-towner in a nighttime “alleycat” race (a messenger-style competition in live traffic) held in Manhattan earlier that weekend. (Out-of-towners are often ranked separately because they don’t have the hometown advantage of knowing the street grid.)

I caught up with these speedy folks last week to discuss their achievements, and the state of the courier industry.

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Comparing the Price of Parking Across U.S. Cities

This article was cross-posted from City Observatory

How much does it cost to park a car in different cities around the nation?

Today, we’re presenting some new data on a surprisingly under-measured aspect of cities and the cost of living: how much it costs to park a car in different cities. There are regular comparisons of rents and housing costs between cities. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports on regional price variations among states. But the price of parking falls into a kind of unlit corner of the statistical world.

Parking is central to the operation of our automobile dominated transportation system. There are more than 260 million cars and trucks in the United States, and most cars sit parked about 95 percent of the time.

It isn’t free, in any sense of the word. (Flickr: reflexblue)

It isn’t free, in any sense of the word. (Flickr: reflexblue)

While we have copious data about cars—the number registered, the number of gallons of gasoline they burn (over 140 billion), the number of miles they travel (over 3 trillion)—we actually know precious little about the scale of the nation’s parking system.The best estimates suggest that there are somewhere between 722 million and more than 2 billion parking spaces in the United States.

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Center City Philadelphia Commuters Increasingly Arriving by Bike

Where bicyclists were once a trickle in Philadelphia, they are now a steady stream.

Bike commuting in central Philadelphia is on the rise, according to a recent report by the Center City District, which found about 1,400 cyclists entering the center city from the south during the peak rush hour.

Thousands of cyclists pour into Center City Philadelphia daily, largely on two buffered bike lanes. Graph: Center City District

Thousands of cyclists pour into Center City Philadelphia daily, largely on two buffered bike lanes. Graph: Center City District

Randy LoBasso at the Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia explains the increase is happening even though the infrastructure is less than ideal:

In their new report, “Bicycle Commuting,” Center City District reports that cyclists entering Center City on northbound streets during rush hour (8am-9am) “was up 22 percent over the … last count in 2014” and up 79 percent since 2010.

According to CCD’s bike counts, cyclists are using Center City lanes specifically engineered for high bike rates — like Spruce Street and 13th Street, which have wide, buffered bike lanes.

And Center City residents and commuters agree that motor vehicles parking in those bike lanes is especially annoying for Philadelphia road users. A Transportation Priorities Survey, also released by Center City District, found that the most important issues hindering mobility are vehicles blocking lanes, lack of enforcement and poor street conditions.

Cyclists are well aware of the problem of people in motor vehicles thinking they can pull over into a bike lane without fear of being ticketed, and without care for the other road users who can get injured when they do so.

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Today’s Headlines for Thursday, October 20

  • Crain’s Op-Ed: Pedestrianize Michigan, Create an 8-Mile Sunday Ciclovia Route
  • There Have Been 6 Armed Robberies on The 606 Since September 19 (DNA)
  • Police: Ride-Share Driver Is Stealing Credit Card Info From Passengers (Chicagoist)
  • Should Delivery Drivers Pay to Use Downtown Loading Zones? (DNA)
  • Inexplicable: EPA Closing All City Emissions Testing Facilities to Cut Costs (Tribune)
  • Chainlinkers Discuss the Sociology of “Shoaling” (I’ve Been Guilty of It Myself)
  • Lincoln Parkers Say TOD Construction Is Coating Their Cars With Crud (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA


The Final Segment of the Chicago Riverwalk Set to Open This Weekend

Final sections of the new Chicago Riverwalk

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, speaks to Margaret Frisbie, director of Friends of the Chicago River (green jacket), on the ramp from Wacker Drive to the Riverbank section. Photo: Steven Vance

If all goes well, starting this weekend you’ll be able to walk most of the way from the Ogilvie Center to Michigan Avenue on a car-free, if somewhat circuitous, route. At a media preview of the final section of the Chicago Riverwalk expansion this afternoon, Mayor Emanuel said he’s confident that the new recreational space, which doubles as a corridor for walking and (cautious) biking, will be open to the public this Saturday.

Previously, the Chicago Riverwalk was a simple paved path that ran from the Lakefront Trail to State. The first segment of the riverwalk extension, a much more elaborate promenade from State to LaSalle, opened in summer 2015 and immediately proved a hit with locals and tourists alike. This latest segment will run from LaSalle to Lake, creating a 1.3-mile route from Lake Michigan to the West Loop.

Emanuel was joined on the tour by officials from the city’s transportation and fleet and facilities management departments, as well as downtown alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) and staff from Sasaki and Ross Barney Architects, the lead design team. The transportation department is building the project, which involved extending the south bank of the Chicago River out by 25 feet.

The three new sections, or “rooms,” of the Riverwalk to open later this week include:

  • The Water Plaza: A water play area for children and their families at the river’s edge. (From LaSalle to Wells.)
  • The Jetty: A series of piers and floating wetland gardens with interactive learning about the ecology of the river, including opportunities for fishing and identifying native plants. (From Wells to Franklin.)
  • The Riverbank: A wheelchair-friendly ramp and new marine edge that creates access to Lake Street and features a public lawn at the confluence of the Main, North, and South branches of the river. The ramp provides an accessible route from lower to upper Wacker and Lake Street. (From Franklin to Lake.)

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Active Trans Launches a New Proposal for a Grand Riverfront Trail System


Erie Park in River North includes a couple blocks of riverfront path. Photo: John Greenfield

On Monday the Active Transportation Alliance released their action plan for a continuous Chicago River Trail, one that would provide a corridor for pedestrians and bicyclists along the north and south branches of the river, connecting with existing suburban trails. You can read an executive summary of their proposal here.

The advocacy group argues that while Chicago’s lakefront park and trail system is excellent, our riverfront still isn’t living up to its full potential. They say that the heavy use of local trails like the Lakefront Trail and the Bloomingdale shows there is latent demand for a robust riverfront trail system that would serve as both a recreation and healthy transportation facility.

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 2.03.02 PM

A map from the executive summary shows potential locations for new trail segments. Click to enlarge.

The new system would also be a shot in the arm for the local economy, providing sustainable economic development opportunities, including tourism and retail. Active Trans notes that nearly one million Chicagoans live within a mile of the river.

Civic leaders have been calling for a continuous Chicago River Trail ever since Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan for Chicago. Recently, Our Great Rivers, a visioning document for all three of Chicago’s rivers, was released as part of a project led by the Metropolitan Planning Council, in partnership with the city, Friends of the Chicago River, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, with input from thousands of residents.

According to Active Trans, almost half of the 27 miles of Chicago riverfront has existing trail segments, and several more miles are planned over the next few years. 14.8 miles of riverfront have no trail, but seven miles of river would be relatively easy to build trail segments on in the foreseeable future, the group says.

Active Trans has been in talks with neighborhood organizations in various communities along the river corridor to get input on the needs for the trail in local communities, ways to improve river access, and upcoming projects that could affect the construction of future stretches of trail.

The advocacy group notes that several upcoming projects offer opportunities to build new trail segments, including sections built as part of privately funded developments. Potential sites include El Paseo Trail project in Little Village and Pilsen, the south extension of the North Branch Trail, the Chicago Riverwalk expansion, the Bridgeport rowing center, the former Finkl Steel site, the redevelopment of Lathrop Homes, and planned developments in the South Loop and on Goose Island.

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