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Housing Activists Vow to Fight Evictions of Logan Square Tenants for New TOD

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Tenants and activists protest evictions at 2340 N. California. Signs on the right say “Stop the Eviction!” and “I am the face of eviction.” Photo: Lynda Lopez

Yesterday morning dozens of community residents and members of the Autonomous Tenants Union, Somos Logan Square, and Grassroots Illinois Action joined tenants of the 2340 N. California building in Logan Square as they announced their plans to fight their impending eviction.

Current landlord Francisco Macias plans to sell the two-story, mixed-use structure, located a few hundred feet north of the California Blue Line station, to Savoy Development so that it can be bulldozed to make room for an upscale, 138-unit transit-oriented development. At the press event, protesters brandished signs with messages like “We are still here and we’re not leaving” and “I am the face of eviction.”

Macias has served the tenants, who were on month-to-month leases, with 30-day eviction notices. First Ward alderman Joe Moreno approve a zoning change for the TOD, and City Council approved Savoy’s proposal in June. Savoy owner Enrico Plati hopes to break ground by the end of the year, once he receives a demolition permit from the city. However, the current residents’ plans to contest the eviction may significantly delay construction.

At the press conference, residents talked about how the evictions will negatively impact their lives. Adelina Silva, a senior, was noticeably shaken as she spoke. “We haven’t been able to find a place to go and I just got my foot operated on,” she said in Spanish. “I don’t know where we’ll go.”

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The 2340 N. California building. Image: Google Street View

The as-yet-unnamed high-rise is part of a wave of transit-friendly construction along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor that was largely spurred by the city’s transit-oriented development ordinance, which was originally passed in 2013 and was strengthened last year. The legislation eliminates parking minimums and allows for higher density at locations near rapid transit stops, which helps decrease car-dependency for the residents of the new buildings.

For example, under the old zoning rules, the Savoy development would have needed to provide 138 off-street parking spaces – one for each unit. Under the TOD ordinance Plati is opting to only build 44 parking spots, which significantly reduces construction costs. It also means fewer cars will be brought to the neighborhood, reducing congestion and pollution.

However, the vast majority of the new TODs are upscale buildings with high rents, and anti-gentrification activists say they are fueling the displacement of low-income and working-class residents from Logan Square by raising property values, property taxes, and rents. On the other hand, groups such as the Metropolitan Planning Council have argued that building more market-rate housing in gentrifying neighborhoods takes pressure off the rental market and helps prevent existing apartment buildings from being replaced by single-family homes.

Last April Somos Logan Square and Lifted Voices held a protest against two TOD projects located southeast on Milwaukee from the 2340 N. California building. The 216-unit “MiCa” development, also called the Twin Towers, with 56 parking spaces, is about to start moving in residents. Rents start at around $1,595 for a studio and go as high as $3,350 for a three-bedroom. The nearby “L” apartment building, with 120 units and 60 parking spots, has rental prices ranging from $1,575 for a studio to $3,900 for the most expensive three-bedrooms.

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Activists Speak Out Against the Privatization of Douglas Park for Riot Fest

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Concerned Citizens of Riot Fest in Douglas Park met at Freedom Square last month. Photo: John Greenfield

[Note: This Chicago Reader article lies a bit outside Streetsblog Chicago’s usual wheelhouse of transportation and livable streets topics, but since it covers an important local public space issue, I thought it might be of interest to Streetsblog readers.]

August 2 at Freedom Square, a tent city raised across the street from the Chicago Police Department’s Homan Square facility as a protest against police brutality, Concerned Citizens of Riot Fest in Douglas Park held an alfresco strategy session. Local resident Sharaya Tindal outlined the group’s grievances against the festival, which debuted in the west-side green space in September 2015, for 16 or so people gathered on folding chairs under a canopy.

As I reported in May, Concerned Citizens formed last year when Riot Fest relocated to Douglas Park from Humboldt Park following backlash from Humboldt residents who claimed its organizers failed to adequately repair turf damage. Concerned Citizens argued that the mostly African-American and Latino residents of neighboring North Lawndale and Little Village had been given little to no say in the matter.

At Freedom Square, Tindal discussed how foot traffic from 135,000 attendees at the 2015 festival damaged Douglas Park so badly that much of its south end was fenced off for repairs from late September to late November. Mayor Emanuel, the local aldermen, and the Chicago Park District (as well as Riot Fest itself, of course) had promised the event would bring big economic benefits to the communities. But Tindal claimed that the roughly 150 temporary jobs created didn’t make a dent in the area’s unemployment problem, that high vendor fees shut out small businesses, and that neighborhood retail strips saw little increase in sales during the festival weekend.

