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Lisa Kuivinen, 20, Struck and Killed While Biking on Milwaukee Avenue

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Lisa Kuivinen. Photo: Facebook

We have been notified that Lisa Kuivinen identified as non-binary and preferred gender-neutral pronouns. The post has been edited accordingly.

Lisa Kuivinen, a 20-year-old art student, was fatally struck by the driver of an 18-wheel flatbed truck this morning while cycling on Milwaukee Avenue in West Town.

At about 8:15 a.m. Lisa was riding on the 800 block North Milwaukee, according to Officer Laura Amezaga from Police News Affairs. A report from DNAinfo indicates that the cyclist was heading southeast towards downtown. The collision occurred just southeast of Milwaukee’s Kennedy Expressway overpass.

Near the construction site for a transit-oriented development, Lisa was struck by a flatbed truck driver. Lisa was taken to Northwestern Hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead at the hospital, Amezaga said.

The driver, identified by police as 37-year-old Antonio Navarro from northwest-suburban Algonquin, stayed on the scene, according to Amezaga. Navarro has been ticketed for driving in a bike lane and failure to take due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to Police News Affairs. A traffic court hearing is scheduled for September 15 at 9 a.m.

DNAinfo reports that the truck is registered with Illinois Brick Co. and a person from the company declined to comment.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified Lisa as a resident of 3700 block of Wren Lane, Rolling Meadows. Lisa’s Facebook profile indicates that the cyclist was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an interest in animation.

The crash took place on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue with protected bike lanes, including stretches where the bike lane is painted green and short segments protected by concrete curbs. However it appears the section of bike lane Lisa was riding on was not protected by curbs, parking, or flexible posts.

Moreover, the southeast-bound bike lane is blocked by fencing for the TOD construction site, forcing cyclists to merge into the travel lane. DNA reports that Lisa was approaching the fence when the driver struck the cyclist.

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There Appears to Be a Bicycling Generation Gap in Chicago’s Chinatown

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Bikes locked near the Pui Tak Center social service agency. Photo: John Greenfield

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

Often as I’ve ed past the colorful storefronts of Chicago’s Chinatown, I’ve noticed many cheap department-store-type mountain bikes—Huffys, Murrays, and Magnas—cable-locked to racks, poles, and fences along Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue. I wondered if they belonged to recent immigrants to the neighborhood, toiling at blue-collar jobs in pursuit of the American dream.

So I set out to find out more about who’s riding bikes in the midwest’s largest Chinese community. I learned that while lots of new arrivals, as well as seniors and children of immigrants, are getting around on two wheels, unfortunately there seems to be a cycling generation gap. It seems that many adults who’ve moved to the U.S. and worked their way up the economic ladder are choosing to drive instead.

Biking appears to be fairly widespread in Chinatown and other nearby neighborhoods with sizable Chinese populations, even more so than in the city as a whole. A transportation survey done as part of the Chinatown Community Vision Plan, a neighborhood blueprint published last year by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning in cooperation with local stakeholders, examined the habits of residents of “greater Chinatown,” including neighborhoods like Bridgeport, McKinley Park, and Brighton Park. It found that 10 percent of respondents use bikes for trips of any kind, including work commutes but also errands and other excursions.

A similar study commissioned by the Active Transportation Allianceestimated that, citywide, biking accounts for roughly 2 percent of all kinds of trips. (U.S. Census data suggests the percentage of work trips made by bike may be lower in Chinatown than in the city as a whole, with 1 and 2 percent respectively, but it’s possible that data omits some of the neighborhood’s undocumented immigrants.)

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Active Trans’ Kickstand Classic Lets You Race or Cruise on Car-Free Streets

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Which kind of rider are you?

The Active Transportation Alliance is pioneering a new kind of biking event, a cross between a competitive race and a leisurely recreational ride, which could eventually turn into a significant fundraiser for their walking, transit, and bike advocacy efforts. The Kickstand Classic takes place in the morning of Sunday, September 25, in the suburban village of Bartlett, Illinois, southeast of Elgin. The starting line and post-race festival area will be located just south of the local Metra station.

