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Posts tagged "Broadway"

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An Intelligent Plan for Redeveloping the Intelligentsia Building

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The Intelligentsia building at 3115 North Broadway will have its top two floors of parking converted to apartments. Image: Google Street View

Broadway in East Lakeview is one of the city’s most vibrant pedestrian-oriented retail districts. But lately it’s been depressing to watch the construction of a massive, suburban-style development just north of Wellington, which will house a Mariano’s supermarket and an XSport Fitness, plus a whopping 280 car parking spaces.

That project has already been degrading the pedestrian environment, since the sidewalk next to the work site has been closed for months, leading people to walk in the street. Although would have been plenty of room to create a walkway in the parking lane by using Jersey barriers, most of the parking spots were retained instead.

And once the development opens, the excessive number of garage spaces will encourage hundreds of new car trips a day. Not only will that make walking and biking on Broadway less safe and pleasant, it will worsen congestion in the neighborhood and increase pollution.

Fortunately, there was some good news yesterday about development on the strip. Kitty-corner from the new Mariano’s, the building that houses Intelligentsia Coffee and four other business, 3115 North Broadway, has been sold for $5.7 million, and the new owner plans to transform two floors of that building’s parking garage into apartments, DNAinfo reported.

Imagine that: A developer decided that housing for human beings would be a more productive and profitable use of prime real estate than warehousing automobiles.

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Solving The Problem of Snow Being Pushed Into Protected Lanes

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No, this is not an expanse of arctic tundra, its one of the Broadway protected bike lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

In general, protected bike lanes are great for encouraging “interested-but-concerned” folks to try urban cycling. However, as I discussed last week, when the lanes aren’t maintained well during the winter, they can actually make cycling more difficult. And when snow- or ice-filled PBLs force bike riders to share narrow travel lanes with motorists, that decreases safety.

Even when the Chicago Department of Transportation does a good job of plowing the protected lanes, there’s often a problem with snow later being pushed off sidewalks in front of businesses, into the curbside bike lanes. Last fall the city passed an ordinance that makes it clear it’s illegal to do this, as well as raises fines for property owners who don’t shovel their sidewalks, but CDOT officials said there were no plans to increase enforcement.

It’s great when merchants are conscientious about clearing their sidewalks for pedestrians. However, many business owners, or at least the people they hire to shovel, seem oblivious to the fact that plenty of Chicagoans use the protected lanes year-round, and that it’s illegal to dump snow in them.

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The Clybourn bike lane, after Unity had it cleared. Photo: Marcus Moore.

The good new is that once people are made aware of these facts, they may change their behavior. After a cyclist contacted Unity Manufacturing, 1260 North Clybourn, and asked them to stop pushing snow off their sidewalk into one of the Clybourn curb-protected lanes, the business had a path cleared for bike riders.

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Last year, I took Broadway PBL snow clearance into my own hands. Photo: Justin Haugens

The protected lanes on the short segment of Broadway between Wilson and Montrose, one of the few stretches of PBLs in Chicago along a retail strip, are especially prone to being filled with shoveled snow. Last winter, I took matters into my own hands and shoveled out a section of the bike lanes myself.

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Once Again, the Construction of a Mariano’s Creates a Hazard for Pedestrians

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People walking the street on Broadway past a sidewalk closed for the construction for the parking-rich Mariano’s development. Photo: J. Patrick Lynch

Broadway is a city-designated Pedestrian Street between Diversey and Cornelia in Lakeview. But during the construction of a new car-centric development, people on foot are encountering a decidedly pedestrian-unfriendly situation.

A massive new complex featuring a Mariano’s grocery store and an XSport Fitness gym, plus 279 car parking spaces, is currently being built at 3030 N. Broadway. For the past several weeks, the sidewalk on the west side of Broadway has been closed to accommodate the construction.

Streetsblog Chicago reader J. Patrick Lynch sent us photos of the situation, which is all-too-common in Chicago. Since the sidewalk closure signs are located mid-block, people who encounter them are supposed to backtrack half a block to the crosswalk in order to detour to the east sidewalk. Lynch tells us that many people simply opt to walk in the street.