“Meanwhile the city spends extra money on transit, extra money on Streets & San, and extra money on police, and Riot Fest pays nothing for it,” Tindal said. “So we pay to get overpoliced, underprotected, and shut out.”

From a camp seat, Damon Williams, co­director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective (which is leading the Freedom Square occupation), voiced solidarity for Concerned Citizens in their efforts to oust the fest from the park. “We’re here because people are being tortured,” he said. “We’re here because 70 percent of [young men in] the community have felonies. It’s the most closings of public schools. So for people to be having something literally called a ‘riot’ here . . . ”

“Thank you,” said Tindal. “[What] poor taste. How disrespectful. How dare you, when people are dying. When our community has not recovered from the last riot in ’68. How dare you bring your concert, your merriment, your laugh riot to our broken community.”

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The 31st Street Bus Rides Again – Now Can Residents Keep It Rolling?

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Tuesday’s Launch. Photo: Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community

On Tuesday, almost 20 years after the CTA axed the 31st Street bus route, the line began running again on a pilot basis. A little after 10 a.m., the first run of the resurrected route rolled out of the Ashland Orange Line station, cheered on by residents, community activists, and politicians.

The question is, with a limited route, frequency, and service hours, and weekday-only operation, will the route garner the 830 average daily trips the CTA wants to see during the six-month test in order to make the bus line permanent? Locals are determined to make it happen.

Groups like the Bridgeport AllianceCoalition for a Better Chinese American Community, and the Crosstown Bus Coalition lobbied the transit agency to restore the service, in conjunction with Northsiders’ efforts to bring back the full #11 Lincoln Avenue bus route. The #11 relaunched in June for a six-month pilot with buses running every 16-22 minutes between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, and a target of 1,500 average daily trips.

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The maiden voyage of the #31 bus. Photo: Tom Gaulke

The #31 pilot features the same limited service hours, but the South Side buses are only running every half hour. The CTA has noted that this is twice the frequency that existed when the 31st Street line was canceled. But residents have also pointed out that the new service doesn’t provide access to 31st Street Beach and the Lakefront Trail but instead stops more than a half mile west at the Lake Meadows Shopping Center.

Regardless, at Tuesday’s launch community activists celebrated their successful campaign to bring back the bus. “We’ve been working on this for several years,” First Lutheran Church of the Trinity pastor Tom Gaulke, a member of the Bridgeport Alliance, told DNAinfo. “For a while I thought we weren’t going to get it, but it turns out that the persistence of grass roots organizing and a collaboration across communities, across racial and economic lines, across ethnic lines, actually does pay off sometimes.”

A press release from the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community notes that the Near South Side’s changing demographics means there’s more demand for the bus than there was back in the Nineties. “The neighborhoods along 31st Street have changed significantly in the past twenty years, with more diverse residents, particularly new immigrants who are low-­income with limited English proficiency,” it stated. “Without many east­-west public transit options between Cermak/Archer and 35th, many struggle[d] to access the increasing number of churches, parks, senior centers, businesses, schools and tutoring centers along 31st Street.”

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Male Cyclist, 20, in Critical Condition After Being Doored, Struck, Dragged

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The 5900 block of West Irving Park, looking east. Image: Google Street View

A 20-year-old man is in critical condition after a motorist opened a car door in his path while he was biking in Portage Park, throwing the man into traffic, where the bike rider was then struck and dragged by an SUV driver.

At about 1:40 p.m. this afternoon, the man, whose name has not been released, was biking on the 5900 block of Irving Park Road, near Marmora Avenue and the Patio Theater, according to Office Kevin Quaid from Police News Affairs. According to a report from DNAinfo, witnesses said the man was riding east.

When a motorist in a parked car opened the door without looking, the man struck the door and flew off his bike into traffic, Quaid said. Another driver in an SUV then struck the man and dragged him. Witnesses said it was a small red SUV and than the bike rider was knocked out of his shoes, DNA reported. A posted by Christopher Smith shows the cyclist was on a black fixed gear or single-speed bike with at least one hand brake.

The man was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition, Quaid said. Both drivers stayed at the scene; the motorist in the parked car was ticketed for opening a car door into traffic.

Several Chicago cyclists have been seriously injured or killed in a similar manner in recent memory. In 2008 graphic designer Clinton Miceli, 22, was doored by an SUV driver on the 900 block of north LaSalle. In 2012 attorney Neill Townshend, 32, swerved to avoid being doored near Oak and Wells and was fatally struck by a truck driver.