The event will take place on a 4.8-mile, roughly trapezoidal course of village streets that will be rendered car-free for the occasion. While the ride is only open to people 16 or older, Active Trans director Ron Burke says it’s designed to be enjoyable for riders of all abilities, analogous to a 5K fun run. There will be three different heats for experienced, fast racers and road riders; confident cyclists who want to try their hand at racing; and casual riders who want to see what it’s like to pedal a bit faster, or just take a mellow cruise.

Burke says some of the inspiration for the event came from seeing his father organize the first 10K race in the small southern Illinois river town of Chester, home of Popeye creator Elzie Crisler Segar, when Burke was a kid. “Running races really began to happen for the general public in the 1970s,” Burke says. “For example, the Peachtree Road Race started in Atlanta in 1970 with 130 people and it now gets about 60,000.”

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Likewise, Burke expects a modest turnout for the first Kickstand Classic, but hopes it will pick up speed in subsequent years to become a major draw, and perhaps inspire similar events in other parts of the country. “Just as recreational running events have brought more people to running, we’re hoping to have a similar effect for biking,” Burke says. “We’re hoping that as bicyclists do this they’ll say, ‘That was fun’ and want to do more. I believe someone who gets into road racing or recreational riding is more likely to ride a bike to the store or the train station.”

To ensure a safe and comfortable start for novice racers, the races will feature staggered starts, with participants wearing electronic chips to keep track of their start and finish times. The “Speed Demon Wave” of the race departs between 6:30 and 6:45 a.m. and requires racers to do four laps, or about 19 miles. Racers are expected to maintain an average speed of at least 15 mph, and it’s the only heat in which drafting (riding closely behind another racer’s rear wheel to minimize wind resistance) is permitted.

The “Middle of the Road” wave starts between 7:45 and 8 a.m., and riders are expected to go at least 13 mph. The “Sunday Funday Wave” kicks off between 9:30 and 9:50 a.m. and is intended for rider who plan to go 12 mph or slower. All riders must be off the course by 11:45 so that the roads can be reopened to car traffic.

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City Hopes to Use State Law Allowing Transit TIFs to Rebuild CTA Red Line

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Mayor Emanuel will introduce an ordinance that would create a kind of TIF district around the CTA Red Line on the North Side so the CTA can use property tax revenue to rebuild tracks and stations. Photo: David Wilson

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office has started crafting an ordinance that would activate a state law allowing the city to create “transit TIF districts” – officially called Transit Facility Improvement Areas – around four transit projects, according to the Chicago Tribune. Boundaries could be drawn up to a half mile around Chicago’s Union Station (to fund the improvements recommended in its master plan), the CTA’s North Side Main Line, the CTA’s Red Line extension to 130th, and the CTA’s Blue Line Congress branch modernization and possible extension.

The cost for RPM Phase I is $2.1 billion and the CTA is set to receive $1.1 billion in federal grants. Phase I includes rebuilding the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stations and all tracks within a mile of the stations. CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase said, “specifically, about $956 million of federal Core Capacity funding and a $125 million CMAQ grant.” In order to get these funds, she said, the CTA needs to provide a local match of $881 million. The Red Line transit TIF district is projected to generate $622 million to pay back a low-interest “TIFIA” federal loan. The CTA would fund the remaining $219 million from its own bonds.

Transit TIFs would work much like existing tax-increment financing districts, in which the property taxes assessed on any incremental increase in property values since the TIF district’s inception are earmarked for improvements within the district. In the transit TIF districts, loans taken out to pay for public transportation infrastructure would be repaid via the future increase in property values and tax revenue brought about by the better transit service – a form of value capture.

