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

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Can more be done? An update on the Kenmore Green proposal

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Kenmore Avenue. Can you spot the monk in this photo?

The Chicago Department of Transportation’s Janet Attarian recently told me about DePaul University’s proposal to create a new pedestrian plaza by closing the block of Kenmore Avenue (1030 West) south of Fullerton Avenue (2400 North). Known as the Kenmore Green, it sounded like a great plan to me, but it’s turning out to be more controversial than I thought.

Allen Mellis of the Wrightwood Neighbors Association, a local community group, has been spearheading opposition to the plaza. Mellis is concerned about the loss of 47 parking spaces associated with closing the block. Also, a traffic study conducted by the firm Kenig, Lindgren, O’Hara, Aboona Incorporated found that the closure would funnel thirty percent more southbound traffic onto Sheffield Avenue (1000 West), the nearby business street. Mellis also argues that the project would create little additional green space. He also feels that, unlike the closure of Seminary Street (1100 West), which created the campus quadrangles, a popular dog walking site for neighbors, the Kenmore Green would be used almost exclusively by students.

Continue reading Can more be done? An update on the Kenmore Green proposal

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The Maya Hirsch settlement will help save the lives of other Chicago children

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Maya Hirsch with her father, courtesy of the Stop for Maya foundation.

On Wednesday Chicago City Council approved a $3.25 million settlement with the family of Maya Hirsch, a four-year-old girl who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Lincoln Park, possibly due to poorly placed signs and faded crosswalks. Under the Emanuel administration the city has ramped up its efforts to improve pedestrian safety, but the settlement highlights the need to continue these efforts, which will help prevent similar tragedies.

On the afternoon of May 20, 2006, after visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo, Maya and her mother and older brother were crossing the intersection of Belden Avenue and Lincoln Park West to catch a cab when Michael Roth, 57, driving northbound, ran the stop sign. Roth, who had worked as a driving instructor in the early 1980s, but had his driver’s license revoked for several years after two DUI convictions, had a valid license at the time of the crash.

Continue reading The Maya Hirsch settlement will help save the lives of other Chicago children

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Ladies’ choice: why do some women prefer to walk in the street?

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I’ve noticed it’s common for young women in Chicago to walk in the middle of the street when there are sidewalks available. I always assumed that it’s a strategy to avoid getting jumped by a would-be attacker hiding behind a tree or in the bushes. This personal safety issue is one that I, as a man who does most of his walking in areas with relatively low crime rates, have the privilege of not thinking much about.

On the other hand, I often see women walking in the street in “safe” neighborhoods, in broad daylight. This was the case last Sunday when I biked past Jacqueline and Caitlin, who were strolling west on the 2100 bock of West Rice Street in Ukrainian Village around 4 pm. I hit the brakes and asked if I could interview them on the subject for this blog, and they politely humored me.

Continue reading Ladies’ choice: why do some women prefer to walk in the street?

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Halting words: Klein and Smith discuss the new “Stop for Pedestrians” signs

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CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein and 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith. Photo by Steven.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently began the process of installing hundreds of signs citywide in an effort to educate motorists about the state law requiring them to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. The signs cost $400 each, sited and installed, a relative bargain for infrastructure that will raise awareness of pedestrian safety, calm traffic and possibly save lives.

At a press conference yesterday in Lincoln Park by the Brown Line’s Diversey station, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein and 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith discussed the benefits of the signs. They also crossed Diversey several times to demonstrate the signs’ effectiveness, with drivers usually, but not always, stopping for them without being prompted. The event was particularly timely because the previous night a young girl named Monet Robinson was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the West Side. Here’s a transcript of Klein’s speech:

Continue reading Halting words: Klein and Smith discuss the new “Stop for Pedestrians” signs

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Get Lit lights up 115 bikes in its first distribution event

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Father and daughter on their custom scraper bikes, with Skim, a volunteer. 

Because of the gracious donations of Jim Freeman and 12 donors, Get Lit held its first bike light distribution event on Friday, June 8, in Lincoln Park. Ten volunteers (Calvin, Brandon, Erik, Wilbur, Skim, Adrianna, Santiago, Jim, Rebecca, and myself) distributed lights to 115 people at Diversey Avenue and Orchard Street, and Clark Street and Diversey Avenue for two hours. The recipients included food delivery guys, couples on dates (or so I guess), a father and daughter riding through the neighborhood, and countless others who didn’t know state law (and the desire to be seen) requires a front headlight.

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Calvin installs a light. 

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This recent graduate of DePaul’s law school is happy to know he now rides a bike legally at night. 

See the full photoset.

One of the Get Lit donors has been randomly chosen to receive the Monkeylectric spoke lights I advertised in May. Derek R., please email Grid Chicago to claim it (you should have received an email announcing you as the winner). Get Lit is a partnership with Active Transportation Alliance and we are now collecting donations to put on a second event in 2012: you can donate online at Active Transportation Alliance’s special Get Lit website, mail your donation to their office with “Get Lit” in the memo (address at the end), or hand it to me.

Do you have an idea of where the next Get Lit distribution event should be? Would your business or organization like to sponsor a Get Lit event in a certain area or at an already-scheduled event? Contact me.

Active Transportation Alliance
9 W Hubbard, Suite 402
Chicago, IL 60654

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