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.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

more isn't always better

A few months ago, I noticed an unwelcome change on many blocks in our ward. Street lights got noticeably brighter, and lights that had been out for a long time were repaired. Some of the long-dark ones really weren't needed. The result: increased glare and light pollution, and uglier streets.

The increase in glare can make it tougher to see detail in the shadows as a pedestrian, cyclist or driver by keeping our eyes from adjusting to night vision conditions. Many of us now need blackout curtains to keep the orange glare out of our homes - not needed before this change.  Having to spend time and money buying and installing heavy curtains was not welcome.

There is a common perception that brighter light creates safety. It may be true up to a point, but this recent change put us far beyond that point. If glare makes it harder to see, does brighter light help us in any way?

If our streets and yards have all the ambiance of a prison yard, does this create an inviting space that encourages more people to be out in their yards and on the streets?   I'd rather have a little less light and a more pleasant environment for people to spend time outdoors, whether they are walking, biking, running, or spending time in their yards. Having more eyes on the street makes our streets safer.

Friday, January 22, 2016

non sequitur Friday

getting Divvy into the 19th ward

I originally posted this a few months ago. I'm bringing it back because there has been more discussion on this topic in recent weeks.

I appreciate BAPA's efforts in circulating a petition to let CDOT know that folks in our ward want Divvy.  How many people in the 19th ward have used Divvy in existing locations? How many understand how the system works?

Divvy and other on-demand bike share systems are designed for short point-to-point trips.  Bike share is intended as a form of short-distance public transportation, not for longer recreational rides. This type of system works best when the area covered is large, with many stations spaced 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile apart.

One may buy a 24-hour or 1-year membership, which includes an unlimited number of trips of 30 minutes or less within that membership period. From the time you remove a bike from a station dock, it costs no additional money unless you keep it for longer than 30 minutes. If you ride longer than 30 minutes, there is a small charge; increasing for a trip of 1 hour or more.  The price structure is intended to maximize the number of bikes available at any given time.

Divvy station map

Stations may be placed in front of businesses, libraries, school, at parks, in residential locations, etc.  Where business districts and other non-residential destinations are more than 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile apart, station placement in residential locations may be needed to effectively serve that part of the neighborhood. When stations are too far apart, they may not be convenient to your desired start location or destination, making bike share a less efficient form of transportation.

Much of what we have so far has been paid for by federal grant funding (such as CMAQ and other categories of transportation grant money) and sponsorship by Blue Cross Blue Shield. U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin have been strong allies, supporting bike, ped and transit funding in Congress.  

Continued improvements to bike infrastructure (bike lanes and neighborhood greenways), traffic education aimed at all ages, and better traffic enforcement are all needed for Divvy to succeed in the 19th ward.  Every day I see adults riding on the sidewalk (illegal for riders older than 12) on streets like Longwood Dr. I rarely see any traffic enforcement in the neighborhood, and I often observe drivers going 10+ mph over the speed limit on portions of Longwood, 111th and almost anywhere on Western. If more riders felt comfortable on local streets, Divvy would be much more successful in the 19th ward.

I encourage you to nominate Divvy station locations or vote in support of proposed locations through the Divvy web site.  Voting for specific locations adds substance to the BAPA petition.

We need to overcome anti-bike attitudes and dangerous driver behavior that are prevalent in some areas of the ward. Our alderman has publicly shown hostility to the idea of 19th ward bike lanes in recent years, as quoted in a Tribune article: "Several aldermen also called for better bike lanes ...Ald. Matthew O’Shea, 19th, took a different stance, telling Klein 'if you never put a bike lane in my ward, that’s too soon.'”

I and other south side bike advocates have talked with CDOT commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld and deputy commissioner Luann Hamilton about demand for Divvy in far south side neighborhoods. They have repeatedly stated their intention to keep seeking grant funding for future expansion to broaden the Divvy service area to cover more of the city. I will keep asking until Divvy expansion to the 19th ward is planned and funded.

If we can achieve better infrastructure and less driver hostility towards cyclists, Divvy could be a very positive addition to the neighborhood.  I hope that funding and political will can come together to make that happen.

Friday, January 8, 2016

non sequitur Friday

A bit of pre-Mardi Gras fun...  Happy Friday!

Friday, January 1, 2016