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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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”Bikelash!” The Streetfilm

Six months ago, Dr. Doug Gordon and Dr. Aaron Naparstek charmed audiences at the 2014 National Bike Summit with a great routine called “Moving Beyond the Bikelash,” sharing what they’ve learned from the pushback to New York City’s bike network expansion.

So last week, while at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference, I thought it would be interesting to ask advocates from across the country about the state of bikelash in their cities and how they combat it. Here’s what they told me.

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Exploring New Bikeways on Marquette Road

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Biking the new buffered lanes in the Marquette Park neighborhood. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday, I navigated a couple of Chicago’s newest bikeways on Marquette Road, named for Father Jacques Marquette, one of the first Europeans to map out the northern Mississippi River. The Chicago Department of Transportation recently striped buffered lanes on Marquette (generally 6700 South) between Stony Island (1600 East) and Cottage Grove (800 East), and between Damen (2000 West) and California (2800 West).

Marquette, a relatively low-traffic, two-lane street, has the potential to become a bike-friendly east-west route, running about nine miles from the city’s western boundary at Cicero (4800 West) all the way to the Lakefront Trail. The upgrades to these one-mile stretches are a step in the right direction.

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This bike path paralleling Marquette Road through Jackson Park is a low-stress way to get to the lakefront. Photo: John Greenfield

At Stony Island, Marquette connects to a nicely marked, two-way off-street bike path that runs half a mile through Jackson Park to an underpass beneath Lake Shore Drive that escorts cyclists to the Lakefront Trail. Making Marquette west of Stony Island more bikeable will create a nice, low-stress route to the beaches.

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Buffered lane at Marquette and Stony Island. Photo: John Greenfield

The stretch of Marquette from Stony Island to Cottage Grove, in the Woodlawn community, features curbside bike lanes with a buffer striped to the left and no car parking lane. The lanes were striped on the existing pavement, which is in decent shape, rather than freshly laid asphalt. It would be a nice touch to add flexible posts to the buffers to discourage motorists from driving and parking in the lanes.

On the current Chicago Bike Map, Marquette is shown as having non-buffered bike lanes on the entire stretch between Stony Island and Central Park Avenue (3600 West). However, unlike on streets where CDOT has scraped out conventional bike lanes and replaced them with buffered lanes, there was no evidence of the old bike lanes on the Stony Island to Cottage Grove segment. This suggests that bike lanes were striped several years ago but weren’t refreshed, so they faded to black, or perhaps the street was repaved but the lanes weren’t restriped.

Immediately west of Cottage Grove, a previously striped conventional bike lane is still easy to see. But most of the roughly 3.5-mile stretch between Cottage Grove and Damen, which is supposed to have conventional lanes on its entire stretch, is hit-or-miss. There are plenty of segments where the lanes are barely visible, and others where they disappear completely. All told, I’d estimate that only about half of this stretch has usable bike lanes.

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Although there are bike lane signs on this stretch of Marquette, there really isn’t a bike lane here. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago bike lanes are usually built using federal grants that can only be used for building new infrastructure, not for maintaining the old. This federal money can be used for upgrading existing conventional lanes to buffered or protected lanes, but when Chicago bike lanes are re-striped as-is, the work is generally funded as part of a repaving project, or bankrolled by the local ward. CDOT currently has no dedicated funding for bike lane restriping, which is why so many of our older lanes are in such bad shape. City Hall really needs to allocate dedicated funding for bikeway maintenance.

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Lincoln Avenue Goes Car-Free and Comes to Life

Kids dance to the music of "Little Miss Ann" Torrlba at a Sunday Play Spot event.

The 3300 block of North Lincoln Avenue during a Sunday Play Spot event. Photos: John Greenfield

Last week, I wrote about the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce’s Sunday Play Spot program, which is pedestrianizing a block of Lincoln Avenue between School and Roscoe streets every Sunday afternoon this month to make room for car-free recreation. Last Sunday, I stopped to check it out myself and found the event to be just as lively as the the chamber staffers said it was.

