Monday, August 14, 2017

Chicago Shakespeare at Ridge Park

It's that time of year again. Chicago Shakespeare will be performing Romeo and Juliet at Ridge Park on Fri. 8/18 and Sat. 8/19 starting at 6:30 p.m.



Click here for more info.  If you enjoy what you see and would like to go to one of their regular productions, you can find info on the upcoming season here.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Are you visible while riding your bike at night?

When I ride my bike at night, sometimes I'm riding for transportation, sometimes for relaxation. I do what I can to make myself more visible with lights and reflectors to minimize the risk of close calls or crashes.

A book on bike laws gives the following caution, which is worth considering. "If you are operating your bike without a light “during darkness,” you may be cited; more importantly, in the event of an accident, riding without lights will be either per se negligence or prima facie evidence of negligence, depending on your jurisdiction."  In plain English, if you're riding at night and you get hit by a car, failure to make yourself visible by using lights and/or reflectors can make it difficult to collect an insurance settlement from the driver who hit you.

Are you familiar with laws regarding visibility? I've included some below.

Illinois law: Sec. 11-1507. Lamps and other equipment on bicycles. (a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Department which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.

Illinois law also requires that new bikes be sold with reflectors "visible from each side of the bicycle from a distance of 500 feet and shall be essentially colorless or red to the rear of the center of the bicycle and essentially colorless or amber to the front of the center of the bicycle provided. The requirements of this paragraph may be met by reflective materials which shall be at least 3/16 of an inch wide on each side of each tire or rim to indicate as clearly as possible the continuous circular shape and size of the tires or rims of such bicycle and which reflective materials may be of the same color on both the front and rear tire or rim."

In other words, if your tires have reflective sidewalk striping, that can meet the requirement for side reflectors. The bike shown below has both.

Reflective sidewalls and wheel reflectors
Uniform vehicle Code Section 12-702. Headlight and taillight required at night. Every bicycle in use [during darkness] shall be equipped with a headlight on the front emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front, and a taillight on the rear emitting a red light visible from a distance of at least 1,000 feet to the rear.

LED headlight

Tail light
Uniform vehicle Code Section 12-703. Rear reflector required at night. Every bicycle shall be equipped with a red reflector of a type approved by the department which shall be visible for 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle.

Rear reflector and tail light
Uniform vehicle Code Section 12-704. Side reflector or light required at night. Every bicycle when in use [during darkness] shall be equipped with reflective material of sufficient size and reflectivity to be visible from both sides for 600 feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle, or, in lieu of such reflective material, with a lighted lamp visible from both sides from a distance of at least 500 feet.

Uniform vehicle Code Section 12-705. Additional lights or reflectors authorized. A bicycle or its rider may be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition to those required by the foregoing sections. These lights and/or reflectors may be LED or regular, steady or flashing, as long as they comply with the requirements or limitations of the department.

Helmet mounted tail light

Reflective vest

There are many inexpensive LED light options available. Some can be mounted to your helmet. I've often heard people say "I used to have lights but somebody stole them and I couldn't afford to buy new ones." It's worth looking at lights that are easily removable so you can stash them in your bag and avoid this problem.

Reflective bands that can be worn around the ankles are a great idea for visibility. When you pedal, the movement of the reflective stripes makes you easily recognizable from side or front.

Reflective band for arm or leg

I'm glad to see more runners using lights and/or reflective items at night and in low light condtions. It's safer for them and for cyclists and pedestrians who may be sharing the same space. Please, please, if you're riding at night, get lit, get reflective, and make yourself visible to reduce your risk of getting hit. I'd rather see everyone get where they're going safely without any crashes or scary near misses.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dan Ryan Woods habitat restoration workday on Sat. 8/12

It's great to get outside. Come out and volunteer at Dan Ryan Woods this Saturday 8/12 from 9:00 am-noon for Friends of the Forest Preserves' monthly habitat restoration workday. This one is a special seed gathering workday.

Tools, gloves, and training provided. If you have work gloves you like, bring those. Wearing hiking boots or work boots is recommended.

Meet at the 91st St. parking lot (just north of the 91st St. Metra station).  Please contact Benjamin Cox at 773-398-1178 or benjamin@fotfp.org for more information and to let him know if you plan to attend.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Whistler Woods habitat restoration workday on Sat. 8/5

It's great to get outdoors. Volunteers are needed this Saturday 8/5 from 10 am to 1 pm for a habitat restoration workday - invasive species removal.  Light snacks and water will be available.


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. Follow the directions above.

By transit:  Pace 352 Halsted bus

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

our trees need water

We've seen news stories about serious flooding in parts of our metro area, but that rain has been very unevenly distributed. Many storms that dropped huge amounts of rain in areas north, west or south of us left little or nothing in Beverly or Morgan Park over the last several weeks. In the last week, I've seen a few things that were vivid reminders of how dry our soil really is here in the neighborhood.


In areas that have not been watered, I've seen cracks in the bone dry soil. Recently I saw a gingko tree (a very tough species) that had lost all its leaves and was starting to grow new ones after we had 1/2" of rain. I've also seen a few young, recently planted trees that had dropped all their leaves and looked like they were dead or in very tough shape.



