Redesigning North Avenue to better serve its purpose: shopping

Shaun Jacobsen is an Uptown resident working in market research for a French company. He graduated recently from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with majors in French and sociology, and a minor in urban planning. He writes in a personal blog, Transitized, about international perspectives on local transportation issues. This article was originally published on Transitized on December 16, 2012

In December, I was walking down North Avenue (near Clybourn Avenue and Halsted Street) in Lincoln Park. Something I’ve noticed before, not only when walking but also on the rare occasion where I’ve driven, is that North Avenue is a very narrow, fast street with narrow sidewalks:

Narrow sidewalk near storefronts on North Avenue. Credit: Shaun Jacobsen.

Narrow sidewalk near storefronts on North Avenue. Credit: Shaun Jacobsen.

There are at least 50 stores/restaurants along/just off of North Avenue. Many of the storefronts are recessed back from the sidewalk (either to create a small plaza or because there is a parking lot). Kudos to the few stores that decided to recess their stores to create a plaza/wider walkway, as the sidewalks are very narrow and the existing street furniture (where it actually exists) doesn’t do much to make pedestrians feel safe from fast-moving traffic on North Avenue. Continue reading Redesigning North Avenue to better serve its purpose: shopping

Next South Shore alderman must expand and protect existing transit


A Metra Electric train crosses Yates Boulevard out of the South Shore station. Photo by Jeff Zoline.

Applications are being accepted by Mayor Email until Friday, January 25 at 5 PM.

Alderman Sandi Jackson of the 7th Ward, which includes South Shore, South Chicago, Rainbow Beach, and Jeffery Manor, resigned effective Tuesday. Mayor Emanuel has 60 days from Tuesday to appoint a successor and hinted at the process in which he would vet candidates. A website will be launched today; people can submit applications to be considered for the job by a panel of four – yet unnamed – community representatives.

The Chicago Tribune reported, “The next alderman for the South Side ward must have a record of ‘community involvement and engagement,’ the mayor stated in a news release. Emanuel hopes to pick the replacement by mid-February.” On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune speculated as to who might be jockeying for the position.

I talked to four residents in the South Shore neighborhood about the transportation issues and assets to understand the needs in the community that the next alderman should address. Community members are organizing rapidly: two of the three residents I interviewed, independently, knew of each other through a brand new organization called Reclaiming South Shore for All (RSSA), led by Mia Henry. Henry was planning for an RSSA meeting when I caught her on the phone; she only had time to convey that the Jeffery Jump “was a good move for people” in the neighborhood. Continue reading Next South Shore alderman must expand and protect existing transit

Talking transportation with 39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino


Laurino walks home from the opening of the Sauganash Trail in 2008. Image courtesy of 39th Ward.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

As “mini mayors,” Chicago aldermen have a huge influence on the kinds of projects that are built in their districts. For example, a handful of aldermen have opted to use “menu money” discretionary funds to stripe additional bicycle lanes in their wards or bankroll innovative transportation projects, like the Albany Home Zone traffic-calmed block in Logan Square. On the other hand, they can stand in the way of progress, as when former 50th Ward Alderman Berny Stone put the kibosh on a bike bridge over the North Shore Channel in West Rogers Park.

39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino’s Far Northwest Side district includes parts of the Albany Park, North Park, Sauganash, Mayfair, Independence Park and Old Irving Park neighborhoods. The chairman of the City Council’s Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee, she’s probably best known to cyclists as the sponsor of a new ordinance that bans texting and talking on cell phones while cycling. But she’s actually one of City Hall’s outspoken advocates for sustainable transportation.

As part of our ongoing project to interview all fifty of Chicago’s aldermen about sustainable transportation issues in their districts, I recently caught up with Laurino at her ward service office, 4404 West Lawrence, to get her views on walking, biking and transit issues in her ward and citywide.

Continue reading Talking transportation with 39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino

Recap just one of your great ideas to improve transportation in “Outside the Box” challenge


How do cities get more women to ride bicycles? Photo by Mike Travis. 

The Grid Chicago comments section is full of great ideas about how to improve transportation and transportation policy in Chicagoland.

The “Outside the Box” challenge presented by George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, should be all the motivation you need to gather and present your ideas in an essay, video, slideshow, or other media form “to convey a viable and actionable plan that may be implemented to solve a current transportation or transportation policy problem. A maximum of five pictures or illustrations may be included to enrich your presentation. Entries will be reviewed by an executive committee of professors, executives, entrepreneurs and public servants, all of whom are interested and distinguished members of the transportation policy community.”

The first prize is $10,000. Second prize is $5,000 and third prize is $2,500. You must submit your entry by February 15, 2013, and the contest is open to individuals and teams 34 years old and younger.

Get full rules and details.

End of year donation appeal for West Town Bikes


West Town Bikes hosts women and trans night each Wednesday. Photo by Kim Werst. 

At the end of every year, non-profit organizations make an appeal to be the source of your charitable donations. Giving to these organizations is needed at all times, though, and not just for December holidays. John and I have always highly regarded West Town Bikes on our blog. Briefly, West Town Bikes is a direct-service and community-learning bike shop in Humboldt Park. Lengthily, West Town Bikes and its executive director and founder Alex Wilson played a large part in my advocacy-tinged personal development, and in my transition to live car-free. West Town Bikes has also served me more selfishly: it hosted both Cargo Bike Roll Call block parties; and their tools and volunteers’ expertise helped me repair a bike I stupidly broke*.


Alex Wilson leads a BickerBikes youth group on an excursion.

I asked John to chime in:

West Town Bikes represents the very best aspects of the Chicago bike scene. As a bike education center that’s a terrific resource for people of from all walks of life, it’s one of the most democratic cycling organizations in town. It’s a powerful example of how bicycles can be a tool for positive change, especially in the way its youth programs have helped literally hundreds of underserved young people get on the right track towards leading healthy, productive lives.

Alex Wilson is a true teacher of teachers who has helped get dozens of other people started in the bike education field. He’s also had a major influence on my own life in bicycling. Heck, the last time I broke a frame he gave me a replacement for free and helped me switch over the parts. It’s not an exaggeration to say bicycling in Chicago would not be nearly as far along as it is today without Alex and West Town.

Make a donation online. It’s also tax deductible.

* While still learning how bikes work, I once wiped off the grease from a seat tube. Later on, when I tried to adjust the seat height, I realized the seat post was permanently stuck. A several months long process, during which I manually removed the stuck seatpost, ended with using a reamer to make the seat tube new again.

Open thread: Post your CTA Holiday Train photos


Santa rides the train outside! Photo by CTA. 

Every November and December the Chicago Transit Authority operates the Holiday Train, a revenue service train with a flatbed car and a brave Santa Claus (brave because he rides outside!).

The experience has become very popular in Chicago, akin to the cachet of the Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree in New York City. Saturday was the final day of operation for 2012.


No space is left un-transformed for the special ride. This spot is usually reserved for service changes and announcements. Photo by CTA. 

See more photos by the CTA on their Flickr.


The Holiday Train passes over the Wabash Avenue bridge. Photo by Drew Baker. 


People wait to board the Holiday Train at the Forest Park Blue Line station. Photo by Jeff Zoline. 

Post a link to your photos in the comments.