Wednesday, February 10, 2016

bike parking that actually works (and some that doesn't)

If you're not familiar with Bikeyface, she's a Boston area cartoonist who writes and draws about bike-related issues.  I've seen many situations where a business or government entity installed bike racks with good intentions, but the racks ended up being fairly useless due to poor placement, poor quality racks, or both.  Bikeyface covered it rather well in this blog post.

If you own a business or are part of an organization considering bike rack installations, this set of guidelines is one of the better resources for getting it right, in choice of bike rack design and how to place racks so they're most effective.  Please review which rack styles work well and which are useless.

Bike rack needs have changed over the years. For commuting or transportation riding, most people ride mountain bikes or other utilitarian or comfort bikes, which have wider handlebars than the road bikes that used to be the norm. This means that bike parking slots need to be wider than in the past. Also, most people carry U-locks, which are much more secure than cable locks, but not flexible.

When the new public library opened at 95th and Damen, I was happy to see a 10-bike rack by the front door (photos below), but less than thrilled when I actually tried to use it.  This rack is a good, secure design. Unfortunately the contractor who installed it was apparently clueless about actual use of such a rack and standards for installation.

These are designed for bikes to be positioned perpendicular to the rack, and for a lock to go around wheel, rack and part of the frame. Most adult bikes have 26" or larger wheels. Some bikes with 26" wheels barely fit here. Bikes with 27" or 700c wheels are difficult or impossible to secure here with most U-locks.

For secure locking, the rack should be far enough from a wall or other barrier to allow the back of the bike wheel to be even with the rack or just beyond it. This rack should be at least 6" further from the wall. It's set in concrete, so this problem is unlikely to get fixed anytime soon.

Public library rack installed too close to wall for secure locking for most wheel sizes
This rack position would be fine if most folks carried chains for locking, but most U-locks aren't large enough to work for this situation. People who care about locking their bikes securely often resort to Plan B, turning the bike parallel to the rack, blocking 4 or more spaces. This is fine if only 2 or 3 individuals want to use the rack. Most people approaching by bike never see the rack in the corner of the parking lot behind the fence, and end up locking to the bench or fence instead.

People who want to lock securely do this, blocking 4 or more spaces,
so rack is only usable for 2 or 3 bikes.
The folks at Walgreens get a few points for effort but an F for execution, both at 95th and Ashland and 103rd and Western. This type of rack is called a "wheelbender" because that's what can happen if your bike gets knocked over while locked to one of these racks. With a U-lock, only one wheel can be locked to the rack - not secure at all. With a long chain, it might be possible to lock securely, but few people carry those because they're heavy. Bikes locked here block most of the sidewalk.

It's difficult to lock up to this rack at all. It was nearly impossible even to
lock the U-lock, and anyone could undo the quick release on the front wheel
to easily steal the rest of the bike. It's a truly useless rack.
Racks in visible locations are the best. No one uses the rack at the 103rd St. Metra station because it is nearly invisible from most angles of view, making it a vulnerable location for theft. Anyone who rides a bike to that station locks up at one of the racks around the corner on 103rd St.

Mostly invisible rack at 103rd St. Metra station
Good bike parking can be a real asset to a small business, allowing it to serve more customers with less car parking. It encourages employees to ride to work. At a train station, it can reduce the number of people driving to the station, reducing traffic congestion as well as air and noise pollution.

These 2 bikes take up only 2 spaces in front of Ellie's, leaving the rest of the rack free.
The rack above is a better choice than the narrower style of wave racks at 103rd St. and 99th St. Metra stations.

Bike racks at County Fair are used by customers and employees
There's more discussion on this topic on the Chainlink.  If you're interested in bike-related issues, the Chainlink is an excellent resource.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

habitat restoration workday at Dan Ryan Woods on Sat. 2/13


Join Friends of the Forest Preserve at Dan Ryan Woods this Saturday, February 13 from 9:00 am-noon  for their monthly volunteer workday.  Tools, gloves, and training provided. Wearing boots or sneakers is recommended.   


Meet at the Dan Ryan Woods East parking lot (2 blocks west of Damen on the north side of 87th Street).  Please contact Benjamin Cox at 773-398-1178 or benjamin@fotfp.org for more information.

Monday, February 8, 2016

walking and the health of our neighborhood

Walking to a train or bus, park, school, business district or library, walking a dog, or just plain walking, isn't just a way to get around. It's a way to build community. We can observe many things we would not see from a car, have random conversations, meet new people, see nature or otherwise have a richer experience than would be possible inside a vehicle. Driver behavior can have a major impact on the quality and safety of that experience.

I'm always glad to see parents walking with their kids, or kids walking on their own. Kids learn so much by walking in a neighborhood - navigation, decision making skills, street safety, etc.  Bad driver behavior can have a negative effect on them and their parents and make our neighborhood less family friendly, contrary to the image it seeks to project. A driver-centric neighborhood where kids and parents don't feel safe crossing the street is not healthy for any of us.

