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The Final Segment of the Chicago Riverwalk Set to Open This Weekend

Final sections of the new Chicago Riverwalk

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, speaks to Margaret Frisbie, director of Friends of the Chicago River (green jacket), on the ramp from Wacker Drive to the Riverbank section. Photo: Steven Vance

If all goes well, starting this weekend you’ll be able to walk most of the way from the Ogilvie Center to Michigan Avenue on a car-free, if somewhat circuitous, route. At a media preview of the final section of the Chicago Riverwalk expansion this afternoon, Mayor Emanuel said he’s confident that the new recreational space, which doubles as a corridor for walking and (cautious) biking, will be open to the public this Saturday.

Previously, the Chicago Riverwalk was a simple paved path that ran from the Lakefront Trail to State. The first segment of the riverwalk extension, a much more elaborate promenade from State to LaSalle, opened in summer 2015 and immediately proved a hit with locals and tourists alike. This latest segment will run from LaSalle to Lake, creating a 1.3-mile route from Lake Michigan to the West Loop.

Emanuel was joined on the tour by officials from the city’s transportation and fleet and facilities management departments, as well as downtown alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) and staff from Sasaki and Ross Barney Architects, the lead design team. The transportation department is building the project, which involved extending the south bank of the Chicago River out by 25 feet.

The three new sections, or “rooms,” of the Riverwalk to open later this week include:

  • The Water Plaza: A water play area for children and their families at the river’s edge. (From LaSalle to Wells.)
  • The Jetty: A series of piers and floating wetland gardens with interactive learning about the ecology of the river, including opportunities for fishing and identifying native plants. (From Wells to Franklin.)
  • The Riverbank: A wheelchair-friendly ramp and new marine edge that creates access to Lake Street and features a public lawn at the confluence of the Main, North, and South branches of the river. The ramp provides an accessible route from lower to upper Wacker and Lake Street. (From Franklin to Lake.)

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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.

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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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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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CTA and Pace Brainstorm Ways to Improve North Shore Transit Service


A Pace bus. Photo: Wikipedia

Two transit agencies working toward a common goal is unfortunately a rare phenomenon in our country. Thankfully this has not stopped the CTA and Pace from joining forces to brainstorm ways to improve public transportation in the Chicago region.

The two agencies, with assistance from Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, are currently working on the North Shore Transit Coordination Plan, a comprehensive study of the northern edge of the city and the near-north suburbs primarily focused on improving the bus service of both agencies. The goal of the study is to develop a list of recommendations and a plan for the agencies to execute in the near future. Last week CTA and Pace held an open house in Rogers Park to show area residents what they’ve been working on. The results of the study are both expected and surprising.

During the event, I first took a quick trip around the room looking at all the information boards they had up. The first board featured a very promising Project Purpose stating, “The purpose of this plan is to improve the coordination of CTA and PACE services by better understanding existing travel demands and transit markets while leveraging changes in communities and transit investments since the last major service revision in that area.” The board also included a project timeline and study area, including territory in Rogers Park, West Ridge, Lincolnwood, Skokie, Evanston, Wilmette, and Kenilworth, showcasing the many towns, bus routes, and rail lines included in the study itself.

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Staff and residents at Tuesday’s open house at the Rogers Park library. Photo: Charles Papanek.

The next board was an overview of current bus service with stop-level ridership and a zoomed in version of the main RTA map showing the area in context with the surrounding landscape along with several performance indicating charts. Unsurprisingly, terminals like Old Orchard Mall, the Davis Street CTA and Metra stations, and the CTA’s Howard stop dominated the stop-level ridership, with between 2,000 and 5,000-plus boardings.

The third board was on demographics and travel patterns. It featured surprising info about the number of people moving into the study area instead of out of it. By an almost two-to-one ratio, more users entered the zone than left it for places like downtown Chicago. This is extremely important to highlight as it emphasizes the need for more investment in outlying urban and nearby suburban bus service.

The next two boards reiterated the CTA/PACE ridership survey and a study-specific drilldown on occasional riders. Several facts stood out. For example, 50 percent of riders are between 18 and 40 years old, rith a disproportionate number of riders aged 18-24. However, in the “occasional rider” breakdown, there are a disproportionate number of adults aged 65 and over.  Evanston was also singled out as the primary destination that people are going to and from with even downtown Chicago taking a back seat. The final interesting fact was that frequency was considered the most important factor in increasing ridership while additional destinations beat out both on-time performance and extending service hours.

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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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Fun Meetup at Baderbrau Last Night, See You Next Month at Lagunitas


Baderbrau founder Rob Sama gave us a tour of the brewery. Photo: John Greenfield

Steven and I had a great time hanging out with Streetsblog Chicago readers and Go Bronzeville members last night at our reader meetup at Baderbrau brewery on the Near South Side. Big thanks to Ronnie Matthew Harris, who leads the Go Bronzeville’s work promoting transportation options in the neighborhood, for co-hosting the event with us.

We sampled Baderbrau’s tasty craft beer and took an informative tour of the historic brewery building, located at 25th and Wabash, led by brewery founder Rob Sama, an old college friend of mine. We also had a lot of good conversations about transportation issues in the area, and I picked up a story idea or two that I’ll be reporting on in the near future.


Photo: Hsuan-Hui Hu, Go Bronzeville

We’re going to continue holding our reader meetups in various parts of town and co-hosting them with local groups that promote sustainable transportation. Mark your calendar for Wednesday, November 2, from 6-8 p.m. when we’ll be convening with members of Go Pilsen at Lagunitas Taproom, 2607 West 17th.

