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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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Working-Class Chicagoans Discuss the Highs and Lows of Bike Commuting


Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park. Day laborer Jesus Yanez (not pictured) says Lawrence is one of the better biking streets in the neighborhood. Photo: John Greenfield

Since biking is a convenient and affordable way to travel in the city, many blue-collar workers use bikes to access job opportunities. Streetsblog contributor Lynda Lopez interviewed two Chicagoans who fit this profile to get their take on the benefits of bike commuting in this city, as well as some of the issues they want to see addressed.

Cedric Johnson, 48, gets up bright and early to get ready for work. A lifelong resident of Humboldt Park, Johnson has a long commute ahead towards the Loop where he works at a food distribution company doing sanitation and maintenance.

Johnson says he rides his bike to work six or seven days a week and averages 20 miles a day. He tries to change up his route every day, and he prefers to take ride on quiet side streets and through alleys. He explains that he rarely takes the main roads to work, citing an experience on his bike that scarred him.

One day, Johnson was biking near Clybourn and North Avenue when a driver knocked him off his bike. Fortunately his injuries were minor, but his bike was totaled. “I was so shaken up,” he says. Ever since then, he has become more cautious about riding in traffic, but safety concerns haven’t kept him off his bike. He loves riding too much.

“I just feel free when I’m on my bike — gives me peace of mind,” Johnson says. “If you are driving a car, you miss a lot in the community.” He says he notices a lot of details about his surroundings when he’s riding.

Johnson adds that bike riders can help make communities safer, because they’re more likely to notice and help out others who may need assistance. “When you’re driving, you’re only trying to make it to work. You’re not thinking about what’s and who’s around you,” he says.

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Slow Roll’s Jamal Julien Discusses the Ups and Downs of the 2016 Season


A Slow Roll Chicago ride last May. Photo: Slow Roll Chicago

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

In Slow Roll Chicago‘s third year of operations, the bike equity group faced some challenges, as cofounder Oboi Reed, who previously had been the driving force behind the organization, was largely out of the picture due to health-related issues. But it speaks well of the group’s resilience that other members were able to keep operations going in 2016, hosting dozens of community rides and encouraging scores of residents to sign up for low-cost Divvy for Everyone (D4E) bike-share memberships.

“I think we did a pretty good job of sustaining our momentum, although we didn’t see the growth we would have like to have seen,” said Slow Roll cofounder Jamal Julien, a friend of Reed’s since childhood.

One project Slow Roll hoped to get off the ground this year that didn’t pan out was their idea of a bicycle lending library with bikes provided by Trek, a Slow Roll sponsor. The library would allow residents to check out bikes for two or three weeks at a time, just like a library book, and it would be targeted towards neighborhoods that don’t yet have Divvy stations.

Slow Roll, along with transportation advocacy group Go Bronzeville, is contracted by the city to do outreach about the D4E program on rides and at community events. This year Dan Black served as Slow Roll’s Divvy outreach manager. “The outreach is working, and we’ve got some ideas about how we can work more efficiently and effectively to get the word out,” said Julien. More than 1,400 people have signed up for D4E so far.

“While we truly appreciate our relationship with Divvy and what they’ve done, they’re still not in every neighborhood and we can help fill that void in the short term with the bike library,” Julien added. The library would be geared towards local people who aren’t ready to commit to buying a bike, but residents would also be able to use it to borrow cycles for visiting family and friends. “Hopefully after this year’s ride season ends we’ll be able to pick up that conversation with Trek.”

Weather was also a challenge this year. Although Slow Roll moved the start of their weekly ride season back from early April to early May this year, there were still a number of rides that took place in May and June on rainy days, and a few were rained out. However, turnout continued to grow in the second half of the season.

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Ex-CDOT Chief Klein Discusses Proposed Ban on Self-Driving Cars in Chicago


A driverless car on a test course. Photo: Wikipedia

The 2016 National Shared Mobility Summit takes place in Chicago from October 17-19, bringing together leaders in the fields of bike-sharing, car-sharing, ride-sharing, microtransit and more, hosted by the Chicago-based Shared-Use Mobility Center. You can register for the event here and use the promo code STREETSBLOG to receive 10 percent off the cost of registration.

Three former Chicago Department of Transportation heavy-hitters will be convening for a panel called “Connecting the DOTs – City Commissioners on Shared Mobility. The panel will be moderated by ex-Chicago transportation chief Gabe Klein and his former CDOT deputies Leah Treat and Scott Kubly.

Klein is part of the new transportation consulting firm CityFi and serves on the board of several transportation-related organizations (including OpenPlans, the parent organization of Streetsblog). Treat and Kubly currently lead the Portland and Seattle DOTs, respectively. Earlier this decade, the three of them launched the Divvy bike-share system, as well as initiatives like the construction of 100 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes, the Bloomingdale Trail, and the Chicago Riverwalk.

