Grid Bits: Speed camera testing, CTA riders don’t own cars, I-90 bus lanes, driver’s license legislation


SAFETY ZONE painted on California Avenue, immediately south of North Avenue. 

There are four news stories in this edition of Grid Bits.

Speed cameras

The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications announced two weeks ago that it will be testing speed cameras from Monday, December 3 (yesterday), to Thursday, January 3.

“City officials are testing both mobile camera systems and permanent camera systems, which will be temporarily installed at:”

  • McKinley Park, at approximately 2223 W. Pershing Road
  • Warren Park, at approximately 6541 N. Western Ave
  • Dulles Elementary School, at approximately 6340 S. King Drive
  • Near North Montessori School, at approximately 1446 W. Division

The Department of Transportation will install signs that tell drivers no citations will be issued. Continue reading Grid Bits: Speed camera testing, CTA riders don’t own cars, I-90 bus lanes, driver’s license legislation

There’s a lack of cooperation in the region’s transportation authorities


A South Shore train travels between northern Indiana and downtown Chicago. It’s not a member of the Regional Transportation Authority of Illinois. Photo by Seth Anderson. 

The Regional Transportation Authority is a financial administrator and cooperative service planner at the top of the Chicagoland transit hierarchy. Or at least it’s supposed to be. But transit in Chicagoland doesn’t act regionally, and hasn’t for a long time (if ever). Here’s the evidence:

1. Suburban county board member perpetuates the myth that Metra = suburbs and CTA = Chicago

DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin is quoted in the Daily Herald about an “impasse” in how to distribute some funds amongst the RTA’s three member agencies. The CTA normally would get 99% of this particular pot, but the RTA is proposing it only gets 95%. (Note that CTA provides 82% or rides and receives 49% of region’s funding.)

“The money is collected from all the taxpayers in the region, the majority of whom reside in the suburbs. Why should we subsidize the CTA more than we already are?” he asked. “They seem to care little for their neighbors in the suburbs.”

Each transit agency operates routes and stations in and outside the Chicago city limits. Each has connecting service within and between municipalities, Chicago and not Chicago. Thousands of Chicagoans take Metra daily for work and other purposes to other points within and without Chicago. Thousands of people who don’t live in Chicago ride the CTA. It’s likely true that a majority of Metra’s weekday passengers don’t live in Chicago, though it doesn’t matter where they come from.

Typecasting transit agencies and their respective passengers based on the attributes of where they live and not the place of where they live – the place matters in order to know where service should go – inhibits the slight progression transit has been making in the region in the past decade.

RTA Chairman John Gates’s heart is in the right place when he said, “This is a regional agency, we have to reach a regional consensus.”

Continue reading There’s a lack of cooperation in the region’s transportation authorities

Getting ready for the protected bike lane “breakthrough”


The Kinzie Street protected lanes. Photo by Josh Koonce.

[This article also appears on the Green Lane Project‘s website.]

Last month dozens of transportation professionals from across the Chicago area converged on the Sears Tower to learn about protected bike lanes and other new developments in bike facility design. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the region’s official planning organization, hosted the workshop “Designing for Bicycle Safety,” led by veteran transportation engineer John LaPlante.

The Green Lane Project’s Martha Roskowski flew in from Boulder to deliver the keynote address, helping to get the audience excited about the brave new world of protected lane design. And Randy Neufeld, former head of of the Active Transportation Alliance and current director of the SRAM Cycling Fund, gave an update on efforts to build the lanes here in the Windy City.

Continue reading Getting ready for the protected bike lane “breakthrough”

Follow up: Do 10% of bike commuters really crash each year?


This is another data-intensive post. For the tl;dr version, read only the introduction and conclusion sections. Photo by Mike Travis. 

Jeremy Gaines asked on the Chicaogist reblog of our Monday article (about Chicago cyclists crashing less often than those in the suburbs):

[Since we only have data about how often people bike for work purposes and crash data accounts for people who are biking for any purpose,] wouldn’t the large majority of total miles traveled be racked up those who commute regularly on bikes?

That’s a good question and I don’t know if there’s enough existing data to answer it. It came after the Chicagoist article and discussion board made it seem like bike commuters had a greater than 10% likelihood of being in a crash, and a 1% likelihood of dying or receiving an incapacitating injury (with chances greater in the suburbs). I replied that one could not make these assumptions based on the data available.

Gaines is a student at Northwestern University in Evanston. He doesn’t bike because he lives so close to everything he needs; when I inquired about his motivation to leave the comment, he replied: “I suppose a headline about bike safety caught my eye, even if it doesn’t apply to me. Plus biking, being green and efficient urban space usage, means that I support it, even if I don’t do it.”

The reason this question is important is because in my original article, I calculated the number of crashes per bicyclist (the crash rate) based on two different data sets, and the likelihood of being in a crash is most likely not 10%:

  • The crash data set doesn’t care about the crashed bicyclist’s trip purpose
  • The ridership data set cares only about trips to work

Let’s see if there’s more data we can work with to gauge bicyclist safety in the city.

Continue reading Follow up: Do 10% of bike commuters really crash each year?

