Ed. note: This post was written by guest contributor Calvin Brown. -Steven
If you were too busy to come downtown for the Streets for Cycling Open House yesterday at 23 E Madison Street, you missed a great opportunity to share your own ideas for the development and rethinking of Chicago’s precious street space.
Here’s what made the open house an important event: The city bicycle staff were at the event with open ears, and the event took place in the dead center of the Loop making it as convenient as possible for all Chicagoans to attend. Giant maps on the walls covered every section of the city and were open to revision and graffiti. The maps quickly filled up with ideas for future bikeways and changes to existing problems.
Before I arrived, someone had drawn a circle with exclamation points around the open grated bridge at Chicago Avenue and the river where my friend recently lost control of her bike and fortunately came out with only a broken bone. Sure enough, many of the problems I wanted to point out had already been marked and altered on the map. In the center of the space a rotation of Streetfilms videos highlighted the potential that has already been harnessed and manifested (in the Netherlands for example).
The event was a huge step forward in thinking about urban planning, and it was great to see so many people taking part in recreating the map. It is our city, the streets are ours, and everybody has a stake in the improvement of our transportation system. The city as an entire whole faces the great hurdle of overcoming the Status Quo and past planning mistakes, and if people are not given a voice, a part, and a reason to participate, cynicism and unhappy complacency in a miserable transit system sink in.
The event underlined the key to successful transformation in the city: Everybody. Welcome. Say what you want. Write what you want. Talk to me. Get active. Think. Imagine. Plan. Create. These were the messages at the event, and it was a wonderful first go.
If you missed it, don’t worry, the event will surely return due to its great success. I look forward to it, and I hope next time its even greater and more expansive.
Here’s what I would like to see: Better sound setup for the videos (I had to listen to them all alone on headphones). Presentations and lecture style talks: the experts were there, and everybody would love to learn from their experience and knowledge. More creative opportunity: I would love to see a space dedicated to inventing new plans, and a mini design competition would be amazing. Refreshments always are a plus. I brought my own coffee, but I forgot to bake cookies for everyone. Everybody loves snacks. More interactive surveys and data collection: it is important to know what people want, and having everyone talk and write on maps is important, but some prearranged questions from the staff would have been valuable. I also would love to see a greater focus on the city as a whole, because most cyclists would agree that there is an issue with bikeway contiguity.
For me the open house event’s interactive and inclusive themes would have been amazing at Open Streets. Nowhere else would so many people unexpectedly and enthusiastically thrust themselves into thinking about the streets anew and planning them for themselves. Open streets was an excellent first go as well, And inclusive events like these are very successful at capturing the collective ideas, energy, and support that Chicago needs to create a safe, sustainable, and pleasant transportation system that fully addresses the needs and desires of all street users.
Streetfilms that were playing
- Portland, Oregon: Portland’s Bike Boulevards Become Neighborhood Greenways
- New York City: Complete Streets: It’s About More Than Bike Lanes
- Chicago: Kinzie Street: The First of Many Protected Bike Lanes for Chicago