Wicker Park Planner and Mom to Alderman Hopkins: No More Bike Crackdowns

Lindsay Bayley with her husband Drew and daughter Willow on a shopping run. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Bayley
Lindsay Bayley with her husband Drew and daughter Willow on a shopping run. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Bayley

On the morning of Thursday, January 19, six to eight Chicago police officers wrote many tickets to bicyclists at Wicker Park’s busy North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection. In particular, they seemed to be ticketing a technically illegal — but safe and widespread – maneuver by downtown-bound cyclists on Milwaukee.

It’s common for riders heading southeast on Milwaukee to cross North Avenue in the west leg of the intersection while pedestrians in the nearby parallel crosswalk have a walk signal, but traffic on Milwaukee has a red. After crossing North this way, these cyclists typically wait in front of a Starbucks, holding onto the nearby guard rail or placing a foot on the curb, until the next signal phase, when Milwaukee gets a green light. Doing this means you have a shorter distance to travel across the intersection once you have the green. Until somebody comes up with a better name, let’s call this maneuver “The Six Corners Shuffle.”

[Yes, I know that “Six Corners” is often used to refer to the Irving Park/Cicero/Milwaukee shopping district in Portage Park, but this term can be used for any six-way intersection where this move works, such as Grand/Halsted/Milwaukee. Anybody know if this works at the Portage Park six-way?]

Here’s a video Steven Vance shot yesterday morning of a modified version of the Six Corners Shuffle. In this example, the cyclist crossed to the Starbucks (black railing) while Milwaukee had a red, but the light changed to green once she passed by the coffee shop, so he continued through the intersection without stopping.

Although Police News Affairs told me this was a routine targeted enforcement event that wasn’t ordered by an alderman, an assistant to 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins said Hopkins had requested the sting on both bike riders and motorists in response to complaints about both cyclist and driver behavior. However, while there were many reports of cyclists being ticketed, I haven’t heard of any motorists getting cited.

On the contrary, local resident Chris Morales told me he was at the intersection that morning and saw drivers obstructing traffic and failing to yield to pedestrians without being stopped by police. In fairness, it’s possible that the alderman requested that both cyclists and drivers who broke laws be ticketed, but the police chose to focus on bike riders.

Bike commuters who were ticketed for the aforementioned “Idaho stop” received citations for running a red, which carries a fine of $50 to $200, and cannot be contested or paid online or at a payment office, which means they were required to show up for a court date. Chris Bushell, who was busted for doing the Six Corners Shuffle, told me his ticket was dismissed at Traffic Court this morning, seemingly on a technicality with how the citation was written, but the the experience still wasted an hour of his time.

Scan 89
A diagram of the Six Corners Shuffle.

In response to the Hopkins-ordered crackdown and other ward transportation and planning issues, local urban planner and mother Lindsay Bayley sent an open letter to the alderman this week. In the letter she notes that she voted for him in his first election but “if this trajectory continues, I would not be able to support your re-election campaign.”

“The cops probably could have ticketed a majority of drivers for using cell phones at the light, but they didn’t,” she wrote regarding the ticketing sting. “Instead of targeting actual dangerous behavior, they focused on people riding bikes – people who are reducing your local parking needs and bringing more money to local businesses.”

Bayley noted that Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park is one of the worst stretches for cycling along one of the country’s most heavily traveled bike routes. “From doorings by [motorists in] parked cars, distracted drivers, construction blockades, and pedestrians jumping out from between cars, it is quite harrowing for a daily commuter,” she wrote. “Sometimes, cyclists take actions, such as crossing before the cars to make the ride safer for themselves. Harassing people on bikes is no way to build community.”

A better alternative for both improving safety and generating revenue for the city, Bayley writes, would be to target dangerous driving behavior. She offers to send a video of the Honore / Elk Grove intersection where she lives, a few blocks southeast of North and Damen, where she says few drivers come to a complete stop if there isn’t someone directly in front of their car.

2nd Ward alderman Brian Hopkins. Image: YouTube
2nd Ward alderman Brian Hopkins. Image: YouTube

Bayley floats the idea of additional traffic camera enforcement in the neighborhood, and notes that in some U.K. cities undercover bike cops stop reckless or distracted drivers and explain why their actions are harmful. “The safety benefits of these efforts expand to all cyclists, because drivers don’t know if the person on the bike might be a cop,” she says.

She says that she often sees the mother of Lisa Kuivinen, an art student who was fatally struck on her bike this summer by a right-turning truck driver who failed to yield, kneeling with a rosary by the “ghost bike” memorial to her daughter at the Milwaukee/Racine crash site.

She lives in the suburbs but is out there day and night, several times a week, and has been since her only child was run over and killed by a truck driver. I stopped to talk with her one night and she said she is praying for her daughter, she is praying for the truck driver, and she is praying for the safety of all the people riding their bikes in Chicago. I hope we can honor her daughter and work to make our streets safer.

