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Shop by Bike and Win Prizes During the “Ride & Seek Lakeview” Promotion

Bike Friendly Business

This sticker in a shop’s window means they offer a discount to cyclists.

Smart community leaders brainstorm ways to get more butts on bicycles. After all, more people traveling in the neighborhood on two wheels instead of four means less traffic congestions and pollution. And when more shoppers access retail strips by bikes instead of cars, there are similar (or even better) economic benefits for the area, with less need for car parking. Plus, when people travel at slower speeds, they’re more likely to notice local storefronts and consider patronizing the businesses.

Accordingly, the Lakeview and Lakeview East chambers of commerce are partnering this year on a Bike-Friendly Business District program that promotes shopping local and helps promote the Lakeview neighborhood as a great place to shop by bike. The Lakeview chamber originally launched the initiative in 2014 through a partnership with the West Town Chamber of Commerce and the Active Transportation Alliance. The program includes improved cycling infrastructure, promotional materials and bike maps, plus educational and encouragement activities like workshops and rides, plus a discount program for customers arriving by bicycle.

Both the Lakeview and Lakeview East chambers have installed dozens of branded bike racks on their business strips featuring the names of the neighborhoods, paid for with Special Service Area funds. The Lakeview East racks have temporarily been removed for refurbishing.

Last year the Lakeview chamber installed a fix-it station at the Southport Brown Line station with a pump and tools for simple repairs. Unlike the fix-it stations that West Town Bikes recently installed on the Bloomingdale Trail, which sadly were vandalized soon after installation, the Southport facility hasn’t seen major tool theft problems, according to SSA 27 manager Dillon Goodson.

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What Could Chicagoans Learn About Rail Transportation From a Trip to Japan?

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A Streetcar in Hiroshima. Photo: Rick Harnish

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is hosting a train-focused tour of Japan that should offer Chicago residents a fascinating window on what’s like to live with truly world-class transit and railroad service. The trip, which takes place between September 27 and October 9, is an opportunity to check out how fast, frequent, and dependable trains help create vibrant communities.

MHSRA president Rick Harnish has previously led rail-focused tours of Spain, France, Germany and China. Highlights of the Japan trip will include riding the Shinkansen bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka – the world’s first and busiest high-speed line. Participants will tour a maintenance facility for JR Central, which runs the line.

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The Nagoya Railway Museum. Photo: Rick Harnish

They’ll also check out a Nippon Sharyo railcar factory – In 2012 the company opened a branch in Roselle, Illinois, to fulfill a contract for 160 “Highliner” railcars for Metra Electric Line service, plus orders for other American rail lines. The group will travel to a number of other Japanese cities by rail, including Kyoto, Hakodate, Nagoya, and Hiroshima, visiting various rail museums and cultural attractions and, of course, riding the local Metro systems.

Through out the trip, there will be opportunities for rail experts and enthusiasts to discuss what they’re seeing and relate them to potential American high-speed rail systems, such as proposed lines from Chicago to St. Louis and Detroit. “Every time I have ridden high-speed trains in other cities, I’ve gone, ‘Oh, I get it,’” Harnish says. “So we’re trying to get more people to see these things up close and see how they can work.”

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City Begins Work on Next 50 Miles of Bikeways, Funds Bikes N’ Roses

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IIT grad student Yuan Zheng rides in a new curb-protected bike lane on 31st. Photo: John Greenfield

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

Today at a ribbon cutting for curb-protected bike lanes on 31st Street by the Illinois Institute of Technology, Mayor Emanuel and transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld elaborated on the city’s previously announced plan to build 50 more miles of bikeways by 2019.

This represents a slower pace of installation than the city’s previous achievement of installing 103 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes in about 4.5 years, starting in 2011. However, while 83.5 miles of those lanes were buffered, merely paint on the road, it’s possible that a higher percentage of the new bikeways will feature better protection from car traffic.

Scheinfeld say the upcoming 50 miles will include many so-called “better bike lanes,” including off-street paths, new “neighborhood greenway” routes on traffic-calmed residential streets, concrete-protected lanes, and safety improvements at key intersections.

Cortland/Ashland in Bucktown, near the eastern terminus of the Bloomingdale Trail, and Logan/Western in Logan Square spring to mind as intersections with high bike traffic that also are scary junctions with high crash rates – hopefully these are on the shortlist for improvements.

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Scheinfeld and Emanuel in of the 31st Street lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

“We’ve made progress installing protected bike lanes in neighborhoods across Chicago, making it easier and safer for everyone – no matter their age or ability – to get around on a bicycle,” Emanuel said. “Today, we’re building on that progress and looking to the future.”

