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A Blank Slate: Wells St. Extension Can Embody CDOT’s New Values

Aerial rendering showing the Wells-Wentworth Connector plan’s three phases. Image: CDOT

The Chicago Department of Transportation has a rare clean-slate opportunity to design a Street of Dreams — a street that incorporates many leading-edge safety features. That opportunity is phase three of their Wells-Wentworth Connector between Chinatown and the South Loop, a future southward extension of Wells Street that longtime South Loop resident Dennis McClendon calls “Riverside Boulevard.”

There, CDOT will build a new street from the ground up, plus “people places” infrastructure that will enhance the long-term future development potential of the South Loop’s long-vacant Riverside District tract. CDOT has an opportunity to create a safe street and great place even before the first resident moves in, provided that it embraces recent innovations in street design and a comprehensive and open planning and design process.

The Wells-Wentworth Connector’s first two phases will add more space for pedestrians and bicyclists along the northern end of Chinatown’s main street, and straighten out the confusing intersection where Cermak, Wentworth, and the Dan Ryan off-ramps meet. Its third and final phase consists of a new road traversing north-south through the former railyard that Tony Rezko once owned, a 62-acre site bounded by Roosevelt, 16th, Clark, and the South Branch. The road is intended to jump-start the city’s redevelopment plan for that property (which, even though it’s less than one mile from the Loop, has been vacant ever since it was reclaimed from the river in 1930), and to improve street safety in Chinatown.

This new main street for the Riverside District can embody the new philosophies CDOT has embraced under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. The street can be designed from the start as a complete street that gives vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists generous room and comfortable spaces. It can embrace Vision Zero and include redundant features that minimize speeds and eliminate conflicts. It should be an integral element of placemaking along the riverfront, bringing people to new spaces where people can linger, relax, and shop — which will increase the land’s value, both to developers and to the city.

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The Lakefront Trail Really Is Open All Day, All Night

Fog at Fullerton

Bicyclists can and should feel free to enjoy the Lakefront Trail’s beauty 24 hours a day. Photo: Jennifer Davis

Have you ever been hassled by Chicago police officers while bicycling on the Lakefront Trail after parks officially close at 11 PM? You’re not alone. Sebastian Huydts, who bicycles for most of his transportation needs, has been stopped twice this year — most recently on May 13, at about 11:15 p.m. “They actually told me to stop with a bright light and asked why I was there,” Huydts recently told Streetsblog. The police insisted that the park is closed after 11 p.m., telling Huydts “that you cannot use the path after that time, and that it wasn’t safe anyways.”

The Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile path used by tens of thousands of bicyclists on warmer days, and by many as a key commuting route throughout the year.

Huydts said that the officers weren’t unfriendly, and that he wasn’t mistreated. He countered the police, saying that riding home among drunk drivers on Kinzie Street would be far less safe. The officers asked for his destination (Montrose Avenue), and after talking amongst themselves, they “told me I was good to go — but should exit as soon as I could.”

The police officer on duty when I called the news affairs office said that he would look into what the rule is, and also how many bicyclists the department has warned, issued citations to, or given a contact card to.

The Chicago Park District, which owns and maintains the Lakefront Trail, said that the path is open at all times. Spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said flatly that “the trail is open for ingress/egress after regular hours.” The Chicago Department of Transportation deferred to the Park District for a response.

Maxey-Faulkner’s answer that the path is open is in keeping with Park District code [PDF], which states that nobody can be in a park between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., “except that persons and vehicles may pass through such parks without stopping, on the more direct walk or driveway leading from their point of entrance to the exit nearest to their point of destination.” This code appears to extend to trails through other large parks throughout the city.

