Highlights from December’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting

Array

Bicycle signals on Dearborn Street at Madison Street were turned on as of Wednesday. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz. 

Meeting minutes for the September 2012 can be downloaded (.pdf); read our recap of it.

Streets for Cycling Plan 2020

Download now (.pdf).

A few months late, the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 will be released today, including a Bicycle Facilities Guide designed for all Chicagoans that shows the new facility types being installed on Chicago roadways and how to use them (no matter your transportation mode).

Bike sharing

The current focus is on finalizing the contract with Alta Bicycle Share. Chicago Bicycle Program coordinator Ben Gomberg said they would finish selecting the sites for bike sharing stations in January or February. Gomberg mentioned that Alderman Pawar is using menu funds to purchase 5 stations for the 47th Ward; Bill Higgins, a transportation planner in Pawar’s office, said that the “shortening” of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) 11-Lincoln bus route (eliminating it from a 3 mile stretch between Western/Lawrence and Fullerton Avenues) was a basis for buying the stations. Alderman Moreno is also using menu funds to purchase 2 stations for the 1st Ward. DePaul University, Gomberg said, was interested in purchasing 3 stations.

No mention was made of the investigation by the Chicago Inspector General. Jane Healy, an activist from Blue Island, Illinois, and a board member for Active Transportation Alliance, asked if there was a timeline. Luann Hamilton, Deputy Commissioner of Project Development at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), replied that there wasn’t one.

The cost of purchasing an additional station (there will be 300 purchased by the City in the first year an additional 100 kiosks in the following year) is $56,000, which includes 19 docks and 15 bicycles; there’s a discount if you buy more than one. CDOT will not be charging an operating fee to those entities who purchase kiosks, a policy in place at the Washington, D.C.-centered Capital Bikeshare program.

CDOT is looking for an organization to sponsor the bike sharing program. Citibank paid $41 million for the naming rights in New York City: “Citibike”.  Continue reading Highlights from December’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting

flattr this!

Open 311 technology now implemented in Chicago with apps to help speed up reporting

Array

Are you ready to start reporting street problems using your smartphone? Install one of the apps listed below. 

The City of Chicago launched its public Open 311 application interface in October allowing residents to quickly make a report, online or with a smartphone, bypassing the lengthy process of calling. App developers are now able to build programs that interact with the City of Chicago’s 311 database, created in 1997, via the Open 311 application interface to provide a faster and richer user experience. While such a process could have been established years ago, we’re happy to have it in Chicago now.

Currently only 14 service request types are available (see list below), which were said to be among the most commonly requested services. The application interface (known to programmers as “API”) was developed in part by Code for America fellows who researched the 311 implementation here and interviewed myriad users (alderman, city employees, operators, neighbors) in February and were coding all the way up until the last week of October. The undertaking has led to a great outcome, shaking up the tedious process of asking for a city service.

Rob Brackett, one of the four Code for America fellows to work on this project in Chicago, came to a recent Hack Night event at 1871, a tech hub at the Merchandise Mart, to showcase the city’s and fellows’ progress (slideshow). Two city staffers – Kevin Hauswirth (social media director in the Mayor’s Office) and Ryan Briones (IT director at the Department of Innovation and Technology, DoIT) – attended to join the discussion with civic coders and designers about the future of 311 and the Open 311 API. We – the public, really – were invited to contribute our own code updates for the city’s Open 311 website on the social coding website called GitHub.

Array

My service request as submitted to the city’s new 311 website (it currently accepts 14 service types).  Continue reading Open 311 technology now implemented in Chicago with apps to help speed up reporting

flattr this!

Bringing a bit of Copenhagen to Chicago: two north side aldermen discuss their recent trip to the cycling mecca

Array

48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, CDOT Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly, 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar, and Active Transportation Alliance staff member Lee Crandell stand in front of a crowd of over 60 local residents to discuss a recent aldermanic trip to Copenhagen.

