[This piece also runs in Time Out Chicago.]
Traditionally the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has focused on making it easier to drive in the city, but new commissioner Gabe Klein has a different philosophy. Klein, a former executive with national retailer Bikes U.S.A., as well as Zipcar car sharing, came to town fresh from a stint as transportation director for Washington, D.C. There he launched a streetcar system, installed about 100 leading pedestrian interval traffic signals, introduced a circulator bus route and built the nation’s largest bike-sharing system.
Klein and Mayor Emanuel are promising big improvements to walking, biking and transit here, including building the Bloomingdale Trail elevated greenway, creating 100 miles of car-protected bike lanes, and rolling out a robust bike sharing system. They’re also working on creating bus rapid transit corridors and considering novel approaches to improve conditions for walking, including “pedestrian scramble” intersections.
I recently met with Klein, 40, in his CDOT offices, where he’d parked the bike he rode in on, a single-speed Masi cruiser with a beer-carrying crate. He discussed possible locations for ped scrambles and bus rapid transit corridors, the feasibility of the Bloomingdale and bike lane projects, the possibility of reopening the Queen’s Landing crosswalk, and whether he’d ever consider riding in Critical Mass.
Continue reading An interview with CDOT’s Gabe Klein
[flickr]photo:5952876061[/flickr]Chicago Reader Biker Village at Pitchfork
Last weekend there were at least two fabulously bike-friendly festivals in Chicago. New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat celebrated craft beer, bicycles, bands and other forms of “sustainable folly,” raising thousands of dollars for West Town Bikes community bike shop. Meanwhile the Pitchfork Music Festival included the Chicago Reader Biker Village with an attended bike parking area that docked over 1,000 bikes at a time – and it still wasn’t nearly enough capacity. More on that later.
Continue reading Rack concerts: Tour de Fat and Pitchfork highlight the need for good bike parking at festivals
Many years ago I was riding my bicycle on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, rolling south past Oak Street Beach, near the Hancock Tower. It was a beautiful summer day and the path was really crowded with people walking, jogging and cycling. I was working as a bike messenger at the time.
As I was riding I saw this guy heading towards me. He was this tall, brawny skinhead on Rollerblades, skating north. He was wearing wraparound sunglasses and a t-shirt that said “WHITE POWER” with a big swastika on it. I myself had a shaved head and I was wearing wraparound shades at the time, but I’m a short, skinny Jew.
Continue reading A run-in with a neo-Nazi on the Lakefront Trail
One of my favorite kinds of bicycling is to just choose a destination, like a library, a restaurant or a beach and then find a pleasant, interesting way to ride there. This summer I’ve been enjoying going out around sunset and doing what I call “dreaming” my way around: I cruise slow and improvise a route on shady side streets while taking in the scenery and letting my mind wander.
Or, if it’s a trip that I often take, sometimes I’ll mix things up by playing a game where every time I come to a red light I have to change directions. Say I’m riding from the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State, northwest to my home in Logan Square. I might start by pedaling west on Van Buren, then come to a red at Dearborn and turn north, then come to a red at Kinzie and head west, etc.
Some of my favorite suburban destinations are tiki bars and old Chinese restaurants with Polynesian-themed décor. I trace my fascination with “Polynesian Pop” culture to my childhood, when my family used to visit my dad’s cousin Leo’s tiki-themed hotel, the Hawaiian Isle, in North Miami Beach. It’s harder to improvise routes for these kind of suburban safaris, so a little forethought is required.
Continue reading Using Google Maps bicycle directions to access Chicagoland tiki venues
Additional reporting and bridge photo by Michael Burton
All other photos by Travis Taylor
Revolution Brewing owner Josh Deth passes out black military-style caps with red six-pointed Chicago stars to the forty people who’ve showed up at his brewpub on this gorgeous June morning for the Communist-themed Long March. This eight-mile hike from Logan Square to Comiskey Park is named after the 8,000-mile retreat of the Chinese Red Army’s led by Mao Zedong in 1934 from Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalist forces.
After brunch and glasses of pink, hibiscus-infused Rosa beer our parade steps off southeast on Milwaukee Avenue, led by march organizer and pedestrian activist Michael Burton. I’m walking near the front of the pack holding aloft a Chicago flag, wearing a t-shirt with the image of a walk signal and the words, “Walking is NOT a crime.” The shirt is a souvenir from a 2004 Pedestrian Critical Mass demonstration that Burton organized in response to a proposed crackdown by the city’s Traffic Management Authority on downtown jaywalkers. I soon hand off the flag to a more photogenic woman with pink hair wearing knee boots and hot pants.
Continue reading The Long March
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore might be the most beautiful place in the Hoosier State—which, to some, might not sound like much of a ringing endorsement, especially since it’s flanked by steel mills and power plants. But this nearby national park features 25 miles of natural beach, hiking trails through forests, prairies and marshes. And, of course, there are the dunes themselves: massive mountains of fine sand, perfect for a sliding barefoot sprint and leap.
Bring your tent, sleeping bag and camping gear and head to Millennium Station at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue to catch the South Shore Line train (round-trip ticket, $13.60). The South Shore does not allow conventional bikes onboard; however, folding bikes are permitted and would be useful for exploring the greater Dunes area. It’s a relaxing, scenic, 90-minute train ride to the Beverly Shores stop and the national lakeshore’s Dunewood Campground.
Continue reading Car-free camping in the Indiana Dunes