Others have previously reported instances where a police vehicle parked squarely across the path, with the attending police officer ordering bicyclists to immediately exit the trail. Active Transportation Alliance said in 2010 that they would like to see better awareness of the overnight trail use policy. This policy should be conspicuously posted along the path, and communicated to the police units who patrol the trail.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Woman Killed in Hit-And-Run Crash While Bicycling in Bridgeport (Sun-Times, My Bike Advocate)
  • DNA Info Writes About Same Crash But With Robot Car Perspective
  • Saturday Final Day to Use Chicago Card and Reload Magnetic CTA Cards (Chicagoist)
  • Crain’s Cites Unsubstantiated View That Divvy “Merely a Toy for Yuppies and Tourists”
  • Harrison Red Line Station Closed This Weekend For Renovations (CTA)
  • 103-MPH Motorcyclist Who Evaded Police on Memorial Day Charged (DNA Info)
  • Huffing Teen Driver Found Guilty in Crash That Killed 5-Year-Old Highland Park Girl (Tribune)
  • Elderly Man Dies in Single Car Crash on I-55 (Tribune)
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Eyes on the Street: Augusta Buffered Lanes and Repaved Milwaukee PBLs

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Augusta near Noble. The buffer encourages riding outside of the door zone. Photo: John Greenfield

Due to the cold spring, the Chicago Department of Transportation’s bikeways construction season got off to a late start. Thermoplastic pavement markings don’t adhere properly to asphalt at temperatures below 50 Fahrenheit, as evidenced by bike lanes and crosswalks in various parts of town that were striped too late in the season in 2013 and have quickly deteriorated. Therefore, it was wise to wait for warmer weather this year.

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This Logan Square crosswalk was badly faded not long after installation. Photo John Greenfield.

Now that work has begun on the 20 miles of buffered and protected lanes slated for this year, things are moving fairly quickly. This month CDOT installed buffered bike lanes on the following stretches:

  • Halsted: 85th to 75th, 69th to Marquette, 59th to Garfield, and 31st to 26th
  • Racine: 52nd to 47th
  • 26th: Kostner to Pulaski
  • Augusta: Damen to Noble

As Steven posted earlier today, Wood recently got a neighborhood greenway treatment between Augusta and Milwaukee. CDOT is also nearly done reconstructing the Milwaukee protected lanes between Erie and Ogden. Those were largely obliterated by a water main project this fall, and then all of the remaining bike lane bollards taken out by motorists and snowplows over the winter.

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Milwaukee Avenue during water main construction. Photo: John Greenfield

I plan to ride the new South Side facilities next week. This afternoon, I took a quick spin to check out conditions on Augusta and Milwaukee. CDOT striped conventional bike lanes on Augusta from Central Park to Noble a few seasons ago, but as I ride in from the west, I noticed that many stretches west of Damen are badly faded. Hopefully, these sections will be next in line for an upgrade.

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UPDATED: Eyes on the Street: Wood St. Neighborhood Greenway Construction Starts

Wood Street neighborhood greenway construction

Like Berteau, Albion, and Ardmore streets before it, Wicker Park Avenue will have a contraflow bike lane. Photo: Brent Norsman

Crews were out installing lane markings and bike symbols for a Wood Street bike route, running through Wicker Park, on Wednesday. They installed a contraflow bike lane on Wicker Park Avenue, which runs one-way westbound. The lane will allow for eastbound bicyclists to continue along Wood via a short diagonal jog via Wolcott Avenue and Wicker Park, and then back to Wood.

The route, which starts at Milwaukee and ends at Augusta Boulevard, was discussed as a bike boulevard at a 2011 charrette hosted by the Chicago Department of Transportation and remained a priority of the 1st Ward transportation advisory committee.

The new route will enhance the safety of a street that many bicyclists already use to travel between Armitage Avenue to the north, “the hipster highway” of Milwaukee through Wicker Park (map), and east-west connections along Hubbard and Augusta.

