View from 35th/Bronzeville/IIT station by Brandon Bartoszek
Newcity magazine recently invited me to highlight some of my favorite aspects of the local sustainable transportation scene for their Best of Chicago issue. Here’s what I selected:
Best CTA Station
This city has a number of memorable el stops, like the O’Hare Line’s Damen station, with its fascinating view of Wicker Park’s buzzing North/Damen/Milwaukee “crotch,” and the sparkling-clean, Apple-sponsored North/Clybourn stop, complete with a sleek new seating plaza. But I love the Green Line’s 35th/Bronzeville/IIT station for two reasons. Just north, trains zoom through a super-cool, 530-foot stainless steel tube above the Rem Koolhaas-designed McCormick Tribune Campus Center. And while the Sox/35th Red Line stop is a madhouse after baseball games, CTA blackbelts know you can skip the crowds by strolling two blocks east to the nearly empty Green Line station.
State Street and 35th Street
Best proof that Rahm Emanuel is not Richard M. Daley
The return of the Queen’s Landing crosswalk
The Daley administration made a number of anti-pedestrian “Dick moves” in a losing battle against auto congestion, fencing off crosswalks on Michigan Avenue, shortening walk signal times, and adding right-on-red arrows for cars. But the kicker was the 2005 removal of the stoplight and crosswalk at Queen’s Landing, where in 1959 the city rolled a red carpet across Lake Shore Drive so Queen Elizabeth II could stroll from the lakefront to Buckingham Fountain. While the removal saved motorists a minute or two of wait time, it forced walkers to take a ten-minute detour. As part of a wave of pedestrian improvements under Emanuel, the city reinstalled the crosswalk on Thanksgiving Day – definitely something to give thanks for.
500 S. Lake Shore Drive
Photo by Steven Vance
Best-smelling bike lane
There’s lots to love about the city’s first protected bike lane, on Kinzie from Desplaines to Wells, the first half-mile of 100 miles of such lanes Rahm has promised for his first term. Since lines of parked cars and flexible posts shelter cyclists from moving vehicles, protected lanes may be just the ticket to help newbies feel comfortable riding on city streets. Best of all is the location, next to the fragrant Blommer factory. “I like the Kinzie bike lane because it smells like chocolate,” says cyclist Lorena Cupcake in a recent Streetsfilms.org clip. “And it makes me feel like Charlie Bucket.”
Kinzie Street between DesPlaines Street and Wells Street
At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Kinzie protected lane
Best place to go around in circles
Bike racer, coach and luxury pet goods mogul Emanuele Bianchi may be tilting at windmills with his dream of building the $45 million Chicago Velo Campus, an indoor velodrome and multisport complex, on the desolate former U.S. Steel factory site on the blue-collar Southeast Side. But maybe not. This summer Bianchi and his colleagues opened the Lakeside Velo Works, a temporary wooden racing track and training center at 8615 S. Burley. Following a busy racing season, this winter they’re launching indoor fitness and mechanics classes for local underserved youth, and trying to raise $500,000 to enclose the existing velodrome.
8415 S. Burley
Photo courtesy of Chicago Velo Campus
Most intelligent use of dummies
The city’s pedestrian safety campaign
The 32 ghostly-white mannequins installed along Wacker Drive last October weren’t Halloween decorations. They represented the 32 pedestrians killed by cars in Chicago last year, part of Chicago’s new shock-and-awe campaign to draw attention to traffic safety. The “It’s Up To You” campaign also includes placard ads with graphic images of the tragic results of dangerous driving, such as a motorist cowering in her vehicle with a body sprawled across the shattered windshield. The city recently relocated nine of the mannequins to CTA stations and plans to install four in the State Street median between Wacker and Lake Street. “Some of it is a little hard-hitting,” says transportation chief Gabe Klein. “But we want to remind people that when you’re frustrated behind the wheel, these are real people and real lives.”
Best smelling food truck
Sorry foodies. While food trucks are a fun way to buy gourmet mac and cheese, cupcakes and naanwiches, these gas-guzzling lorries are far from a sustainable business model. Enter Bridgeport Pasty and their environmentally friendly GEM (Global Electric Motorcar) vehicle. Husband-and-wife team Carrie Clark and Jay Sebastian bake pasties (“pass-tees,” as opposed to the “pace-tees” worn by burlesque dancers), savory, football-shaped pastries that are the national dish of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Since they sell them out of the tiny, nearly emissions-free truck, customers get to enjoy the aroma of meat pies, rather than monoxide.
Photo courtesy of Bridgeport Pasty Company