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


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

See you there? Dearborn Street cycle track opens Friday


The barriers are coming down. Photo by Shaun Jacobsen.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will officially open the protected bike lanes on Dearborn Street on Friday afternoon, Chicago’s first two-way bike route with dedicated bicycle traffic signals.

CDOT will also formally release the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which calls for a 645-mile network of bike lanes to be in place by 2020 to provide a bicycle accommodation within half-mile of every Chicagoan. The plan sets forth a strategy to achieve Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of making Chicago the best big city for bicycling in America.

Please join us for the grand opening of the Dearborn Protected Bike Lane and the release of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020! A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday 12/14.

When: Friday, December 14 at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Park/Plaza located at approx. 700 S. Dearborn (just north of Polk)

We look forward to celebrating Chicago’s first two-way protected bike lane with our vibrant cycling community!

Thanks for all of your support,

CDOT Bike Program

Note: Information combined from a press release and an email to the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council mailing list. 

Wells Street gets better with time: new signs appear


At the June 13, 2012, Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, we asked Mike Amsden if the Wells Street “enhanced” marked shared lane would be accompanied with signs that say “bikes may use full lane”. He said “no”.

Things changed, as photo contributor Adam Herstein noticed this morning. He says this sign is posted at each intersection (from Wacker Drive to Van Buren Street, we presume, which is the length of the “enhanced” marked shared lane).

A larger version of this sign exists, but the unique situation of the ‘L’ track colums might prevent objects from exceeding the column width, unless they were higher up to avoid being smashed by trucks.


Highlights from this week’s Mayor’s Bike Advisory Council meeting


CDOT staff front row, l-r: Share the Road Coordinator Carlin Thomas, Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton, Bike Coordinator Ben Gomberg, Commissioner Gabe Klein.

Wednesday Steven and I attended the quarterly Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting at City Hall, a great opportunity for citizens to get updates on Chicago’s bike projects and network with planners and advocates. Currently the meetings are geared towards “stakeholders,” staff from various city departments, the park district, CTA, the Active Transportation Alliance and other nonprofits, but the general public is welcome to attend and ask questions at the end of the meeting. To get on the mailing list for MBAC meeting announcements contact Carlin Thomas at carlin.thomas[at]activetrans.org, or sign up on this webpage. Here are a few news items from the meeting.

Bike Share

Although the bike sharing program failed to launch this year, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) bike coordinator Ben Gomberg said things are on track for a spring 2013 debut. The project was awarded a total of $22 million in federal funding, which will pay for a system with 4,000 bikes and 400 rental kiosks (in two implementation phases). Gomberg said the current challenge is to find the required twenty percent local match of $5.5 million. CDOT has secured enough funding from Tax Increment Financing dollars and aldermanic menu money to cover the local match for the first year of operations. Gomberg joked that if anyone at meeting had a friend with a few extra million to donate, the city would gladly name the bike share system after the benefactor.


Bike share in Berlin.

Asked exactly when the system will launch next year, CDOT commissioner Gabe Klein said, “As soon as possible, as soon as the sun is shining and it’s 55, 60 degrees.” Gomberg added, “Let’s just say there’s an optimist and a pessimist in this room.” A potential speed bump is that Bike Chicago (a Grid Chicago sponsor) is contesting the contract, claiming that Alta Bike Share was given an unfair advantage in the bidding process. The case is currently under investigation by the city’s Office of Inspector General.

In October the city will hold three public meetings across the city to introduce the program and ask for suggestions for the kiosk locations. Initially the boundaries of the service area will be Montrose Avenue, Damen Avenue, 43rd Street and Lake Michigan; in time the borders will expand, and hopefully most of the city will someday get bike share. CDOT has already identified about 150 locations for kiosks, mostly at CTA and Metra stations, but the city will also be creating a “crowdsourcing” website to solicit suggestions for locations, Gomberg said. When New York City did this they received over 8,000 recommendations.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

The CTA’s Chris Ziemann and Joe Iaccobucci gave an update on local efforts to create bus-priority corridors, including the impact on cycling. They compared the project to their agency’s work to eliminate slow zones on the ‘L’, suggesting that BRT routes on wide streets with high bus ridership will function like efficient rail lines. Construction of new bus facilities along Jeffrey Boulevard started last month and operations may start by the end of the year. Ziemann and Iaccobucci acknowledged that Jeffrey will “by no means” be true BRT, since its bus-only lanes will only exist on a portion of the route and only during rush hours. But they said the dedicated lanes plus other firsts like bus-priority traffic signals and a queue jump, will pave the way for more ambitious BRT projects.


CTA rendering of a potential BRT lane configuration on Ashland.

The CTA is currently studying 21-mile corridors on Western and Ashland Avenues as potential locations for more robust bus-priority routes. And the agency plans to complete design work for the Central Loop BRT from Union Station to Navy Pier by 2013, with construction happening in 2014. The project would include dedicated bus lanes, a new off-street bus terminal near the railroad station, level bus loading platforms, and protected bike lanes on Washington and Randolph streets.