Wood is included as a neighborhood greenway route in both the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 and the Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area’s master plan, but neither plan identified a timeline for construction. We’re still gathering information [see update below] on what additional design features will make this a neighborhood greenway. The Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 describes neighborhood greenways as streets that “improve bicyclist comfort by providing a low-stress route,” with slower driver speeds, lower automobile traffic volumes, and multiple measures that give priority to bicyclists. CDOT installed the first neighborhood greenway on Berteau Avenue in Lincoln Square and Lakeview last year that included curb extensions to reduce driver speeds, and a traffic circle combined with the removal of stop signs at one intersection to speed bicycle traffic.

The greenway upgrades are occurring at the same time as a major upgrade to the intersection of Milwaukee, Wood, and Wolcott. That project realigns a diagonally skewed turn, adds crosswalk signals and ADA ramps, stripes a previously missing crosswalk across the southeast leg, creates a new green space, and removes a useless concrete traffic island.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Chicago’s Ride-Share Ordinance Passes (Sun-Times, DNA)
  • Police: Thefts of Electronic Gadgets on CTA Are Down 36% (RedEye)
  • Divvy Experimenting With “Valet Service” at Busy Stations (RedEye)
  • Pothole Repairs & Damage Claims Are at Record Levels (Expired Meter)
  • West Town Merchants Recruited for Bike-Friendly Business Program (DNA)
  • John Kass Turns Pedestrian Safety Advocate (Tribune)
  • Reilly Introduces Ordinance to Crack Down on Segway Tours (Sun-Times)
  • Walking, Biking & Transit Modeshare Boost City’s Fitness Ranking (Chicagoist)
  • First “Activate” People Alley Event of Season Draws 1,500-Plus People (MPC)
  • 500 Kids Participated in Bike to School Day in NW Suburban District (Active Trans)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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State Rep Tries to Dock Block Divvy Stations in Front of Schools

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Jaime Andrade

In a case of thinking locally and acting globally, state rep Jaime Andrade (40th) introduced legislation that would have banned the installation of bike-share stations in front of all Illinois schools, not long after a Divvy station was placed by the school he co-founded.

Last year, the Chicago Department of Transportation installed the Divvy station at the Cardinal Bernadin Early Childhood Center, a Catholic Montessori school located at 1651 West Diversey, in a no parking zone near the building’s Paulina entrance. Andrade, whose district includes parts of the Northwest Side but not the school, describes himself as a founding member of the school’s board in his bio on the Illinois General Assembly’s website.

On May 21, Andrade sponsored HB6239, a bill that would have amended the Illinois Municipal Code with the following language:

No bicycle sharing system may operate a docking station in an area with posted signs that expressly prohibit parking at any time or during certain hours that is adjacent to any elementary or secondary school in any municipality.

The bill also included a provision against local municipalities overriding the ban via home rule.

When I talked to Andrade yesterday, he said he’s a actually a fan of Divvy. “It’s a great, great program,” he said. “I think we should keep expanding bike-share all over the city and the state.” He added that he used to ride a bike in Chicago before a knee injury stopped him, usually gets around by public transportation and carpooling, and his car is a 1985 Chevy Cavalier that probably wouldn’t even survive the trip to the state capital.

Andrade said the bill was intended to address safety issues. “It’s strictly saying that the stations should not be in front of schools in the no-parking zone,” he said. He argued that bike-share stations could be an obstruction in the case of a fire, and that the stations’ advertising placards block the sightlines for children crossing the street.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Toddler Killed in CTA Bus Crash in South Shore (Tribune, Sun-Times)
  • CTA Says It Has Doubled the Number of Vets on Staff Since 2010 (DNA)
  • Some CTA Board Members Rarely, or Never, Ride the CTA (RedEye)
  • Cab Driver Dies After Striking Median in Bronzeville (Tribune)
  • Kamin: Despite Bike Gains, Chicago Still Has Low Mode Share, Network Gaps (Tribune)
  • A Preview of Upcoming Suburban Trail Projects (Tribune)
  • Highland Park Getting Walking, Biking Improvements This Summer (Tribune)
  • LSD Opened to Cycling Last Sunday for Bike the Drive (Tribune, NBC)
  • Divvy Sets New Record on Bike the Drive Sunday: 16,259 Rides (Tribune)
  • Left-Hook Bike Crash Survivor Gets $490K Settlement (Kevenides)
  • Newsflash: A Whopping 3.7% of Surveyed Voters Groused About Bike Lanes (Sun-Times)