The vibe was similar to some of the more successful Open Streets ciclovía events on State Street and Milwaukee Avenue, with active games, crafts, a seating area, an art installation, children riding bikes and scooters, and live performances. However, the fact that all these happenings were packed into a single block made the Play Spot that much more vibrant. To give you a sense of how different Lincoln feels when it’s empty of cars and full of people, we’ve created the above GIF of children dancing to the music of “Little Miss Ann” Torralba.

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The 3300 block of North Lincoln Avenue on a typical day. Image: Google Street View

The success of the Play Spot program suggests that this segment of Lincoln might benefit from some form of partial pedestrianization. Not every retail strip works well as a 24/7 car-free street, but pedestrianizing this block on all summer evenings and/or weekends could be a hit.

There are two more Play Spot events this month. If you’re looking for something fun to do with your kids, be sure to stop by the block between noon and 4 p.m. on one of the next two Sundays. Here’s the schedule of events.

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Eyes on the Street: New Bikeways on Central Park Avenue and Lake Street

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Riding in the Lake Street protected lane. Photo: John Greenfield

As part of the Mayor Emanuel’s goal of building 100 miles of buffered and protected lanes in his first term, the Chicago Department of Transportation is chugging along building new bikeways. Last week, I checked out buffered lanes on Central Park Avenue, between Jackson and Franklin boulevards, and protected lanes on Lake Street, from Central Park to Laramie Avenue.

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Buffered lane on Central Park by Garfield Park Conservatory. Photo: John Greenfield

Let’s start with the less controversial of the two bikeways, Central Park. As has happened in many other parts of town, CDOT has upgraded existing conventional lanes here by adding additional dead space on one side of each lane.

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On this section, near the Garfield Park field house, the buffer is on the left. Photo: John Greenfield

In areas where there’s no parking lane, or a parking lane that gets little use, the buffer has been striped on the left side of the bike lane, to help keep cyclists away from car traffic. In sections where there is a heavily used parking lane, the buffer is striped on the right side of the bike lane, to encourage cyclists to ride out of the door zone. Pavement quality is decent, and workers have patched some potholes with asphalt.

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CDOT Previews Chicago’s Next Round of New Bikeways

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New protected bike lanes on Lake Street. Photo: John Greenfield

The quarterly meetings of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council are a good place to get up to speed on Chicago’s latest bike developments. Wednesday’s meeting was no exception, with updates on bike lane construction, off-street trails, Divvy bike-share, and more. The sessions take place during business hours, but if your schedule allows you to attend, you can get on the mailing list by contacting Carlin Thomas, a consultant with the Chicago Department of Transportation’s bike program, at carlin.thomas[at]activetrans.org.

CDOT Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton kicked things off by introducing MBAC’s four new community representatives. All four are seasoned bike advocates, so they’ll likely be an asset to the meetings, bringing on-the-ground knowledge of their respective districts.

Anne Alt, who works at the bike law firm FK Law (a Streetsblog sponsor) and volunteers with Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, will represent the South and Southwest Sides. Kathy Schubert, the founder of the Chicago Cycling Club who successfully lobbied CDOT to start installing non-slip “Kathy plates” on bridge decks, will cover the North Side.

Miguel Morales, a former networker for the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago’s Children and current West Town Bikes board member, will represent the West Side. And Bob Kastigar, a longtime activist who launched petition drives in support of fallen cyclist Bobby Cann and the proposal for a safety overhaul on Milwaukee Avenue in Gladstone Park, will cover the Northwest Side.

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Kastigar, Morales, Schubert, and Alt. Photo: John Greenfield

CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld somberly noted that Chicago has seen seven bike fatalities this year, up from three by this time last year. The crashes generally took place on the Southwest and Northwest Sides. All but one involved a driver, and the victims ranged in age from 20-year-old Jacob Bass to 59-year-old Suai Xie.

CDOT Assistant Director of Transportation Planning Mike Amsden provided an update on the department’s efforts to put in 100 miles of buffered and protected lanes by 2015. So far, 67.75 miles have been installed, with 19.5 miles built this year, Amsden said. An additional 23.5 miles of federally funded lanes are slated for construction in spring 2015. These include Lawrence (Central to Central Park) and Milwaukee (Lawrence to Elston).