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100 People Honored Lisa Kuivinen at Ghost Bike Installation Ceremony

100 people came for Lisa Kuivenen's ghost bike memorial installation

Lisa Kuivenen’s mother, Silma, told a story about Lisa’s time in preschool.

Nearly 100 family members, friends, and members of the cycling community turned out on Saturday to honor art student Lisa Kuivenen with a “ghost bike” installation ceremony at the site where Lisa was fatally struck last month. Ghost bikes are white-painted bicycles locked at crash sites to memorialize victims and raise awareness of the need for safer streets.

Around 8:15 a.m. on August 16, flatbed truck driver Antonio Navarro, 37, merged into the green-painted bike lane at 874 North Milwaukee while making a right turn onto Racine, running over the cyclist, according to police. Kuivenen, who was studying animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was also an avid ballroom dancer, swimmer, and musician, would have turned 21 last Thursday.

Family members, friends, classmates attended Saturday’s ceremony, joined by many others who didn’t know Kuivinen. Dozens of people rode together to the event from the finish line of the Cuttin Crew Classic bike race.

The crowd there to support the Kuivinen family was too large to be contained on the narrow sidewalk, so people also stood in the street. Event organizer Kristen Green, a board member with the South Chicago Velodrome Association, had reached out to the 27th Ward office and the Chicago Police Department’s 12th District beforehand, so two police officers were there to help manage traffic. At one point a man stopped his car by the crowd on Racine and tried to order attendees to get out of the road because he “didn’t want to hit anybody,” but fortunately he left before the police had to intervene.

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31st Street Bus Reboot Launches Tuesday But Will It Get Good Ridership?

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The route for the 31st Street pilot. Map: CTA

Thanks to years of lobbying by South Side community members and organizations, the CTA’s #31 31st Street bus will ride again for the first time in almost two decades next Tuesday, albeit on a trial basis. The big question is, with a limited route, frequency, and service hours planned, will the line garner enough ridership to convince the agency to make the service permanent?

The six-month bus pilot will operate between the Ashland Orange Line station and Lake Meadows Shopping Center at 33rd Street and King Drive. The route will also connect with the Sox-35th Red Line and 35th-Bronzeville-IIT Green Line stations. For the line to be reinstated permanently, the CTA wants to see 830 average weekday rides during this period. The cost for the pilot is $251,000.

The South Side bus advocates, including members of the Bridgeport Alliance, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, and the Coalition for a Better Chinese-American Community, pushed for the #31 service in partnership with North Side residents who were calling for the restoration of the full #11 Lincoln Avenue route. This collaboration was dubbed the Crosstown Bus Coalition.

The #11 pilot launched in June with a target of 1,500 average weekday rides. The bus service has been advertised by local organizations with promotions like the 11 on 11 Beer Explorers Passport.

For both pilots, service is only available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. While the Lincoln buses run every 16 to 22 minutes, the 31st Street buses will arrive only every half hour. The CTA is quick to point out that the #31 pilot’s service will be twice as frequent as it was when the line was shut down in the Nineties. But with buses coming only once an hour, it’s no wonder very few people rode the old 31st Street service, especially in the days before Bus Tracker.

“CTA has worked closely with the community in developing the [#31] pilot, including determining the locations of the 50 bus stops along the route,” said a statement the agency released today. “The hours of service are intended to serve the kind of trips the community desired, such as service to schools, multiple shopping centers and entertainment, including U.S. Cellular Field.”

But community members have also pointed out that the limited hours aren’t useful for getting to 9-to-5 jobs, early-morning medical appointments, and many college classes. They also noted that the stop closest to the 31st Beach is a 15-minute walk from 31st Street Beach and Harbor, but that’s a moot point because the pilot isn’t launching until after beach season. Therefore, they say, the timing of the pilot could affect ridership.

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Unfortunately, Parking Issues Dictate How Robust 45th Ward Bikeways Will Be

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North of Irving Park, much higher retail density and metered spaces make stripping parking for bike lanes a heavier lift. Note the lack of parked cars at the time this photo was taken. Photo: Google Street View

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

Milwaukee Avenue is Chicago’s busiest biking street, with as many as 5,000 bike trips a day during the high season, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, with most of that cycling taking place between Logan Square and the Loop. But the Blue Line corridor is becoming an increasingly popular place to live, and we’re seeing transit-oriented development proposals in neighborhoods like Avondale, Portage Park, Old Irving Park, and Jefferson Park. As more car-free and car-lite residents settle further northwest along Milwaukee, bike traffic is going to increase on stretches of the road that are farther from the Loop.

