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Posts from the Transportation Category


Eyes on the Street: Delivery Drivers Are Blocking the New Clybourn Bike Lane

Delivery trucks and vans, including one from Gordon Food Service, are parked in the buffered bike lane on Clybourn Ave., and are nearly blocking the curb-protected bike lane.

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The new curb-protected bike lane on Clybourn Avenue and Division Street in Old Town aren’t even finished yet, but they’re already getting great use. Bike-specific traffic signals should be added later this fall, completing the project. However, there’s already a fly in the ointment – delivery drivers are blocking the lanes on a regular basis.

The bike lanes are located on Clybourn from Hasted Street to Division, and Division from Clybourn to Orleans Street. The problem is taking place by New City, a new mixed-use development on the southeast corner of Clybourn and Halsted, which includes 199 apartments and a shopping center. A movie theater and Mariano’s grocery store will be opening in the future.

There are loading zones on Clybourn near Halsted for truck and van drivers making deliveries to New City. However, the delivery drivers are also parking further south in the bike lane. On this stretch, the bikeway exists as a short, curbside buffered lane, and there are “No Parking” signs posted.


The Clybourn lanes have become popular with cyclists. Photo: John Greenfield

Streetsblog reader Justin Haugens rides this stretch of Clybourn several days a week on his commute between Rogers Park and the South Loop. He reports that there are vehicles in the bike lane “one-third to one-half of the time.”

What’s particularly frustrating about this situation is that New City was built with seven underground loading spaces to accommodate all the deliveries for the 370,000 square foot mall, with the goal of keep trucks off the streets. “Burying the docks was also a popular move with the neighbors,” Mike Drew, principal at the firm Structured Development, told Chicago Magazine last November.

Not only are the delivery drivers parking in the buffered lanes, but their trucks and vans are often parked very close to the start of the curb-protected section. That forces bicyclists to hit their brakes and make a tricky maneuver around a vehicle to enter the curb-protected portion.

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Driver Fatally Strikes Man on Expressway, Flees With Body on Windshield

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The westbound lanes of the Eisenhower Expressway, near the Western Avenue off-ramp. Image: Google Street View

An allegedly drunk driver struck and killed a man who was crossing a Chicago expressway on foot, and then drove off with the victim’s body lying on the windshield, according to prosecutors. Adrian Harris, 33, of the 5400 block of West Van Buren Street, is charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI causing death.

Shortly before 3:50 a.m. last Saturday, Jess Rodriguez, 41, had been driving west on the Eisenhower Expressway when he got in an altercation with his girlfriend, DNAinfo reported. The woman exited the vehicle near the Western Avenue off-ramp and began walking on the left shoulder of the highway. Rodriguez parked on the right shoulder and then tried to cross to the other side on foot, prosecutors said.

Harris was driving west on the expressway when he came upon vehicles that had slowed to let Rodriguez pass, according to prosecutors. Harris veered around a van and then struck Rodriguez.

Rodriguez went over the hood of the car and landed on the rear windshield, prosecutors said. The impact from the crash killed him. Harris initially pulled over on the shoulder of the expressway but soon fled with the victim’s body lying on the trunk.

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Romanelli Is Right: Randolph Would Be a Better Bike Route Than Lake Street


Roger Romanelli at an anti-BRT meeting. Photo: Mike Brockway

As the old saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Streetsblog Chicago readers know Roger Romanelli as the guy who has led the charge against fast, reliable bus rapid transit on Ashland Avenue with his anti-BRT group the Ashland-Western Coallition. He also made headlines for asking Chicago Police Superintendant Garry McCarthy to force a historic church across the street from Romanelli’s home to stop its decades-long tradition of early-morning bell ringing. However, there’s some method to the madness of Romanelli’s latest NIMBY crusade.

As director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association, which represents the interests of West Loop industrial businesses, Romanelli is currently opposing the Chicago Department of Transportation’s plan to install buffered bike lanes on Lake Street in the West Loop. Similar to how the North Branch Works industrial council futilely fought against installing buffered lanes on Elston Avenue north of North Avenue, he’s worried that more bikes on Lake would be an inconvenience to truck drivers.

In his campaign against the Ashland BRT project, which would involve converting mixed-traffic lanes to bus-only lanes, Romanelli cleverly proposed a watered-down alternative express bus proposal with some expensive bells and whistles. That way, he could disingenuously argue that he was advocating for better bus service, not just trying to kill the city’s plan.

