Chicagoans shared much information at the Streets for Cycling Plan open house on Saturday

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This post is a little different than all of our past event reviews: here we display a bunch of photos and beneath them captions from Anne Alt, who volunteered as a map docent and conversed with many visitors. At any time, you can just browse our respective photo galleries: Steven’s photos or John’s photos. Visitors added a few thousand data points on maps for nine planning districts; we’ll talk about some of them.

As Calvin explained in Monday morning’s post, the event was partly about sharing knowledge. Mike Amsden at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) explains the next steps for this project:

We were extremely excited to see the level of turnout at our first meeting.  Now we will start to go through all of this feedback and incorporate it into our existing conditions analysis.  We will be working on this analysis through January and February as we continue the initial public outreach phase of the project.  All of this feedback will be used to help us develop the eventual network.

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Visitors were immediately greeted at the entrance and invited to sign in. Greeters then explained what was available for visitors to do. This included: review and comment on large maps posted on the wall; watch slideshows and Streetfilms videos; talk to staff from the CDOT, SSE, Alta Planning, Jacobs Engineering, and Active Transportation Alliance. There was also literature to review or take home.

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Zoomed in photo of 5500 S Ashland and Sherman Park with the comment: “Upgrade this bike route with a bike lane”. Anne says: This boulevard should be a real boulevard with bike lanes.

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Zoomed in photo of the long railroad viaduct at 1400 S Damen between the Illinois Medical Center and Pilsen with the comment: “Tunnel is scary”. Anne says: This seems to be a universal theme, from the most experienced roadies to newbie riders.

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Zoomed in photo of someone’s post-it note saying, “Need a safe route to Oak  Park (I’ve heard it’s dangerous) [frowny face]” with a reply saying, “Not really, I regularly bike across the west side”. Anne says: A perpetual topic comes back around yet again. No great surprise. The “Holy Grail” search for the perfect OP route continues.

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Wide photo of the North Side planning district,with tens of comments and markings (probably at least 100). This area includes the neighborhoods of Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Rogers Park, Edgewater, Uptown, and Andersonville. Anne says:

I see a suggestion for a bike boulevard on Wellington heading west from the lakefront, as well as a note about improving Fullerton from Halsted to the lake – cool ideas. Ravenswood and Grace are also suggested as bike boulevards.

Some of the six-way intersections on Lincoln and Clark are marked as hazardous – what an understatement.

The need for an improved connection between bike lanes on Winthrop and Kenmore and points north was a recurring theme. Many folks going further NW use Granville, which is narrow and gets crazy at times. Many others continue north through the Loyola campus and use the alley east of Sheridan as a de facto bike route to reach destinations between Sheridan and the lake.

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Wide photo of one of the three Loop maps (Central Area planning district). The first two received so many comments that a third map was posted. A visitor commented on a different Loop map: “This gap [between the Millennium Park Bike Station and the Lakefront Trail] is completely ridiculous!” Anne says:

That gap IS ridiculous. The number of places within 1/2 mile of that spot where ped or bike access is cut off is beyond ridiculous. There are a lot of great opportunities here to improve lakefront and river access that would be a HUGE boost to recreational and commuter use.

Given the number of frustrations people expressed about being able to connect across the Loop to Halsted or the lakefront, the idea of having at least 2 east-west routes with protected lanes seems logical.

I had conversations with a few people who talked about wanting a safer north-south route to get in and out of the Loop, and we liked the idea of a protected lane on Dearborn all the way from Polk to North Ave. Perhaps that could work for northbound traffic and Clark could be its match for southbound traffic.

Conflict between bike and car/bus traffic around Ogilvie and Union stations was definitely a topic of interest.

I see that I’m not the only person who has issues with the Roosevelt bridge and its high speed “anything goes” traffic. [Local cycling advocate] Kathy Schubert put in her $0.02 worth about getting plates on all the grated bridges downtown. Great idea.

I couldn’t help noticing the comment about “need a safe way to go from the Loop to the lakefront trail.” I guess that person is not a fan of Monroe, which has its difficult spots – by the Palmer House, turning traffic onto Wabash, turning traffic at Michigan, then Columbus and Lake Shore Drive.

It makes me wish for the never-built riverwalk that was part of a proposed mega-development for the land between Roosevelt and the 16th St. tracks from Clark to the river. Maybe someday we can get a publicly accessible riverwalk (going all the way to Ping Tom Park) with a wide multi-use path. Then Roosevelt would be much less of a barrier in this area.