So it’s great that the 45th Ward Alderman John Arena recently announced the ward is teaming up with CDOT to install bikeways along Milwaukee between Addison Street and Lawrence Avenue – a two-mile stretch. On the shorter section between Addison and Irving Park Road, Arena and CDOT aren’t letting narrow right-of-way stop them from improving safety. Ninety-two little-used parking spaces will be stripped from the east side of Milwaukee on this stretch to make room for buffered bike lanes, which help provide extra breathing room for people biking.

Unfortunately, however, there will be no major improvements to the longer segment of Milwaukee between Irving and Lawrence. The city won’t be moving any parking from this segment, so there will only be room for “sharrows,” the bike-and-chevron road markings that have been shown to have relatively little effect on improving bike safety.

45th Ward residents voted for the bike lanes project as the top priority in the ward’s May 2015 participatory budgeting election, so the facilities will be bankrolled with $100,000 from the district’s $1.3 million discretionary budget for that year. Work on the bikeways should start later this year, DNAinfo reported.

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Most of the housing on Milwaukee between Addison and Irving has off-street parking, so there’s relatively little demand for street parking. Photo: Google Street View

Since Milwaukee between Addison and Irving doesn’t have enough right-of-way for parking on both sides, travel lanes and buffered bike lanes, CDOT recently did eight parking studies on this stretch to see how many spaces were actually being used. The department found that, since this segment has little retail, and much of the housing has off-street parking, curbside spaces were seeing little use. In addition, the absence of metered parking makes it relatively easy to strip parking.

The project also with involve the removal or relocation of several stops for the #56 Milwaukee bus between Addison and Irving, DNA reported. The city says this will shorten travel times and enhance safety.

The higher density of retail between Irving and Lawrence combine with less off-street parking for residences, and the resulting higher parking demand, made removing dozens of parking spaces on that stretch a non-starter, Arena said.

Notably, this stretch is just south of a four-lane stretch of Milwaukee north of Lawrence where CDOT previously proposed converting two of the lanes to protected bike lanes, which would have required the removal of a few parking spots for sight lines. After a major backlash from residents, the road diet idea was scrapped and the department installed buffered lanes instead – a much more modest safety improvement.

Another issue with removing parking between Irving and Lawrence is the city’s despised parking meter deal. The presence of metered spaces on this stretch would make parking removal much more complex because the city would either have to replace these spots with new metered spaces elsewhere in the area, or compensate the parking concessionaire for lost revenue.

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A Wish List for Better Walking and Biking in the Black Metropolis

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Ronnie Harris outside the locked gate that blocks pedestrian and bike access on 29th east of Michigan. Photo: John Greenfield

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

As we stood astride bicycles in the shadow of Alison Saar’s Monument to the Great Northern Migration last week, Bronzeville-based transportation advocate Ronnie Matthew Harris, 47, told me that community organizing is in his blood.

“Both sides of my family immigrated from the Deep South as part of the Great Migration, and landed here in the great mecca of Bronzeville,” Harris said, gazing at the 15-foot-tall bronze sculpture. “And as long as there has been a historic Bronzeville, you could find an organizer by the name of Harris.” His paternal grandfather and father were labor leaders, he explained, and his mother’s job at a local church involved many aspects of community development. “So it’s the family business.”

Harris is also passionate about improving conditions in the neighborhood—sometimes referred to as the Black Metropolis—where he was born and raised. As the leader of Go Bronzeville, a group that promotes sustainable transportation options in the community, he’d offered to take me on a neighborhood tour highlighting pedestrian and bike access issues he wants to fix.

“Data shows that a community that walks, bikes, and uses public transportation is a community that is healthier, safer, and more economically viable,” he said. “Go Bronzeville wants to respond to some of the inequity in public policy and urban planning that sometimes contributes to disparities in health and wealth.”

Go Bronzeville started as an initiative of the Chicago Department of Transportation, along with similar programs in Pilsen, Garfield Park, Albany Park, and Edgewater. The programs educate residents on how sustainable transportation can help them save time and money and improve their health. After the program ended, Harris got CDOT’s blessing to continue running Go Bronzeville on a mostly volunteer basis. Nowadays the group hosts neighborhood bike rides, mans tables at community events, and, via a city contract, promotes the Divvy for Everyone program, which offers $5 bike-share memberships to low-income Chicagoans.