Elsewhere in the letter, Bayley takes the alderman to task for rejecting a parking-free development at the Fifth-Third Bank site, 1209 North Milwaukee, adjacent to the Division Blue Line station. “A development built for residents who walk, bike and use transit will increase the human population, which we all agree is beneficial, while not adding an equal amount of automobiles,” she notes.

She also urges the alderman to further engage with the Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce and Special Service Area, which promote sustainable transportation and transit-oriented development, and not to let the anti-density Wicker Park Committee have undue influence on his decisions. “We need more people and safer options for getting around, not larger homes and more parking,” she notes. Here’s hoping that Alderman Hopkins gets the message.

Read Bayley’s full letter here.
Did you appreciate this post? Consider making a donation through our PublicGood site.

  • Jeremy

    An “open letter”? The alderman will probably never see that. It should be sent to his office or website.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    It was hand-delivered.

  • Pat

    The Smart Growth link is bad. I think you accidentally put a period at the end of the hyperlink. Just a heads up.

  • planetshwoop

    1) you can’t really do the same move at Six Corners, the angles significantly increase the distance and don’t offer protection. (The whole spot is best avoided by bike; it’s a worse version of the Lincoln/Ashland/Belmont problem.) This seems to happen a lot at Elston and Diversey and many spots on Lincoln.

    2) My term for it is “island hopping”, and when you go around and cross opposing traffic, IE clockwise, reverse island hopping.

    3) The story of Lisa’s mom praying at the site is deeply moving and sad. I hope she is able to heal and find peace.

  • lykorian

    Her story about Lisa Kuivinen’s mother is heartbreaking.

  • Roo_Beav

    “Hopkins had requested the sting on both bike riders and motorists in response to complaints”

    I guess that means he wants to receive complaints at intersections where people don’t come to a complete stop (i.e., every intersection in his ward). Maybe then he’ll realize that complaint-driven enforcement instead of risk-based enforcement is foolish.

  • yakutat

    Please stop calling this an Idaho stop. An Idaho stop includes actually stopping at the light. Can we call it something like a “Chicago stop”? aka just ignoring the light?

    Also, odd that you picked that video to embed, which clearly shows a car waiting to take a left but being blocked by the cyclist coasting through the red light. This is exactly why this maneuver is not safe and does cause problems. While cycling down milwaukee, I have seen more than a few vehicles that have to stop in the block because people coast through that light prohibiting a turn onto North ave.

  • disqus_SBxbICDCIX

    Based on the age of her kid in the photo, these people will be moving to the burbs soon for schools. So, Alderman, please do not listen to this women and please DO increase your ticketing of bicycles. Bicycles only represent the low to mid single digits of commuters while bus, car and pedestrians make up the other 95%. There are a lot more of us and we are VERY regretful for the crackdown… please expand dramatically and push for licensing and registration and fees.

  • disqus_SBxbICDCIX

    This mom sounds like a 5 year old child, “They’re doing too, so why can’t I also break the rules?” What a moron. If she wants to commit suicide with her own life by blowing through red lights at 6 way intersections that is one thing. But she is strapping her baby to front of her bicycle and endanering thechilds life as well. DCFS needs to be involved and force her to better protect her child or take the child away if she refuses to comply.

  • Pat

    You’re right. You would think they would focus their enforcement on the ~95% (minus pedestrians).

  • Pat

    Except that the video does’t show that.

    The video starts after the cyclists is already in the intersection (who knows if he stopped or not). It also shows the motorist going to make the turn after the cyclist is past North Ave and you fail to mention the motorist would still have to wait for the pedestrian (in black) that was crossing at the same time. Unlike you, I can’t speculate if motorist stopped for the pedestrian or squeezed through because the video doesn’t show it.

  • yakutat

    Sure, i’m making that assumption because that is what i see everyday. Maybe this was the 1% of the time that someone stops, checks traffic, and then proceeds through the intersection. Although even in that scenario, this cyclist probably should have yielded to the vehicle. I’m entirely for using a proper idaho stop, but i’m also completely against rolling through traffic signals that are red.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    An Idaho stop is treating a stop light like a stop sign (stopping before proceeding if there is no cross traffic), or treating a stop sign like a yield sign (slowing down before proceeding if there is no cross traffic).

  • Roo_Beav

    If she was crossing from one side of North to the other on foot, she would have RoW, but suddenly by adding 2 wheels she is guilty of attempted murder-suicide and child endangerment?

    I personally don’t do such a move, but I understand and am sympathetic to the logic of avoiding being set up for a right hook when traveling next to Milwaukee traffic that might turn right onto Damen without checking the blind spot or signaling.

    P.S. Upvoting your own posts is generally discouraged.

