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Eyes on the Street: The Randolph Protected Bike Lane Starts to Take Shape

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Looking south at the Dutch-inspired intersection at Randolph and Canal. Photo: CDOT

The Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor on Washington Street includes a concrete-protected bike lane between the island bus stations and the curb. But the construction of the raised, curbside bus platforms and dedicated bus lanes on Madison Street involved the removal an existing bike lane.

The Chicago Department of Transportation plans to replace the Madison bike lane with a new protected lane on Randolph Street. But long after the Madison lane – the Loop’s only westbound bikeway – was removed, the Randolph lane still isn’t open. As a result, westbound cyclists are riding in the red bus-only lane on Madison. While that’s not an ideal situation, it doesn’t seem to be significantly slowing down CTA buses.

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A panoramic photo (hence the curving effect) of the Randolph/Canal treatment shot from the south by M.P. Hurley.

The good news is that the protected infrastructure on Randolph is finally starting to materialize, although the bike lane probably won’t be open for a few months. CDOT recently completed a Dutch-inspired intersection treatment at the northeast corner of Randolph and Canal Street, with concrete refuge islands to help protect cyclists and pedestrians from motorized traffic.

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Refuge island for the mid-block crossing between City Hall and the Thompson Center. Photo: John Greenfield

A refuge island is now being built by the mid-block crosswalk between City Hall and the Thompson Center, west of Clark Street. But there is currently utility work going on Randolph in the Loop, which won’t be done until late August or early September, according to CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey.

After that work is done, Randolph will be repaved and the white striping and green bike lane installation will be completed, Claffey said. CDOT expects the bike lane to be operational before the end of the construction season in late fall.

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Meeting to Discuss Manor Greenway Amidst Opposition Set for Thursday

The 33rd Ward is holding the monthly meeting of its Transportation Action Committee on Thursday to discuss the Manor Greenway, a proposal from the Chicago Department of Transportation to connect two multi-use park paths via an on-street route on Manor Greenway. Jeff Sobczyk, assistant to Alder Deb Mell, said in the meeting announcement that the time would be used to improve understanding of the project’s goals. Neighborhood greenways are intended to make it safer and more convenient to cycle on Chicago’s side streets.

Soon after I first wrote about the proposal in June, opposition to it came online. Local resident Lawrence Brown started a petition in June calling for CDOT to scrap their plan to install a traffic diverter there for three months in the fall, but the petition is overlooking what actually makes the plan to increase bicycling safety and convenience work. The petition currently has 23 signatures.

The Manor Greenway would include the most robust traffic calming treatments of any neighborhood greenway CDOT has installed to date. The plan calls for installing a physical barrier at the intersection of Manor Avenue and Wilson Avenue to prevent motorists from continuing on Manor. This would reduce the amount of cars on the street, improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

At the north and south ends of the greenway, which are are also the north and south boundaries of Ravenswood Manor, CDOT would install raised crosswalks to slow incoming motorists and send the message that this street is for slower, residential car traffic, reminding drivers to watch out for vulnerable road users.

The petition says, “We can make a bike path and greenway through Ravenswood Manor without diverting the traffic flow.” That’s pretty much what happened with the Berteau Greenway in Lakeview, Ravenswood, and North Center. That plan originally included traffic diverters, but these were scrapped due to similar opposition from residents.

The watered-down treatment on Berteau, which involved contraflow bike lanes, curb bumpouts, and a traffic circle, made the street somewhat better for cycling than it was before. But due to the lack of traffic diverters, the street still gets plenty of cut-through car-traffic, which means it’s still not an “8-to-80” facility for biking, and it’s not as safe or pleasant a street for walking as it would have been with diverters. The lack of good infrastructure changes ensures that only the fittest and boldest will cycle.

The petition also says, “This planned diversion of traffic will force frustrated drivers onto streets that have far more homes than Manor Ave., thus creating an unsafe environment for the many families that reside on these adjacent blocks.” CDOT’s analysis of predicted traffic flows after the diverter is installed indeed show that other streets will likely see some additional cars, but the analysis was limited because it assumed all drivers diverted from Manor would use Sacramento and Francisco Avenues. Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Tim Kaine Took a Stand Against Cul-de-Sacs

Even though the Democratic Party’s strongholds are in cities, we probably won’t hear much about urban transportation and development policy at the Democratic National Convention this week. City issues seldom get much play when political parties are focused on scooping up swing votes in the suburbs.

Tim Kaine. Photo via Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine

But Hillary Clinton’s VP choice, Tim Kaine, is the former mayor of Richmond, Virginia, and experience running a city is surprisingly rare for someone on a presidential ticket.

So Greater Greater Washington writers have weighed in on his urban policy track record. Here’s a look at the evidence.

