Wednesday, February 29, 2012

would you like better, more reliable transit service?

For most of us, that's a silly question.  How to pay for it is the more serious flipside.

Please take a minute to give this idea a read, and sign on if you agree.  This bill proposes adding a fraction of a penny to gas taxes in the Chicago area only.  This would provide a dedicated funding source for transit in the Chicago area, which could help solve the reliability problems caused by years of deferred maintenance.  It could greatly reduce the number of delays due to mechanical breakdowns or slow zones due to track conditions.  This doesn't just affect our ward.  It has a big effect on the whole metro area.  It could also help restore service lost in previous budget cutbacks.

I know that the idea of paying more for gas is no thrill, but it's estimated that this measure would cost the average driver only $3-4 per year.  Continuing to lose ground on transit service would hurt a lot more.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

coming soon to more Chicago neighborhoods

The Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan is in the process of gathering public input for the planning and design of a more complete network of bike routes throughout the city of Chicago.  The added bike routes will take two forms: bike lanes (protected, buffered or regular) and bike boulevards (old name) or neighborhood greenway (new name).

Bike lanes are used on major streets to provide dedicated space for cyclists.  We've been seeing regular bike lanes for a while.  The plan will introduce protected and buffered lanes to the city.  Last year the first protected bike lane was introduced on Kinzie - part of a major bike commute route into the Loop.  The video below shows before and after conditions on this congested street.

The bridge has textured plates to cover the steel grating of the bridge deck.  Sections with parking have the parking lane relocated so that the bike lane is next to the curb, and parking is between the bike lane and traffic lane, with a buffer space to keep cyclists clear of the hazard of opening doors and allow car passengers to get in and out of cars safely.  With these safer conditions, the bike percentage of total traffic has risen over 50% on this section of Kinzie.

Here's an example of a buffered bike lane, another new type of lane that will be introduced in Chicago.  This type is wider than a regular lane, to allow a little more space for cyclists to stay clear of moving traffic and opening car doors.  It may be used where street width isn't sufficient to allow for protected lanes.

On quiet residential streets, neighborhood greenways (also called bike boulevards) use a mixture of traffic calming measures to create routes suitable for riders of all ages and abilities.  The goal is to

Here's a video from Portland, OR, illustrating how a greenway works.  This video from Berkeley, CA, gives additional examples.  For more information, here's an illustration and a text description of a greenway.  The goal is to create greenway routes that are safe to ride for anyone from the ages of 8 to 80 or beyond.

The overall goal of the plan is to create more favorable conditions for a wider range of people to use bicycles for everyday transportation, so that bicycles are a viable alternative to the car for many more people.

Do you ride for transportation now?  Or do you watch other people and hesitate to join them because you feel unsafe on city streets?  This plan is for all of you.  Where would you like to see bike lanes or greenways in the 19th ward?

Public meetings will be announced soon to give a preview of the route network and offer a final opportunity for input.  Please join us - in the meetings and on the road.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

HB 3884 has potentially disastrous environmental consequences

I just learned about a bill that is scheduled for hearing before the IL House Public Utilities Committee on 2/28/12 - this Tuesday.

Help protect our trees! Illinois House Bill 3884 (Utility Damage Prevention Act) says that trees/vegetation planted within 20 feet of an electric utility pole or overhead electrical conductor could be removed. If this bill passes, many of our beautiful mature trees could be in jeopardy.

The presumed goal of this bill - preventing power outages due to tree damage - makes sense.  However, this is a heavy-handed way of going about it, which could have many disastrous consequences for our environment.

The bill, as proposed, could authorize the removal of most existing trees in many of our back yards, potentially many thousands of mature trees.  Removal of these trees would reduce the ability of our ecosystem to absorb heavy rains, increasing flooding; increase the urban heat island effect; destroy habitat for many wildlife species; remove shade from many yards and houses; greatly increase summer air conditioning costs; and result in a significant increase in air pollution from power plants created by the additional demand for electricity.   

It is possible to maintain trees in such a way as to minimize risk to utility lines and poles.  Our trees should not be condemned when there are workable alternatives.

Please contact your State Representative to ask for these amendments to the bill:
1. a specific definition of "20 feet" regarding the proximity of planted vegetation to utility poles or overhead conductors;
2. a requirement for utilities to consider specific impacts before removing trees;
3. a requirement that utilities give any affected property owners 30 days written notice of any potential tree removal, with contact information to work out a compromise plan; and
4. a requirement that utilities should pay for replacement trees.

Urge representatives to amend HB 3884 or oppose it if it is not changed.

Here's more info on the bill as proposed:
Synopsis As Introduced: Creates the Overhead Utility Facilities Damage Prevention Act. Provides that it shall be unlawful for any person to plant restricted vegetation within 20 feet of an electric utility pole or overhead electrical conductor located within the State. Provides that any restricted vegetation planted, whether by a person or by natural means, within 20 feet of an electric utility pole or overhead electrical conductor located within the State shall be subject to removal. Provides that any person who sells restricted vegetation within this State shall affix a label to each piece of restricted vegetation identifying it as restricted vegetation. Permits the Illinois Commerce Commission to adopt rules concerning the removal of restricted vegetation. Provides that it shall be unlawful for any person to interfere with an electric utility while performing vegetation management and removal activities. Also creates provisions concerning findings, definitions, and Commission enforcement. Effective immediately. 