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A wide photo of the South Side planning district (including the neighborhoods of Bronzeville, Kenwood, Hyde Park, South Chicago, South Shore, and Woodlawn). Anne, who wrote the south side cycling series, says:

Protected lanes through speed-plagued Washington Park would be a great addition, continuing on Garfield to connect with the CTA green line and red line. A better connection between Hyde Park and the red line would benefit U of C students, faculty and staff as well as visitors and commuters to Hyde Park.

The hairy intersection of 71st, South Chicago and King Dr. was marked as hazardous, along with the 71st St. viaduct just to the west.

The transition from the south end of the lakefront path to South Shore drive needs improvement, especially for southbound traffic. South Shore Drive needs help for those bike lanes to be rideable again. That probably won’t happen until the street is repaved.

In Rainbow Park, path access from the streets to the beach isn’t so great. There are many potholes in the paths, and in some places gates or piles of sand block the most logical paths through the park.

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A wide photo of the Mid-Southwest Side with the comments “18th Street bridge is very scary. Also, large metal chunks stick out from viaducts” and “pothole/wheel-bender nightmare at Racine/15th and Loomis/15th”. This planning district includes Pilsen, Bridgeport, McKinley Park, Clearing, and Midway airport. Anne says: I know people in several southwest neighborhoods who would really like safer conditions so they could ride on Archer Avenue.

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Two visitors watch one of the three Streetfilms that was playing. They featured Portland, OregonNew York City and Chicago. There are plenty more photos and comments: from Steven Vance, from John Greenfield, or from Eric Rogers.

What’s next 

We are still interested in how the planners on this project will translate and collate the information that 169+ visitors (that’s the number of people who signed in) wrote on the walls. Will they digitize all of them? Will they categorize them into themes? Will they note very specific location-based problems?

Aside from that, the event was a great exercise in getting citizen cyclists talking to each other, talking to staff, and thinking about the issues that affect how they bicycle around the city.

There are five upcoming events, in addition to the handful of Community Advisory Group meetings scattered around the planning districts. Check out the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 calendar for those details.

Updated December 12, 2011, 16:10, to add the statement from Mike Amsden about next steps and move text from the second paragraph to the first and last paragraphs. 

7 thoughts on “Chicagoans shared much information at the Streets for Cycling Plan open house on Saturday”

  1. Thanks for the great coverage. That was my comment about the ridiculous gap from the east end of upper Randolph to the Lake Front Trail. It’s like a cruel joke: You ride your bike on a marked lane, past the crown jewel McDonald’s Cycle Center, toward the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan, and suddenly it’s a dead end! What!? I know that’s a huge project since it’s suspended about 30 feet above grade there, but something has to be done. 

    1. Well, several people noticed it (more than just the people who wrote this article). 

      There’s a little known effort called the Downtown to Lakefront Trail Access Study (okay, that might not be its real name). It looked at all the different ways people move between downtown (not just the Loop) and the Lakefront Trail. I think that segment was identified as a gap. 

      Others suggested a route on Lower Randolph to get there, but if you’ve ever ridden down there, it’s like being in a sci-fi dystopian movie where the lanes are dark, wide, and full of fast moving traffic. Oh, wait, that’s like a lot of roads here in Chicago. I was thinking of the highway scene in Will Smith’s Movie, I-Robot. 

    2. One idea when Lakeshore East was first being planned was to direct traffic north through LSE (around its park) to the riverwalk, and then to the lakefront from there. However, that route won’t visually make sense until the big north tower at LSE gets built — it was to arch over the road connecting the LSE park to the riverwalk.

        1. I ride this everyday to get to the Bike Station.  I think a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Upper Randolph would work, with some kind of connection down the hill to Lower Randolph and LSD.

          Also, get rid of the right turn arrow on EB Randolph to SB LSD.  That arrow seems to give cars the impression they can blow that light no matter what the signal is.  Very dangerous for bikes and peds.

  2. Guys, great continued coverage!
    I’m glad you find out about the next steps. It begs the question: What exactly is a condition analysis. Is that a description of the current state? Are the results being made public?

    I asked the same question on their facebook page, but have not gotten a response yet. Not much conversation going on there as of now…

    1. The way I understand “condition analysis” is that it’s a methodic, systematic review of the conditions of the bikeway network, including where stripes are faded. This was last done in 2008 or 2009, but as the city was not dedicating funds from the General Fund for bikeway projects back then (as it is now) nothing came of it (except perhaps some maintenance using an alderman’s menu funds).

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