Lagunitas can be accessed via the California Pink Line station or the #49 Western bus stop at Western and 16th. There’s a Divvy station by the California stop. I plan on biking there after that afternoon’s Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council meeting, which takes place from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. at City Hall in room 1103 and is open to the public. Drop me a line at jgreenfield[at] if you’re interested cycling from the Loop to the brewery around 5 p.m.

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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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Northwestern Students, Chicago Cylists Honor Crash Victim Chuyuan Qiu


Chuyuan Qiu. Photo: Yunqi Li

The Northwestern University community, as well as Chicago-area bicyclists, are still processing the death of Chuyuan “Chu” Qiu, an 18-year-old student who was killed last month after she collided with a concrete truck while biking by the Evanston campus.

A native of Nanjing, China, Qiu was a member of the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program and resident of the university’s Residential College of Community and Cultural Studies. On Thursday, September 22, at around 5 p.m., after meeting with an advisor, she was biking west out of a campus parking lot when she was run over by the northbound truck driver on Sheridan Road. The driver, a 38-year-old man from Des Plaines, was not ticketed.

More than 650 people attended a memorial service for Qiu last Friday at a campus chapel, The Daily Northwestern reported. Campus faculty and students remembered her as enthusiasm and pride about coming to study in the United States.

The young woman’s family members had come had come from China for the memorial. “My sweet daughter,” said Qiu’s father, speaking at his daughter’s memorial service, according to the Daily Northwestern. “I’m coming to take you home… We love you so much, especially now. Can you feel it?”

In the wake of Qiu’s death, Evanston alderman Judy Fiske has proposed lowering the speed limit on Sheridan by the campus from 30 mph to 20 mph. Northwestern student Emily Blim launched a petition advocating for this change, which has garnered some 630 signatures.

On Tuesday evening, Chicagoans from the group Ghost Bikes Chicago traveled to Evanston pay their respects to Qiu by installing a white-painted “ghost bike” memorial at the crash site, where students had previously left flowers, candles, notes, and other mementoes. A classmate of Qiu’s had requested the ghost bike, and members of the Northwestern bike community came to greet them.

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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.


Organizers of Friday Vigil: We Won’t Wait Until 2026 to Prevent Bike Deaths

Anastasia Kondrasheva.

Anastasia Kondrasheva.

In the wake of the bike/truck collision that took the life of Anastasia Kondrasheva on Monday, as well as several other recent bike fatality cases, this Friday activists are holding a candlelight vigil and ghost bike installation at the crash site. The organizers say they’re through waiting for the city of Chicago to make progress on its four-year-old goal of eliminating all traffic deaths. Instead, they’re demanding that major steps be taken immediately to prevent such tragedies, especially those caused by commercial drivers.

Kondrasheva, a 23-year-old health coach, was biking to work Monday morning when a flatbed truck driver made a right turn into her path at Addison Street and Damen Avenue, fatally striking her. The driver was cited for failure to exercise due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to police.

Last Thursday evening Northwestern student Chuyuan Qiu, 18, was killed in a crash with a concrete truck in Evanston. Since June, four other people have been fatally struck by commercial vehicle drivers while biking in Chicago: Blaine Klingenberg, Virgina Murray, Lisa Kuivinen, and Francisco Cruz. Like Kondrasheva, Murray and Kuivinen were also killed by right-tuning flatbed truck drivers.


Kristen Green prepares memorials for Kondrasheva and Chuyuan Qiu. Photo: Chicago Ghost Bikes

Garfield Ridge pizzeria worker Nick Fox, passed away last Sunday from injuries sustained in a June bike/train crash, bringing Chicago’s total 2016 bike death toll to six.

Friday’s vigil and ghost bike installation will take place at Addison and Damen from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Some 180 people have RSVPed on Facebook to say that they will attend. It’s also likely that participants from Chicago Critical Mass will ride from Daley Plaza to the ceremony.

“We are gathering the cycling community and Chicago community to honor the memory of Anastasia Kondrasheva and to demand safe streets now,” reads a statement from the vigil organizers. “In light of the six bicyclists and 18 pedestrians who have been killed in Chicago in 2016 many of which involving large commercial vehicles in densely populated neighborhood streets, we no longer accept the empty promises of Chicago’s [‘zero in ten‘] plan.”

In May 2012 the Chicago Department of Transportation released its “Chicago Forward” agenda, including the stated goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2022, a target inspired by the international Vision Zero movement. Earlier this month the city announced a formal Vision Zero initiative, starting with a three-year interdepartmental action plan slated for release later this fall. The deadline for reaching zero traffic deaths and serious injuries has been pushed back to 2026.

Following Kondrasheva’s death, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey told the Tribune that her case shows why Vision Zero is badly needed. “This is another tragedy that underscores the urgency of our mission,” he said.

Rebecca Resman, a former Active Transportation employee who organizes the Roscoe Village Kidical Mass family ride and runs the Chicago Family Biking page on Facebook, came up with the idea for the vigil. “When I heard about the death at Addison and Damen, I was in shock, angry, scared, and tired of hearing news that another cyclist had been killed,” she told me.

Resman lives a couple of blocks from the crash site, and her first reflex was to head to the intersection. “I felt I needed to get down there and make sure that people understand that there are fragile human lives passing through this intersection every day. She brought along her two young children in a cargo bike, along with signs that read “Please put the phone down” and “Don’t hit me.”

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