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”. 


Mike Amsden, senior bikeway planner for the Chicago Bicycle Program, gave a rundown of construction and design activity in 2012 (download slideshow):

  • 27 miles of buffer and protected bike lanes (Amsden acknowledged Cook County for striping the buffered bike lane on King Drive)
  • 2 miles of other bikeways: standard bike lanes, marked shared lanes, contra-flow bike lanes and bicycle priority lanes
  • 10 miles of restriped bike lanes
  • 7 open metal grate bridges now have concrete or plates: 18th, Adams, Clark, Halsted-North Branch, Halsted-North Channel, Jackson, Van Buren. This change, along with unexpected spot improvements in road surfaces sometimes seems more significant to me than new bike lanes because they are the hazards that gnaw at my mind at the same place every single day. With those gone, my trip gets a little smoother.

Dearborn Street two-way cycle track

There’s a ribbon cutting today for the two-way protected bike lane on Dearborn Street (which goes from Kinzie Street to Polk Street) with – a first for Chicago – traffic signal for bicyclists. At the meeting, Amsden and commissioner Gabe Klein discussed future design plans for the bike lane: the City’s intention is to swap bollards for concrete and make it better looking with landscaping. Bridge plates are being manufactured now and will be installed as soon as possible. North Side MBAC community representative Michelle Stenzel* asked about poor quality pavement on Dearborn Street, near the south end. Amsden said this was being patched, which started Monday.

Stenzel also asked about coordinating traffic signals for bicyclists’ behalf (reduce the number of times they would get a red signal and preventing “motorists from being rewarded for going 40 MPH”). Not at this time was the short answer. The long answer was that there are many limitations in the traffic signal programming of downtown intersections and the short blocks make it difficult to do this. Hamilton described how this was attempted in the past for CTA buses and it didn’t work. She mentioned that the Central Loop BRT signals will give buses a queue jump, allowing the bus to go through the intersection first – a different scenario than giving traffic a “green wave”. Klein talked about upgrading signals to be networked so that programming can be transferred to the intersection on-the-fly; currently the programming has to be changed on-site; a small amount were upgraded this year (less than 20) but Klein hopes to change 70-80 signals in 2013. There was discussion about enforcement, safety, and other aspects of the project; CDOT staff made it clear that the safety and “smoothness” (my word) hinges on all road users following their signals. Signs have been put up to notify pedestrians that there is a two-way bike lane; all left-turns (to go west) for drivers are signalized.

Regarding a connection between the Kinzie Street cycle track and Dearborn Street’s new cycle track, Amsden said it would come soon, indicating there was a possibility it could actually be built this year, otherwise it would occur in 2013.

Other highlights

The last speaker was a citizen who recounted a collision he experienced while walking from his car he had just parked, across the Kinzie Street cycle track to the parking pay box. He collided with someone cycling in the bike lane and received an injury at his elbow that required some surgery. Anne Alt, president of the Chicago Cycling Club and in attendance, has offered to write an article talking more about this man’s story and the implications of a design that puts parked cars away from the curb.

Anne asked if there was a plan to prioritize south side bike routes in regards to the CTA Red Line South Track Renewal Project, “particularly south of 55th Street to help those who want to use bikes to make up for what they’re going to lose”. Amsden said “there’s a couple projects that we’re looking at”, including Vincennes Avenue as a “spoke route”. CDOT doesn’t know what facility type will be installed on Vincennes yet. The track renewal project will start in spring 2013.

An old but tireless complaint was brought to CDOT’s attention. Stenzel gave examples of construction techniques used around Chicago (by crews from many agencies and firms) that endanger cyclists. This concern has been an issue for years, is addressed in the Bike 2015 Plan, and has rules and regulations (at City and State level) that are meant to ensure the right asphalt, concrete, and metal plate styles are used. Hamilton detailed organizational changes being made: CDOT is part of a citywide “project management oversight” (PMO) group that coordinates infrastructure projects and resolves conflicts. She said to keep calling 311 when there are dangerous roadway issues.

It was brought up that there are now smartphone apps to report issues to 311, which I reported on last month. Currently there are only 14 request types available online and via apps. I’ve made a formal request to the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) to open these request types. Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) vice president Peter Skosey suggested that the council discuss this with Chicago Chief Technology Officer John Tolva.

* Michelle Stenzel is also co-chair of the Bike Walk Lincoln Park organization and a contributor to Grid Chicago.

7 thoughts on “Highlights from December’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting”

  1. I would be interested to know what the “construction techniques used around Chicago (by crews from many agencies and firms) that endanger cyclists”. As a design engineer I always like to have pedestrian and cyclists in mind, even when that’s not the focus of the project.

      1. Yes, pea gravel can be a real problem. Another example was poor placement and/or inadequate size of steel plates covering holes, leaving gaps that could trap bike wheels.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *