Illegal Stickers and Signs at U. of C. Hospitals Discourage Biking

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Illegal sticker on a city-owned stop sign. Photo: John Greenfield

Last week, I reported how the AMA building unlawfully installed a “No Bike Parking” sign on a city sign pole, then removed a bike that was legally locked to it. In response, Streetsblog reader and University of Chicago employee Elizabeth Edwards alerted me to a similar situation at the U. of C. Hospitals.

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Photo: John Greenfield

It appears that someone, perhaps acting on behalf of the hospitals, has undertaken an obsessive, rather passive-aggressive campaign to keep bikes off street furniture. Stickers reading “Not a Bike Rack” have been stuck on just about every fence, handrail, light post and sign pole next to hospital buildings on 59th, 58th, Maryland, and Drexel. In a few cases, a metal placard with the message has been affixed to a city-owned sign pole. On some fences, there are signs warning that locked bicycles will be removed.

The desire to prevent parked bikes from obstructing the path of patients and visitors, especially wheelchair users, is completely understandable. It’s very inconsiderate for cyclists to lock bikes to handrails and in other locations where they obviously cause an obstruction. Moreover, the hospitals would be within their rights to install signage telling people not to lock to fences and other fixtures on private property. If these warnings are ignored, they would have the right to remove the offending bikes.

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Photo: Elizabeth Edwards

However, it’s not legal for individuals or private entities to post stickers or placards on city-owned signs. Furthermore, the Chicago municipal code specifically states that it is legal to lock bikes to sign poles on the public right of way, as long as they’re not blocking foot traffic:

9-52-070 Parking: No person shall park a bicycle upon a street other than upon the roadway against the curb or upon the sidewalk against a rack, parking meter or sign pole to support the bicycle or against a building or at the curb in such manner as to afford the least obstruction to pedestrian traffic.

The University of Chicago press office and the Chicago Department of Transportation haven’t responded to inquiries I sent yesterday about the signage. Assuming that the hospitals are behind the campaign, they shouldn’t be scolding cyclists for legally parking on city poles.

If the hospitals want to ensure that parked bikes don’t obstruct the sidewalk, a more productive strategy would be to provide a sufficient number of bike racks in convenient locations. When I recently cruised around the hospital campus, I saw just three bike parking installations, two of which had only a handful of spaces.

For example, in front of the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, 5758 South Maryland, there were only two “inverted U” bike racks, designed to hold a total of four bikes. However, there were seven bikes crowded onto the racks, plus two more cycles locked to themselves standing between the racks on kickstands. Clearly, more spaces are needed here.

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Overflowing bike racks by the Duchossois Center. Photo: John Greenfield

Meanwhile, just south on Maryland is a five-story car-parking garage with zero bike racks inside. Driving may be the most practical way for many employees and patients to get to the campus, but an institution whose mission is to promote health should be encouraging biking, not discouraging it. The anti-bike signs and stickers on city poles need to come down immediately.

  • Str0ng

    Technically the stickers are correct. They are literally not bike racks. One is a stop sign, the other a fence. Also I’m willing to bet the fence is private property.

  • Pat

    Did you come to any conclusions about fences that enclose city-owned parkways?

  • Deni

    They would still be illegal since they were put on city property. And the picture of the bike with the slash through it (meaning you can’t lock your bike there) would not be correct, technically or otherwise.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    And how does one get the bike locked to a stop sign not to obstruct the sidewalk entry to the crosswalk? Especially if the bike falls over from it’s locked position?

    Its very easy to steal the bike by unscrewing the pole and lifting the sign, so I don’t consider it an ideal place to leave one’s bike.

    Perhaps the hospital does not have enough security staff to prevent thefts of bikes and does not want to spend staff time removing bikes that are abandoned after parts are stolen.

    If there are not enough bike racks on the public way, certainly advocate for that starting with the alderman and the city. If you want the private business (which is the hospital) to provide parking in their garages or lots, certainly bring it to their attention. But they may not even own their garages, they may be operated by a different entity.

  • Residents can make a request for the city to install bike racks on http://bikeparking.chicagocompletestreets.org/. Other organizations, including universities, can see this data and should also act.

  • Mishellie

    It’s still illegal to say that people can’t park their bikes there.

  • A bike with its wheel and frame locked to a sign pole and turned parallel to the curb is unlikely to block pedestrians or fall over. Of course, one should use common sense and not lock your bike in an area that is signed as an ambulance or bus unloading zone.

    Sign posts are reasonably safe places for short-term bike parking, as long as you pull on the sign to make sure it’s not an unbolted “sucker pole.” Ideally, the sign will have a large washer hammered into the base to make it difficult to take the pole out.

  • First, did you try contacting University of Chicago Medicine? I believe they may be a separate legal entity from the University of Chicago. If so, that may be exactly what the latter will eventually and grudgingly tell you.

    Second, are you quite certain that there are zero bike racks in the Maryland garage? I’m pretty sure there used to be a bike cage in there. I seem to recall seeing it the last time I was driven over for X-rays, but I may have been high at the time…

  • I asked the U. of C. press office to put me in touch with the correct person for info. I’ve been in communication with the U. of C. lately for a piece on ped-friendly initiatives they’ve been doing on campus.

    I took a pretty thorough spin around the first floor of the garage, so unless the racks are inconveniently hidden away on an upper floor, I’m pretty sure there are none.

  • Yep, the photo of the fence is an example of a legally placed sticker (assuming the hospitals placed it there.)

  • FG

    Are you sure the streets you have pictured are still property of the City of Chicago? It’s certainly too busy during the day to be safely biked anyway (was there mid-day yesterday and they had four hospital personnel directing traffic through the patient pick-up and drop off at DCAM). I don’t really see a realistic way to encourage employee’s who work over night to bike from NW Indiana or the north side to HP. I’d also suspect they want to discourage sidewalk cycling with the large numbers of elderly, disable or otherwise infirm patients who are here on a daily basis and cannot hear or otherwise move quickly should a biker approach them.

  • FG

    Perhaps because they might be around the perimeter of the hospitals rather than at the most congested section – I seem to recall seeing several there yesterday. Did you also check to see if they will be included in the new garage currently under construction?

  • The thought that the hospitals may have taken over jurisdiction of these streets did cross my mind; however, all the normal signage is there, suggesting these are still regular city streets.

    As I wrote, “Driving may be the most practical way for many employees and patients to get to the campus.” However, many employees of the hospitals live within a couple of miles of the facilities, a very bikeable distance.

    Yes, it’s illegal for adults to bikes on the sidewalks in Chicago. If the hospitals wants to discourage this, they should get the city to post “No Bike Riding on Sidewalk” signs, as have been installed in other parts of town.

  • Here’s a map of the medical campus, including two of the three bike parking areas I saw — it doesn’t show the Duchossois Center racks, so it’s possible there are other installations not shown on the map: http://www.uchospitals.edu/pdf/uch_005076.pdf

  • FG

    You may want to confirm that – they may only be nominally city owned judging from what looks like hospital crews repairing them (iirc).

  • FG

    It doesn’t even show the whole hospital complex! Plus it’s really more of an internal wayfinding plan. I’m pretty sure there are more along 58th Street, as well as 57th Street even if they are further east, the whole area is a construction zone at the moment and the pedestrian stretch of 58th Street was just redone east of the ER entrance so there may be movements of all sorts of street furniture at the moment. It wouldn’t surprise me if the parking structure at 59th and Cottage was to be torn down once the new garage is complete for more clinic space (certainly long term, it will be). FYI Duchossois is referred to as DCAM.

  • The University of Chicago Medicine
    Communications
    950 E. 61st Street, Third Floor
    Chicago, IL 60637

    Phone: (773) 702-0025
    Fax: (773) 702-3171

    I wonder what happened to the bike cage, then.

  • Bruce

    It’s interesting to see that where the No Parking street sign would normally say ‘City of Chicago’, a little label has been applied that says ‘U of C Hospitals.’ This suggests that maybe these streets are indeed maintained (and perhaps owned) by the hospital.

  • ridonrides

    While UIC’s medical campus is much smaller, they are doing a great job with bike racks! They are all conveniently located near the entrances/exits of clinics, research buildings, and student buildings. There are some in the parking garage. There are also some hidden tucked away ones that staff requested be put in through UIC’s Office of Sustainability. I am wondering if something like that exists for U of C. If there is a department for green concerns, they should look at where people are locking up to stationery objects and put in bike racks.

  • Thanks, I just got in touch with them an hour ago.

  • Well, no wonder you’re so disappointed. Most of the bike lots I remember are hidden under the gigantic white rectangle in that map.