Their panel, which takes place from 12:45-2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18, will look at how cities are responding to the challenges of aging infrastructure, changing regulatory demands, and emerging transportation developments to become “hubs of innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth.” They’ll discuss best practices as well as the path forward for shared mobility technologies.

I recently caught up with Klein by phone to get his take on a new proposal by Chicago aldermen to ban autonomous vehicles from the city, a stance some local commentators have blasted as reactionary.

JG: In response to Uber testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Chicago aldermen are saying they don’t want to allow self-driving cars in our city until it’s a proven technology. Aldermen Anthony Beale and Ed Burke are the sponsors of the proposed ordinance. Those guys have been anti-ride-share – they’ve been defenders of the taxi industry. So it appears that they don’t want more competition for taxi drivers. What do you think about the issue of cities preemptively banning self-driving cars?

GK: What people have to keep in mind is that our situation right now with people-driven cars is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately our frame of reference for most of us is, this is the way it’s been since we’ve been alive, that people have been driving cars around and running each other over, in huge numbers. Last year 1.25 million people died worldwide in car crashes – the number one killer of young people.

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Just in Time for Halloween: The Illiana is Becoming a “Zombie Highway”

Screencap of the Walking Dead TV show

IDOT’s own studies showed that few people would drive on the Illiana Tollway because steep toll rates would be required to cover construction costs. Image: Walking Dead/AMC

A new filing in the court case against the Illiana Tollway – a proposed 47-mile highway through farmland and nature preserves that would cause exurban sprawl and lead to Illinois jobs being lost to Indiana — indicates that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner may actually be in favor of the project. In recent years it looked like Rauner was making moves to kill the project, but now it appears the Illiana is becoming a so-called “zombie highway” project that just won’t die.

Here’s a rundown of how Rauner previously indicated that he was killing the project. In January 2015, the newly elected governor suspended spending on non-essential capital projects, including the Illiana. In the first week of June 2015, he said the Illinois Department of Transportation would remove the Illiana Tollway from its capital plan.

Two weeks later a federal judge halted the planning of the new tollway by ruling that the required Environmental Impact Statement was invalid because the study used the circular logic that the tollway would be needed because of new housing that would be developed along the corridor… due to the construction of the highway. In September 2015, the U.S. DOT dropped their appeal of the ruling, effectively pulling support for the project.

Now here’s how the state is either keeping the Illiana on life support or else trying to keep the zombie under wraps. In July 2015, Rauner authorized spending $5.5 million to “wind down” the project, and to pay for some litigation fees.

In April this year, the Indiana DOT said that they would pay for rewriting the Environmental Impact Study. However, IDOT spokesman Guy Trigdell said “the approach in Illinois has not changed” and “we are not pursuing the project.”

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Is $2 Billion Red Line Extension Best Way to Provide Transit in Far South Side?

Architect's rendering of a proposed CTA Red Line station at 103rd Street and Eggleston Avenue. The Union Pacific railroad tracks are left of the station.

Architect’s rendering of a proposed CTA Red Line station at 103rd Street and Eggleston Avenue. The Union Pacific railroad tracks are left of the station.

The Chicago Transit Authority released a major study today, the next step in the developing project to extend the Red Line southward from the 95th Street terminal to 130th Street in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood. The Environmental Impact Study is required by the federal government before the CTA can ask for funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The CTA has been studying the Red Line extension for decades. Former mayor Richard J. Daley promised it to residents of Roseland and Pullman when the Red Line’s Dan Ryan branch opened in 1969. In 2009 the CTA finished a required “Alternatives Analysis” wherein they studied different routes and modes to provide transit service in the area that the extension would serve.

The CTA determined it would be in their and residents’ best interest to extend the Red Line, using the same kinds of tracks and vehicles as the existing rail service, from 95th Street, west to Eggleston Avenue (400 West), and then south along an existing Union Pacific-owned freight railroad right of way.

Four new stations would be built at 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Ave at 116th Street, and on 130th Street, at approximately 950 East.

The CTA said the project would cost about $2.3 billion. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the extension could be up and running in ten years, with construction starting in 2022. That’s an optimistic timeline, and it presumes that funding can be secured from many sources, primarily the federal government. Required matching local funds could be provided by an existing TIF district and, in theory, the state of Illinois, although it’s been a long time since state lawmakers have been able to pass a budget.

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Active Trans Wins $150K Grant to Help Accelerate Slow Chicago Bus Service


Prepaid boarding is currently being tested at Madison/Dearborn — riders swipe their fare card at a portable reader before the bus arrives. Photo: John Greenfield

There was some good news for Chicago straphangers last week. TransitCenter, a New York-based foundation dedicated to improving urban mobility, awarded 16 grants, totaling more than $17 million, to civic organizations, universities, and municipalities, and the Active Transportation Alliance was one of the winners. The Active Trans proposal, called Speeding Up Chicago’s Buses, involves working with the CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation to eliminate some of the roadblocks to faster transit and higher ridership.

