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Posts from the "Streetsblog Chicago" Category


Eyes on the Street: Bike and Ped Facilities on the South Side and in the Loop


Bike traffic in the new Grand BBL during the evening rush. Photo: John Greenfield

As the construction season winds down, the Chicago Department of Transportation has been busy building a number of new bikeways and pedestrian facilities. We’ll get you up to speed on these with a few Eye on the Street posts in the near future.

CDOT recently striped buffered bike lanes on a .6-mile stretch of Pershing from King to Oakwood. Unlike many new BBLs that involved upgrading existing, non-buffered lanes, these were put in on a section of road that formerly had no bikeway at all.


The wide BBLs on Oakwood replaced excess travel lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

Best of all, the Pershing lanes involve a road diet to what was formerly a de facto four-lane street. The new lanes, with very wide buffers, occupy the excess road width, which calms traffic and shortens pedestrian crossing distances. Since the city striped buffered lanes on Oakwood from Pershing to the Lakefront Trail earlier this year as part of a repaving project, you can now get from King to the lakefront entirely on BBLs.

Speaking of King, while scouting out facilities last Sunday morning, I passed by the historic South Park Baptist Church, 3722 South King. You may recall that the city originally proposed installing protected bike lanes on King from 26th to 51st. However, largely due to feedback from local clergy, who were concerned that the lanes would impact church parking, CDOT installed buffered lanes here instead.


The BBLs by South Park Baptist Church fill up with cars on Sundays. Photo: John Greenfield

In various parts of the city, it’s common for parishioners to park in travel lanes along boulevards on Sundays. While this longstanding practice is technically illegal, aldermen generally condone it. Such was the case when I passed by South Park — dozens of cars were parked in the BBLs. Fortunately, this situation only exists for a few hours a week, and traffic on King is usually light on Sundays.

A couple miles north, at 18th and Calumet, the city has eliminated an annoying barrier for cyclists. There’s an underpass and pedestrian bridge here that leads over railroad tracks to Soldier Field and the lakefront, but there was previously no curb cut to access the path to the underpass from the street.

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Don’t Believe the Headlines: Bike Boom Has Been Fantastic for Bike Safety

safety in numbers 77-12 570

The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report Monday that, the organization claimed, showed that the ongoing surge in American biking has increased bike fatalities.

Transportation reporters around the country swung into action.

“Fatal bicycle crashes on the rise, new study shows,” said the Des Moines Register headline.

“Cycling is increasing and that may be reflected by an increase in fatal crashes,” wrote

“Bike riding, particularly among urban commuters, is up, and the trend has led to a 16 percent increase in cyclist fatalities nationwide,” reported the Washington Post.

Bike fatalities are a serious problem that needs to be tackled. The United States has dramatically higher rates of injury and death on bikes than other rich countries, and it would be appropriate for GHSA, an umbrella organization of state departments of transportation, to issue an urgent call to action to make biking safer. So it’s especially troubling that the main thrust of this report is complete baloney.

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Pedestrianizing Southport for Trick-or-Treaters Is a Frightfully Good Idea


This year, cars won’t be draggin’ down the Halloween fun on Southport. Photo: Tag Buzzard via Flickr

Tired of cars gobblin’ up all the right-of-way when there should be more space for pedestrians? Take your little witches and werewolves down to the annual Trick or Treat on Southport, organized by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce.

This free, annual community event takes place this Sunday, October 26, from 1-4 p.m. on Southport, from Belmont to Irving Park. Big turnouts in recent years had crowds overflowing the sidewalks. In response, this year’s candy-fest will include a few blocks of street closures, create a safer environment for the throngs of costumed kids.

For the last few years, the chamber has pedestrianized a block of Southport between Grace and Byron to hold a Pumpkin Party during the trick or treating event, with a bouncy house and other activities. “It was a place where kids could go after trick or treating to run off the sugar,” explained Heather Way Kitzes, director of the chamber.

This year, the car-free area will be expanded to include sections of Southport from Roscoe to Addison, and from Waveland to Grace. That’s three out of the four blocks between the Southport Brown Line station and Grace. “The number-one comment we’ve gotten year after year is that the sidewalk congestion was creating an unsafe condition for pedestrians, so we decided to try this out,” Kitzes said. She expects that between 3,000 and 5,000 families will participate.

The permits and barricades for pedestrianizing the street will cost the chamber $3,000. However, the city is sending police officers to direct traffic at no additional charge, and is not requiring the chamber to pay for traffic aides. While a few merchants have grumbled about these blocks being made car-free, Kitzes said the vast majority of businesses supported the idea. The change will affect deliveries to a bakery, and a car wash will close for the afternoon.

