Dearborn Street’s celebrity status skyrockets


Active Transportation Alliance posted a 1:50 video showing before and after conditions

The Dearborn Street two-way protected bike lane looks to be the biggest deal, nationally, in bicycle infrastructure since the City of Chicago built the Kinzie Street cycle track three weeks after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office. If it had an account on Twitter, it’d be competing with Justin Bieber.

Here’s a collection of “chatter” about the project from within the short 90 hours it’s been open.

“More than just bike benefits”


The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) produced their own 1:50 video interviewing Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein about the economic benefits of building bicycle infrastructure and showing scenes from the press conference and of people bicycling in the Dearborn Street bike lane.

“Back to the Future moment”

Architecture “observer” Lynn Becker reviewed how this new piece of infrastructure fits into the history and culture of Chicago, then and now. The following are unconnected excerpts.

On Friday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein dedicated the city’s most ambitious commitment yet to the ideal of taking biking beyond the recreational to make it an integral part of Chicago’s transportation system.

It was a Back to the Future moment, as Chicago rose the crest of the first major bike boom back in the 1890’s, when the introduction of the affordable safety bicycle set sales soaring.  It also created a new industry, with Chicago at its center.

The Trib’s John Kass, as part of his ongoing battle against the 21st Century, rails against “elitist politically coddled bicyclists” by indulging his usual habit of seeing everything in Chicago he doesn’t like as a Rahm Emanuel plot, raising spectres of traffic tickets and tolls for bikers.

It’s like having to learn a new language, relearning how we “read” the city as we move through it.  No doubt about it, it’s a bold initiative, and a real gamble.  It not only serves a constituency, but aims to shape behaviour.

Read on for Becker’s full commentary and a video of Klein and Emanuel’s speeches. Continue reading Dearborn Street’s celebrity status skyrockets

Jackson Boulevard bike lane downgraded to buffered, to possibly be installed in spring 2013


The street has lacked lane markings and a bike lane (a conventional bike lane existed prior to repaving) since it was repaved in October 2011.

A year and a half after one segment was completed, the Jackson Boulevard bike lane project may be finished, but with a lesser bike lane. Short of submitting a Freedom of Information Act for communications between the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Transportation and other recipients, here’s what I’ve been able to gather so far.

The Jackson Boulevard bike lane between Ogden Avenue and Halsted Street “will likely be extended to Halsted in Spring 2013 as a buffer protected bike lane”, CDOT public information officer Pete Scales emailed me yesterday.

He means a buffered bike lane.

Only CDOT views a buffered bike lane as protected. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), of which Chicago is a member and Gabe Klein its treasurer, defines a buffered bike lane:

Buffered bike lanes are conventional bicycle lanes paired with a designated buffer space separating the bicycle lane from the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane and/or parking lane.

Klein told me in an email after I questioned the labeling practice, “The City of Chicago views ‘protected bike lanes’ as the master category, and within that there are ‘buffer protected’ and ‘barrier protected’ bike facilities. On some streets we will be going back and forth depending on the right of way, and potentially multiple times in a block as we get into more complicated installations.”

Conversely, a “protected bike lane”, or “cycle track”, is defined by NACTO as:

One-way protected cycle tracks are bikeways that are at street level and use a variety of methods for physical protection from passing traffic. A one-way protected cycle track may be combined with a parking lane or other barrier between the cycle track and the motor vehicle travel lane.

The second part of Klein’s statement is understandable: a project like Elston Avenue is considered a “protected bike lane” even though parts of it have no protection (between North and LeMoyne and between Augusta and Milwaukee). This new definition isn’t in line with the publications and communications so far published by the department or with NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Any street to receive only a “buffered bike lane” has strictly been labeled as such, and not with “buffer protected bike lane”. There’s nothing protective about 2-feet wider bike lane when riding between moving traffic and parked cars.

IDOT’s response to my inquiry was ambiguous: “That is certainly one of the issues we have discussed with CDOT and are working with them on, in terms of gathering data about safety impacts, traffic impacts and other operational issues.”

