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Raise Your Kids in the Car, Says Stupefyingly Awful Web Site

Heresy. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Heresy. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Want to talk to your kids? Stick them in the car.

That’s the word-for-word headline atop a recent post on Driving, a Canadian web site that also believes lowering speed limits in cities — you know, those places where kids and parents walk — is “an exercise in futility,” because drivers.

Both columns were penned by the same writer, Lorraine Sommerfeld, who among many other things suggests that “allowing” people to cross the street is a good way to teach courtesy. But the gist of her advice boils down to: “The family vehicle might be the single best place to talk to your kids, when you’re all held captive.”

Take it away, Family Friendly Cities:

While maintaining the attention of your child long enough to talk to them is a challenge for any parent, we shouldn’t be accepting of an environment built so poorly that we have to hold our children ‘captive’ in a car in order to talk to them.

Let’s ignore the fact that attempting to seriously engage your child in a thought provoking conversation is another distraction while hurdling a two ton piece of metal through space while risking the lives of others. Accepting that the car is the best place to engage, learn, and understand your child is disturbing … Children were meant to run, jump, play, or [engage in] just about any other form of movement that doesn’t include being restrained inside an automobile. The same can be said for how they learn about their environment and how, as parents, we teach, engage and converse with them.

Children learn nothing about the world at 30 mph. They cannot feel the world, they cannot smell it, and they certainly aren’t moving slow enough to experience all of its nuances. Unless a child’s parent happens to be a Picasso with words, talking to them about the world while captive in a car will do very little to expand their experiences with the real world.

We should probably add that health experts say car crashes are the leading cause of death for Canadian children. Auto collisions are a leading cause of child mortality in the U.S., with more than 9,000 kids age 12 and under killed in the last 10 years, according to the CDC. All things considered, it could be that rearing from the rearview mirror isn’t the best idea.

Elsewhere on the Network: The League of American Bicyclists has a new report on equity of access to cycling infrastructure, and nextSTL analyzes the difference between “urban” and “suburban” in St. Louis.


Today’s Headlines for Wednesday, September 2

  • The New Northerly Island — Including a Sweet Bike Trail Loop — Opens Friday (Tribune)
  • Deep Tunnel Project Completed After 40 Years, Will Address Flooding on South Side (Tribune)
  • Emanuel Won’t Rule Out a New Tax on Ride-Sharing (RedEye)
  • Police: Driver Killed After He Veered Into Oncoming Traffic, Striking CTA Bus (Tribune)
  • Lisle Village Clerk Charged With 3rd DUI After Police Find Him Asleep in Car (Herald)
  • Cyclist Who Was Doored Near Diversey/Sheffield Wins Settlement (Keating)
  • BRT Opponent Leads Bike Tours to Highlight Proposed West Loop Traffic Changes (DNA)
  • Activists Protest the Eviction of Homeless People From Uptown Viaducts (Tribune)
  • Wabash Jewelers Blame ‘L’ Construction for Drop in Sales (DNA)
  • Kenwood Merchants Asked for New Meters to Encourage Parking Turnover (DNA)
  • MPC Hosts an FHWA Workshop on Parking Pricing & Management
  • Waiting for the School Bus With Your Kid Is Time Well Spent (Tribune)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA


CDOT & Reilly Reach a Consensus on Kinzie: The Protected Lanes Will Remain


Crews were restriping the Kinzie PBLs Tuesday morning.

There’s some great news about Chicago’s oldest protected bike lanes. Yesterday, the Chicago Department of Transportation confirmed that the Kinzie Street PBLs will stay in place for the foreseeable future, despite an effort by downtown alderman Brendan Reilly to force CDOT to remove them.

The department installed the Kinzie lanes in 2011, not long after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office. In 2013, CDOT agreed to a development plan that called for the developer to pay for installing PBLs on Grand Avenue, Illinois Street, and Wells Street, before the temporary removal of the Kinzie lanes to ease construction of a new high-rise at Wolf Point.

However, by early this year, the new lanes still hadn’t gone in and the transportation department seemed to be unwilling to remove the old ones. Last April, Reilly introduced an ordinance to City Council that would have required CDOT to take out the Kinzie lanes, arguing that they conflicted with the Wolf Point construction truck traffic.