    I park on Drexel next to the American School when I go to DCAM now for X-rays. (Yes, I suppose it’s a hike, but if I’d broken my leg, I wouldn’t be biking anyway.) The bike lots where I used to park were gone the last time I was there, but that was because of the construction on that plaza where 58th cul-de-sacs.

  • ridonrides

    I suspect many of the bikes belong to medical students or residents who probably live very close to campus.

  • MW

    In reply to FG, it is certainly not too dangerous/busy to bike there, I biked to work perfectly safely from the north side pretty much every day for 5 years up til recently when I got another job. While I worked there, the hospital removed bike racks that were visible and replaced them with ones difficult to see (the accompanying e-mail called bikes unsightly or an eyesore or something like that). So there are more racks around the corner from the DCAM near the main green pavilion entrance but they’re not visible to those not in the know. At the same time they took out the staff bike cage that was in the parking garage. They were going to eliminate covered/carded staff parking entirely, but after a major outcry by some of those same supposedly unlikely staffers you mention (working late, overnight, daily long distance cyclists etc.) they replaced it with a new carded/covered bike parking location in the courtyard of the CLI building. They have cut bikes off of various locking locations (often then stacking them up in the way of staff bike parking in the covered location). I don’t know if any of the locations they cut from were city owned. The stickers also showed up around the same time. The email read to me as though someone in upper admin had tripped over a bike and decided to go on a crusade. In general U of C’s hospital is way behind UIC in bike friendliness (having worked at both hospitals), which is crazy to me since they are much better funded, and also send all these e-mails about staff health and “Let’s Move” campaigns and so on. I’ll see if I can find the e-mail and forward it to you, it was obnoxious.

  • If you can find a better map online, please share it with us. There are bike racks on 58th, east of the emergency room, but that’s the U. of C.’s science quadrangle, not really the hospital anymore. 57th east of Drexel is also the university, not the hospital campus.

    Once I learn how to spell a tough word like Duchossois, I like showing it off!

  • So that’s what happened to the bike cage. I must have received that email and filed it away under “not important” because I never used it due to living a mile away and parking where patients don’t go.

    Northwestern’s bike room is practically the butt-crack end of nowhere, in the farthest corner of the most inconvenient garage, and just for fun they’ve physically barricaded every sidewalk leading to the entrance on account of the construction next door (but you’re supposed to walk your bike inside, of course). And it’s “closed” 12-5AM or something. All for $25 per year. I think I might be the only person in my department who actually uses it.

  • Thanks. I’m not finding anything else online that shows bike parking locations. That white rectangle on the other map is annoying, though.

  • Guest

    Here’s a photo of the full medical campus map that the PDF cuts off the eastern part (it’s posted at many elevators and elsewhere in the hospital). The racks at the Surgery-Brain entrance and just north of the bookstore along Ellis Ave can handle many bikes (20+ for the Surgery-Brain entrance).

  • Awesome, thanks. Looks like the density of bike parking installations is a lot higher at the northeast corner of the medical campus, closer to university facilities. I mostly looked at 58th, 59th, and Maryland, which definitely seem to be underserved for bike parking.

  • T.C. O’Rourke

    It is completely impractical for employees living in Oswego to bike to UofC. Therefore: illegally commandeer city property and ban bikes.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/545/article/p2p-81132907/
    When you have idiots like this guy who lock their bikes to trees, is it any wonder. Hey wasn’t there any place in a two or three block vicinty he could have locked his bike to. Certainly, drivers in dense areas often park that far away.

  • Mike C

    Here’s the bike parking near the Surgery-Brain entrance. Quite a bit of parking, but it’s also nearly at capacity.

  • ridonrides

    I am cringing at the words “unsightly” and “eyesore.” They are probably only an eyesore because of poor design forcing people to cram their bikes into limited space. Some bicycle racks can be quite beautiful! There are some pretty ones by UIC’s medical campus gym that are brushed nickel. I will try and take a picture and link it here.

  • Did you ever find the email?

  • Guest

    These two silver ones are by the west campus student union. The ones in the background are a plain brown. Many times when it’s an eyesore is when they are installed too close together. I like to lock up to the silver ones because they’re spaced farther apart and it’s easier to maneuver in and out of there.

  • Funnyguy

    Someone in U of Chicago needs to consult a lawyer before doing something illegal. I wonder where they could find one there?

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