Cyclists in Chicago crash less often than those in the suburbs


This post is third in a series on crash data sponsored by Jim Freeman, a Chicago lawyer specializing in pedestrian and bicycle crashes. Read the other posts in this series

I recently came across an undated and unattributed article on an injury lawyer’s website about bike crashes. The website is designed to capture as many keyword searches about bike accidents and injuries as possible, and likely shares some its content with other injury lawyer websites around the country.

The article is titled Is bicycling in Chicago more dangerous than in surrounding Illinois counties?. Its URL gave away the publishing date as June 2012. I read the article and I decided to verify one of the claims made there:

Looking at 2010 data collected from all counties vs. Chicago, Illinois collar county bike riders were actually more likely than riders in Chicago to be involved in either fatal or incapacitating bike accident!

It’s true. At least based on the data that is collected.

Here’s some background on the kind of data that is collected: Every 10 years, the Census Bureau conducts the decennial census and asks the entire population in the United States to list the transportation mode they typically used  to get to work in the previous week for the longest distance. Every year (starting in 2005), the Census Bureau asks the same question but for a smaller portion of the population in the American Community Survey (ACS). The intention of ACS is to replace the decennial census to give researchers the same quality and breadth of data every 5 years instead of 10.

Aside from the shortcomings in the data based on that question (typical mode to work for the longest distance), it doesn’t count what modes people use to get everywhere else. The Travel Tracker Survey tells us that households in Cook County make an average of 9.1 trips per day (and the average household in Cook County has 2.6 people) – that’s 3.5 trips per day, and not all of them are to and from work.

Data that could better show the likelihood of getting into a crash is “bicycle miles traveled”. This measurement would ignore trip purpose and destination and simply tell how often people are cycling in the streets, exposed to the possibility of being involved in a crash with an automobile. Another useful measurement would be “ridership”, that is, how many people are cycling each day for any trip purpose. We’ve discussed how Chicago currently counts people riding bikes.

Without those data, though, planners rely on commuting data as a proxy for the number of people outside on a bike each day (well, each weekday). Below is verification of the claim that people outside Chicago and outside Cook County have a higher probability of being in a crash.

For every 1,000 people counted by the ACS who commuted to work by bicycle, the following number of people were involved in a crash in 2010 in which they received an incapacitating injury or died:

  • Chicago: 10.68 people
  • Cook County, including Chicago: 11.92
  • Cook County, excluding Chicago: 15.27
  • Collar counties*: 21.10

The same trend is present when looking at receiving any kind of injury from a bicycle crash with an automobile: those in Chicago are less likely to experience an injury than those in surrounding counties.

For every 1,000 people counted by the ACS who commuted to work by bicycle, the following number of people were involved in a crash in 2010 in which they received an injury:

  • Chicago: 109.96 people
  • Cook County, including Chicago: 116.12
  • Cook County, excluding Chicago: 132.73
  • Collar counties: 126.38

Download the spreadsheet I created to calculate these figures (.xls).

The spreadsheet contains other data, including density, average number of vehicles available per household (as you might guess, Chicago has the lowest number of vehicles available per household), mode share of bike commuting, and population. The low likelihood of crashing while bicycling in Chicago appears to be correlated with the city’s higher mode share of bike commuting, but also seems related to its population density and the lower number of vehicles available per household. There is safety in numbers.

* The collar counties are DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. These are the counties in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) research area.

N.B. All data here are estimates from a sample of the population and are subject to error margins. All demographic data is collected in the 2008-2010 3-year American Community Survey, and downloaded from either CMAP’s website (transportation modes, household size, vehicle availability), or the American FactFinder. Crash data is only from 2010, from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Photo shows people cycling in Blue Island, Illinois, adjacent to the southern border of Chicago. Photo contributed to our Flickr group by Jane Healy.

Bike sharing delays, bike lane designs, and other highlights from Wednesday’s MBAC meeting


CDOT staffer Mike Amsden describes the city’s commitment to bicycling in a presentation about the progress of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. 

Yesterday’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC) meeting was the first in a new format we reported on back in December. There was a meeting in March, but its schedule wasn’t announced. The new format resembles the original format in 1992, when Mayor Daley started MBAC, with formally defined membership. It’s now modeled on the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council, according to Luann Hamilton, deputy commissioner of project development at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). She expounded:

We’ve added so many issues. When we started, biking in Chicago wasn’t a health issue, it was a recreation issue. Once it was linked to health, it brought in a whole new group of people that needed to be connected. Bring more voices, more diversity. Modeled after our MPAC which was formed in 2006 (also has technical and stakeholders committees). Some represent agencies, others are advocates, community members, all who want to make streets safer and usable by all travelers.

The council can be active again, vote, carry motion, write a letter. I think we were instrumental in creating changes, like at CTA and Metra [getting them to allow bicycles on buses and trains]. I think this Council can have a powerful voice. All the folks who have come over the years can still come and make presentations.

The first hour is for members to speak and present. The remaining half hour is for public comments and discussion. Hamilton answered affirmatively to Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke’s question about whether or not she anticipates the council being able to make recommendations. Continue reading Bike sharing delays, bike lane designs, and other highlights from Wednesday’s MBAC meeting