Reilly told the council that transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld cited an internal study that supported keeping the bike lanes on Kinzie. CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey didn’t provide Streetsblog with a copy of the study, but he said the department had concerns about removing the lanes on Kinzie, which had become the city’s second-busiest biking street after Milwaukee Avenue.

In response to Reilly’s move, the Active Transportation Alliance launched a petition asking the other alderman to oppose the ordinance, which garnered more than 1,400 signatures. They also got almost 50 businesses to sign a letter to Reilly asking for the Kinzie lanes to be left in place but improved.

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Citizens Taking Action Takes a Reactionary Stance on Bus Rapid Transit

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Citizens Taking Action’s Charles Paidock.

If you wanted to film a hit comedy based on Chicago’s transit advocacy scene, you’d definitely need to include characters based on the grassroots group Citizens Taking Action. They’re a small circle of colorful, wisecracking guys, who are always good for memorable quotes at Chicago Transit Authority hearings. They’re passionate about local transit history, and some of them have been speaking out against cuts to rail and bus service for decades.

While some of Citizens Taking Action’s ideas are charmingly eccentric, such as their push for Chicago monorail service, some of their more misguided statements can be downright harmful to the cause of creating a better local transit system. In general, they’ve got a “hang on to what we’ve got” mentality, which can be counterproductive when they oppose sensible new transportation projects.

Recently, the group came out against the city of Chicago’s proposal for bus rapid transit on Ashland Avenue, as well as Pace’s plan for Pulse express bus service on Milwaukee Avenue. The group was featured in a Sun-Times piece on Rahm Emanuel’s August 18 announcement that express bus service will be returning to Ashland and Western Avenue, with the addition of transit-priority stoplights.

Reporter Rosalind Rossi, who has delivered consistently negative coverage of the Ashland project, prematurely danced on its grave with the headline, “Ashland BRT Seems All But Dead With Return of Ashland, Western Express Buses.” However, the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Peter Skosey said that’s not the case.

Skosey said that high-level sources at the transit authority and the Chicago Department of Transportation told him the Ashland express service is a “down payment” on BRT. “As far as I can tell, the timeline hasn’t changed at all,” he said. “Once Loop Link [downtown BRT] begins operations, we will have a clear example of the benefits of BRT to help propel Ashland BRT forward.”

However, Citizens Taking Action’s Charles Paidock backed up Rossi’s thesis that Emanuel has buried the $160 million, 16-mile Ashland BRT project, and applauded this supposed decision. “It makes no sense to spend $10 million a mile on some rock candy mountain gimmick,” Paidock said. “It’s a totally unnecessary infrastructure project that doesn’t enhance service.”

That’s a pretty absurd statement to make about an initiative that would nearly double bus speeds on the city’s busiest route, from the current 8.7 mph to 15.9 mph. However, Paidock does make one good point, that the original Ashland express should never have been cut in the first place.

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Streetsblog USA
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3 Reasons Politicians Like Building New Roads More Than Fixing Old Ones

The cost to construct this bridge ($600 million) is more than the estimated $500 million it would cost to bring Minnesota's 1,191 "structurally deficient" bridges into a state of good repair. Guess which the state is moving ahead with. Image: Minnesota DOT

The $600 million it will cost to build this one bridge is more than the estimated $500 million needed to bring all of Minnesota’s 1,191 “structurally deficient” bridges into a state of good repair. Guess which project Minnesota is moving ahead with. Image: Minnesota DOT

American transportation policy places a premium on delivering big, shiny new things.

As much as the big state transportation agencies and their political bosses love pouring concrete, they tend to avoid keeping the things they build in good working condition. Many state DOTs still spend upwards of 90 percent of their annual budgets on new construction, according to Smart Growth America, despite all the ink that’s been spilled about structurally deficient bridges across the land.

The question is why? Why do new projects continue to hold such political appeal, even while the public is bombarded with messages about the fragile state of American infrastructure and business-as-usual practices bankrupt the current system of transportation funding?

We reached out to civil engineer and big thinker Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns for his take. Drawing from his experience as a municipal engineer, he said the problem boils down to three factors.