Earlier this year, three Chicago alderman along with two staff members from the Department of Transportation traveled to Copenhagen to learn about the city’s cycling infrastructure. Last Thursday, two of the alderman who took part in that trip – Ameya Pawar of the 47th Ward and Harry Osterman of the 48th Ward – held an event at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood to discuss their experience. They were joined by CDOT Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly, one of two CDOT staff members whom accompanied the aldermen to Copenhagen. The other was Bicycle Program Coordinator Ben Gomberg.

Scott Kubly began the presentation by discussing the history of Copenhagen’s cycling movement and describing some of the infrastructure elements that have allowed cycling to become so successful in the city. Kubly said that his biggest takeaway from the trip was that the city wasn’t always a bike utopia.

“If you go back as recently as the 1970s, it was very much a car-culture,” Kubly said. “They were building freeways. There was a time when all of this fantastic public space that we saw was dominated by parked cars. They’ve spent the last 30 to 40 years incrementally improving their infrastructure.” Continue reading Bringing a bit of Copenhagen to Chicago: two north side aldermen discuss their recent trip to the cycling mecca

flattr this!

Alderman Dowell goes to Denmark

Array

Alderman Dowell with 3rd Ward bike campers.

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

3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell wasn’t always a bicycle-friendly politician. But she says a recent visit to bike-crazy northern Europe opened her eyes to the potential benefits of cycling for her South Side constituents.

Dowell’s Near South district includes parts of Bronzeville, Kenwood, Oakland, Douglas, and the South Loop. Last February, as part of Rahm Emanuel’s plan to build one hundred miles of car-protected bike lanes within his first term, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) proposed installing protected lanes along Martin Luther King Drive in her ward. But local church leaders opposed the lanes because they feared they would impact Sunday parking and because they felt the white posts used to delineate the lanes would detract from the aesthetics of the historic boulevard, says CDOT project manager Mike Amsden. As a result, the project stalled.

Continue reading Alderman Dowell goes to Denmark

flattr this!

The Berteau Greenway moves forward without traffic diverters

Array

47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar discusses the greenway. Photo by Steven E. Gross.

When I attended a community meeting about the proposed Berteau Street “neighborhood greenway” last March, the following comment was representative of some 47th Ward residents’ panicked reaction to the idea of their street being reconfigured. “It’s going to create havoc and unnecessary confusion and problems and an inability to get in and out of our neighborhoods,” one local woman said to Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and 47th Ward staffers at the assembly. “So I’m asking you to rethink what you’re doing.”

Neighborhood greenways, known as “bike boulevards” in other cities, are residential streets where speeding and cut-through traffic are discouraged through the use of traffic calming devices and/or traffic diverters – bump-outs, cul-de-sacs and other structures which prevent cars from driving down the entire length of the street or making certain turns. Meanwhile, contraflow bicycle lanes allow bikes to travel in both directions on one-way sections, and the traffic diverters have cutouts that permit cyclists to continue unimpeded.

Continue reading The Berteau Greenway moves forward without traffic diverters

flattr this!

Will 47th Ward residents learn to love the bike boulevard?

Array

47th Ward staffer Bill Higgins

A few weeks ago I contacted Mike Amsden, lead planner for the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Streets for Cycling initiative, to ask why CDOT chose Berteau Avenue (4200 N.), from Lincoln to Clark, to be the city’s first “neighborhood greenway” (AKA bike boulevard.) One of the main reasons he mentioned is that the project lies entirely within one ward, the 47th, and there’s enthusiastic support from local alderman Ameya Pawar. Amsden also told me he’s also gotten positive feedback from folks along Berteau who want to see cut-through traffic reduced. “We’ve heard from a few nearby residents who are really excited about it,” he said. Here’s a map of the location.

Last week at a block club meeting about the proposed greenway at a Ravenswood church, I learned firsthand how important it is that the project is slated for only a short stretch of roadway (.9 miles) and has strong aldermanic backing, because it’s turning out to be more controversial than I expected. There were over 50 people in attendance and many of the attendees said they’re afraid that the project will create chaos for drivers.

Continue reading Will 47th Ward residents learn to love the bike boulevard?

flattr this!