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Scheinfeld Talks About Divvy, PBLs, Traffic Cams, and Long Term Goals

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Scheinfeld with Mayor Emanuel at the groundbreaking for the Navy Pier Flyover. Photo: John Greenfield

In this final installment of my interview with Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, we talked about the Divvy expansion, traffic cameras, protected bike lanes, and her overall goals as CDOT chief. Read the first and second parts of the interview here and here.

John Greenfield: We’re slated to get 175 more Divvy stations this year. Do you think that’s actually going to happen, what with the Bixi [aka Public Bike System Company] bankruptcy?

Rebekah Scheinfeld: That’s still our intention. Obviously, our options are impacted by what happened with the PBSC bankruptcy, and we’ve been following that very closely. Our contractor is Alta [Bicycle Share] – we don’t have a direct relationship with PBSC. Now that the bankruptcy procedures are closed, we’re able to move forward to make some more certain decisions about the supply chain and timing. We are moving aggressively to try to still meet our goals for expansion this year, so I expect we still will.

JG: If Bixi’s not able to provide any more equipment, do we have equipment that’s in storage now that could be installed, so that we might get some of the new stations?

RS: Alta has been exploring alternative supply chains. PBSC doesn’t necessarily make all of those pieces. They assemble a lot of it into those packages. So there are other suppliers out there that are actually making the bikes or the different components for the stations or bikes.

Alta has been pressing as aggressively as possible, considering the bankruptcy process, as well as investigating alternative supply chains, so that they’ll be able to do the expansion. We’d like to end up in a situation where we’re able to continue working with PBSC, because we still think that’s going to be the most expeditious way.

JG: OK, this next question is probably going to annoy Pete [Scales, the CDOT spokesman who is sitting in on the interview.] [Laughter.] So you were involved in putting together the mayor’s Chicago 2011 Transition Plan, right?

RS: Yes, I was part of the transportation and infrastructure committee.

JG: When you guys put together that document, the protected bike lane goal defined protected bike lanes as being separated from traffic by a physical barrier, such as bollards or parked cars. The current definition of protected bike lanes that the city is using includes buffered lanes, which the city is now classifying as “buffer-protected.” While the transition plan originally called for 100 miles of physically protected bike lanes in the mayor’s first term, it looks like a much higher percentage of the bike lanes are going to be buffered instead.

It’s awesome that we’re getting all these miles of buffered and protected lanes. But arguably, it’s a letdown that we were promised 100 miles of physically protected bike lanes and, due to reality setting in, this is the one goal out of the three major bike goals, including the Bloomingdale Trail and Divvy, that is not going to be accomplished. When it’s time to cut the ribbon on the hundredth mile, how will you respond to that question — will we have achieved the goal that was set out in the transition plan?

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • RTA Plans to Spend $5 Million to Promote Transit Ridership (Sun-Times)
  • Active Trans Asks Members to Oppose Evanston Bike Bans
  • Bill Would Allow Chronic Drunk Drivers to Get Their Licenses Back (Tribune)
  • Lawyer in Class-Action Suit Argues Red-Light Cams Are Illegal (DNA)
  • Records Show A Second ‘L’ Operator Dozed at the Controls (Sun-Times)
  • Driver Seriously Injures 12-Year-Old Boy on Bike in Aurora (CBS)
  • Unlike Rahm, Toni Says Her Security Detail’s Speeding Tickets Get Paid (Tribune)
  • Residents Complain of Traffic Headaches Near Uptown School (DNA)
  • Chicago Gets Relatively Low Ranking for Bike Friendliness From NerdWallet (RedEye)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA