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The Chainlink Memphis Is Sure to Become a Big Star of the Local Bike Scene


Memphians cycle along tracks for the city’s vintage trolley system. Photo: Ronit Bezalel

You know your city has a vibrant bicycle culture when its starts exporting good ideas to other places. Founded in 2008 in Chicago, The Chainlink social networking site (a Streetsblog sponsor) has become an indispensible resource for local cyclists, with info on commuting, recreational rides, and racing, a busy discussion forum and events calendar, and over 12,000 members.

Officials in the up-and-coming bike town of Memphis, Tennessee, heard about the website’s success and contracted its owner Yasmeen Schuller to create a new site to encourage more biking, as well as transit use, in the Bluff City. The Chainlink Memphis went live a few weeks ago, and today Schuller formally unveiled the site, inviting Memphians to sign up as members.


Yasmeen Schuller

Recently civic leaders in Memphis have embraced the promotion of cycling and construction of bike facilities. They see it as a strategy to help improve health outcomes for residents, reduce congestion and pollution, and make the city a more attractive destination for companies and workers. In recent years Memphis has begun building dozens of miles of bike lanes, including the city’s first buffered and protected lanes.

About a year and a half ago, the city’s Office of Innovation, which houses its bike program, reached out to Schuller about creating the new Chainlink site. “It sounded like a great opportunity because they have tons of enthusiasm for getting more people on bikes, they’re building lots of infrastructure, and it’s already a very bikeable place.”

A year ago Schuller and photographer Ronit Belazel traveled to home of Stax, Sun, and Graceland to document existing conditions for biking. “We rode everywhere we could and found that it’s even easier to get around by bike than Chicago because traffic is a a little mellower,” she said. “We visited bicycle shops and the owners were very excited to talk to us about the local bike scene.”

Schuller soon set to work on building the new website. While the Chicago site is strictly bike-centric, the city of Memphis requested that their Chainlink also include info and articles about the Memphis Area Transit Association’s bus network and trolley line, as well as a separate forum and calendar for public transportation-related topics and events. “With Streetsblog in Chicago, we don’t really need to cover transit and other forms of active transportation,” she said. “But Memphis decided transit needed more exposure.”

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Chicago Vets Swept the North American Cycle Courier Championships


Christina Peck at the NACCC in NYC. Photo: Caroline Pauleau

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. We syndicate a portion of the column on Streetsblog after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print.]

In two-way radio speak, “10/9” means “please repeat.” That’s exactly what Christina Peck and Nico Deportago-Cabrera, former and current Chicago bike messengers, respectively, did at the North American Cycle Courier Championships in New York City earlier this month.

The NACCC (pronounced “nack”) tests the mettle of messengers from all over the continent, as well as visitors from other parts of the world (although they’re not eligible to win), with races meant to simulate a day of two-wheeled delivery work. Back in 2009, Peck won top overall honors at the championship race in Boston, and her good friend Deportago-Cabrera was the top male finisher.

This year, on October 9—which is also 10-9 Day, or international Messenger Appreciation Day—the pair repeated those very same feats in New York. Peck, who now works for Godspeed Courier in San Francisco, was also the overall winner in the 2013 NACCC in Seattle—that’s a total of three overall North American championships. On top of that, she’s been the first-place female in two Cycle Messenger World Championships, in Mexico City in 2014 and Melbourne in 2015.

Deportago-Cabrera, who rides for Chicago’s Cut Cats Courier food delivery collective and as an independent contractor, is no slouch either. In addition to being the top male finisher in the main NYC race this year, he was the first-place out-of-towner in a nighttime “alleycat” race (a messenger-style competition in live traffic) held in Manhattan earlier that weekend. (Out-of-towners are often ranked separately because they don’t have the hometown advantage of knowing the street grid.)

I caught up with these speedy folks last week to discuss their achievements, and the state of the courier industry.