Other signs of drought: oak trees dropping acorns prematurely (before they reach full size and ripeness), tree leaves looking withered or starting to drop. I have seen these signs in various locations around the neighborhood this week.



Ideally, 1 inch of rain per week will keep a tree healthy. We've had a occasional heavy rain since early May, but it's usually been of a brief enough duration that we've only gotten 0.1" or 0.2" of water - nowhere near enough to make up for the long-term lack of soaking rains.

Our trees need water to stay healthy. If you don't regularly water the lawn area around your trees, please consider using a soaker hose around the base of each tree, or using a sprinkler over the root area (at least the area of the tree canopy). In weeks when we don't get at least 1" of rain, letting it soak for at least an hour is a good idea. That will help our trees catch up and stay healthy.

Trees under extreme stress become more vulnerable to health issues from disease, infestation or damage. Drought is a form of stress that we can do something about. As of today, there's no significant chance of rain in the forecast for the next several days, continuing the pattern we've been seeing for weeks.

In the more extreme weather we're seeing now, we get more heavy rains and more extended periods of heat and minimal rain. This is hard on our trees when it happens year after year. Please be kind to our trees and help them live longer, healthier lives. This makes neighborhood and our environment healthier. 

safer crossings

The challenge of safely crossing our major streets continues, with minimal assistance from our alderman. The addition of signs by the crosswalks at 97th and Longwood and the restriping of the crosswalks has helped a little. Now a few drivers are stopping and yielding to pedestrians crossing to/from Ridge Park instead of none at all. Many people need to cross here - folks with young children going to the playground, people walking their dogs, or anyone else using or passing through the park. For some, difficulty in being able to cross safely means that they drive to the park instead of walking. This makes the problem worse.

97th and Longwood, adjacent to Ridge Park
Meanwhile, we still have trouble crossing at locations like 95th and Hoyne (Southtown Health Foods, Top Notch, the new Barraco's location, and other businesses), 95th and Longwood (Jimmy Jamm, farmers markets, etc.), 95th and Oakley (Chipotle, Chase Bank and others) 104th and Western (Horse Thief Hollow, Boot Camp Fitness, Dunkin Donuts, etc.) and others. These businesses have limited parking. Traffic and demand for parking often drive away potential customers. 

If more people feel comfortable crossing the street in these locations, we could see a lot of benefits: more customers served at businesses without parking being an issue, reduction in speeding, reduction in crashes, people getting more exercise, more interaction between people in the neighborhood, etc.

Under current conditions, when a class is in session at Boot Camp Fitness, Horse Thief Hollow often loses potential business because nearby parking is maxed out. This happens every single week. We could create a safer crossing at 105th and Western to make it easier for people to walk or bike from the east side of Western.

105th and Western - with visualization
of concrete median
Southtown Health Foods' parking is often maxed out, and overflow ends up conflicting with customers for Top Notch, with the result of people parking across the crosswalk and in other illegal spots. Improving crossing conditions isn't a complete solution here, but any reduction in parking demand can make a positive difference.

95th at Hoyne

The strip mall on 95th between Oakley and Claremont (Chipotle, Chase Bank, formerly Panera Bread and Athletico Physical Therapy) has always had a problem with parking and traffic. That's not a fun place to cross 95th. It's been losing businesses in the last few years. Parking is only one factor, but it makes a difference. Without a fair number of people walking or biking there, the amount of parking available isn't enough to support those businesses. I almost always walk or bike there, but I don't have much company in my choice of non-motorized transportation.

When I stopped to take the photo below, the parking lot was nearly full, and there was a line of several cars waiting for someone to back out of a space. The backup extended a few cars into the righthand westbound lane of 95th. There was enough traffic that a bus was trapped behind the line of waiting cars, and all the people on that bus ended up having to sit and wait for the parking lot jam to clear up. I had to wait several minutes for a break in traffic to be able to cross to the middle of the street to take the photo, and a few more minutes to get back to the curb. No one would even slow down.

95th St. fits the definition of a stroad - a wide street with higher travel speeds designed to funnel traffic. Stroads kill - not just pedestrians and cyclists, but people in cars, as mentioned in the linked article.

95th at Oakley

95th at Longwood

I've written previously about problems at 99th and Walden, adjacent to All Day Montessori, the 99th St. Metra station, Beverly Montessori and several nearby businesses. The lack of significant pedestrian improvements was a big missed opportunity when the streetscape project was finished last year. I've seen some improvement in driver behavior at that location since the project was completed, but I attribute that mostly to pedestrians insisting on their legal right of way and forcing drivers to stop.




Of course, all the infrastructure tweaks in the world won't make a significant dent in the problem unless we get some enforcement on the speeding that is such a major problem on 95th, Western, 99th, 111th and other streets in the ward. We need ticket writing blitzes - in random places at random times - with no exceptions for off-duty first responders and special people. I appreciate those few drivers who do stop. The rest need an incentive.