1. Building new infrastructure is less complicated than fixing existing infrastructure

“From the position of the construction worker on the ground, it’s so much easier to do something new because you don’t have to deal with all of the existing problems. You have the elevation of people’s sidewalks, you have people who don’t want to have the street shut down. It is just like a logistical nightmare to do maintenance. When you’re doing something new, where you control the site, it takes away the messiness.”

2. New projects tend to be more popular with the public

“People almost always respond positively to new stuff. They’ll tolerate the hassle of construction when you’re doing something that’s new. But if you say we’re going to take this bridge and tear it down and put it back the way it was, it doesn’t make anything better for them. It’s just maintenance. You don’t have anything new tomorrow that you didn’t have today. When you do maintenance projects you get pushback from people. They’ll tolerate new stuff because they perceive it as the necessary thing for things to get better. You know in like three months you’ll be able to drive a lot quicker.”

3. New construction is easier to finance

“Why do you rob banks? Because that’s where the money is. Most federal and even state funding programs assume maintenance to be a local issue, so it is easier and more streamlined to get money for new stuff than for maintenance.”
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Biking the Last Mile in Suburban Copenhagen

Bike parking at the Friheden Street transit stop in suburban Copenhagen. Image: Google via Greater Greater Washington

Bike parking at the Friheden Street transit stop in suburban Copenhagen. Image: GGW

Tooling around on Google, Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington stumbled on the above image from suburban Copenhagen.

What’s right with this picture? Note the (a) bike parking lot at the Friheden Street transit station, just across the (b) sidewalk from the (c) bike lane.

Writes Malouff:

One of the most important uses for bicycles is as a last mile tool, to get from one’s home to a transit station, or from a transit station to one’s final destination.

Anywhere you have a transit station with a lot of other buildings a mile or two away, bikes can help connect one to the other. That includes suburbs.

If you provide the necessary infrastructure, and treat bicycling like a serious option, people will use it.

Unlike central Copenhagen, which is dense and difficult to drive a car through, the area around Friheden Street is suburban and relatively low density. Actually it looks a lot communities around the Washington Beltway. [See Malouff’s post for images.]

I admit I’ve never been to Friheden Street. I’ve never even been to Denmark. Frankly I have no idea if it’s a pleasant community, or what the less desirable things about it may be. I’m sure there are trade-offs to it, compared to an American suburb.

But I happened to be on Google Earth looking at Copenhagen, which is famously a bike paradise, and wondered what its suburbs look like. I turned on Google’s transit layer and started looking at the areas around suburban stations. Friheden Street just happens to be one I zoomed in on.

And look at all those beautiful bike racks.

Elsewhere on the Network: Walkable West Palm Beach on why the Dutch don’t need helmets or high-viz clothing to bike (hint: it’s street design), and ATL Urbanist reports that someone on Twitter is trolling Atlanta.


Today’s Headlines for Tuesday, September 1

  • After CEO Pleaded Guilty to Bribery, City Is Suing RedFlex for More Than $300 Million (CBS)
  • RTA Chief: Yes, Chicago Area’s Roads Are Congested, & Better Transit Is the Solution (Tribune)
  • Chicagoland Gas Prices Dropped 29 Cents in the Past Week (Sun-Times)
  • Editorial: Feds Should Help Ensure We Don’t Have Another Local Refinery Breakdown (Sun-Times)
  • Elderly Woman Who Was Injured by Driver Fleeing Police Has Has Died (Sun-Times)
  • 1 Killed in Portage Park Hit-and-Run, Drag Racing Suspected (WGN)
  • Should Chicago Try a Montana-Style 24/7-Sobriety Program for DUI Offenders? (Tribune)
  • Suburban Residents Are Fighting Against Downtown Density (Tribune)
  • A Love Letter to Suburbia (Daily Herald)
  • DNA Checks Out the New Concrete-Protected Lanes on Milwaukee
  • Steinberg Is Annoyed by Evanston Crossing Flags — They Didn’t Last Long in Chicago

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Bronzeville Bikes Rolls on With Its Mission to Encourage South Side Cycling

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This year, the Bronzeville Bike Box got a rain canopy and flower boxes. Photo: Bronzeville Bikes

It’s been another productive summer for Bronzeville Bikes, an organization that promotes cycling in the historic South Side neighborhood also known as “The Black Metropolis.” The group hosts neighborhood rides and repair sessions, and runs the Bronzeville Bike Box, a small nonprofit bike shop housed in a recycled shipping container. This summer, they also launched the Sister Cycles program, with courses that teach maintenance and repair to women and women-identifiers.