Today’s event highlighted the new roughly half-mile, seven-foot-wide bikeway on 31st between State and LaSalle. It’s a mix of buffered lanes, curbside lanes protected by plastic posts, and concrete-protected lanes, with the majority of the concrete near the college campus. After I took a quick spin on the facility my impression is that it’s a well-designed bikeway, although we’ll have to see how it holds up in rainy and snowy weather – which has been an issue with the city’s other major curb-protected bikeway on Clybourn.

This year the city plans to install nine more miles of “better bikeways,” up to 18 more bikes of other (“worse”?) bikeways, and restripe up to 20 miles of existing bike lanes. “As we focus on building better bike lanes, CDOT will continue to strengthen and improve the connectivity of Chicago’s existing bike network so that bicycling continues to grow and serve as a safe and enjoyable way to travel around our city,” said Scheinfeld.

The commissioner added that protected bike lanes seem to be effective in reducing crashes, partly due to their traffic calming effect. For example, CDOT reports that, since the 55th Street protected bike lanes were installed on 55th Street in Hyde Park in 2012, overall crashes have dropped by 32 percent. CDOT recently released the new bike lane report 2015 Bikeways: Year in Review, which has more info on their findings. I’ll provide an analysis of that document tomorrow.

The Active Transportation previously put out a call for the city to install 100 miles of better bikeways by 2020, but director Ron Burke says OK with the city’s current, more modest mileage goal of 50 miles, although he still hopes CDOT will wind up installing more.

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This Year’s 49th Ward PB Ballot Includes a Few Transit Projects

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A 49th Ward participatory budgeting expo. Photo: 49th Ward

Each of Chicago’s 50 wards gets an annual $1.3 million in discretionary “menu” funding to spend on infrastructure projects each year. Usually the alderman decides how the money is spent and typically most of the money is used for traditional projects like street resurfacing, sidewalk repair, and streetlamp installation.

However, the growing participatory budget movement, which lets constituents vote on how menu money is spent, has paved the way for more innovative uses, including many sustainable transportation projects. Seven years ago 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore pioneered participatory budgeting in the United States, and this year six other wards are holding PB elections:

Ward 10 – Susan Sadlowski Garza
Ward 17 – David H. Moore
Ward 31 – Milly Santiago
Ward 35 – Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
Ward 36 – Gilbert Villegas
Ward 45 – John Arena

In recent years, some activists in Moore’s diverse Rogers Park ward have argued that the PB process, intended to make the decision-making process for spending ward money more democratic, actually favors wealthier residents. They noted that there was relatively low participation from low-income residents, people of color, and Spanish speakers.

Moore’s assistant Wayne Frazier, who handles infrastructure issues, told me that the ward did additional outreach this year, and new residents were involved. The work of a Spanish outreach committee resulted in good turnout at the ward’s Spanish-language PB meetings, and there were generally 35 to 60 residents at all of this year’s PB meetings, Frazier said.

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Outgoing 606 Project Manager Discusses The Trail’s Impact on Neighborhoods

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Beth White on the half-finished Bloomingdale Trail in December 2014. Photo: John Greenfield

The Trust for Public Land’s Chicago director Beth White announced last week that she will be leaving Chicago to take a new job as president and CEO of the nonprofit Houston Parks Board, beginning in June.

White is best known here as the woman who led the development of the $95 million, 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail elevated greenway and its access parks, a collectively known as The 606. Jamie Simone, currently the director of TPL’s Chicago urban parks program, will take over as the organization’s interim director after White steps down.

In her new position, White will oversee the implementation of the $220 million Bayou Greenways 2020 initiative to create 160-mile system of interconnected trails and parks along the Texas city’s waterways. The project was made possible by a $100 million city bond measure, which TPL helped get passed.

I checked in yesterday with White to discuss the challenges of managing The 606, which recently won an award from the American Planning Association, and what she believes its legacy will be.

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White, Mayor Emanuel, CDOT’s Rebekah Scheinfeld, and the park district’s Michael Kelly tour the trail prior to opening day. Photo: John Greenfield

White told me that one of most difficult aspects of getting the trail built was coordinating with all the different entities involved. These included multiple city departments, Canadian National Railway (which previously owned the right-of-way the trail is built on), the design team, community organizations and residents, and private donors.

“There were so many moving parts, and sustaining the project over time was challenging, what with all the ups and downs in the economy and the changes in leadership,” she said. “But it’s a testament to the project that so many people were committed to it that we were able to get it done.”