Like many large U.S. cities, Chicago has seen an increase in rail ridership but a decrease in bus use in recent years. In 2015, ‘L’ ridership hit record levels, with 241.7 million rides. But, while buses still accounted for the majority of the rides last year, bus use dropped for the third year in a row, falling by 0.6 percent from 2014 levels to 274.3 rides.

“Declining bus use is not acceptable,” said Kyle Whitehead, director of government relations for Active Trans. When bus ridership falls, he noted, it can lead to reductions in the hours and frequency of service, which in turn can reduce ridership, creating a vicious cycle.

“That has an equity impact,” Whitehead said. “Many parts of town without easy rail access are low-to-moderate-income communities of color. If bus service declines, it disproportionately affects people in these neighborhoods.”

Whitehead said Active Trans will use the grant to expand on the transit advocacy they’ve done over the last few years, including outreach on the city’s Ashland Avenue bus rapid transit proposal. That project is currently on hold due to backlash from residents and merchants against plans to create bus-only lanes and limit left turns from the avenue. But if the downtown Loop Link BRT corridor, which opened last December, is ultimately judged a success, it could lead to renewed interest in the Ashland proposal.

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Hundreds Gathered at Memorial for Anastasia, Who Died Biking on Monday

Photo: Liz Farina Markel/Tipping Point Photography

Anastasia Kondrasheva’s family mourns at her ghost bike memorial. Photo: Liz Farina Markel/Tipping Point Photography

Note: Streetsblog Chicago will be on vacation on Monday, October 3, and will resume publication on Tuesday.

Over 300 people came to the intersection of Addison Street and Damen Avenue in Roscoe Village yesterday evening to pay their respects to Anastasia Kondrasheva and her family, friends, and coworkers. There were so many people that a handful of police officers diverted east-west vehicle traffic while letting CTA buses pass the somber scene.

Kondrasheva, 23 years old and a health coach at Harken Center, was killed in a “right hook” crash on Monday morning after being run over by a truck semi-trailer whose driver was turning right from Damen onto Addison.

Anastasia Kondrasheva

Anastasia Kondrasheva

The vigil was co-organized by Rebecca Resman, Elsbeth Cool, and Kristen Green, none of whom knew Kondrasheva. Resman and Cool cycle daily with their children and founded Chicago Family Biking. Green recently founded Ghost Bikes Chicago, and arranged for a ghost bike to be installed at the southeast corner for Kondrasheva.

Kondrasheva’s family declined to speak to the press and to those gathered. Alese Affatato said she was speaking on behalf of the family said that Anastasia babysat her daughter for six years, and remarked that “[Anastasia] felt life on her bike, she loved biking in the city, this is a beautiful way to honor her.”

Resman spoke to rally the crowd saying, “This [fatal crash] is everybody’s problem,” she said, adding, “I want to urge everyone here today to demand better…and in the days and months ahead, we hope that you will all join us to organize and demand safe streets now.” Resman and others are discussing future organizing steps on the Facebook event for last night’s memorial.

Mourners place candles at Anastasia's ghost bike

Mourners place lights at Anastasia’s ghost bike.

Kondrasheva’s death follows a string of fatal crashes this summer with commercial vehicle drivers. Two others happened similarly. The drivers of trailer trucks turning or merging right ran over and killed Virginia Murray and Lisa Kuivenen in separate crashes in August. Two additional bicyclists have died in crashes with commercial vehicles. Blaine Klingenberg was hit by a tour bus driver in June, and Francisco Cruz was hit by a panel van driver in September. The driver who hit Cruz didn’t stay behind, making it a hit-and-run crash.

Active Transportation Alliance is asking people to sign their new letter, a Vision Zero call to action, that asks the “mayor, Chicago City Council and relevant city agencies to immediately put into place proven strategies that can prevent more fatalities due to crashes involving large vehicles.” John Greenfield published a column in the Chicago Reader yesterday advocating for the use of side guards on trucks.

When commenting on articles about traffic fatalities, please be mindful of the fact that family members and friends of the deceased person may be reading the post.


Reported “Dooring” Bike Crashes Dropped Significantly from 2011 to 2014

The absolute and proportional numbers of dooring crashes in Chicago have gone down between 2011, when the Illinois Department of Transportation started collecting this data, and 2014.

The absolute and proportional numbers of dooring crashes in Chicago have gone down between 2011, when the Illinois Department of Transportation started collecting this data, and 2014.