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Active Trans Celebrates Cool Regional Transpo Projects at Its Yearly Gala


Ron Burke, left, with members of Bronzeville Bikes. Photo: Steven E. Gross

The Active Transportation Alliance gave shout-outs to several groundbreaking local initiatives at its annual awards ceremony, held on Tuesday in Revolution Brewing’s taproom. The advocacy group lauded complete streets projects in Batavia and Elgin, new trails in the Cook County Forest Preserves, bike advocacy in Bronzeville, and the Divvy bike-share system.

Maybe there’s something in the Fox River’s water, but both of the riverside suburbs have recently built groundbreaking streetscapes. Last year, the City of Batavia transformed a one-block stretch of River Street, on the east bank of the Fox, into a car-lite, people-friendly zone, inspired by Dutch-style woonerfs or “living streets.” The street layout blurs the line between pedestrian and vehicle space, encouraging drivers to proceed with caution, and creating a more pleasant environment for walking, biking, shopping, and relaxing at sidewalk cafes.


Gateway to River Street in Batavia. Photo: John Greenfield

“Most of the on-street parking has been removed, and the design invites people to wander or cross the area wherever they desire,” Active Trans director Ron Burke noted during the ceremony. “It’s very pedestrian- and bike-friendly, and it invites street closures for various activities. The absence of curbs leaves more space for planters, seating, and art.”

Elgin, another western ‘burb that the Fox River Trail runs through, opened the Riverside Drive Promenade in August. This was the last 1,500 feet of downtown riverfront to be redeveloped, stretching from the city’s main library to a riverboat casino. The $13 million walkway project included a new section of bike path, traffic calming on the adjacent street, permeable pavers, and bioswales. Canopies shaped like shuttlecocks provide shade for people relaxing on the waterfront.

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Today’s Headlines

  • After Patronage Scandal, Judge Grants Request for a Monitor to Oversee IDOT Hiring (Sun-Times)
  • Arena Questions Whether Speed Cam Program Is in Compliance With State Law (Tribune)
  • Man Attempted to Run Over Officers With Car in East Garfield Park (DNA)
  • Cyclist Receives Settlement After Being Left-Hooked in Downers Grove (Keating)
  • Kevenides Discusses How GoPro Cameras Can Help Bikers Win Legal Battles (HuffPo)
  • The Demographics of Community Planning Meetings Need to Be Addressed (City Notes)
  • Poll Finds Evanstonians Want More Buses, Longer Express Train Hours (Northwestern)
  • UIC-Halsted Station Overhaul Slated for Completion in Late May (RedEye)
  • Daley Park’s Skating Ribbon, Downtown BMX Park Scheduled to Open Later This Year (RedEye)
  • Yelpers Sound Off About the CTA Stations They Love to Hate (RedEye)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Someone Has Built the Ultimate 1950s Fantasy Vehicle All Over Again

Terrafugia's prototype blocks the bike lane . Photo: Mary Jordan/Flick

Congestion? This flying car will fix it! Photo: @Mary Jordan

This photo pretty much says everything that needs to be said about the absurdity of the flying car.

I wouldn’t even bring it up except a flying car salesman was the man of the hour at an otherwise (mostly, er, somewhat) serious daylong forum on transportation issues yesterday sponsored by the Washington Post. The flying car in question was parked outside the building, blocking a bike lane on 14th Street.

Carl Dietrich of Terrafugia (“escape the earth” in Latin) worked hard to convince the audience that what he acknowledged has long been a “pop culture joke” was a real, serious answer to the real-world problem of traffic congestion.

Not that we need to get into the numbers, but a Terrafugia plane required a third of a mile of empty runway to take off when it first — ahem — launched in 2009. More recent reports put it at 100 feet. I tried calling Terrafugia to confirm the figure, but no one picked up. I’ll let you know if I get a response to my email.

Indeed, all of Terrafugia’s promotional materials show personal airplanes flying above farmland, and when the wings retract the pilot retreats home to a suburban single-family McMansion where the vehicle fits conveniently inside a standard-size garage.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Quinn Responds to Active Trans Questions About Transportation, Rauner Doesn’t
  • Friends of the Parks Upset That Lucas Museum Wasn’t Debated at Museum Campus Meeting (DNA)
  • 7-Story Apartment Complex With New Aldi Proposed for Milwaukee/Leavitt, Next to 606 (DNA)
  • Randolph Reduced to 1 Lane for Construction of Block 37 Apartments (Chicago Architecture)
  • Graffiti Artists Somehow Got CTA Uniforms & Keys, Vandalized 3 Rail Cars (RedEye)
  • Inbound Metra Train Stuck in Woodstuck With Mechanical Problems (NW Herald)
  • Online Poll Pick Name of Loyola’s New Car-Free Block: St. Ignatius Community Plaza (DNA)
  • City Clerk Is Targeting 150K Vehicle Sticker Scofflaws (Sun-Times)
  • Chicago Drivers Filed 5,179 Claims for Pothole Damage This Year (Sun-Times)
  • Crews Are Re-Paving Sections of Loyola & Ridge in 40th Ward (DNA)
  • Oak Parkers Are Stoked to Be Getting Divvy Stations (Tribune)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Center Cities Drawing Young College Grads Even in Shrinking Regions

The central cities of America's urban areas have seen a 34 percent increase in young college-educated residents over the last decade. Image: City Observatory

The central cities of America’s urban areas have seen a 37 percent increase in young, college-educated residents over the last decade. Image: City Observatory

In another striking sign of shifting generational preferences, the number of young college graduates is on the rise in central cities across the country — even in regions that are shrinking overall.