Currently, 14 miles of bikeways are going through the approval process and could be built this fall or next spring. These include Elston (Webster to the northernmost intersection of Elston and Milwaukee, near Peterson), Kedzie (Milwaukee to Addison), and Pershing (King to Oakwood). Another 7.5 miles are tied to street repaving projects, and are slated for construction this fall or in spring 2015. These include Armitage (Western to Damen) and Augusta (Central Park to Grand). Presumably, the lion’s share of all of these upcoming bikeways will be buffered bike lanes, rather than protected lanes.

Amsden reported that recently built buffered and protected lanes on Broadway in Uptown have been getting positive reviews from business owners, pedestrians, and cyclists. A brand-new stretch of PBLs and BBLs on Lake Street from Central Park to Austin means you can now ride five miles from Damen to the city limits on next-generation lanes, albeit it under the shadow and noise of ‘L’ tracks. Buffered lanes were recently striped on Marquette, from Cottage Grove to Stony Island, and from California to Damen.

“Next we’re going to start focusing on closing the gaps in our network,” Amsden said. “We’re really trying to create a cohesive system by looking at areas of concern, like difficult intersections.”

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Protected Lanes Are a Great Start — Next Goal Is Low-Stress Bike Networks

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

For decades, protected bike lanes were a “missing tool” in American street design. Now that this is changing, bikeway design leaders are identifying a new frontier: low-stress grids.

Dan Goodman of the Federal Highway Administration says the federal Department of Transportation is shifting its strategy from emphasizing biking facilities to emphasizing biking networks.

“Separated bike lanes are part of the toolbox that get us to connected networks,” said Dan Goodman of the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Human Environment.

Speaking at the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference in Pittsburgh, Goodman said a draft 2014-2018 FHWA strategic plan prioritizes, for the first time, the enhancement of pedestrian and bicycle networks instead of just “one-off” facilities.

“We want people to be not just thinking about resurfacing one mile and having the bike lane die, especially if there’s a shared-use path one block away,” Goodman said. “We want to focus on filling those gaps… That’s something that you’ll be hearing us talk about a lot more.”

Under Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, creating connected networks is one of four overarching policy priorities for the U.S. Department of Transportation, he said. (The others are safety, data and performance measures, and equity.)

Martha Roskowski, vice president for local innovation at PeopleForBikes, described “the network” as “where things are going.”

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An Update on the Bobby Cann Case

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Memorial to Bobby Cann at the crash site. Photo: John Greenfield

The family of fallen cyclist Robert “Bobby” Cann flew in from the East Coast to attend a hearing last week in the criminal case against motorist Ryne San Hamel, who allegedly struck Cann while drunk and speeding. At the hearing, the assistant state’s attorney said she plans to have an expert examine San Hamel’s car to rule out any possibility that brake failure was a factor in the crash, according to Cann family attorney Kate Conway.

On the evening of May 29, 2013, Cann, 26, was biking from work when motorist San Hamel, 28, struck him at the intersection of Clybourn and Larabee in Old Town. San Hamel was charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI, misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane.

The status hearing took place last Thursday at the Cook County Courthouse, 26th and California. Over 30 people were there to support Cann, including his family, friends, coworkers and bike advocates, according to Conway. “After a year, his family felt it was a good time to reconnect with his supporters,” she said, adding that there were so many attendees that some of them had to be seated in the jury box. San Hamel’s immediate family also attended.

At the hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Maria Augustus told Judge William Hooks she plans to have a brake specialist look at the car’s brakes, fluids, and tires to eliminate brake failure as a defense for San Hamel. Hooks scheduled the next status hearing for October 30 at 10 a.m, in room 301 of the courthouse.

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The Letter to the Times That Foresaw NYC’s Biking Triumph 10 Years Ago

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

With the recent news that Bicycling Magazine has named New York America’s best city for biking, this seems like a particularly good moment to share the very first time protected bike lanes were mentioned in The New York Times.

It happened on October 10, 2004, in a letter to the editor from a man named Kenneth Coughlin. It was a response to a personal narrative the previous week from a young Times reporter who had made the daring decision to start riding her bicycle to work. In that article, then-Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall had made the prediction that New York City could one day be “one of the world’s great bicycling cities.”