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Mother of Fallen Cyclist Hector Avalos: Catholic School Should Lift Biking Ban

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Sign outside of Annunicata Catholic School. Photo: Ingrid Cossio

There are many reasons why biking to school is beneficial to children, and for society in general. It provides physical activity, which is obviously key for good health and has been shown to improve performance in the classroom. It also helps with the traffic safety, congestion, and pollution issues associated with the widespread use of private cars to take children to school. That’s why the city of Chicago has generally encouraged biking to the public schools by installing bike racks and bike lanes, and through bike education initiatives like the city’s Bicycling Ambassadors.

However, it turns out that some local Catholic schools don’t just fail to promote biking to school but actually ban cycling. Yesterday Ingrid Cossio, mother of fallen cyclist Hector Avalos, posted on the Slow Roll Chicago Facebook page a letter from the principal of Annunciata School, 3750 East 112th Street in the East Side neighborhood, notifying her that school policy forbids students from biking to school. The school serves preschool through eighth grade students, and Hector’s twin younger sister and brother Brandy and Brandon, aged ten, attend the school.

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Ingrid Cossio with her twins Brandy and Brandon. Photo: Facebook

In 2013 Hector, 28, a former Marine and aspiring chef who enjoyed gardening, camping and fishing, was fatally struck by a drunk driver while bicycling. The motorist was sentenced to only 100 days in prison.

“My kids are always talking about Hector,” Cossio told me. “My son wants to be like him. So when school started up this year, they said, ‘Why don’t we bike to school?'”

In the wake of Hector’s death, Cossio said she is concerned about drunk, reckless, and distracted drivers. “Safety is my number-one worry,” she said. However, the family lives only seven blocks from the school, so she decided to ride with the twins to school on Monday, the first day. The children rode on the sidewalk.

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The letter from the principal. Click to enlarge.

“They really enjoyed it,” Cossio said. “It’s exercise, so when they got to school they were more alert and ready to learn.” They rode again on Tuesday, when a couple of teachers told Cossio they thought it was great the kids were exercising, and that they thought other children should ride to school as well. On both days Cossio locked the twins’ bikes on a pole on the sidewalk in front of the school.

However, on Tuesday evening Cossio’s daughter was given a letter from principal Edward A. Renas to take home. “Due to insurance policies, student safety, and concern for private property, students are not allowed to ride bicycles to school,” wrote Renas.

He cited an excerpt from the school handbook which states: “Bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and roller blades may not be brought to school property… The school is not responsible for any damages or theft of any equipment on school property.” Renas added that a sign stating the policy is posted by the main entrance of the school.

“Just taking my twins to school,” Cossio posted on the Slow Roll Facebook page. “Is this right?… I want my kids to exercise, to enjoy nature.”

After I called the school for more information on the bike ban, I heard from Anne Maselli, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools, which runs 217 schools in the region. Maselli explained that the archdiocese doesn’t have a set policy on whether biking to school should be encouraged, but instead leaves it up to the local school administrators. “I’m sure some other [of our Catholic] schools have the same or similar policies.”

Maselli guessed that Annuciation’s bike ban may be largely inspired by a desire to avoid liability in case of bike theft, but said concerns about traffic safety are also likely an issue. While 112th Street is a wide four-lane street, the school can also be accessed by quiet side streets, and a crossing guard is stationed on 112th during commute times.

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Tweets Spur CDOT to Shut Down Illegal Construction in Dearborn Bike Lane

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The construction work blocked the Dearborn bike lane as well as a crosswalk. Photo Kevin Zolkewicz

Yesterday Twitter users notified the Chicago Department of Transportation about an unpermitted closure of the Dearborn Street two-way protected bike lane and a crosswalk. To their credit, CDOT acted swiftly to shut down the illegal blockage at Randolph Street, caused by contractors working for SBC Communications.

The bike lane is one of the city’s busiest and most important because it’s the only bikeway for southbound cyclists within the Loop. Blocking the two-way lane was particularly problematic for southbound cyclists, because they didn’t have the option of merging into northbound travel lanes to get around the work site.

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Looking south on Dearborn towards Randolph. Photo: Kevin Zolkiewicz

Cyclists who encountered the blockage yesterday morning tweeted about the problem using the #bikeCHI hashtag yesterday morning. Streetsblog reader Kevin Zolkiewicz also sent us photos of the situation, which I forwarded to CDOT. According to a CDOT staffer, the department learned about the issue via the tweets and sent an inspector to the site .

According to CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey, an electrical contractor had obtained a permit but “did not state that they would be working in the bike lane or blocking the bike lane.” The inspector shut down the work immediately, by 1:30 p.m., and ordered the crew to clear all equipment. Claffey said that the contractor Archon Construction, working for SBC Communications, was cited and wouldn’t be allowed to resume work until they provide a traffic maintenance plan.

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