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Eyes on the Street: Broadway’s Keeper

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I took took protected bike lane snow clearance into my own hands this afternoon. Photo: Justin Haugens

Steven Vance and I have been touched by the many shout-outs and well-wishes we’ve received on social media in the wake of last week’s shutdown of Streetsblog Chicago due to funding issues. We’ve heard a collective groan from everyone from our readers, to transportation blogging colleagues around the country, to other Chicago media outlets like Gapers Block, Chicagoist, and Chicago Magazine. We’ve even heard from local elected officials bemoaning the loss of the city’s daily source for sustainable transportation and livable streets news:

 

The good news is that we’ve made significant headway in the effort to raise funds so that Steven and I can return to producing original reporting. Readers have responded generously to my request for donations, with over 80 individual donations made within a few days.

If you value Streetsblog’s hard-hitting reporting and haven’t already done so, please consider making a contribution to the Streetsblog Chicago Resurrection Fund. I still need to raise a significant chunk of money from small-to-medium donations as part of my fundraising strategy, which also includes major donors, ad revenue, and foundation grants. Donations are not tax-deductible at this point, but all donors will receive an email stating that their money will be returned if daily publication of original articles has not resumed by April 8, three months from the start of the hiatus.

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The northbound PBL on the 4400 block of North Broadway before shoveling. Photo: John Greenfield

I took a break from my fundraising work this afternoon for a little direct intervention to improve Chicago street safety. Ever since Mayor Michael Bilandic lost reelection following the brutal Blizzard of ’79, Chicago mayors have done an excellent job of keeping the streets clear of snow for drivers. However, they haven’t always done such a great job of making sure bike routes get plowed. Last winter, many of the city’s protected bike lanes were often unrideable because they were filled with snow or slush.

To their credit, the Chicago Department of Transportation has been trying harder this year to make sure the PBLs are maintained. They temporarily removed the flexible posts that delineated several protected lanes along snow routes, to make it easier for the department of Streets and Sanitation to plow the entire street.

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Streets and San did a good job of clearing the southbound PBL on the same block of Broadway. Photo: John Greenfield

However, I recently heard that the PBLs on Broadway, between Montrose and Wilson,  have been impassible this month due to poor snow clearance, so that some cyclists have been taking Clark as an alternative. That means the Broadway lanes, which People for Bikes recently rated the nation’s tenth-best new PBLs, are actually deterring bicycling instead of encouraging it. That’s not right.

I went over to Broadway with a shovel in hand to investigate. While some portions of the lanes were well plowed and people were riding in them, other stretches were choked with slush, forcing cyclists to instead share the narrow travel lanes with cars. I didn’t have time to clear the entire bikeway, but I spent about 45 minutes digging out the northbound side of the 4400 block. I was rewarded by the sight of cyclists immediately taking advantage of the clear, protected passageway.

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The northbound PBL, after my guerrilla intervention. Photo: John Greenfield

I’d like to think that the blockage in the Broadway lanes was mostly due to property owners pushing their sidewalk snow into them, rather than neglect by the city. Either way, it would be great if CDOT and Streets and San could take additional steps to ensure that PBLs around the city enable, rather than thwart, cycling.

In the meantime, I invite concerned cyclists from around the city to grab a shovel and join me in the fight to keep Chicago’s protected lanes rideable. Feel free to tweet your guerilla PBL shoveling experience at #AdoptABikeLane.

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Eyes on the Street: The Case of the Missing Bike Lane Bollards

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The Broadway protected lanes before and after bollard removal. Photos: John Greenfield

Uptown’s Broadway protected bike lanes, installed earlier this year, are a great example of the power of a road diet with PBLs. By converting a former four-lane speedway to two travel lanes, a turn lane, and protected lanes, the city transformed a hectic, dangerous stretch of Broadway into one that’s calmer and safer for pedestrians and drivers, as well as cyclists.