It seemed like an obviously ridiculous claim. In a city of 8.2 million, fewer than 20,000 New Yorkers biked to work at the time. There was no Streetsblog, no Summer Streets, certainly no Citi Bike. The Times reporter, Lydia Polgreen (later a decorated Times correspondent in Africa, now the newspaper’s deputy international editor), described an incident in which she spent 20 minutes just looking for a place to lock her bike. Still, Polgreen came away from her first summer of bike commuting convinced that New York (“flat and compact … perfectly suited to biking”) had potential.

You can still find Coughlin’s 151-word reply to Polgreen on the NYT’s website. Here it is:

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Cyclist Killed in Collision With Driver Is Bridgeport’s 2nd Bike Fatality in 2014


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The crash site from the cyclist’s point of view.

A 20-year-old bicycle rider who died after a collision with a Jeep driver was the second person killed in a bike crash in the Bridgeport neighborhood this year.

On May 29, Suai Xie, 59, was cycling on the 2900 block of South Poplar when she was fatally struck by van driver Gabriel Herrera, 65. After Herrera fled the scene, police were able to track him down via his plate number. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death, as well as failure to render aid and give information.

Last night around 11 p.m., Jacob Bass was riding a bike westbound on the 700 block of West 33rd Street, according to Officer Bari Lemmon from News Affairs. At the intersection of 33rd and Emerald Avenue, Bass was involved in a crash with the driver of a southbound Jeep Wrangler.

Police records state that the cyclist ran a red light at the intersection and “hit the vehicle,” according to Lemmon. Bass was transported to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Police ticketed the motorist for driving without a valid license, Lemmon said.

David Ziemba, 20, who lives near the intersection, told DNAinfo.com that he heard the crash, and then looked out the window to see Bass sprawled on the pavement with his backpack and shoes scattered a few feet away from his body. A friend of the victim stood over him and called for help. “He was crying and yelling ‘Wake up wake up’ and ‘He’s my best friend,’” Ziemba said.

This intersection is unusual in that it’s a junction of two side streets with a stoplight, rather than stop signs. There is also a stoplight a block east at Union Avenue, a northbound side street. Ziemba said that 33rd and Emerald is a dangerous place for both cyclists and drivers, adding that a friend of his was struck by a motorist there about a week ago, but escaped with minor injuries.

Fatality Tracker: 2014 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 19 (6 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 5 (1 was a hit-and-run crash)

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More Women Signing Up for Divvy, But Not Necessarily Riding

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Many women signed up for Divvy annual memberships in months coinciding with promotions.

The rate at which women are signing up for new Divvy memberships is slowly increasing, but the rate at which female members use Divvy for trips is increasing even more slowly.

35.7 percent of annual Divvy subscribers identified themselves as women as of the end of August. This is the highest it’s been since Divvy started selling memberships in May 2013, and well above the low of 30.4 percent in July 2013.

Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., began with a similar situation: at the beginning, only 40 percent of new members were women. After a year and a half of operation, the ratio flipped and 64 percent of new members were women.

Women made 27 percent of Divvy subscriber trips in August. That’s also an increase from 21 percent during the previous reporting period (June to December 2013), but considerably less than the sign-up rate.

Surprisingly, the percent of Divvy trips made by women is still slightly lower than the 28 percent of Chicago bike commutes made by women. Divvy is convenient for non-work trips, which constitute a higher proportion of the trips that women make nationally – 86.2 percent, compared with 82.4 percent of men’s trips.

In addition to tracking the current share of members by sex, Divvy also tracks new member sign-ups by sex. Women accounted for nearly half of memberships activated in February and in July, coinciding with the deadline to activate discounted memberships purchased via a Groupon promotion, and with the promotion of June (also Bike To Work Month) as the first “Women’s Bike Month.”

Divvy’s deputy manager Elliot Greenberger said reaction to Women’s Bike Month was positive. Almost 43 percent of new members in June, and just over 43 percent in July, were women. Greenberger said “over 80 female riders wrote in to tell us why they ride bikes, and there was a lot of excitement about the idea of celebrating female riders.”

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