Might we see a return of the small group discussion public meeting format in 2012?
The final 2011 Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC) was held Wednesday, December 14, 2011, at City Hall. The format that’s been in place for several years will disappear and be replaced by the original format set up in 1991. Aside from a review of the Chicago Bicycle Program’s new bikeways and two announcements about Complete Streets, this was, for me, the bike planning news of the week.
After introductions, Bike Program coordinator Ben Gomberg brought up how the council was established with representatives from various stakeholders the year in which Richard M. Daley had his first re-election. But, “it’s changed over the years, for whatever reason, to a public info session”. He mentioned how there’ve been suggestion to reconstitute it as a council. The council is described in the Bike 2000 Plan, a seven page document produced by the council. It lists specific members, like Randy Neufeld, currently a board member of Active Transportation Alliance, and Erma Tranter, longtime president of Friends of the Parks. I’m not aware of what the other members are doing. But are they still council members?
I called Gomberg to get more details: “Right now there’s confusion of who’s on and not on the council. [We’ll] emphasize the differences in upcoming meetings, but not necessarily in March”.
Starting with the March 2012 meeting, MBAC will return to an adaptation of the original format. A couple things will have to change: the stakeholder and participants list will have to be redefined. Additionally, Gomberg announced after two of the meetings there would be a public meeting that could be modeled after one designed by myself and Joshua Koonce held in June 2009 at the Daley Bicentennial Plaza (see a photo slideshow of that meeting).
Neufeld suggested to “go mainstream and get a diverse representation”. Alan Mellis suggested that there be citizens “at large” on the council. As for how they would get on the council, Gomberg offered his own ideas: do it through an appointment via the mayor’s office, or go to the advocacy community and say, “You have four slots to fill”. He later told me, in our call, that the structure “is evolving: we’ll be working on it over time”.
At-large members, who I see as not representing a large advocacy group (like Active Transportation Alliance), should be on the council for 2012 (note 1). They were not in the original council definition from 1991, but neither were important and relevant agencies like Metra, the Chicago Transit Authority, or the Regional Transportation Authority (see who else is on the list in note 2).
However, someone from those agencies, as well as from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, has almost always attended MBAC meetings in the almost five years I’ve been attending.
Bike Program senior planner talked about the new types and locations of bikeways around Chicago. We’ve covered most here (like the protected bike lanes and new intersection treatments), but not the following:
- Restriping and slight redesign of the contraflow bike lane on Ardmore Avenue at Sheridan Road (which leads to the north entrance of the Lakefront Trail).
- A new bike lane on 100th Street, which links to new bike lanes on Avenue L and Ewing Avenue
- A marked-shared lane on Ashland Avenue from Pratt Boulevard to Rogers Avenue, connecting to new marked-shared lanes on Touhy Avenue and Rogers Avenue, all paid for by Alderman Moore’s menu funds (49th Ward).
- See all of them in the map below:
View City of Chicago Bikeways 2011 in a larger map
The Bike Program is exploring installing protected bike lanes on Douglas, Independence, and Sacramento Boulevards, downtown, and from Hyde Park to the Loop. They are also considering a bike boulevard in the 47th Ward (Alderman Pawar’s “transportation chief” Bill Higgins was in attendance).
Melody Geraci of the Active Transportation Alliance announced that Cook County’s Board of Commissioners approved a new Complete Streets policy. Former President Todd Stroger implemented a Complete Streets policy in 2009, but now it’s an ordinance.
What is Complete Streets? Simply a policy that transportation and infrastructure projects consider the needs of all users of all ages and abilities.
Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Read more on the National Complete Streets Coalition website.
According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, “this ordinance is one of the strongest in the country“.
If this is the ordinance as enacted, it’s definitely stronger than the policy Stroger put forth by including text requiring the Cook County Department of Highways to “define standards to measure the progress of implement of this ordinance” and “revise its plans, manuals, rules, policies, processes and programs as appropriate to incorporate any changes necessary to foster the timely implementation of Complete Streets principles”.
Chicago’s is merely a policy and not even an ordinance. And it has no teeth: there’s no modification of rules, manuals, plan, nor a review process or evaluation method. The only place to find its text is on a Bike Planning webpage I created when I worked for the Department of Transportation.
Neufeld pointed out that Complete Streets has made some movement in Congress.
(1) At-large members could be nominated and voted in by anyone who attends MBAC meetings, or they could be selected by the mayor. I prefer the least biased avenue.
(2) It includes now-defunct organizations Chicago Area Bicycle Dealer’s Association and Chicago Bicycle Manufacturers, with Richard Schwinn, a former head of a former incarnation of the Schwinn Bicycle Company and co-founder of Waterford Precision Cycles. A couple City departments have changed names: the Department of Planning and Development is now Housing and Economic Development; Mayor’s Office of Special Events is now part of Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Interestingly, the Chicago Public Library had a seat at the table. The Chicago Park District, which maintains all off-street trails even if CDOT builds them, was a listed council stakeholder.
(3) The Bike 2000 Plan’s goals are essentially the same as in the Bike 2015 Plan, yet the metric to achieve was more ambitious than the current Bike 2015 Plan:
Bike 2000 Plan: Attain 10% of all short (5 miles & under) individual vehicle· (single occupancy) trips by bicycle by the year 2000.
Bike 2015 Plan: To increase bicycle use, so that 5 percent of all trips less than five miles are by bicycle.
A Bike 2020 Plan might need to have a revised goal of 2.5% of all trips less than 5 miles are taken on a bicycle.