Download the CTA’s BRT slideshow.

Protected bike lane maintenance

CDOT bikeways project manager Mike Amsden said the department is aware that removal of debris and snow from protected lanes will be a growing issue as the network expands. He showed a slide of broken glass in the new lanes on Elston Avenue. “We are working our tails off to figure out how to do this the best we can,” he said. Amsden added the city is looking into the possibility of purchasing a compact street cleaner especially for use on the bike lanes. Some of the amusingly named models they’re considering include the Madvac CN100, the Green Machine, the Elgin Broom Badger and the Nitehawk 200 Osprey, which sounds like a vehicle David Hasselhoff might drive. The city is also considering applying – no joke – a mixture of salt and beet juice to the protected lanes prior to snowfall to prevent accumulation. I assume this technique was pioneered in Denmark, where they eat beets with everything.


The Nitehawk 200 Osprey: a lone crusader in a dangerous world of bike lane debris.

Bike Parking

Chris Gagnon, my successor as the city’s bike parking manager, is moving on after five years in the position and almost a decade at the bike program. Gagnon’s productive tour of duty saw the installation of some 3,000 bike racks and the city’s first on-street parking corrals. He reported that new corrals recently debuted in Andersonville next to the existing “People Spot” parklet, 5228 N. Clark Street, and in front of the Hopleaf bar, 5148 N. Clark. There will be a “Party in the People Spot” celebration of the new green space and racks this Friday from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the parklet. Gagnon added that the city’s first year-round on-street parking corral is coming to Café Jumping Bean in Pilsen at 1439 W. 18th Street.

One community member asked if CDOT could create a document or brochure that he could give to businesses that are interested in installing a bike rack they purchase. Commissioner Klein mentioned how in Washington, D.C., there was a program called Bike Brand Your Biz and said that the department will have a guide done by December on how a developer can get a bike rack.


New on-street bike corral by the Andersonville People Spot. Photo courtesy of the Andersonville Development Corporation.

Aldermanic Bike Camps

Charlie Short, manager of Chicago’s Bicycling Ambassador program, reported on the four bike-safety camps inspired by visits by aldermen Ameya Pawar (47th), Pat Dowell (3rd), Harry Osterman (48th) and Danny Solis (25th) to bike-friendly European countries. Bikes Belong, a national advocacy group, donated Schwinn BMX bikes to the eighty campers. “My hands were like claws for days after building those eighty bikes on the Friday before the camps started,” Short joked. Many of the campers had never spent much time out of their own neighborhoods but after receiving training in proper riding and maintenance techniques, they took pedal-powered field trips to destinations like major parks and a tour of Wrigley Field. “Now the kids are like, ‘Wow, bikes are freedom, they’re transportation,” said Klein. “We want to have maybe 500 kids in the program next year.”


Pat Dowell and 3rd Ward bike campers.

MBAC community representatives

Gresham resident Demond Drummer, Mike Tomas from Garfield Park and Lincoln Park resident Michelle Stenzel are serving as stakeholder representatives for the South, West and North sides of the city, respectively. They said there’s a need for more outreach to educate the public about what the new protected and buffered bike lanes are and how to use them. “I live off of Halsted and 79th,” Drummer said. “When I woke up one morning and there was a new buffered lane on Halsted, I knew what it was. But other people see it as, ‘Oh, I’ve got a narrower lane to drive in, with a lot of paint on the side.”


Front row: Drummer, Stenzel and Tomas.

Klein said the city will be using a number of strategies to get the word out about the incoming bike network. The Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan for 645 miles of bikeways is currently under review and which should be officially released next month. CDOT also has about $1 million set aside to create a “transportation demand management” (TDM) program this spring, which will help Chicagoans in up to three different communities find alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle trips, including cycling, possibly launching in the spring. In addition, the agency is creating a new website and blog to promote sustainable transportation options, similar to Washington, D.C.’s colorful goDCgo.com. “By December we’ll have something nice to present to you,” Klein promised.

Updated September 20 to add information about bike parking for businesses and the CTA’s BRT slideshow. 

MBAC terms of reference and list of official council members

The following text is from a handout delivered to attendees at the June 2012 MBAC meeting

I. Objectives

The Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council shall assist the city in all maters related to bicyclists. Objectives of the Council include but are not limited to:

  1. Promoting policies and practices that will advance bicycling as a desirable and viable form of transortation and recreation.
  2. Working for improved bicycling safety and access to public transit, schools, workplaces, shops, libraries, parks, including roads, and other public spaces.
  3. Providing guidance in the formulations of Chicago’s Bike 2015 Plan and asisting the city departments in implementation.
  4. Ensuring that a review process is in place so that bicycling accommodation is inlucided in all projects and at all stages of design. Providing comments and recommendations on major city-side projects or projects with policy significance.
  5. Providing a forum for input and participation on bicycling issues in Chicago.
  6. Promoting safe and responsible practices to bicyclists and other road users.
  7. Serving as an advisory, resource, and information support body on all bicycling-related matters.

Continue reading MBAC terms of reference and list of official council members

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