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Currently, there’s an eastbound buffered lane on Washington, and there are protected lanes on Lake Street west of Damen. Image: Chicago Bike Map

Romanelli is shrewdly taking the same approach with the bikeway plan by arguing that Randolph Street, a street with less truck traffic than Lake, located a block south, would be a better location for the bike route. I’m confident that he would be glad to drop the idea of a bike lane on Randolph if CDOT shelved its plan for lanes on Lake between Halsted Street and Ashland Avenue. However, he happens to be correct: Randolph actually makes a lot more sense as a bike route.

Romanelli and the RFMA recently hosted a community meeting on the subject. He noted that Washington Street, a block south of Randoph, already has an eastbound buffered bike lane from Garfield Park to Halsted Street. CDOT is currently building an eastbound protected bike lane on Washington from Wacker Drive to Michigan Avenue as part of the Loop Link BRT project, and they’ll soon be adding a westbound PBL on Randolph from Michigan to Clinton Street as part of that project.

Therefore, it would be logical to continue the westbound route on Randolph in the West Loop. Meanwhile, since Lake becomes one-way eastbound east of Wacker, Washington works better as an eastbound route into the Loop.

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Detroit Bus Driver Contract Offers Bonuses When Ridership Rises

A new labor contract between the Detroit Department of Transportation and ATU Local 26 explicitly ties bus driver bonuses to ridership increases.

If farebox revenue goes up, 30 percent of the increase will belong to drivers, up to a certain point, DDOT announced earlier this week. Individual drivers’ bonuses are capped at $350 per year the first year and can rise to $750 in the fourth year of the contract.

The bus drivers union ratified the agreement on Friday. “With fare box sharing, if DDOT succeeds, our drivers will share financially in that success,” Fred Westbrook, president of ATU Local 26, said in the press release.

Megan Owens of Detroit’s Transportation Riders United said she’s generally supportive of the revenue-sharing provision.

“If they have a little extra reason to help out a new rider to have a good experience or be a little more patient with a frustrating rider … that appears to be a worthwhile investment,” she said.

Steven Higashide of TransitCenter said revenue-sharing is a “really innovative and fascinating provision” that he hasn’t seen elsewhere.

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Ghost Parcels Show How Urban Highways Squandered Valuable Land

Here’s a great illustration of how incredibly destructive and wasteful it is to run elevated highways through cities. New York City-based artist and planning consultant Neil Freeman, who grew up in Chicago, put together these haunting images of Cook County land parcel maps superimposed over aerials of expressway interchanges in the West Loop, River West, Bridgeport and Chinatown.

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The Jane Byrne Interchange in the West Loop, currently being expanded. Image: Neil Freeman

The visuals are a byproduct of a research project Freeman is doing on housing typologies. The base layer is from Bing satellite images, and the parcels are from the Cook County assessor’s office. “Love that Cook County still keeps track of the parcels under the expressways punched through Chicago,” Freeman tweeted.So why does the county still maintain records of property lines that haven’t had meaning since the Richard J. Daley era? Read more…


Eyes on the Street: Roosevelt Bike Lane and Bus Shelters Nearly Complete

Roosevelt Streetscape features

Each side of Roosevelt now has a long bus stop canopy with a massive “CTA” sign. Photo: Justin Haugens

The Chicago Department of Transportation may soon be cutting the ribbon on the Roosevelt Road streetscape and raised bikeway project. The initiative involved widening the sidewalk along Roosevelt between State Street and Michigan Avenue to make room for the two-way bike lane, which replaced conventional bike lanes on the same block of Roosevelt.

The new lanes extend a block or so past Michigan on the north sidewalk of Roosevelt, ending near the trunkless legs of the “Agora” sculptures and the Grant Park skate park. The last major step of the project is to install green pavement markings and bike symbols on the bike lanes. CDOT recently posted on Facebook that work will be done by November.

As part of the Roosevelt streetscape, crews installed new metal benches in places where people might actually want to sit. That’s not a given, considering that many of the benches put in as part of a similar road diet project on Lawrence Avenue in Ravenswood wound up facing blank walls or parking lots.

The Roosevelt benches, as well as decorative pavers inscribed with an odd group of words that are meant to be thought-provoking, or evoke the cultural facilities of the nearby Museum Campus.