Before he was mayor, Kaine made a name for himself as a lawyer fighting housing discrimination, writes Joanne Pierce:

Kaine was on the board of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia from 1986-1994 and 2011-2013, starting before he got into local politics.

He helped represent HOME against Nationwide Insurance, which had labeled minority neighborhoods as undesirable and pulled its agents from those areas. He also helped represent HOME against General Services Corp, which made apartment brochures that featured more white people and lacked equal housing logos and language. Staff members testified that company management talked to them about how to deter black people from renting in their properties.

When he served as governor of Virginia, Kaine ensured the Silver Line would be built, writes Canaan Merchant:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines for Tuesday, July 26

  • UIC’s Urban Transportation Institute Releases Report on How IDOT Can Better Engage Public
  • One Person Killed in Multi-Vehicle Crash on Stevenson That Resulted in Truck Fire (DNA)
  • CTA Bus Driver Cited After Striking Mother & 3 Small Children, No Major Injuries (ABC)
  • A Look at Illinois’ Special Purpose Districts (MPC)
  • Whole Foods Discusses Why They Chose Pullman as the Site of Their Distribution Center (DNA)
  • Major Taylor Cycling Club’s Elihu Blanks Discusses the Benefits of Cycling on WVON (Download)
  • Anti-Cycling Crank John McCarron Cites Bike Lanes as a Symbol of Gentrification (Tribune)
  • Divvy Station Installed by Sox Park, Valet Service Available During Crosstown Classic (DNA)
  • FOTP’s Irizarry Will Discuss the Fight Against the Lucas Museum Plan 6/28 at the Hideout (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Help Us Shame Loop Link Scofflaws With the #NotaCTABus Twitter Campaign

Bus rapid transit has the potential to be a cost-effective way to move people quickly and efficiently across Chicago, without the buses getting slowed down by congestion caused by private vehicles. However, if the bus-only lanes aren’t enforced, it hamstrings efforts to speed up the buses.

Ever since the CTA’s Loop Link system launched last December, downtown bus speeds have shown limited improvement. Things seem to have gotten better since the agency recently eliminated a preliminary rule requiring bus operators to approach the raised platform stations at a snail-like 3 mph.

However, although the lanes are clearly marked “CTA Bus Only,” it’s still common to see shuttle  buses, delivery trucks, taxis, ride-share vehicles, and private cars in the lanes. This isn’t just a minor annoyance. It’s a big deal because if lane enforcement continues to be a major issue and CTA bus speeds don’t get faster, that will make it less likely the city will implement dedicated bus lanes on other routes, such as the proposed Ashland Avenue BRT route.

The problem is particularly common with the charter bus lines that ferry office workers to and from Metra stations. When I talked to staff from The Free Enterprise System and Aries Charter Transportation earlier this year, they were fairly unapologetic, arguing that their drivers don’t have much choice but to use the lanes for pick-ups and drop-offs.

The CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation have told me the problem is on their radar. “We are aware of the issue and we are working with the city to make sure the traffic rules are enforced so that Loop Link delivers improved transit service as intended,” CTA spokesman Jeff Tolman said in April.

While other cities like New York use traffic cameras to keep other drivers out of their bus-only lanes, the Loop Link lanes aren’t camera enforced. New Illinois legislation would be needed to add traffic cams to Loop Link and, since automated enforcement is already highly controversial, that would likely be a non-starter in Springfield.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Atlanta Looks for Options Where Bidirectional Protected Bike Lanes Intersect

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities connect high-comfort biking networks.

Bidirectional protected bike lanes, which put both directions of bike traffic on the same side of a street, aren’t ideal. But they can be useful in a pinch.

Like all protected bike lanes, well-designed bidirectionals are more comfortable to more riders than having no bike lanes on busy streets.

This month in downtown Atlanta, something interesting is happening for the first time in the United States: two bidirectional protected bike lanes are crossing each other at a four-way intersection.

Fortunately, both of them are on the “left” side of signalized one-way streets. This is generally the best way to use a bidirectional protected bike lane, in part because it prevents total chaos in situations like this one.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Will More Bike-Share Systems Opt for “Smart Bikes,” Not “Smart Docks”?

When Portland launched its bike-share system last week, it became the biggest American city to go live with a “smart bike” model. The system allows users to drop off bikes anywhere within the service area, as opposed to the more prevalent “smart dock” model, where users pick up and return bikes only at fixed stations.

Portland's new bike share system moves away from docks. Photo: Bike Portland

Portland’s new bike-share system has stations, but you can lock your bike up anywhere in the service area. Photo: Bike Portland

James Sinclair at Stop and Move considers some of the advantages and disadvantages of each system:

In a smart dock system, everything is handled by the dock and an attached kiosk. On a smart bike system, the bicycle itself carries all the technology. That means you can lock your bicycle to anything. You use a pin code to remove the built in lock and when you’re done, you reattach the lock to the bicycle (and another fixed object of course). Built in GPS ensures the company knows where the bike is.