Active Transportation Alliance’s design guide follows NACTO’s definition. I recommend being as clear as possible and describing each project as a “bikeway” with certain various bikeway types within that project having names that are easily distinguishable (see page 103 in this PDF from the Active Transportation Alliance design guide). “Buffered protected” and “barrier protected” are unnecessary classifications for bikeway types already well-defined.

The federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) doesn’t define different bikeway types nor restricts the use of “buffered bike lanes” or “protected cycle tracks”.

Updated December 3 to fix tags and add link to MUTCD reference. 

State of the union: Active Trans celebrates 2012 landmarks


Group portrait of Active Trans members in attendance.

Tuesday night I dropped by the Active Transportation Alliance’s annual member meeting at UBS Tower, One North Wacker, joining dozens of attendees in celebrating this year’s advocacy achievements.

After members elected a new board (Jane Healy is stepping down as board president, Jim Kreps is moving up from VP to president, Bob Hoel is taking over as VP and Susan Levin is joining the board as a new director), Grid Chicago contributor Anne Alt was inducted into the Active Trans Hall of Fame. Director of events Christine Schwartzkopff enumerated Anne’s many contributions to biking, walking and transit advocacy here.

She’s president of the Chicago Cycling Club and secretary of Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, as well as a member of the Beverly Bike Club and a supporter of the Major Taylor Cycling Club. Anne also co-led the Southwest Side community advisory group for the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 and regularly attends Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meetings. In addition she spent fifty hours in the saddle scouting out streets for the last edition of the Chicagoland Bicycle Map, and she helped research routes for Active Trans’ Four Star Bike Ride.

Continue reading State of the union: Active Trans celebrates 2012 landmarks

Grid Bits: CTA modifies Red South plan, hearing Tuesday; bike crashes at intersections


Bonus: The Chicago Transit Authority is building an auxiliary entrance at the Roosevelt Green and Orange Lines station, on the south side of Roosevelt, near the Starbucks, Jewel, and dry cleaners. This was previously exit-only. The new entrance will speed up trips for those who transfer from the eastbound #12 Roosevelt bus to this train station. Photo by the CTA. 

There are six stories (five transit, and one bicycling) mentioned in this September 4th edition of Grid Bits. The Chicago Transit Authority has been very busy in the past few months.



Chicago Sun-Times will sponsor three years of the “first day of school free rides” program that gives all Chicago Public Schools students a free ride today and in 2013, and 2014.

Sun-Times Media is contributing more than $150,000 to the program, designed to promote first-day attendance for CPS elementary and high school students.

Continue reading Grid Bits: CTA modifies Red South plan, hearing Tuesday; bike crashes at intersections

Kidical Mass tours the 35th Ward to see student transportation plan recommendations


The Kidical Mass ride starts at 11 AM every second Saturday at Palmer Square Park. This ride was different in that it incorporated stops at places recommended to receive improvements in the 35th Ward Student Active Transportation Plan. 

I joined 40 parents, children, and neighbors, on Saturday, July 14, to ride with Kidical Mass on a special tour of the 35th Ward in conjunction with the planning team of the 35th Ward Student Active Transportation Plan. The team comprised members of Active Transportation Alliance and Sam Schwartz Engineering, both of whom were part of the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan. Continue reading Kidical Mass tours the 35th Ward to see student transportation plan recommendations

ATA calls for bill to boost transit funds by indexing the gas tax to inflation


Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke at this morning’s event in Pritzker Park. Participants are holding Riders for Better Transit signs.

This morning Active Transportation Alliance held a press conference to announce that the advocacy group and its partners are introducing legislation in Springfield that would raise the state gas tax and index it to inflation. Under this initiative, called Transit Fast Forward, the tax hike would apply only in the six-county Chicago region, and the extra revenue would be used solely to increase funding to the CTA, Metra and Pace.

The new legislation, Senate Bill 3236, is sponsored by State Senator Martin Sandoval, a Democrat from Chicago. Active Trans estimates the hike in state gas taxes in Chicagoland would only be .4 cents per gallon in 2013, costing an average family an extra $4 for the year. But the result would be an estimated $11.6 million in new transit funding next year, and a whopping $168 million increase in funds over the next five years. Continue reading ATA calls for bill to boost transit funds by indexing the gas tax to inflation