One would think that the enhanced crosswalk and new signage at 99th and Walden might encourage drivers to at least slow down or, better yet, obey Illinois law by stopping and yielding to pedestrians trying to cross 99th St.  A surprising number of drivers appear to be completely ignorant of the law, or choose to disregard it. To quote a brief portion:

A driver must come to a complete stop (and yield):  
     When a pedestrian is in a marked crosswalk.
     A driver must yield to a pedestrian when a pedestrian is in an unmarked crosswalk on the
            driver's side of the roadway and there are no traffic control signals.

     When making a turn at any intersection.

I see all of these violated on a daily basis - at 99th and Walden, 99th and Longwood, 100th and Longwood, 96th and Longwood and other locations nearby. I witnessed an egregious example at 99th and Walden recently.

Passengers from a Metra train were walking towards the intersection around 5:45 p.m. I was among them. There was a brief break in traffic on 99th. I stepped into the crosswalk and encountered a group of about 10 coming towards me - moms and kids leaving All Day Montessori on the north side of the street. A driver in an SUV was yelling at them, saying they weren't entitled to cross there because they weren't at a stoplight. As they reached the middle of the street, the driver continued to yell as she started creeping through the crosswalk behind them. She resented the fact that the moms had stepped out and forced her to stop, perhaps delaying her by 30 seconds.


99th and Walden crosswalk
We have 3 pre-school locations around this intersection (2 buildings for All Day Montessori and 1 for Beverly Montessori), generating a lot of traffic at morning and evening rush hours, in addition to traffic around the Metra station and adjacent businesses. The intersection would be much safer if more people would walk or bike to/from nearby destinations instead of driving. I recognize that this is not always possible, but whatever we can do to reduce car traffic and share the road in a more considerate way can improve conditions for walking.

Pedestrian stings with real tickets, and perhaps traffic school, are needed in our neighborhood.  Enforcement should be applied to everyone, including off-duty first responders, who can be a big part of the problem. This may not be a popular opinion here, but the hypocrisy of first responders driving recklessly and making their own neighborhood less safe got old a long time ago.

If we work together as a community, we can make a difference. We can each set a positive example by yielding to pedestrians when we drive, and we can ask drivers to stop when we have the right of way as pedestrians.

A neighborhood where more children (and everyone) can walk safely is truly a family friendly neighborhood.  A car-centric neighborhood? Not so much.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

how to get bike parking

Are there locations you visit by bike in Chicago that need bike parking? Anyone can submit a suggestion for bike racks.

You can find info on the City of Chicago bike parking program here.  To request a bike rack or up-vote an existing request, click here.



For locations that need a higher density of bike parking, a bike corral may be the answer.



Saturday, February 6, 2016

Divvy in Evanston and Oak Park

The recent DNA Info article isn't quite accurate with respect to Divvy's big picture. Bike share systems function best, both for users and from a customer service perspective (ability to perform routine service on bikes and redistribute between stations when needed) when there is a large contiguous network of stations. The system has been expanded in waves, with new service areas adjacent to existing ones. Beverly was not passed over. The Divvy system simply hasn't expanded this far southwest yet. Most locations in Beverly and the 19th ward are at least 5 miles from the nearest existing stations (69th and Halsted, near a popular cafe).

Those of you who were aware of B-Cycle's tiny attempt at a downtown bike share system will understand that bike share does not function well as a tiny island of only a few stations.

There are 4 enormous differences between these suburbs and Beverly in relation to Divvy and biking in general:

1. Distance to existing network of stations. Evanston: 1 mile to the nearest station in Rogers Park. Oak Park: 3 miles to the nearest station in Garfield Park. A lot fewer infill stations are required to establish a contiguous network of stations compared to our Beverly-to-Englewood distance.

2. Both suburbs have comprehensive bike plans that have been years in the making. They have networks of established bike routes getting year-round use and lots of bike racks in their business districts.  Momentum towards the Evanston bike plan started over 10 years ago. Oak Park's bike plan was introduced several years ago, but the groundwork was laid earlier. (2008 version)  (2014 update with resource links)

3. Both suburbs applied jointly with CDOT to get federal transportation money to buy bikes and stations. They put up money for the local match required for the federal grant.

4. The number of people riding bikes in Evanston and Oak Park is many times the number I regularly see on Beverly and Morgan Park streets.

I am encouraged that our alderman, BAPA, Beverly Arts Alliance and others are motivated to bring Divvy to the 19th ward.  For Divvy and increased bike use to succeed here, we will need to work towards better bike infrastructure (on-street bike routes), education and incentives, and more bike parking as needed. This will require time, persistence and patience.

Please don't give up on the idea of getting Divvy here. I encourage you to suggest station locations through the Divvy web site after checking the map for existing suggestions. If there's an existing suggestion in the location you want (green bubble), please click SUPPORT to show that you want it, too.



Please do it with the understanding that it is likely to take a few more waves of system expansion for the service area to reach us.



Friday, February 5, 2016

non sequitur Friday

In memory of the late great Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire. You were a shining star.









Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Whistler Woods habitat restoration workday on Sat. 2/6

It's great to get outdoors on the weekend. Volunteers are needed this Saturday 2/6 from 10 am to 1 pm for a habitat restoration workday.