That’s according to a new report from City Observatory [PDF], which found the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees living within three miles of a downtown area has increased dramatically — 37 percent nationally — over roughly the last decade. America’s total population increased about 11 percent in the same period.

College-educated millennials are even more likely to live in central city areas than their Generation X predecessors. And the trendline is among 51 metro areas examined, just two — Detroit and Birmingham — saw a net loss in 25- to 34-year-old college grads living within three miles of downtown.

Interestingly, the total number of people living in America’s core cities remained roughly unchanged between 2000 and 2012, at about 9.4 million people. (There was, however, enormous variation by metro region.) The millennial generation is also a larger cohort than the Gen X group that came before them, and more likely to have a college degree, but that doesn’t fully explain the trend.

Clearly, shifting preferences are at work, says study author Joe Cortright. The number of young college graduates increased twice as fast in core cities as it did in American metro areas overall.

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Oklahoma DOT Dismisses Highway-to-Street-Grid Proposal in OKC

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has rejected a proposal championed by residents of Oklahoma City to replace a highway segment with an interconnected street grid.

Instead of restoring the street grid as proposed above, a low-cost solution that will open up more land for development, Oklahoma DOT will replace a highway with a highway-like street. Image: ODOT

Last year, a coalition that includes City Council Member Ed Shadid prevailed on the Federal Highway Administration to compel Oklahoma DOT to consider the consider the highway-street-grid idea, in addition to the various highway-like at-grade roads the agency had proposed.

Given that advocates had to force the issue, it’s not surprising that Oklahoma DOT is back with its final recommendations for the project, and the agency didn’t score the grid concept too highly. Instead, the DOT wants to build a high-speed, four-lane road without the added street connections advocates want.

The grid concept was by far the cheapest to construct and would have opened up the most acres for development, but it lost points for having lower level of service — a measure of motor vehicle delay at intersections. Oklahoma DOT’s “preferred alternative” will cost three times as much to construct and open up 62 percent less land for development.

Gotta move those cars, the agency essentially wrote in its environmental assessment [PDF]:

A primary purpose of the Crosstown Boulevard is to help restore connections that were lost when I-40 was relocated south to its current location. As a result, the Crosstown Boulevard should be easy to drive with little delay which allows for easy access for conducting downtown business while accommodating the planned vision of the downtown area.

OKC residents hope to build a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood on 700 acres in the hollowed out Core to Shore area that the road passes through.


Spruced-Up California Station Reopens After Six-Week Closure


CTA Chairman Terry Peterson, State Senator Iris Martinez, Emanuel, Borggren, Durbin, and Claypool. Photo: Lisa Phillips.

The freshly renovated California station on the Blue Line’s O’Hare branch reopened today after being closed for six weeks, an interminable wait for locals who rely on the train stop. Originally opened in 1895, the station recently received both structural and cosmetic improvements. These include a larger building footprint, refurbished walls, stairs, and platforms, new lights and signs, and more bike racks.

California is one of 13 stations on the O’Hare Branch, from Grand to Cumberland, that are being rehabbed as part of the CTA’s $492 million “Your New Blue” initiative, which also includes repairs to aging signals, power systems, and tracks. Launched nine months ago, the project is the largest investment in the Blue Line since it was extended to the airport in 1984. The branch currently carries about 80,000 riders each weekday.

Speaking at the California stop’s ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning, CTA President Forrest Claypool boasted that the station rehab was completed on time and on budget. He added that the Blue Line work will “not only make the [riding] experience more comfortable, but also ultimately take ten minutes off the commute to O’Hare Airport from downtown and back.” Claypool noted that the faster travel times will be a boon for local commuters, as well as tourists coming into the city from O’Hare.

“All of this is part of an unprecedented $5 billion CTA modernization plan launched by Mayor Emanuel in 2011, and supported staunchly and consistently by Governor Quinn and Senator Durbin,” Claypool added. “It’s been a true partnership from the very beginning between the state and city… demonstrating that modern, effective mass transit is worth the investment — because of the jobs, and because of the [improvement to] quality of life in neighborhoods like Logan Square.”

Erica Borggren, acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, speaking on behalf of Governor Pat Quinn, argued that investing in transit helps the city and state stay globally competitive. She promised that the current work is a harbinger of more such investments to come during a third term for Quinn, who hopes to be reelected on November 4.

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