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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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Take a Virtual Ride on the New Randolph Protected Bike Lane


Looking east on Randolph, west of LaSalle. The vehicles next to the bike lane are parked cars. Photo: John Greenfield

An important new downtown bikeway recently became rideable. The Randolph protected bike lane runs from Michigan to Clinton, making an already-popular westbound route out of the Loop safer.

The project involved a road diet. One one the three travel lanes on Randolph was converted to make room for the bike lane and its striped buffer. Presumably the Chicago Department of Transportation calculated that the roadway had excess capacity for the number of cars it carries, so the change shouldn’t cause undue congestion, although it will discourage speeding. Another bonus is that pedestrians now have fewer lanes of car traffic to cross.

Having a protected lane on Randolph is especially important because a conventional bike lane on Madison, previously the only westbound bikeway out of downtown, was removed last year when the westbound Loop Link bus lane was constructed. Ever since the bus rapid transit corridor opened, many cyclists have been riding in the Madison bus lane, which isn’t particularly safe for the riders and doesn’t help bus speeds. Having a safer option on Randolph should move much of the bike traffic out of the Loop Link lane.


Looking east on Randolph, east of State. Photo: John Greenfield

The westbound Randolph protected lane now forms a couplet with the eastbound protected lane on Washington, which was built in conjunction with the Washington Loop Link lane last year. The Randolph PBL links up with existing two-way protected lanes on Dearborn and Clinton.

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Working-Class Chicagoans Discuss the Highs and Lows of Bike Commuting


Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park. Day laborer Jesus Yanez (not pictured) says Lawrence is one of the better biking streets in the neighborhood. Photo: John Greenfield

Since biking is a convenient and affordable way to travel in the city, many blue-collar workers use bikes to access job opportunities. Streetsblog contributor Lynda Lopez interviewed two Chicagoans who fit this profile to get their take on the benefits of bike commuting in this city, as well as some of the issues they want to see addressed.

Cedric Johnson, 48, gets up bright and early to get ready for work. A lifelong resident of Humboldt Park, Johnson has a long commute ahead towards the Loop where he works at a food distribution company doing sanitation and maintenance.

Johnson says he rides his bike to work six or seven days a week and averages 20 miles a day. He tries to change up his route every day, and he prefers to take ride on quiet side streets and through alleys. He explains that he rarely takes the main roads to work, citing an experience on his bike that scarred him.

One day, Johnson was biking near Clybourn and North Avenue when a driver knocked him off his bike. Fortunately his injuries were minor, but his bike was totaled. “I was so shaken up,” he says. Ever since then, he has become more cautious about riding in traffic, but safety concerns haven’t kept him off his bike. He loves riding too much.

“I just feel free when I’m on my bike — gives me peace of mind,” Johnson says. “If you are driving a car, you miss a lot in the community.” He says he notices a lot of details about his surroundings when he’s riding.

Johnson adds that bike riders can help make communities safer, because they’re more likely to notice and help out others who may need assistance. “When you’re driving, you’re only trying to make it to work. You’re not thinking about what’s and who’s around you,” he says.

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Lack of Concrete Protection for Rebuilt Kinzie Lanes Is a Missed Opportunity


Murmurs that Kinzie would be rebuilt with concrete protection turned out to be merely fables of the reconstruction. Note that, since bollards and “P” markings haven’t been installed yet, cars are parked in the bike lane. Photo: Jean Khut

With apologies to The Who, “Meet the new lanes / The same as the old lanes.”

Chicago cyclists have experienced a lot of highs and lows with the Kinzie protected bike lanes. Unfortunately, there’s a new setback. The city has announced the current reconstruction of the lanes won’t involve adding concrete protection, which represents a major missed opportunity to upgrade one of the city’s most popular bikeways. Here’s some history.

In 2011, not long after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, the Chicago Department of Transportation installed the lanes, the first protected bikeway in the city, and Kinzie soon became an indispensible bike route, attracting some 4,000 cyclists per day, according to CDOT. It’s the second-busiest biking street in Chicago after Milwaukee Avenue.

In 2013, CDOT agreed to a development plan that called for the developer to pay for installing PBLs on Grand Avenue, Illinois Street, and Wells Street, before the temporary removal of the Kinzie lanes to ease construction of a new high-rise at Wolf Point. However, by early 2015, the new lanes still hadn’t gone in and the transportation department seemed to be unwilling to remove the old ones. That April, Reilly introduced an ordinance to City Council that would have required CDOT to take out the Kinzie lanes, arguing that they conflicted with the Wolf Point construction truck traffic.

In response to Reilly’s move, the Active Transportation Alliance launched a petition asking the other alderman to oppose the ordinance, which garnered more than 1,400 signatures. They also got almost 50 businesses to sign a letter to Reilly asking for the Kinzie lanes to be left in place but improved.

In late 2015, after the pavement, bike lane markings, and flexible posts on Kinzie had deteriorated to the point where the PBLs barely function as such, CDOT crews patched some of the potholes, restriped the marking and reinstalled the bollards. In September the department revealed that they’d struck a deal with Reilly to save the bikeway. “We’ve agreed that the temporary removal of the bike lanes is not necessary at this point in the Wolf Point development, but should be evaluated with future phases of development as part of the traffic study process that is required of the developer,” said spokesman Mike Claffey at the time.


The Kinzie lanes were patched and restriped last year.

Active Trans applauded the news and called for further improvements, including completely repaving the street, better lighting under the viaducts, and replacing the virtually disposable plastic posts with concrete curbs, or some other type of permanent infrastructure.

Last April, Emanuel cut the ribbon on curb-protected bike lanes on 31st Street by the Illinois Institute of Technology and announced that the city would be shifting its focus to building permanent concrete bike lane infrastructure wherever possible. “CDOT will install curb-protected bike lanes, such as those on 31st Street, where it is practical to do so,” read a statement from the department. “Curb-protected bike lanes provide better separation between people riding bikes and people driving, reduce illegal parking and driving in the bike lane, and improve the aesthetics of the roadway.”

This past year Kinzie gradually became a moonscape again largely due to utility line work. At the same time, important biking streets like Dearborn and Randolph became badly degraded by construction projects. CDOT is currently rebuilding portions of the Dearborn protected bike lane, as well as constructing a new protected lane on Randolph.

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Details on the Bike Crash That Took the Life of Fire Lieutenant Danny Carbol


Lt. Danny Carbol

There were at least four media-reported bike fatalities and three serious injury crashes in the Chicago area during the 12-day stretch from September 19-30. During that same period, on September 20, Chicago Fire Department lieutenant Danny Carbol, 56, sustained serious brain damage in a bike-SUV crash in suburban Evergreen Park.

Carbol died from his injuries last Monday night. “Despite the best efforts to save him, the brain damage was irreversible,” Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford told NBC Chicago.

Carbol’s coworker and friend Lt. Joe Hughes told DNAinfo that Carbol was a health-conscious person who often biked to work from his home in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood to the firehouse at 8026 South Kedzie. Hughes, who also lived in Mount Greenwood, sometimes rode with him. Carbol had finished up a night shift at the station and was biking home on a Tuesday morning when the crash occurred.

According to the crash report from the Evergreen Park police department, at 8:22 a.m. Carbol was biking south in the southbound lane at the intersection of 93rd Street and Central Park Avenue in Evergreen Park. The firefighter lived on the 10500 block of south Central Park, so on his route between the firehouse and his home, he passed through the suburb, which is generally bordered by Ashburn north of 87th Street and Mt. Greenwood south of 103rd Street.

At the time of the crash, Tatiana Camarena, 37, of the 4800 block of North Albany Avenue in Albany Park, was driving east on 93rd in a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, according to the report. A responding officer said that when he arrived at the scene, the SUV was stopped in the intersection and Carbol lay on the ground to the north of the vehicle, unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and ears. There was a large dent in the front left fender of the SUV but the bike was undamaged. Carbol was transported to nearby Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he died almost three weeks later.