Four years of data on reported dooring crashes in Chicago show a decrease from 2011, when the data started being collected by the state, to 2014, the most recent year for which crash data has been released. A dooring crash occurs when someone in a car opens their door into moving traffic without looking, resulting in a collision with a bicyclist.


The new taxi sticker design.

The database is maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation separately from their main crash database, and holds fewer details about each crash, which also makes it more difficult to map.

In 2011, there were 337 reported dooring crashes, comprising 19.4 percent of all reported bike crashes in Chicago that year. In 2014 there were 202 reported dooring crashes, accounting for 11.0 percent of all reported bike crashes in Chicago. That’s a decrease of 66.8 percent from 2011 to 2014. See a full table of the data below.

When a person in a car opens a door on a cyclist, the result can be fatal, even if the cyclist never actually makes contact with the door. In recent years several people been seriously injured or killed while biking in Chicago. In 2008 graphic designer Clinton Miceli, 22, was doored by a driver on the 900 block of North LaSalle and run over and killed by a second driver. In 2012 attorney Neill Townshend, 32, swerved to avoid being doored near Oak and Wells and was fatally struck by a truck driver. In 2013 Dustin Valenta, a courier and actor was doored by one driver at 1443 North Milwaukee, then run over by another motorist who fled the scene.  This month, a 20-year-old man was critically injured in the same manner in Portage Park.


Buffered bike lanes encourage bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. Photo: John Greenfield

Dooring and “near dooring” is illegal in Chicago. Section 9-80-035 of the municipal code states, “No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic…” In 2013 the city raised the fine for dooring a cyclist from $500 to $1,000.

The large drop in reported dooring crashes could be the result of several factors:

  • The installation of protected bike lanes that make it almost impossible to door a cyclist.
  • The proliferation of buffered bike lanes, which provide more space for cycling. One study showed that people cycling in buffered bike lanes position themselves slightly further away from the doors of parked cars than those biking in non-buffered lanes.
  • Better awareness of the issue. While there hasn’t been a formal dooring awareness campaign by the city, other than the recent requirement that taxis have “LOOK!” stickers installed in their windows, there have been numerous media reports about dooring crashes.
  • The larger dooring fines. Note that the $1,000 fine is more than the penalty for a motorist who causes a non-dooring bike crash.

When I shared this data with Active Trans advocacy director Jim Merrell he responded, “In the absence of a more rigorous analysis, we’d assume this reflects an actual decrease associated with better bike infrastructure and increased awareness among the public.”

“We have heard anecdotally that reporting can be inconsistent, so it is certainly possible the decline could be attributable to less reporting,” Merrell added. “On the other hand, maybe reporting has increased and the decline in crashes is even bigger! We really just don’t know.” Merrell said he hopes more analysis of crash data comes out of the city’s Vision Zero process.

I haven’t been able to obtain data on the number of citations police officers have issued for dooring crashes. Justin Haugens, a Streetsblog Chicago contributor, has sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Departments of Transportation, Administrative Hearings, and Finance, as well as the County Court Clerk, IDOT, and the Illinois State Police – all have responded that they don’t have that information.

Crash data for 2015 should be available by November.

Year Total non-doorings Total doorings Total bike crashes % which are doorings





















This data is provided by IDOT based on crash reports from local police jurisdictions. The department does not endorse or review third-party analyses of its data. Download the data.


CBS Chicago Delivers a Refreshingly Windshield-Free Take on Biking Hazards

When CBS does an exposé on a transportation issue, it’s not always a good thing. For example, there was the 2014 segment where reporter Rob Johnson argued that the upcoming Loop Link project would slow private vehicle traffic to a crawl and was “driving home the point that cars are no longer welcome” downtown. However, the bus rapid transit system launched last December, vehicle congestion along the corridor is no worse than before, and last time I checked there were still plenty of cars in the Loop.

However, yesterday’s CBS segment “Chicago’s Cyclists in Danger” shows that when Dave Savini applies his investigative skills to the right issue, he can help bring about positive change. He does a fine job of highlighting the problems of reckless driving, bad pavement, and vehicles blocking bike lanes – issues we’ve frequently discussed on this site – to a wider audience.

The clip shows footage of private cars and post office trucks, and even Divvy vans and police vehicles, obstructing bike lanes, and forcing cyclists into the travel lanes. “When bike lanes are blocked, cyclists end up in traffic – a danger to them and drivers,” Savini says.

Savini even confronted a postal worker who regularly parks her truck for up to an hour in the Washington Street bike lane, near the CBS office, and she wound up moving the truck. Of course, if there’s a reason why the employee truly needs to park in this spot every day, the USPS and the city’s transportation department should come up with a solution that doesn’t endanger cyclists.

The segment features cyclists Gasper Rivera and Aimee Zimmer, who were both thrown off their bikes when motorists opened their car doors into traffic without looking. Zimmer suffered a traumatic brain injury, which still causes her problems.

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