Founded in 2013 by the Urban Juncture Foundation, Bronzeville Bikes is part of a grander vision for the intersection of 51st Street and Calumet Street as a hub of sustainability in the neighborhood. Located just east of a Green Line stop, the location is also home to the Bronzeville Community Garden. Urban Juncture president Bernard Loyd is currently establishing Bronzeville Cookin’, a food-themed complex that will feature restaurants, a rooftop garden, and a produce store. The first eatery, a Jamaican-style chicken place called the Jerk Shack, recently passed its health inspection and should be opening in the near future. Last year, the Bike Box opened across the street from the garden.

The Bike Box scaled back its operations a bit this year, from three days a week to two. It’s currently open on Saturdays from 12 – 6 p.m. and Sundays from 2 – 6 p.m., which overlaps with the group’s regular Sunday “Celebrate Bronzeville” ride series. “We’ve become an express shop, doing on-the-spot repairs with low-cost pricing,” Bronzeville Bikes intern Cassie Halls explained. “We want to have quick turnover and make sure that a lot of bikes are getting fixed, since we don’t have much capacity to hold bikes overnight.” Simple repairs, such as flat fixes and brake adjustments, run between $5 and $15.

The Celebrate Bronzeville rides take place three times a month. The tour on the first Sunday of each week focuses on the history of the neighborhood, the second Sunday spotlights local sustainability efforts, and the fourth highlights art and architecture. The August rides included a Bronzeville gallery tour, a look at small-scale urban agriculture, and a celebration of the 50-year-old jazz collective the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicisians. Another notable ride last month was the Glow Bike Spectacular, in which riders decked out their bikes with glow sticks for a cruise to the Bronzeville Summer Nights 47th Street Takeover, a festival featuring art, music, dance, and poetry.

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Streetsblog USA
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Here They Are — The Sad Benches Where No One Wants to Sit


This lovely “place I don’t want to sit” comes from Drew Ackermann in Gambrills, Maryland. His wife tested it out just for laughs.

Last week, Gracen Johnson over at Strong Towns introduced the phrase “places I don’t want to sit” to describe the lousy, leftover public spaces where someone has plopped down a bench or two as an afterthought. The seating, in these cases, helps crystallize how unsalvageable our public realm becomes when everything else is planned around moving and storing cars. Who would actually want to sit there?

So Strong Towns and Streetsblog encouraged folks to Tweet their own examples at #PlacesIDontWantToSit. You all dug up some hilarious-but-sad places — here are some of the lousiest ones.

This submission comes to us via Kansas City-based Tweeter The Pedestrian Path, who added the helpful white arrow to point out the sitting space:

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66-Year-Old Man Was Second Bystander Killed After a Police Chase This Year


Willie Owens, right.

Last week, a high-speed police chase in Grand Crossing ended in a multi-car crash that killed a 66-year-old man and injured several other people. It was the second time an innocent bystander had been killed this year by a suspect evading fleeing police officers.

Last Monday evening, police pulled over Paul Forbes, 26, after he ran a stop sign near 75th Street and Maryland Avenue, according to prosecutors. After an officer exited her car, Forbes sped off in his Pontiac, fleeing west on 75th. He ran a light at St. Lawrence Avenue, and then another at King Drive, where he nearly struck a CTA bus that was traveling north, and then collided with a southbound Saturn car.

As a result of the right-angle crash, the Saturn careened into a fence, prosecutors said. Its driver, a 71-year-old woman, suffered multiple vertebrae and ribcage fractures, prosecutors said. Her mother, an 88-year-old woman who was in the passenger seat, suffered spinal fractures and was paralyzed.

After striking the Saturn, Forbes crashed his car into a Chevrolet pickup truck owned by Willie Owens, 66, who was standing in front of the vehicle changing the battery, according to prosecutors. The collision amputated Owens’ leg, and he was thrown 15 feet. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

After Forbes crashed into the pickup, it collided with a Chevrolet sedan, prosecutors said. The two occupants were taken to Jackson Park Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, treated and released.

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