The 93rd/Central Park intersection has stop signs in all directions. A female witness reported to the responding officer that she was driving eastbound behind Camarena and saw the SUV driver stop at her stop sign and then proceed through the intersection.

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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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Amputee and Cyclist Offers Encouragement to Recent Truck Crash Survivor


Danielle Palagi, who survived being run over by a truck driver last month, visited her brother in Japan last spring. Photo courtesy of the Palagi family

On September 23, Danielle “Dee” Palagi, 26, was biking home from her job as a special education teacher when she was struck by a northbound semi driver who turned east at the intersection of Roosevelt and Wood near the Illinois Medical Campus. Danielle survived, but her foot had to be amputated, and she also suffered a broken pelvis and fractured elbow.

Danielle’s father Larry Palagi told the Chicago Tribune that the teacher was also traveling north on Wood when the driver made a right turn without signaling or checking for bikes, knocking her over. Police News Affairs did not have immediate information as to whether the trucker has received any citations. Very similar acts of negligence by truck drivers resulted in the deaths of Chicago cyclists Virginia Murray, Lisa Kuiven, and Anastasia Kondrasheva this year.

Larry said his daughter has managed to remain optimistic despite the long road to recovery ahead, including several surgeries. “She’s very strong and positive,” Larry said. “She’s accepted what’s happened.” Relatives say the young woman is already setting recovery goals.

Danielle grew up in Naperville, and community members have come forward to offer support with a prayer service on her behalf last weekend and an upcoming fundraiser for her medical expenses at a local restaurant. A GoFundMe page set up by friends has already raised more than $24,000 to help cover expenses. Two Fridays ago, Easterseals Academy, where Danielle works, held a “Support Dee Day,” with employees and students wearing colorful headbands in reference to Danielle’s trademark headgear.

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Amputation survivor Kati Rooney, after a muddy mountain bike ride. Photo courtesy of Kati Rooney

After I told Kati Rooney, a board member with the Active Transportation Alliance, about Danielle’s case, she offered to share her own story in hopes that it would provide some encouragement for Danielle as she faces the challenges of recovering from an amputation. In October 1997, at age 35, Kati was swimming in Lake Michigan when she was struck by a tour boat operator and her foot was severed by the propeller. She has since recovered from this setback to lead a very active lifestyle, including plenty of bicycling.

Kati was doing a training swim parallel to the concrete shoreline between North Avenue and Oak Street beach when the captain of a large Seadog tour speedboat piloted his craft illegally close to the shore. She saw the boat speeding straight towards her and dove down into the water to avoid being killed.

When Kati surfaced, she didn’t immediately feel pain. But when witnesses pulled her out of the water, she realized her foot had been cut off. By a lucky coincidence, a paramedic and a doctor were present, and the doctor was able to tie off the wound with a t-shirt to stop the bleeding. At the hospital her leg was amputated six centimeters below the knee.

Although Kati was out of the hospital within four days and her recovery went fairly smoothly, she was emotionally devastated by the loss of her limb. “A month after I was injured, I was at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, feeling really miserable,” she said. “My therapist took me by the arm and marched me to the office of the coach for a team of swimmers with disabilities.”

Kati began swimming five mornings a week with the team, including people with more severe disabilities than her own, which she says helped her get perspective on her loss. As she struggled issues like PTSD and phantom pain, support from her teammates served as a kind of group therapy, which was crucial for her emotional recovery.

“Being around people who were doing stuff, who were feeling the joy of movement was really good for me,” Kati said. She also had to focus on raising two small children with her husband Jim and running her video production business, which helped her keep her mind off her worries. (A few years later, I appeared in a bike messenger safety video Kati produced.)

A couple months after she was injured, Kati took up biking again using a prosthetic leg, which she actually found easier than learning to walk again. She grew up in the small town of Sycamore, Illinois, where she biked everywhere as a child, partly due to having a German-born mother who didn’t believe in chauffeuring her kids everywhere, and she had never given up the habit as an adult.

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