So why pick one system over another? If most cities have used smart docks, why did Portland go with smart bikes?

The biggest factor involves cost and ease of deployment. A smart bike system actually requires zero infrastructure. You can release the bicycles and let users dock wherever they want — existing racks, fences etc. Docking areas can be created virtually, and displayed with signs or stickers…

One of the major problems with a smart dock system is arriving at a station where every dock is full. That scenario can simply never happen with a smart bike system, since you can lock up to a pole or fence.

But systems like Portland’s have drawbacks too, he says:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines for Monday, July 25

  • Hit-and-Run Driver Who Ran Red, Killing Another Motorist, Charged With Felony (Tribune)
  • Storms Disrupt ‘L’ Service, Knock Metal Canopy onto 3rd Rail Near Medical Center (Tribune)
  • Newly Opened Halsted Bridge by Blue Line Includes a Mid-Block Crossing (DNA)
  • Metra Koan: If a Tree Falls & No One Hears It, Does It Still Disrupt Service? (Sun-Times)
  • Congress Theater Overhaul Could Include Replacing Parking Lot With Residences (Curbed)
  • An Update on the Belmont/Western Viaduct Replacement Project (DNA)
  • Homeowner Turns Empty Englewood Lot Into a “Peace Garden” (DNA)
  • Tips For Enjoying the Lakefront Trail With Small Children (Chicago Parenting)
  • Meet the Saxman Who Has Brought Music to the Barry Underpass for Decades (Tribune)
  • John Discusses Divvy’s Expansion Into the West Side on Outside the Loop Radio
  • Next “Activate” Alley Party 8/5 in Couch Place Will Focus on Vision (Loop Alliance)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Dates Announced for CDOT’s Bike Classes, Suitable for Absolute Beginners

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Bike ambassadors (in red) in the parking lot of the Garfield Workforce Center, where the West Side classes will be taught. Photo: CDOT

Today the Chicago Department of Transportation announced the dates and locations for its free adult bike-handling classes on the South and West sides, part of the department’s strategy to encourage more use of the Divvy bike-share system in low-to-moderate-income communities of color. Here’s the info:

Garfield Workforce Center 
10 S. Kedzie Avenue

  • July 25-29, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 8-12, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Kennedy King College
 710 W. 65th Street

  • August 15-19 , 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 22-29, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 29 – September 2, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

These one-time classes, suitable for people who never learned to ride a bike, as well as those who wish to brush up rusty cycling skills, will be taught by CDOT’s Bicycling Ambassadors outreach team. Divvy bikes will be provided as loaners, so participants won’t need to bring their own cycles. Attendees will also get free helmets, funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the Divvy sponsor. Slow Roll Chicago and other community organizations are helping to promote the classes.

An RSVP is required to attend a class to make sure there are enough instructors available. To RSVP any time before the class, call 312-744-8147.

The seminars are geared towards adults, but they’re also open to children if space is available. However, kids under 16 need to bring their own bikes, since the Divvy system is only available to riders 16 and older.

Participants will start out by riding on a Divvy bike with the pedals removed to get the hang of coasting, steering, and braking, until they can coast for at least 20 seconds without putting a foot down. Next the instructor will add one pedal so that the students can try starting the bike with the pedal. Once they’ve mastered that, the second pedal will be installed.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Naomi Doerner on How Street Safety Advocates Can Support Racial Justice

When a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, shot and killed Philando Castile earlier this month, the encounter began with a traffic stop. The stop fit a pattern: Castile had been pulled over many times before — 46 times in 13 years — but few of those citations were for dangerous driving. More prevalent were stops for minor issues like vehicle defects or misplaced license plates — the type of justifications that police are more likely to use when stopping black and Latino drivers throughout the country.

Naomi Doerner is a consultant who helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Naomi Doerner helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Street safety advocates often call on police to reform traffic enforcement practices in order to reduce dangerous driving that jeopardizes people walking and biking. Given the pervasiveness of racially discriminatory police work and the prevalence of police brutality in many communities, how should biking and walking advocates shape their strategies and messages?

Naomi Doerner, the former executive director of New Orleans’ advocacy organization Bike Easy, is a consultant who specializes in helping biking and walking advocates develop racial justice and social equity plans. She says advocates should be grappling with structural racism and considering how their own choices can entrench or dismantle it.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of our interview.

What’s a mistake some biking or walking organizations are making with regards to diversity?

I think that one of the things I see is hiring of people of color and then making them sort of the voice for diversity and equity, which are not the same thing.

It is great to hire the folks, to have the folks who do potentially have better understanding. Even if you had a staff that was diverse, if there’s not a co-created understanding of equity within your organization and how you’re contributing to it, it won’t succeed.

Read more…