House Sponsors: Rep. Jack D. Franks
Hearings: Public Utilities Committee Hearing Feb 28 2012 3:30PM Capitol Building Room 114 Springfield, IL
Last Action Date: Chamber Action 1/24/2012 House Assigned to Public Utilities Committee
Statutes Amended In Order of Appearance: New Act

Please contact your State Representative TODAY!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Garfield Park Conservatory is offering a beginning beekeeping class on Sat. 3/10. Click here for info.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mardi Gras music

I just wanted to offer up a little taste of New Orleans for Mardi Gras season. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

my funny valentine

Variations on a theme, for Valentine's day.  I thought I'd share some less familiar versions of the tune with you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

do you want to be a TreeKeeper?

Spring 2012 TreeKeepers classes will run on Saturdays from March 3 to April 14, 2012 at Trumbull Park, 2400 E. 105th St., Chicago 60617 in the South Deering neighborhood.   Click here to get more information and sign up.  It's a great learning experience and cool way to meet some good people, while helping to care for trees in the city.

Being a TreeKeepers has brought me to so many beautiful places that I might never have discovered if I hadn't taken the class and gone to workdays and activities since then.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

my 19th ward bike and pedestrian wish list

In my travels around the ward as a cyclist and pedestrian, I've observed a lot of long-term problem spots, and some more recent ones.  If I could make changes to improve bike and pedestrian safety in the ward, the following is a start on my wish list.

Installation of new ADA curb ramps has been poorly done in many locations.  When the street is being repaved at the same time, it turns out well.  When old asphalt is cut out to do the new curb installation, we usually end up with seeds of new potholes, because gaps are left.  Many of these installations done in the last 2 years are already deteriorating.  Could CDOT or its contractors do a better job of filling in the asphalt, then use flexible crack sealer to close the joint where old asphalt meets new?  In some spots, some type of crack sealer has been used, but only in the crosswalk zone.  Perhaps if the whole joint was sealed we wouldn't get potholes starting there so quickly.

The old concrete pavement on 93rd St. has seen better days.  Isn't there a better way of filling the ever-growing gaps in the concrete than asphalt cold patch?  The asphalt doesn't hold up very long.   I'm not an engineer, but I learned years ago in science classes that different materials expand and contract at different rates.  The pavement here is a textbook example.  We've had years of lessons showing us that asphalt certainly expands and contracts at a different rate than concrete.  The asphalt keeps crumbling out, but it keeps getting patched the same way and it doesn't work.  This street is often used by bicyclists, including students at Christ the King, and conditions are poor for bike riding.  It can't be good for runners either.

Bike lanes on 99th St. would be an amazing improvement.  They could potentially slow the speeding traffic a bit, and make it easier for people to ride for transportation through the neighborhood.  Slowing down the speeders could also make it easier for pedestrians to cross.

Things that go bump: more than a few locations have persistent problems with potholes and have been patched beyond belief.  I'd love to see these locations repaved: 97th St. from Hamilton to Leavitt, 96th St. from Damen to Bell (and the adjacent section of Damen), Leavitt from 99th to 103rd, Longwood from 103rd to 105th Pl., 102nd St. from Leavitt to Seeley, 101st near Hoyne, 100th from Leavitt to Longwood, and 94th from Claremont to Leavitt.  I could go on, because there are plenty more.  In these locations, the pavement is patches upon patches and is crumbling away to nothing in some spots.  The section of 100th in the photo below looks better than average, because it was recently patched.  Nearby sections have even more patches, which will probably be blooming with potholes by spring.

We've got a lot of streets in bad shape.  Many of them are the quieter streets that are better for bike riding.  People of all ages ride in the neighborhood, and we need to be able to get around safely.  I understand the budget situation and recognize that it's unlikely to get all of them fixed in one year.  I do hope that some of these problem spots can be ground down and repaved this year.  We have too many places where going one street over doesn't help, because the next street is just as bad.

On that topic, I'd like to say THANK YOU for the prompt response in getting the holes filled on 100th opposite Hurley Park after I contacted the 19th ward office.  This has been a longtime problem spot, where these holes were untouched for a few years and kept getting wider and deeper in spite of repeated 311 calls.  It was great to see a change from this:

To this:

Better snow removal - In a recent snow storm, we ended up with many crosswalks along 95th St. blocked by a wall of snow, with no openings to allow pedestrians to cross the street.  Some snow was left on the surface when sidewalks were cleared.  It melted and refroze into a skim of ice, with no sand or salt to make the sidewalk safer.  Many bus stops were blocked by snow.   Trinity UCC Community Center failed to clear their sidewalk AGAIN, so the well-used bus stop in front of their building was surrounded by snow compacted into ice.

On the positive side, the sidewalk around the parking lot at the SW corner of 95th and Damen was cleared - first time I've ever seen that during my time in the neighborhood (summer 2006 to now).  To whoever is responsible - THANK YOU!  I'd also like to say thank you to whoever was responsible for cutting through the wall of snow in front of the Beverly library.

Clearing a path in front of businesses gets most of the job done, but that only goes so far if crosswalks and bus stops are blocked.  Everyone needs to be able to get to and from their destinations safely, whatever their means of transportation.

Many yellow curb zones have seen their paint disappear in recent years.  One of these is the zone by the fire hydrant in front of County Fair, where 108th Pl. meets Western.  I often see people parking in front of this hydrant, and there is NO parking enforcement at all.  People also park across the badly faded crosswalks at the same location.  How about repainting the crosswalks and yellow curb zone and extending the zone past the crosswalks to discourage people from parking across them?  There are other yellow curb zones around the ward missing their paint.  It would be great to have that visual reminder restored.

Pedestrian and bike safety makes a big difference in the qualify of life in our ward.  I'd like to see this become more of a priority.  It makes our ward a more inviting place to live and helps our business community.

I'll get off my soapbox for now, but I'll be back soon with more ideas.  Wishing you safe travels through the neighborhood.

Friday, February 3, 2012

non sequitur Friday

Variations on a theme... thinking of Summertime on a winter day.