The city’s existing TIF program is highly controversial because, unlike other city expenditures, the mayor gets to decide how the money is spent without needing approval from City Council. Critics also point out that the program diverts money from schools, parks, and other taxing bodies.

However, the transit TIF program would be designed so that the Chicago Public Schools would receive the same portion of property taxes it would if the Transit Facility Improvement Area didn’t exist. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the official regional planning organization, created the following charts to illustrate how that would work.

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Reilly to CDOT: Please Fix Dearborn Protected Bike Lane’s Lousy Pavement

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The Dearborn bike lane at Adams. Photo: John Greenfield

Downtown alderman Brendan Reilly is known as the man who tried to get the Kinzie protected bike lanes removed, but he recently racked up some bike lane karma. Shaun Jacobsen, the urban planner behind the transportation blog Transitized, wrote to Reilly to about poor pavement conditions on the Dearborn two-way protected bike lane. The alderman promptly reached out to the appropriate city departments to try to solve these problems.

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Letter from Reilly to Scheinfeld. Click to enlarge.

Currently the worst stretches of the Dearborn lane are between Adams and Monroe, and between Randolph and Lake. On these blocks, channels were cut out of the street to accommodate utility work, right in the middle of the bike lane. After the work was done, the troughs were filled with concrete but were never repaved with asphalt, resulting in a rough, bumpy riding surface.

On August 2, Reilly wrote Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld about the problem. “I respectfully request your department dispatch a maintenance team to survey and repair the damaged bike lane on Dearborn Street,” he said. “My office has received reports that a number of utility projects in this area have damaged the pavement, causing potholes and uneven terrain.”

Reilly asked that CDOT inspectors determine whether the utility work was done by private contractors or city workers, and requested that CDOT ensure that the bike lane would be repaired as soon as possible. He also asked the commissioner to report back to him when the bike lane is fixed.

Unfortunately the repairs aren’t going to be made immediately, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “Dearborn will be getting resurfaced this fall, once all the utility work is wrapped up,” said CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey this morning. He added that the Kinzie protected lanes, which have also been affected by utility cuts, as well as Randolph, which is slated for a new westbound curb-protected bike lane this year, will also be repaved in the fall.

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Eyes on the Street: A Helpful Sign Along a Handy Bike Shortcut

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A thoughtful warning sign along the Kingsbury shortcut. Photo: John Greenfield

Ever since they began demolishing the Finkl Steel Mill, I lost one of my favorite bike shortcuts between Near Northwest neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Bucktown and North Lakefront neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Lakeview.

Before the area was fenced off, it used to be possible to pedal between bike-friendly Cortland Avenue and the Southport Avenue bike lanes via short, privatized stretch of Southport that ran through the steel mill campus. The block had turnstiles to keep private cars out, but bike use was tolerated, so it was a nice car-free route for those in the know.

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It’s quicker to use Kingsbury (diagonal street with white dot) instead of Clybourn to travel between Southport and Cortland. Click to enlarge. Image: Google Maps

Currently, if you’re biking south on Southport and want to get to Bucktown, Google Maps’ bike directions will route you southeast on Cortland Avenue to the intersection of Cortland and Racine Avenue. But you can save a bit of distance, and avoid two stoplights, by continuing south on Southport past Clybourn to Kingsbury Street, turning southeast, and then heading west on Cortland. Accordingly, I saw several bike riders on Kingsbury when I rode it during rush hour yesterday.

The only fly in the ointment is that Kingsbury has railroad tracks that pose a hazard to southeast-bound cyclists. It’s important to bike across the tracks at as perpendicular an angle as possible, so as not to get your wheel stuck.

Fortunately, some thoughtful person put up a makeshift sign on a construction bollard to warn cyclists to proceed with caution. Whoever it was deserves a tip of the hat or helmet for trying to prevent crashes on this useful shortcut.

I’m not sure if these tracks carry rail traffic anymore. If not, it would be great if the Chicago Department of Transportation could make this stretch of Kingsbury safer for cyclists by ripping out the tracks and repaving it.

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Local Leaders Weigh in On 31st Street Beach Transportation Issues

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An aerial view of 31st Street Beach. The park district plans to more than double the size of the an existing parking lot, center. Image: Google Maps

Last month I reported on the Chicago Park District’s plans to expand a parking lot at the southwest corner of 31st and Lake Shore Drive, a short walk from 31st Street Beach and Harbor. The proposal would enlarge the lot, currently 60,000 square feet of asphalt, by 85,000 feet — that’s about 1.5 football fields worth of existing green space that would be replaced by blacktop.

The project would add more than 250 spaces near the beach, which already has over 650 existing garage and surface lot spaces within a five-minute walk. It would cost $1.6 million, paid for harbor bond funding.

I noted that Friends of the Parks has endorsed the project. Executive director Juanita Irizarry told me last month that if the group advocated against more parking at the South Side beach, they would have essentially been “tell[ing] people of color that they can only utilize the beach if they arrive by CTA or bicycle.”

On the other hand the Active Transportation Alliance is against the parking expansion. Executive director Ron Burke argued that transit, walking, and bike access should be improved instead. “Let’s give people MORE open space, play areas, trails and other attractions and LESS pavement for cars,” he said via email.

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The design of the expanded parking lot. Image: Chicago Park District

After my article ran, Delmarie Cobb, a lifelong Bronzeville resident and owner of the Publicity Works PR firm fired off an angry email to 4th ward alderman Sophia King’s office about the parking plan and cc-ed me. “Now, the city wants to take more green space so the harbor users will have more parking options,” she wrote. “There’s plenty of parking at the old Michael Reese parking lots.”

In addition to the 650 aforementioned nearby beach and harbor parking spaces, there are 250 public parking spots at the former hospital site, a ten-minute walk from the beach at 31st and Cottage Grove. The city purchased the property under Mayor Richard M. Daley as part of its failed bid for the 2016 Olympics.

“Until the city decides what to do with that land, it should be used to accommodate beach goers,” Reese wrote. “We’re already paying for that land, so why should we pay an additional $1.6 million for 250 parking spaces?… On Fullerton, the city [built] six additional acres for green space. At 31st St., the city found 85,000 square feet of green space to turn into a parking lot.”

4th Ward staffer Prentice Butler declined to comment on the lot expansion project, except to confirm that Alderman King is in favor of the plan.

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This sign installed by the entrance to the garage last winter indicated that the garage was for boaters only. Photo via Delmarie Cobb.

When I reached Cobb this afternoon, she told me that she has since realized that, while the parking lot expansion will eliminate green space west of the drive, it won’t affect parkland closer to the beach that is used for barbecues, land she says is in short supply. While that’s less objectionable to her, she still finds it problematic that money was found for more asphalt while a community center originally planned as part of the harbor project, completed in 2012, was never funded.

While the park district and the 4th Ward haven’t had much to say about why exactly it’s believed that another 250 spaces are needed, Cobb offered an explanation. She provided a photo taken last winter of a permanent sign installed by the garage entrance claiming that all public parking spots in the 317-space facility was full, and spaces were only available to people with harbor passes. “Obviously the garage wasn’t full in the middle of the winter, but they were treating it like a private garage for boaters,” Cobb said.

Cobb says that when King took office last spring, she asked the park district to remove that sign and put up a new one stating that the garage spaces are available to the general public. Cobb recently went out with an intern and interviewed boaters to learn more about the parking situation. She says the boaters, many of whom live outside of the city, told them the lot expansion is planned because harbor pass holders were sometimes having trouble finding space in the now-public garage.

“The boaters said they don’t feel they should have to schlep all their stuff from the Michael Reese site to the harbor,” Cobb said. “That’s fine for the residents, but not for the boaters.”

“It just goes to show, the city can always find money to do what they want to do, such as projects to entice tourists,” Cobb said. “But they can never find money for the things we need like the community center, things that improve quality of life for neighborhood residents.”

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Artist Takes a Crack at Improving Crosswalk Safety With Piñata Bump-Outs

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Krueger-Barber used pinatas on construction bollards to create temporary curb bump-outs at Milwaukee/Drake. Photo: Corner gallery

You might not think that someone from Provo, Utah (population 116,288), would have much to tell Chicagoans about pedestrian safety issues, but artist Susan Krueger-Barber is bringing a fresh approach to tactical urbanism to our city to highlight the dangers to people on foot.

As an MFA student at the Art Institute of Chicago, this month Krueger-Barber is doing residency at Avondale’s Corner gallery, 2912 North Milwaukee, focusing on crosswalk dynamics in cities with a project called “Stripes Aren’t Enough.” She’s studying driver behaviors that endanger pedestrians at the adjacent Milwaukee/Drake intersection, and testing out fun strategies for safety interventions, while dressed in the costume of her comedic alter ego Art Grrrl. At the end of her residency, she’ll present a formal proposal for changes to the intersection to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

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Kreuger-Barber pushes responsible shoveling during an intervention in Provo, Utah. Photo: Susan Krueger-Barber.

Lynn Basa, the owner of Corner gallery, said the residency is a perfect fit. “We’re this friendly neighborhood gallery, but you look out the window and see all this, mean egregious behavior,” referring to drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians in the zebra-striped crosswalk at the southeast leg of the T-shaped Milwaukee/Drake junction. “It’s surprising that people in cars would do that to their fellow citizens in crosswalks.”

According to the Chicago Crash Browser, created by Streetsblog Chicago’s Steven Vance, there were four pedestrian crashes and one bike crash near the intersection between 2009 and 2014. In 2013 Ronald Lee Hubert, 51, was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver at Milwaukee and Ridgeway, a few blocks northwest of the gallery. Basa is excited to see if Krueger-Barber’s outside-the-box ideas can help improve safety on the corridor.

The artist first became interested in using art to raise awareness of the dangers posed to vulnerable road users after one of one of her Provo neighbors was fatally struck by a driver. Rosa Merino, 42, was crossing a street in the crosswalk with the right of way at 6:30 a.m. when she was run over by a pick-up truck driver who disregarded a red light. Authorities initially blamed the victim for causing the crash because she was wearing dark clothing.

Since then, Krueger-Barber has done several pedestrian- and bike-safety interventions and stunts in Provo. These range from serving as a crossing guard with a gigantic orange flag to creating a PSA against speeding featuring herself in a Sasquatch costume being struck by a driver, in a frighteningly realistic manner. One project, temporarily installing sharrows and traffic diverters on a roadway, proved so successful that city officials plan to create a permanent bike boulevard on the street.

So far in Chicago, Krueger-Barber has created a memorial wall within corner gallery with tributes to the 22 pedestrians and cyclists who have lost their lives to traffic violence in Chicago this year (by CDOT’s count), with info on the incidents and the victims partly based on Streetsblog Chicago’s Fatality Tracker posts. But she’s also created a “Wall of Solutions” to improve safety, including literally wallpapering the gallery with pages from the Chicago Pedestrian Plan.

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Millennial Trains Project Stopped in Chicago to Discuss Affordable TOD Issues

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Logan Square’s Twin Towers TOD development under construction earlier this year. Photo: John Greenfield

Earlier this week the Millennial Trains project stopped in Chicago on its five-city national tour on Amtrak, bringing a group of 26 young people to meet with locals within each city. They discussed how issues of housing affordability and inequality, and transit affect their lives, and talked about ideas for improving conditions in Chicago.

This leg of the westbound tour is also making stops in Pittsburg, Kansas City, Albuquerque, and Los Angeles. Next week another group of Young people will travel eastbound from L.A., stopping in San Francisco, Denver, Milwaukee, and Detroit. The national affordable housing and renters advocacy campaign Make Room is a sponsor.

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Rachel Reilly Carroll. Photo: Millennial Trains Project

I caught up on the phone with Rachel Reilly Carroll, an employee of Enterprise Community Partners, a Maryland-based nonprofit that helps develop affordable housing, who is one of the tour participants, shortly after she arrived in Chicago.

Among other projects, Enterprise’s Chicago office has been involved with efforts to encourage affordable transit-oriented development across the region. According to their website, this year they provided grants to ten community developers working on TOD projects in Chicagoland.

They also launched the Enterprise eTOD Collaborative in partnership with the Center for Neighborhood Technology in an effort to support these projects and organizations. They’ve also been promoting TOD in the south suburbs through the Southland Community Loan Fund, and through technical assistance to developers and municipalities. They hope to work on several south suburban TOD projects in 2016.

The goal of these efforts is create affordable housing with good access to jobs, schools, healthcare, and recreation, while reducing car dependency.

“Equitable TOD is about ensuring that transit access remains available to folks who have lived near transit, and reducing car dependency for others who may currently have long transit or car commutes, so that they can benefit from the time and cost savings,” Carroll said.

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Transit-Oriented Housing Proposals Finally Make it to the South Side

A rendering of the proposed Woodlawn Station development next to the Cottage Grove Green Line station.

A rendering of the proposed Woodlawn Station development next to the Cottage Grove Green Line station. Image: Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH)

Earlier this year, transit-oriented development made the jump from being proposed and built only next to Chicago Transit Authority stations to also being proposed next to a Metra station. Now, the trend that has brought hundreds of new market-rate and affordable designated housing units to vacant lots near Chicago ‘L’ stations has jumped to the South Side. A two and a half-year-old ordinance is the cause for these new housing development patterns in the city.

Back in May, Curbed Chicago reported on a proposal from Preservation of Affordable Housing build 70 apartments in Woodlawn next to the CTA’s Cottage Grove Green Line station. The building will have a mix of market-rate, moderate-income, and low-income units, as well as 15,000 square feet of commercial space.

It’s part of the affordable housing developer’s program, “Woodlawn Choice Initiative.” The new building, called Woodlawn Station, would join a program that’s renovating their other buildings, and a new squash facility at 6100 S. Cottage Grove Ave. that has after-school tutoring programs for students who live or attend school in the neighborhood.

While a city ordinance that preceded the TOD ordinance already reduced the minimum number of required car parking spaces at affordable housing developments, it doesn’t apply to retail and commercial spaces. Additionally, the TOD ordinance goes even further than that one by eliminating the minimum requirement for residential and commercial uses because the building is so accessible by rail transit – the affordable housing parking minimum still requires some car parking. There are also two bus routes here.

Earlier this week Curbed Chicago reported on proposal for a vacant lot across the CTA’s 35th/Archer station on the Orange Line, with information shared by the McKinleyPark.org website. Dan Mark, a developer, and owner of Mark Properties, presented at a community meeting last week his proposal to build 39 efficiency apartments – targeted to college students – with only three car parking spaces.

Map of proposed TOD parcel at Archer/Leavitt

A map of the area around the 35th/Archer CTA station. The apartment building is proposed for the green parcel at the bottom.

According to McKinleyPark.org, there was the usual gripe about competition for parking. Alder George Cardenas (12th Ward) countered that and “noted the trade-offs of higher density: Although it can cause congestion, it can also bring more disposable income to an area, making it more attractive to the consumer-focused chains and other businesses that McKinley Park currently lacks.”

The zoning district must change before it can be built which will trigger a requirement to designate 10 percent of the units as affordable, for residents who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income.

The Orange Line corridor is especially ripe for mixed-use and denser development. Its construction in the early 1990s followed freight rail lines instead of existing residential areas. There are plenty more developable lots along the rapid transit line, some of which are highlighted on Metropolitan Planning Council’s TOD calculator and map.