The greenway has been nearly universally cited as a wonderful amenity for Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square. However, many have argued that the trail has accelerated the pace of gentrification in Humboldt and Logan.

For example, in January dozens of residents held an anti-displacement rally after a developer announced plans for luxury town houses a block south of the trail, priced at $929,000 each. Community leaders in Pilsen and Little Village recently told me they feel the city should be more proactive about preserving affordability when it builds the recently announced Paseo trail through these neighborhoods.

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NYC’s Sadik-Khan Charted Path for Major Street Changes There, Nationwide

Janette Sadik-Khan asks how many people have visited Times Square since it changed and became a pedestrian plaza.

Janette chwaadik-Khan asks how many people have visited Times Square since it became a pedestrian plaza. Photo: Tricia Scully/MPC

One of the country’s most successful city transportation commissioners spoke on Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Planning Council about her experience working in New York City for seven years. Janette Sadik-Khan was hired by former mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007 to implement the radical – for NYC and for that time in the United States – sustainable transportation initiatives outlined in the city’s comprehensive livability plan called PlaNYC.

Sadik-Khan traveled to Chicago promote her book “Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution” with co-author Seth Solomonow.

The NYCDOT, with Sadik-Khan at the helm, made bold changes that resulted in fierce backlash, but also positive outcomes like increased bike ridership, the lowest recorded number of traffic crashes in New York’s history, and higher retail sales on streets with new pedestrian spaces. Her tenure inspired dozens of other big and medium-sized city mayors across the nation, and even around the world, to start their own “streetfights.”

Sadik-Khan’s book follows the publication of two other high-profile books – at least in the transportation planning world. Last year, former Chicago and Washington, D.C., transportation commissioner Gabe Klein authored “Startup City.” Former commissioner of the NYC traffic department, and president of his eponymous transportation planning firm, Sam Schwartz recently published “Street Smart.”

Inspiration for other cities

Like the other authors, Sadik-Khan started the presentation talking about streets as the foundation of a city’s commerce and sociality. Sadik-Khan said, “Streets are what make a city great, but also what make a city not great.” She showed a photo of a wide road in NYC and said “this [traffic congestion] shows exactly what we’ve come to expect” of our streets. “You see a street like this and it seems like people gave up.”

On Wednesday morning I had coffee with her co-author Seth Solomonow, press secretary during her time as commissioner, to discuss some details on the differences between how things have played out in New York City and Chicago. First of all, I wondered how Sadik-Khan got so many brand-new projects implemented in such a short time, and what motivated her.

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Actually, the Lincoln/Ashland/Belmont Remix Will Be a Major Improvement

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Before and after views of the intersection. Planned features include bumpouts, new crosswalks, bike lanes, and far-side bus stops.

Last week a ward staffer provided me with a preview of plans for the Lincoln/Ashland/Belmont reconstruction project. From what I gathered from that conversation, the Chicago Department of Transportation was planning a relatively conservative redesign of one of the North Side’s most dangerous intersections.

But at a public meeting about the initiative last week, I learned that it’s actually going to be somewhat bolder than I thought, with significant improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. The project also includes streetscaping work on Belmont between Ashland and Southport, and Lincoln from Melrose to Wellington, which will further improve conditions for walking.

During the hearing at St. Luke’s Church, 1500 West Belmont, CDOT’s complete streets manager Janet Attarian outlined the planned changes. She noted that Lincoln/Ashland Belmont was the 5th most dangerous intersection in the city in 2010, with 35 crashes.

New sidewalk bumpouts will be added on Lincoln and Ashland, which will narrow these streets at the intersection and shorten the turning radius for drivers, preventing high-speed turns. They will also improve sightlines and shorten pedestrian crossing distance. In addition, the bumpouts will help straighten out a kink in Lincoln which occurs at the six-way junction.

Left turns off of Lincoln will be banned. This will affect relatively few drivers, since these moves make up only 2-4% of traffic at the intersection, according to CDOT counts. During rush hours, left turns currently account for 8-16% of traffic on Lincoln.

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Why Didn’t More Locals Show Up for the West-Side Bikeway Hearings?

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House painter James Woods rides in the Lake Street protected bike lane in September 2014. Photo: John Greenfield

[The Chicago Reader recently launched a new weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership will allow Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We’ll be syndicating a portion of the column on the day it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

Residents and aldermen in wealthier north- and northwest-side wards have been more vocal about pushing for bike lanes and racks than their South- and West-Side counterparts. That’s one reason why the lion’s share of cycling infrastructure has been concentrated north of Madison.

After Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011, that equation changed somewhat. According to the Chicago Department of Transportation, 60 percent of the roughly 100 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes installed during the mayor’s first term went to south- and west-side neighborhoods, as defined by the city’s official community areas.

Still, when the Divvy system was rolled out in 2013, the bulk of the docking stations went to dense downtown and north-lakefront areas.

In December 2014, a group of African-American bike advocates pushed CDOT to do better, publishing an open letter to the mayor’s office requesting a more equitable distribution of resources.

“In the past, the city’s philosophy has been that the communities that already bike the most deserve the most resources,” Slow Roll Chicago cofounder Oboi Reed (now a Streetsblog board member) told me at the time. “That just perpetuates a vicious cycle where cycling grows fast in some neighborhood and not others.” He argued Chicago’s African-American and Latino communities are the ones that most urgently need the health and economic benefits of biking.

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“RIDE” Highlights the Need to Make Streets Safer for Chicago Cyclists

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The cast of “RIDE.” Photo: Under the Rug Theatre

We don’t usually cover the performing arts here at Streetsblog Chicago, but I thought our readers would want to know about the original play “RIDE,” written by Neil Connelly, which discusses local bike safety issues, focusing on the aftermath of a fatal crash.

The entire play is set in an Uptown bike store. No, it’s not actually based on Uptown Bikes. However, the fictional shop Brennan’s Bikes does resemble the real one in that it has multiple female staffers (shout-out to Uptown owner and SBC board member Maria Barnes), a rarity in this city.

As a former bike shop employee myself, I can tell you that the show does a good job of recreating the somewhat gritty environment of a typical mom-and-pop Chicago store. That’s partly thanks to input from folks from the Albany Park-based youth education center Bikes N’ Roses, who gave the actors repairs tutorials and supplied much of the gear on stage.

A who’s who of other righteous bike nonprofits and independent stores that helped out with the production are highlighted in the program, including the Active Transportation Alliance, West Town Bikes, Working Bikes, Roscoe Village Bikes, On the Route Bicycles, and Quick Release Bike Shop. It’s great that so many worthy organizations pitched in to support the play’s message that there’s a pressing need to improve street safety in Chicago.

At the start of the play, directed by John Wilson, bike shop owner Cal Brennan has just been fatally struck while pedaling through the Wacker/Clark intersection by a taxi driver who blew a red at a high speed. This scenario brought to mind the tragic 2012 case of a cab driver who ran a red at Chicago and Milwaukee while speeding, killing pedestrian Eric Kerestes.

After the wake, Cal’s estranged, white-collar siblings show up at the store to put his affairs in order. His sister Molly (Annie Prichard) decries his foolishness for exposing himself to the dangers of Chicago traffic on a bike. But his brother Danny (Todd Wojcik) reminds her that the cabbie was barreling through the intersection so fast that Cal wouldn’t have survived even if he’d been driving a tank.

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West Side Residents Tell CDOT Where New Bikeways Should Be Built

Bike planning meeting in the Austin neighborhood

Consultants and a couple of locals discuss bike routes on the West Side.

Last night the Chicago Department of Transportation held a meeting at the Austin neighborhood library to get feedback from residents on which routes should be prioritized as the city builds out the planned bike network on the West Side.

second West Side public input meeting takes place tomorrow night from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. at the Legler Library, 115 S. Pulaski Road in East Garfield Park. There will be a presentation at 6:00 p.m.

At the Austin meeting Mike Amsden, assistant director of transportation planning at CDOT, spoke about the planning process that led to the publication of the city’s Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan in fall 2012. He said this year the department wants to construct some of the yet-unbuilt bike routes from the plan – some as lanes, perhaps others as traffic-calmed “neighborhood greenways” on side streets.

For the purposes of this year’s bikeway planning process, the West Side is defined as the area bounded by the city limits, Roosevelt Road, California Avenue, and North Avenue.

The CDOT staffers and consultant went over the unbuilt local bike routes from Streets for Cycling Plan map that they’ve judged to be the most feasible and beneficial locations. They factored in health outcomes, like the prevalence of childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease among residents along the corridors, which could potentially be improved by providing safer streets for biking. They also met with “community influencers” suggested by the local six alders in November to vet the routes and took their advice into account.

CDOT developed a scoring system based on this info and created maps where the potential bike routes are color-coded according to their respective scores. At last night’s meeting, residents voted on which of the high- and medium-priority routes they want to see built.

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