Near the CTA ‘L’ station at Roosevelt and State, which serves the Red, Orange, and Green Lines, the department has installed extra-long bus shelters that will have ad panels. The #12 Roosevelt, #18 16th-18th, and #146 Museum Campus buses stop at this location. Above the canopies are massive vertical structures with the CTA’s logo and station name.

Between State and Wabash Avenue, the bikeway will exist as a pair of one-way bike lanes (just like now), located in the street. Eastbound bicyclists will use a special “crossbike” – a crosswalk for bikes – to move to the bi-directional raised bike lane on the north side of Roosevelt east of Wabash.

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West Siders Discuss the “Divvy for Everyone” Equity Program

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Divvy employee Michael Clark (red cap) and friends took a cruise on one of the free bike-share days last month. Photo: John Greenfield

[This piece also runs in Checkerboard City, John’s transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

Before the Divvy bike-share system launched in June of 2013, city officials promised that attracting an ethnically and economically diverse ridership was a top priority. “Since we’re using public dollars, it’s important that the folks who are using the service reflect everybody in the community,” said Scott Kubly, deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation at the time. “It’s a challenge, but we’re going to crack it.”

That hasn’t happened yet. Like most American bike-share systems, Divvy’s membership has skewed white, male, young, educated and relatively affluent.

The system currently has about 30,000 annual members. Of the hundreds who responded to a recent survey, sixty-five percent were male, and seventy-nine percent were non-Hispanic whites—a group that makes up only about thirty-two percent of the city’s population. The average age was thirty-four, the majority of respondents have middle-to-upper incomes, and ninety-three percent have a college degree or more.

One reason for this lopsided demographic is that, while yearly passes are a bargain at $75, the up-front cost is still a barrier to some low-income people. Moreover, the fact that a credit card has been required to use the bikes has excluded unbanked Chicagoans.

To help reverse that trend, the city launched the Divvy for Everyone (D4E) equity initiative on July 7. Funded by a $75,000 grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership, plus matching funds from Divvy sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the program offers one-time $5 annual memberships to low-income individuals. Residents can sign up in person, and no credit card is required—the funding serves as insurance for any lost or damaged bikes.

So far, D4E has been wildly popular. The city’s goal was to sign up 800 people in the first twelve months, but 869 had joined within the first two months. And that was before CDOT contracted the community organization Go Bronzeville and the bike group Slow Roll Chicago to do outreach about the program on the Near South Side  and across the city, respectively.

In September, CDOT tried another experiment to encourage more people to give Divvy a spin. On three different Saturdays, the usual $9.95 fee for a twenty-four-hour pass was waived, thanks to sponsorship from T-Mobile. I pedaled around the West Side on September 19 and staked out several docking stations to see how residents were using the system, and ask what they thought of D4E.

At the Chicago/Kedzie station in East Garfield Park, I came across Divvy employee Michael Clark, who was cruising around with three friends, two of whom were trying the system for the first time. The young men, who live in West Humboldt Park and Lawndale, had just come back from a visit to Michigan Avenue.

Clark found out about his job, which involves cycling between stations to maintain the bikes, via a staffing agency about six months ago. “It’s a wonderful place to work,” he said. “We’re out and about. It’s good exercise, and you get to meet new people, ‘cause you’re outside all day.”

When I asked if they knew about D4E, Clark explained to the other men that the $5 memberships are available to single people who make about $35,000 or less. His friend Jonathan Smith said he heard about the discount through the Year Up Chicago job-training program, and now uses bike-share to commute to work as a computer technician.

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More Before-and-After GIF Goodness: Bike Lanes, a Ped Scramble, and BRT


Images: John Greenfield, Google Street View

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Inspired by a post from Streetsblog USA’s Angie Schmitt, I recently tried my hand at using a new-ish feature of Google Streetview to illustrate how Chicago street transformations have improved traffic safety and made neighborhoods more livable. Google now lets you access archived Street View images, so it’s easy to see how our roadways have changed for the better.

Streetsblog Chicago readers said they enjoyed the last round of before-and-after GIF animations, so here’s a fresh batch, this time using some original photos, rather than just Street Views. Above is a view of the new curb-protected bike lanes on Clybourn Avenue in the Old Town neighborhood, which involved repurposing one of the parking lanes. It’s become an instant hit with cyclists.

Below is the city’s first (and only) pedestrian scramble intersection at Jackson Boulevard and State Street in the Loop. In addition to east-west and north-south crossing phases, the scramble phase allows walkers to cross in all directions, including diagonally.


Images: John Greenfield, Google Street View

These bike lanes on Vincennes Avenue in the Longwood Manor community show how some paint and flexible poles can transform an overly wide speedway into a calmer, more bikeable street quickly and cheaply. It would be great if the buffers are replaced with concrete curbs in the future.


Images: John Greenfield, Google Street View

The Loop Link bus rapid transit project is under construction on Madison and Washington streets downtown. This corridor, connecting West Loop train stations with Michigan Avenue, will include dedicated lanes, limited stops, and queue jumps, plus near-level and (eventually) pre-paid boarding. The Washington corridor will include a protected bike lane; the old bike lane on Madison (shown) will be replaced with a PBL on Randolph Street, 2 blocks north.

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How Shared-Mobility Companies Learned From Their Mistakes


Reps from Zipcar, B-Cycle, car2go, Lyft, Getaround, and Motivate with moderator Clayton Lane. Photo: SUMC

This week, civic leaders, entrepreneurs, and academics from around the country gathered in Chicago for the “Move Together” conference, hosted by the locally based think tank the Shared-Use Mobility Center. The organization was launched one year ago to brainstorm ways that bike-share, car-share, ride-share, and other new mobility tools can become a major force for increasing transportation access, fighting congestion, and improving air quality. On Monday, SUMC announced a new goal of taking one million cars off the road in the U.S. by scaling up shared mobility and transit in 15 regions, including ours.

“Chicago has historically been a hub for transportation innovation,” director Sharon Feigon told me. “We wanted to showcase the great things happening here and bring in innovators from across the country so they could see the potential of expanding here, too. At the same time, we also wanted to bring attention to the major issues that Chicago still faces regarding inequality in many of our communities, the difficulty of accessing jobs and how shared mobility can help meet these challenges.”

Feigon added that although Chicago has an extensive fixed-route transit system, travel patterns have changed over the years and there are service gaps to fill. “Shared mobility can help address these issues, reduce transportation costs and make it possible to live well without owning a car.”

During the panel “From the Trenches: What It Takes to Move Up,” reps from six different shared-mobility companies discussed how they were able to expand their business models to many different cities. Clayton Lane, board chair for SUMC moderated. One of the most interesting parts of the discussion was when Lane asked the panelists to talk about mistakes that their companies made that others could learn from.

Car2go, a one-way, point-to-point car rental service that exclusively uses two-seater Smart cars, was represented by business development manager Walter Rosenkranz. “With all start-ups, you go through growing pains and learn lessons,” he said. “Since we’re talking about scale, with a point-to-point system, you can’t really tiptoe into a market. You have to be able to provide services where people are and where they want to go.” He added that it’s necessary to offer enough vehicles within that area to make it convenient for customers to find them.

B-Cycle, a bike-share company partly owned by Trek, with systems in 29 U.S. cities and Santiago, Chile, was represented by company president Robert Burns. He said over the years he’s learned that strong support from politicians is key for setting up successful bike-share networks. “You need the mayor to say to the city workers, ‘This is coming, and I’m putting in, so give them the permits [for the stations].

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Before-and-After GIFs of Projects That Made Chicago Streets More Livable


Last year, Streetsblog USA’s Angie Schmitt demonstrated how a new feature of Google Street View can be used to highlight street remix projects that have made cities more livable. Google now lets you look at archived Street View images, so it’s easy to compare what streets looked like before and after they were reconfigured.

I tried my hand at animating images of a few forward-thinking Chicago projects that have helped make streets safer and more pleasant places to travel and spend time. Above is the Lawrence Avenue road diet in Ravenswood, a four-to-three conversion which added wider sidewalks, curb bump-outs, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes.

Below is the Lincoln Hub placemaking project in Lakeview, which uses flexible posts and paint dots to shorten crossing distances, eliminate dangerous slip lanes, and create curb extensions that double as seating areas.


The Roosevelt Road raised bike lane project in the South Loop repurposed road lanes to make room for much wider sidewalks, plus the bikeway, parking racks, new trees, and benches. The bike lanes will get green paint and bike symbols soon.


This spring, the Chicago Department of Transportation built the city’s first curb-protected bike lanes on Sacramento Boulevard in Douglas Park. Eliminating the excess travel lanes has helped calm traffic.

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