Hiking boots or other boots or shoes that offer good support and traction are a good idea. When you arrive, look for volunteers along the lefthand side of the main parking lot, near the end of the parking lot. If you have work gloves, bring them, otherwise gloves will be available.

How to get there:   Whistler Woods is just east of 13400 S Halsted in Riverdale.

By bike: if you're coming from the north, ride the Major Taylor Trail south until it ends in Whistler Woods and continue to the parking lot to find the volunteers.

By car: take Halsted to Forestview (13400S) - parking lot is the first left turn after you turn east onto Forestview.

From I-57, exit at eastbound 127th, then turn right on Halsted, then continue to 13400S and follow the directions above.

From I-94, exit at westbound 130th.  Continue past the viaduct, right (northbound) on Indiana, then continue left on 127th to Halsted. Continue to 13400S and follow the directions above.

By transit:  Pace 352 Halsted bus


Questions? Call Chris, 773-746-5223. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

sustainable transportation vision (and the lack of it) in local wards and municipalities

Initiatives to promote bicycling as a healthy, sustainable form of transportation have the potential to transform the Chicago area. If more people feel safe when riding to their destinations instead of driving, quality of life in our neighborhoods improves: less road rage, less pollution (air, water and noise), better health, and a stronger local economy. Businesses can serve more customers with less car parking when more customers arrive by bike and on foot instead of driving. We've seen progress in the last 10 years, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

A cross section of Chicago wards currently have ongoing bike events and/or plans: 1925, 27, 28, 30, 3243, 4445, 4647, 48, and 49.

The 49th ward (Alderman Moore) is on the verge of starting one of the more ambitious neighborhood greenway plans, thanks to resident voting under participatory budgeting.

Former Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd ward) had bike events, and made bike infrastructure an important priority. Under new Alderman Brian Hopkins (ward remap), that has disappeared. The 14th and 15th wards had ward bike events under previous aldermen, but don't anymore.

I met Alderman Sawyer (6th ward) at a Slow Roll ride last year and talked bikes with him. He spent the morning riding with us and talked with quite a few riders.

Under former Alderman Colon, the 35th ward got an active transportation plan to promote walking and biking, as well as the city's first on-street bike parking corral. I'm hopeful that new Alderman Ramirez-Rosa will continue the momentum that was established under Colon.

The 26th ward did a safety study, but modifications to the streets since then have been a mixed bag with respect to safety and biking. (Note: useful info on infrastructure concepts starting at page 20 at the safety study link above.)

The 3rd ward has a great community bike program: Bronzeville Bikes, which includes a neighborhood co-op, the Bike Box.

Alderman Reboyras (30th ward) introduced an ordinance in an attempt to modify Chicago law to allow people 65 and older to legally ride bikes on sidewalks. He hoped to make conditions safer for seniors who ride. Under current law, only children 12 and under are allowed to ride on sidewalks.

In the 33rd ward, Alderman Mell has worked for bike and pedestrian improvements.

I talked with Alderman Burnett (27th ward) at an Active Transportation Alliance event a few years ago. While he doesn't appear to have an active ward program to promote biking and bike infrastructure, he is aware of relevant issues.

Many current and former south side aldermen don't seem to get the idea that many residents want or need to ride - for transportation that is healthy and affordable, or for recreation. This includes the 7th ward (Sandi Jackson), 5th ward (Leslie Hairston) and 8th ward (Michelle Harris).

I'm encouraged that some of our south side aldermen now say they want Divvy, though they don't necessarily understand that improving bike infrastructure in their wards to make biking safer would be important to Divvy's success there.

Participatory budgeting is becoming an important tool in getting community input and allocating funding for bike projects, such as the proposed greenway in the 49th ward mentioned above.

The list of Chicago area municipalities that have bike plans and are in some phase of implementation includes: Evanston, Oak Park (2008  2014), SkokieBlue IslandBerwyn, and Schaumburg,

The Cal-Sag Trail is a great example of cooperation between municipalities. When it is complete, it run 26 miles from Lemont to Burnham and Calumet City, connecting with many existing trails and boosting local and regional bike tourism.  

The growing importance of bike transportation and bike-related tourism cannot be ignored. It must be included in economic planning for our city and region. Watch for more on these topics.


don't be a bike ninja

Do you ride your bike at night?  If you do, or you're thinking about trying it, do you have lights?  At night, bicyclists must use a front white headlight and rear red reflector or red light.

Getting familiar with laws and safe practices is a smart way to help prevent crashes and injuries.

Under Chicago law: 9-52-080 At night, bicyclists must use a front white headlight and rear red reflector or red light.

This page is a good resource for Chicago and Illinois laws regarding biking.

Here's a good perspective on visibility at night.



Wishing you safe travels.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

recycling changes

The City of Chicago now requires that all recyclable materials be placed in blue carts loose, without plastic bags.

Plastic bags contaminate the recycling stream, damage equipment at sorting facilities and prevent workers from seeing whether other non-recyclables are present. Set plastic bags aside and take them to bins at local stores where bags are accepted for recycling.

Click here for complete details on what can be recycled and how.

If you'd like to get recycling updates, click here to be added to a mailing list.