Recently, however, all of the plastic posts that separated the curbside bike lanes from the parking lane mysteriously vanished. This isn’t the first time that posts, also known as bollards, have disappeared from Chicago PBLs. They’re commonly taken out by careless drivers and construction projects.

Last winter, one of the snowiest on record, was particularly rough on the city’s protected bike lanes. Snowplows knocked out plenty of PBL posts on Dearborn and Kinzie. By springtime, every single bollard on Milwaukee, the city’s busiest bike lane street, had been obliterated.

But we haven’t even had significant snowfall yet, so what happened to the Broadway Bollards? A few theories sprang to mind. Broadway is one of the few retail streets in Chicago with protected lanes. Perhaps business owners complained about losing access for curbside deliveries, so the posts were removed to make it easier for truckers to temporarily park in the lanes?

On the other hand, crews recently filmed scenes for the movie “Batman Vs. Superman” in Uptown. They temporarily turned the Lawrence Red Line stop into a fictional “Gotham Transit Authority” station. Maybe the producers felt that bike lane bollards would look out of place in the Caped Crusader’s hometown.

While the bollard removals are puzzling, some feel that plastic posts are superfluous on parking-protected bike lanes. For example, the posts generally aren’t installed along parking-protected lanes in New York City.

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PBLs Off the Table in Jeff Park, But Milwaukee Still Needs a Road Diet

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CDOT rendering of Milwaukee with a road diet and protected bike lanes.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has proposed three possible street reconfigurations for Milwaukee from Lawrence to Elston. Unfortunately, the one that CDOT originally said would have had the greatest safety benefit for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers is now off the table.

The scenario where the current five-lane speedway would have been converted to two travel lanes and a turn lane, plus protected bike lanes, is no longer under consideration, according to 45th Ward chief of staff Owen Brugh. He said that Alderman John Arena and CDOT jointly concluded that PBLs weren’t a practical solution for this stretch, due to the high number of driveways.

Since protected lanes would have involved moving the parking lanes to the left side of the bike lanes, parking spaces would have had to be eliminated at each intersection and curb cut to ensure that cyclists and motorists could see each other. This would have required the removal of 20 percent of the parking spots on Milwaukee. However, parking counts show that, in general, spaces on this section of Milwaukee are currently used as little as 50 percent of the time, and not more than 90 percent of the time, so there would be a relatively minor impact on the availability of parking.

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Rendering of a road diet with wide buffered lanes.

The two other alternatives are still under consideration. One would involve a road diet with wide buffered lanes, which CDOT says would still have a significant safety benefit for all road users. The other would maintain all five lanes but add narrow buffered lanes, which would provide a minor safety benefit for cyclists and pedestrians, but have practically no effect on car speeds.

It’s a shame that protected lanes are no longer being considered, since this stretch of Milwaukee would greatly benefit from a major reboot. This section consistently averages well under 20,000 vehicles, making it the least busy stretch of Milwaukee in the city. But while Milwaukee south of the Kennedy Expressway is generally a two-lane street, north of the Kennedy it has two travel lanes in each direction, plus turn lanes, and the excess capacity encourages speeding. Recent CDOT traffic studies found that 75 percent of motorists broke the 30 mph speed limit, and 14 percent exceeded 40 mph, a speed at which studies show pedestrian crashes are almost always fatal.

Since speeding is the norm here, it’s not surprising that there’s a high crash rate. The project area saw 910 crashes between 2008 and 2012, causing at least 17 serious injuries and three deaths, according to CDOT. In January of this year, two men were killed in a rollover crash on the 6000 block of the street, just south of Elston.

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Chicago Building Four Miles of Protected Bike Lanes This Year

Can you believe this road was expanded from 4 lanes to 6?

CDOT will install a buffered bike lane on Harrison Street through this asphalt monstrosity built for the Congress Parkway interchange expansion.

The City of Chicago announced a new slate of bikeway projects today, outlining about 15 miles of new buffered bike lanes and a little more than four miles of protected lanes to be built in 2014.

Under the plan for this year, protected bikeway construction in Chicago would continue to outpace every other American city except perhaps for New York. But the city still embellishes its progress by counting buffered lanes as protected lanes, saying that it is already halfway to the goal of building 100 miles of protected lanes by 2015. (In fact, just under 17 miles of protected bike lanes have been built.)

It’s unfortunate that the city continues to mislabel buffered bike lanes, not only because it’s misleading but because it cheapens the substantial progress being made in Chicago — often in the face of difficult obstacles like the Illinois Department of Transportation ban on protected bike lanes on state jurisdiction streets, including Clybourn Avenue and parts of Elston Avenue. (The ban has now been lifted on a trial basis on Clybourn.)

This year, about 4.25 miles of new bike lanes will be physically protected from traffic by parked cars and/or flexible posts. CDOT Assistant Director of Transportation Planning Mike Amsden said in December that the city is considering using curbs for protection on Clybourn Avenue from Division Street to North Avenue — a stretch that traverses the intersection where cyclist Bobby Cann was fatally struck by drunk driver Ryne San Hamel — and State Street south of 26th Street. The news release says this is still being designed. (CDOT said at the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting in March that curb separation was “still on the table.”)

The new protected bike lanes are:

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Mapped: Where Most Chicagoans Don’t Own Cars

Jacobsen questions why a parking lane can't be removed to build a bike lane on Broadway south of Montrose when over 50% of the households don't have cars.

Shaun Jacobsen questions why a parking lane can’t be removed to build a bike lane on Broadway south of Montrose when over 50 percent of the households (shown in purple) don’t have cars.

A new interactive map shows what transportation mode people use to get to work in each neighborhood in Chicago, while also identifying the share of Chicagoans who don’t own cars. Shaun Jacobsen — who writes the Transitized blog and occasionally freelances for Streetsblog — created “How Chicago Commutes” to show that many residents will benefit more from walking, bicycling, and transit improvements than free curbside parking, which tends to dominate the discussion at public meetings.

Jacobsen created the map last week. The first iteration showed the primary commute mode for each census tract using data collected from 2008 to 2012. On Monday he published an update, and the map now also shows how many households don’t own cars. I recently caught up with him to learn more about the underlying data and how he expects people will use it. Here’s our interview.

Why did you create the Chicago commute map?

Last year, planning Participatory Budgeting projects for the 46th Ward, we looked at Broadway south of Montrose but determined that no bike lanes could be installed without removing parking spaces because it’s too narrow. We dismissed the idea because of the hot button issue parking is.

Now looking at the map, you see that half of the occupied housing units within a block of that stretch don’t have any cars at all. So why can’t even 25 percent of the street — one lane of parking — be removed to make room for a project like that? These are the kind of things I hope people think about now that the data is online and available at the tract level.

What myth are you trying to dispel?

The myth that most people own cars and we can’t take away the space for them. In the specific example of Broadway, if 50 percent (with a margin of error of ±5 percent) of homes have no cars at all, then that argument doesn’t hold up. I hope this will give people easy access to census data so these sorts of myths can be counter argued.

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On Broadway: A Preview of Chicago’s Next Protected Bike Lane Street

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Layout of the protected lanes between Montrose and Wilson.

Uptown is one of Chicago’s few bike-friendly neighborhoods that doesn’t have any conventional bike lanes, let alone buffered or protected lanes, but that will change by the end of the year with an upcoming Chicago Department of Transportation project.

Broadway between Montrose and Foster will get protected bike lanes for two blocks from Montrose to Wilson, and buffered bike lanes from Wilson to Foster. This section of Broadway is designated as a crosstown bike route in CDOT’s Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan. The southern stretch will be one of the few PBL streets in town that also features plenty of pedestrian-oriented retail – hopefully this combination will become more common in the future.

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Layout of the buffered bike lanes between Wilson and Foster.

In addition to the new bike lanes, the entire 1.05-mile section will undergo a road diet, transforming the wide, four-lane street into two through lanes and a center turn lane. 16 existing metered parking spaces will be eliminated to improve sight lines at intersections. In compliance with the city’s parking contract, 12 new metered spots will be created elsewhere on Broadway, and the other four will be added on nearby streets within the 46th Ward.

The case for the road diet is strong. On average, Broadway carries 11,000 to 13,000 vehicles daily. Even though the new configuration reduces the number of travel lanes, it can accommodate as many as 20,000 car trips per day, according to CDOT. The new center turn lane will reduce traffic back-ups and swerving caused by left-turning motorists.

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Residents check out plans for the Broadway lanes at Wednesday's meeting at the 46th Ward office. Photo: Shaun Jacobsen

Even without bike lanes, recent CDOT bike counts at Broadway at Wilson recorded over 150 cyclists during a 4-hour period. The proximity of this section of Broadway to four Red Line stations, several bus lines, and many retailers also generates plenty of foot traffic. With the road diet, pedestrians will have fewer lanes of moving car traffic to cross, and there will be new, high-visibility zebra-striped crosswalks.

The plan resembles most other protected bike lane projects CDOT has implemented, which have a few shortcomings, mainly due to budget limitations. At the meeting, I suggested that leading pedestrian interval walk signals should be implemented if possible, and that cyclists be given legal permission to use the walk signal as their green light so as to make themselves visible to turning drivers. If this isn’t feasible for the Broadway, LPIs would be a useful addition to future projects.

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When Removing a Pedestrian Street Designation, Proceed With Caution

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The Pedestrian Street designation at Broadway and Lawrence would be lifted so a billboard can be placed to the left of the 'Borders' sign. Photos: Shaun Jacobsen

Shaun Jacobsen is the author of Transitized

Last June, 46th ward Alderman James Cappleman proposed removing the Pedestrian Street designation on six blocks radiating from the intersection of Broadway and Lawrence in Uptown. The proposed removal raised some eyebrows. Was a developer planning to build something that wouldn’t fit the criteria of a P-Street, like a parking garage or drive-thru? Only one other alderman has removed a P-Street designation in his ward: In 2012, 35th ward Alderman Rey Colón removed the designation (and later reinstated it) to allow a McDonald’s to replace its drive-thru, which P-Street code prohibits.

I spoke with Cappleman regarding the removal, which was approved by City Council in September. He informed me that there is no plan to build anything that would conflict with the P-Street designation; rather, the landlord of the building where Borders was formerly located (4718 N Broadway) is seeking to install a static, non-LED billboard on the north-facing side of the building in order to lower rent and attract tenants. In this case, the P-Street designation established seven years ago was too restrictive. The alderman said he wanted to work around the restrictions without removing the entire designation, but it was not possible.

The alderman also stated that he doesn’t feel that Broadway/Lawrence is the best location for the P-Street designation, which was put in effect in 2006. He told me that the purpose of a P-Street is to preserve, and not necessarily promote, people-oriented development. As such, P-Street intersections such as Broadway/Diversey/Clark with existing people-oriented developments may be more conducive to the goals of the P-street, while wide streets such as Broadway/Lawrence with undeveloped storefronts may not be. A future road diet project will narrow Broadway from two lanes to one lane in each direction, making the street friendlier to people walking and riding bikes, and perhaps creating a more conducive environment for people-oriented development.

Using a P-Street designation as a restorative tool may be exactly what’s needed in places with undeveloped lots or existing curb cuts. A P-Street was placed on Milwaukee Avenue between Rockwell and Sacramento this year, covering three empty lots, preventing them from becoming more strip malls. It will also make it easier for new businesses to open and satisfy parking requirements — by not requiring any parking at all.

The blocks adjacent to P-Streets such as Broadway/Diversey/Clark have a high and diverse concentration of stores and restaurants, entrance doors and windows facing the sidewalk, few curb cuts and no surface parking lots — all criteria of the pedestrian street ordinance. While Broadway and Lawrence has some restaurants and storefronts, there are many vacant storefronts, surface parking lots, and curb cuts. Despite his doubts about the location of the P-Street, Cappleman stated his intent to reinstate the P-Street designation at the same location after the billboard is installed.

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