  • yakutat

    Yes. Requiring a full stop at a traffic signal before proceeding. This is generally a safe maneuver. My experience on Milwaukee is that other cyclists tend to coast (or blow through) through certain traffic signals (e.g. southbound through the lights at damon, wood, noble, and hubbard) without making a full stop, some barely slowing down. This type of maneuver is NOT an idaho stop and is not a safe maneuver. Differentiating between the two actions is important.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Good, so we’re on the same page — I’m very regretful for the crackdown as well.

    Seriously though, past CDOT counts show that bicyclists account for more than 40 percent of trips on Milwaukee during summer rush hours. Those folks vote.

    I also personally know a dozen or two car-free families on the Near Northwest Side whose kids attend local public schools (check out the the number of families arriving on bikes at Goethe Elementary in Logan Square on any nice spring or fall morning). Many of these families have been heavily involved in aldermanic politics. For example, in 2003, some of these folks were instrumental in helping former 35th Ward alderman Rey Colon defeat the anti-bike incumbent, Vilma Colom. And I’m sure Bayley’s family is not the only politically active biking family in the 2nd Ward.

    Therefore, Hopkins would be wise to pay attention to the backlash against targeted enforcement events that ticket for harmless moves by cyclists while ignoring dangerous driving.

  • David Henri

    Is your name really SBxblCDCIX? Really. Keep hiiding behind your handle.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Please refrain from personal attacks. From the letter, here’s how Bayley’s family deals with this pedestrian- and bike-unfriendly intersection: “My husband or I take our daughter to daycare on North Avenue and usually we ride a bike; we live on Honore and have to cross Damen. Since North Avenue is not comfortable to ride a bike on, we avoid it as much as we can. That means we take Milwaukee and have to cross Damen. It is safer for us to use the crosswalk than wait in the middle of the intersection or cross with North Avenue traffic. We yield to pedestrians and give them the right-of-way.”

  • Bobo Chimpan

    The move is also helpful when heading N on Milwaukee through the intersection with Kimball and Diversey. Just wait for the walk signal, watch for cars making a right turn from Kimball onto Diversey, cross, and wait for the green next to the Firefighters’ Memorial park. Gets you out of the way of crazy drivers making unsignaled right turns…

  • Kelly Pierce

    Considering Brian Hopkins was arrested long ago by a tyrannical
    south suburban mayor for passing out flyers for a tax increase, it is hard to
    believe he is on the bandwagon for aggressive police enforcement for petty
    offenses by bicyclists. Rather than engage the community about solutions with
    this busy intersection, he orders a police crackdown. I’m hoping for an
    approach that brings the community together toward a common purpose.

  • But you can do the move at most six-way intersections. It’s also common at Grand/Halsted/Milwaukee for northbound and southbound cyclists who missed their green. (It used to be that you would get an advance green if you did this at this intersection, but the direction of the signal phases was switched from the typical counter-clockwise direction to clockwise direction in 2014 or 2015).

    The shuffle isn’t possible (well, it’s not worthwhile) at the six-way intersections that have islands (like Milwaukee/Ogden/Chicago and Division/Ashland/Milwaukee).

  • Randy Neufeld

    Great article. Well said Lindsay. One amazing thing about this story is that the police did a bike sting in January in Chicago! Eight cops were kept busy at one intersection in January! Clearly Chicago has turned a corner as a cycling city. Our cycling infrastructure is spotty, sharing the road is a mess at best and too often deadly. The story of Lisa Kuivinen and her mother’s vigil is heart-breaking. Ald Hopkins and the police are grasping at straws. Enforcement won’t fix this. We need to reprogram the precious street space that we have and give it back to human beings. Make it safe. give it more value to the community. We should start with Milwaukee Ave. On street parking has to go. Milwaukee can be a street where businesses and people thrive. Our city has changed. They did a bike sting in January.

  • Deni

    If it was a family with an SUV your prediction might be more likely, but parents who like to get around by bike, walking, and transit are generally city lifers. We are a car-less family and my 8-year-old goes to a CPS school and will more than likely graduate from a CPS high school, unless we move to a different city on some future date, in which we will still be a car-less, city-dwelling family with a kid in public school.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Great point.

  • disqus_SBxbICDCIX

    You do realize that you are the only person using the full, real name on this entire string (assuming that IS your real name). The are a lot of angry dangerous people out there with guns or matches that are willing to set your house on fire for your political views or comments – even comments that appear to be benign (and maybe you are one of those dangerous people asking for my real name?!). There is just no way I’m going to tell some nut like you where I live.

  • kastigar

    David is not the only one.

    The are a lot of angry dangerous people out there with guns or matches and driving cars that are willing to set your house on fire for your political views or comments – even comments that appear to be benign (and maybe you are one of those dangerous people asking for my real name?!).

    Keep hiding if you so much afraid. Keep hiding with a disguise or a beard or anything to keep your identity secret. If you are too chicken to stand up for what you believe in, don’t make public posts. Save the space for us who don’t need to hide.

    PS: that’s my real picture too.

  • lindsaybanks

    My (suburban) mom would be thrilled if you were right, but you’re not. We bought our current place because it is in a better school district than the last place we lived. We have no desire to live somewhere where we’d have to drive all the time. Adding better infrastructure will encourage better cycling behavior, and get more out on bikes (which leads to safer streets). It’s true – there are more people driving than riding bikes, but 20% of households in the WPB area do not own a car, and 45% are considered “car-lite.”

    I’m actually glad you mentioned this and Deni below clarified my thoughts on this very well. People who drive everywhere, for all errands, will most likely move to the suburbs. It’s just not worth the traffic hassle!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Hey folks, let’s keep the discussion civil. Anonymous posting is OK, just keep in mind that we tend to give a little more leeway to folks who put their real identity out there when it comes to moderating comments, since doing so seems to discourage trolling. Thanks.

  • Randy Neufeld

    I talked to Ald Hopkins yesterday. He insists that he only asked for a traffic sting not a bike sting. I believe him, he’s long been a friend of cycling and multi-modal transport. Best of all he wants a redesign for Damen/Milwaukee/North. Streetsblog should talk to him to clear the air on the sting and hear about the plans

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Hopkins did not respond to a message asking for his perspective on the targeted enforcement event. I’ll try checking in with him again next week.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    This article and Ms. Bayley’s letter to the alderman raise important issues. Regarding the ticketing of cyclists, I responded to the ‘original’ enforcement event/Streetsblog article (http://chi.streetsblog.org/2016/11/29/cops-serve-and-protect-by-ticketing-cyclists-for-totally-harmless-behavior/) as follows:

    Traffic enforcement – here, in Wicker Park generally, and throughout the City – should focus on motorists, 1) speeding, 2) running red lights, and 3) driving while futzing with their phones (texting, surfing the web, looking at a map, talking, FaceTiming, etc. etc.). These are the most dangerous, deadly, and costly (in every sense of the word) road behaviors out there — by a very wide margin. As a commute cyclist who rides across the City nearly every day, I see cars run through red lights at about 30% of the signals I am stopped at. I see drivers speeding (and aggressively flooring their cars off the line) a LOT — regardless of the fact that they are in very urban areas with lots of pedestrians – including seniors, moms with strollers, children, teens, not to mention the bicyclists! As I ride my bicycle alongside cars – often bumper to bumper on the absurdly congested streets – I see that about 50-60% of the drivers are fiddling with their phones while driving! That is pretty horrifying! If these drivers’ dangerous, irresponsible behavior were to result in only their own injury or death, it might not be so bad – culling of the herd, right? (Note: I am not being 100% serious here, but facetious in order to make a point.) However, the distracted drivers are endangering others! This is not acceptable. Cyclists crossing with an LPI, when they being alert and careful, are actually helping to improve the safety of an intersection – regardless of whatever it is the laws may say about this.

    The maneuver made by these cyclists can be understood as a form/variation, adapted to one of Chicago’s many 3-way intersections, of a “two-stage turn” (albeit without a marked “turn box”) — see http://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/intersection-treatments/two-stage-turn-queue-boxes/. I again emphasize that cyclists crossing here and at other intersections throughout the City with an LPI — whether strictly within the marked crosswalk or just outside of it — when these
    cyclists (like everyone else – including drivers and pedestrians) remain alert, careful, and aware of their surroundings, are actually improving the safety of an intersection.

  • WickerPark93

    Thank goodness someone is doing something to stop this continual anti-social and illegal behavior of cyclists in Chicago. It’s about time people learn to obey the law.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yep, there’s a real epidemic of lawbreaking cyclists killing and maiming other people in Chicago.

  • lindsaybanks

    I talked to him as well. He didn’t respond to my letter, but I saw him on the street and approached him. I believe that he did not order a crackdown on bikes, and didn’t say that in my letter. I just pointed out that the cops did that (probably because it’s easier than going after the cars), when they could have been targeting dangerous behavior. With regards to the development, it was about the 32-unit building on Milwaukee with smaller studios and no parking, not the Fifth Third building (which he said had too much parking). For the 32-unit one, he was getting too much opposition because the units are small, even though developers are seeing more demand for smaller units. I believe Hopkins is pushing for improvements to the Milwaukee/ Damen/ North intersection, and I saw him working with people from the SSA and CDOT. I haven’t lost faith.

  • Buddha_Dharma

    Great. But you should know that the facts and statistics bear out that you are a very tiny minority and the rare exception.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “We are VERY regretful for the crackdown.” Glad to see we’re on the same page here.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG