Brasília, the capital of Brasil, is one of the cities featured in “Urbanized”. Photo by Bruno Coutinho. 

“Urbanized” is a film about cities, places where a majority of the world’s population lives today. “Urbanized looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design, featuring some of the world’s foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers”.

It first showed once in October at the Music Box Theater, with a discussion afterwards with director Gary Hustwit. He also created the films “Helvetica” and “Objectified“. The film has now opened at the Gene Siskel Film Center at 164 N State St. There are four remaining screenings (listed at the end of this post with the trailer).

I asked some friends for their reviews of the film.

Aaron Renn, urban analyst, author of The Urbanophile:

In Urbanized…Hustwit fails to lock in on anything as an anchor, spinning us around through various places, ideas, and bits and pieces of information, and leaving us to try to sort out for ourselves what it all means. The film, however, does not equip either the urbanist or the average viewer with any tools to do that. Read the full review.

Luke H, urban planner and fellow graduate of UIC’s urban planning college: 

Despite the fact that the film’s focus was entirely on cities and largely on the topic of city planning and design, urban planners played a shockingly minor role. This is either a failure on the part of the film maker or a wakeup call that urban planners have become largely irrelevant. I suspect the latter. It’s time we as planners broke free of our conventional, policy obsessed, design averted shackles and started inventing bold solutions to the very serious problem cities today face.

Let’s be honest: the only film urban planners are going to star in anytime soon will be titled Bureaucratized – and it will be about a profession that became so afraid of repeating past mistakes that it simply removed itself from the dialogue and left a vacuum to be filled by egomaniac architects and the cash-lined pockets of bad developers. This film is beautiful, relevant, and well researched. A must see for anyone interested in cities and the future of the human race–even if your profession is planning. Check your rubber stamp at the door.

Lindsay Banks, bicycling enthusiast & parking nerd:

I thought it was beautifully pieced together, much like his other films, on a topic that I’m very familiar with. While I didn’t learn a lot of new things, I really enjoyed the comments from the couple behind us, awed by Bogota’s TransMilenio (“Whoa, now that’s a bus!”) and their occasional “wows” over different statistics and new approaches to creating livable places. It seemed like the film may have opened their eyes to what livability could be.

The best part of the film was the mayor of Bogota talking about putting people before cars and how there is no constitutional right to a parking space. He rode a bike down an awesome, paved cycling / pedestrian path and pointed out the pothole-filled dirt road next to it. He said that when they have more money they will pave the road, but for now, people come first.

Lynn Stevens, urban planner and Peopling Places author

I’m not sure if I’m qualified to judge Urbanized in lay terms. I found it entertaining and visually expressive. It touched on issues of urban design, alternative transportation, the urgent need for housing solutions in some cities, and by extension issues of equity. Roger Ebert got more out of the film than I can even recall having seen it a couple of weeks ago, but I think that has more to do with my day-to-day existence as an urban planner who is reading about these and more urban issues all the time. The experience of the film for someone less engrossed and engaged in urban issues is bound to be different than mine for whom the content was basic.

Some time ago, I also saw Gary Hustwit’s film Helvetica. While I don’t remember particulars, I was intrigued by some of the design concepts and processes. What is germane is that for someone like me that does not live and breathe graphic design, it was interesting and intriguing, it got me thinking and was accessible in its presentation via documentary and venue of presentation on PBS.

Early viewings of Urbanized are likely to have been preaching to the choir, a self-selected group of urbanists. The film ultimately can best be measured by two questions for the lay viewer:

  • Did you learn anything from it? (and I think you will)
  • Did it stimulate your interest in urban issues? (and I think it will, but I may be biased)


Q & A after an Urbanized screening in Philadelphia with director Gary Hustwit, left. Photo by Tom Ipri. 

Screenings in Chicago

Mon, Nov 7th at 6:15 PM
Tue, Nov 8th at 6:15 PM
Thu, Nov 10th at 6:15 PM
Thu, Nov 10th at 8:15 PM

Tickets are $13. If you want to buy tickets online, you must use the poor shopping experience presented by Ticketmaster. Members of Chicago Architecture Foundation, Landmark Illinois, or the American Planning Association get a $6 discount to the Monday and Tuesday screenings if they present their membership card.



Latent demand for CTA to be on Twitter, and CTA’s other tools


The Chicago Transit Authority tweeted for the first time yesterday morning at 10:59 AM. They said, “This is an official announcement from CTA: Hello”. They had 1 follower at the time of the tweet (it was me). 25 minutes later they had 49 new followers.

7 hours and 31 minutes later (I checked at random times), they had 1,338 followers. That’s fast.

36 hours later, they have 1,928 followers.

They also launched a page on Facebook and an updates service delivered via email or SMS (text messaging). We’re glad CTA is now on social media (it took awhile). But these are just a few tools out of many that the CTA has for its customers to get information. Let me list them all for you:

Read my story about the state of Chicago transit trackers. Also, you can follow Grid Chicago on Facebook and Twitter, or via email updates.

Community plans for life in Chicago and the region


Chicago and Chicagoland communities have officially adopted plans to provide more transportation opportunities, reduce obesity, and increase access to open space; they list how bicycling is or can be a strategy to achieve a healthy city, a bike-friendly city, and a green city. Here’s a sampling of those agendas:

I’d like there to be a Chicago-wide comprehensive plan that addresses goals and strategies outside the scope of these plans but still includes these efforts. A plan that concentrates on transit, congestion, on crime and safety, housing, education and the economy. Its purpose would be the same as the other plans, to outline targets and intentions and measures of achievement, but also to ensure that no plan and the people implementing the plan were working at cross-purposes. For example, if there’s a plan to increase the number of people who bike and the number of people who take transit, are the implementers of each plan working together to ensure a citizen’s smooth transition from one mode to the other in a single trip? Another example: If a goal is to increase the number of people who take transit, are implementers making buses run more on time by reducing single occupancy vehicle congestion and giving buses priorities at signals, two strategies that would speed up bus movement and make it easier to create a schedule they could stick to?

A plan like this that comes to mind is PlaNYC. From the article on Wikipedia about PlaNYC:

PlaNYC is an effort released by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007 to prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen the economy, combat climate change, and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers. The Plan brought together over 25 City agencies to work toward the vision of a greener, greater New York. PlaNYC specifically targets ten areas of interest: Housing and Neighborhoods; Parks and Public Spaces; Brownfields; Waterways; Water Supply; Transportation; Energy; Air Quality; Solid Waste; Climate Change.

Updated 21:36 to add more plans, thanks to the commenters. 

New Open Streets on State Street video

A different perspective than the one I created from the front of Brandon’s Bullitt, but more interesting and diverse. Check out the video captured by videographer Nick Kazinsky, hired by Active Transportation Alliance to showcase the event.


It may just convince your friends to help you advocate for another one next year, and perhaps expanding it to other neighborhoods. Read our coverage on Open Streets.

CDOT launches pedestrian safety campaign


Photo of attention-grabbing mannequins on Wacker Drive represent the 32 people in 2010 who, while walking, were killed by drivers and automobiles in Chicago. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz.

Grid Chicago reader Kevin Zolkiewicz has written about the City of Chicago’s campaign to reduce pedestrian fatalities to zero by 2020.

Among the most visible of the initiatives are 32 mannequins that have been installed along Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Michigan Avenue. Each mannequin represents a pedestrian killed in Chicago last year. Klein hopes that the mannequins, combined with other campaign ads that will be plastered on buses, street furniture, and trash bins throughout the city, will encourage drivers to stay alert for pedestrians.

CDOT’s pedestrian safety campaign will involve 15 different initiatives — ranging from awareness campaigns to enforcement — that the agency hopes will change driver behavior and make the city a safer place for pedestrians. Read the full article.

Grid Chicago’s John Greenfield also attended the press conference this morning at 10 AM at Wacker and Wabash and will be writing about it for tomorrow’s feature.

By my count, using data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 3,064 reported crashes in which at least one person labeled a “pedestrian” was involved. There were several crashes where more than one pedestrian was involved, but I selected unique case numbers from the dataset. I was able to agree that there were 32 pedestrian fatalities in 2010. No crash had more than one pedestrian fatality.

There were no pedestrian fatalities in crashes where the “cause code” was “distracted by phone or electronic communication device” or “distracted by other electronic device (including DVD and GPS)”. Only 8 crashes had one of those cause codes.

According to the Chicago Department of Transportation on Twitter, the mannequins will be visiting other neighborhoods

Events for October to December 2011

We will update this page as we know more. Last updated 12-09-11.

December 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011 (two events)

(1) Join the Metropolitan Planning Council for Better Commutes, Less Congestion: Employers Unlock the Region’s Gridlock, a roundtable discussion on how Commute Options are making a difference in solving the Chicago area’s commute challenges. Panelists will include participating employers describing their experiences with the pilot, and policymakers speaking about the regional benefits of the Commute Options program (including CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein). Cost is $15 for current MPC donors, and $30 for all others.

12  to 1:30 PM
Metropolitan Planning Council
140 S Dearborn Street, Suite 1400
Chicago, IL 60603

(2) A public meeting to discuss the design of a new park at Milwaukee and Leavitt Avenues. This new park has been identified as a future access point for the Bloomingdale Trail. Sponsored by Trust for Public Land, Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, Alderman Scott Waguespack (32), and the Chicago Park District.

6:30 PM
Holstein Park Auditorium
2200 N Oakley Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 (two events)

(1) Alderman Solis will discuss his recent fact-finding mission to one of the most bicycle-friendly countries in the world – the Netherlands – and share with us some of his observations that could be applied to Chicago’s bikeway network.

6 to 7:30 PM
960 W 18th Street
Chicago, IL 60608

(2) Get the first glimpse of how the planned multi-million-dollar overhaul of Daley Bicentennial Plaza is taking shape. Read more about this project at the Chicago Sun-Times.

6 to 8 PM
Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, Gold Room
200 N Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL 60601

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chicago bike writers Greg Borzo and John Greenfield celebrate the release of On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life, an anthology by Amy Walker, with a free book release party. Borzo and Greenfield will read their chapters on bicycle sharing systems and West Town Bikes, respectively. Afterwards they’ll sign copies while attendees mingle and enjoy soul-jazz piano by Seth Hitsky and a raffle for copies of the authors’ other books, plus other great bike-related prizes. The party doubles as a meet-up for the Active Transportation Alliance.

8-10 PM
Cole’s Tavern
2338 N Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

Friday, December 9, 2011

On Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 6:30 AM, participants will ride from Amling’s Cycle (8140 N Milwaukee) to Mystic Celt (3443 N Southport) to meet a waiting truck from the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign. We’ll then enjoy a hot breakfast courtesy of Mystic Celt.

6:30 AM
Amling’s Cycle
8140 N Milwaukee
Niles, IL 60714

Saturday, December 10, 2011 (two events)

(1) The first meeting of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 has been scheduled: it’s an open house that will have mapping activities, educational information about innovative bicycle facilities, and an opportunity to discuss biking in your neighborhood with CDOT staff.

10 AM to 4 PM
23 E Madison Street
Chicago, IL 60602

(2) Chrome Chicago shop will be hosting their last (free) Holiday Photo Booth session this Saturday! Everyone is welcome to come in with friends, or whatever variation of, to have their holiday photos taken on the set of Strange Brew’s “Great White North,” complete with snow, defunct Christmas tree and tons of holiday props (for the nice and naughty in us all). Chrome will provide drinks to those 21+.

2 to 5 PM
1529 N Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 (three events)

(1) There is a zoning hearing at City Hall about Alderman Colón’s proposed ordinance, to strip “Pedestrian Street” designations from two segments of Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square. Here’s the proposed ordinance and the hearing notice. What’s a “pedestrian street” designation? We’re still figuring that out. The Municipal Code has some insight.

10 AM
City Hall, 2nd floor council chambers
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago, Illinois 60602

(2) A Bloomingdale Trail community meeting to learn about and discuss the progress of the framework plan for a park and trail on an elevated former train track.

6-8 PM
Saint Mary of the Angels School Auditorium
1810 N Hermitage Avenue
Chicago, Illinois  60622

(3) A meeting hosted by the Illinois Department of Transportation regarding the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Grand Crossing Rail Project. The purpose of the Grand Crossing Rail Project is to improve freight and passenger rail efficiency on Chicago’s South Side and enhance Amtrak’s on-time performance. An open house will be held between 4 PM and 6 PM where you can view an audio-visual presentation and project exhibits. The project team will also be available to discuss the project and answer questions. A formal session with questions and answers will then be held from 6 PM to 7:30 PM. (EveryBlock postingofficial project website)

4 to 6 PM open house, 6 to 7:30 PM meeting with Q&A
Sherwood Park
5701 S Shields Avenue
Chicago, IL 60621

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 (two events)

(1) The final 2011 Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council of 2011. Read recaps of past MBAC meetings.

3 to 4:30 PM
City Hall, Room 1103
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60602

(2) Join project consultants Active Transportation Alliance and Sam Schwartz Engineering for a presentation and discussion about making the 35th Ward a safer and easier place to walk and bike.

6 PM
Armitage Baptist Church
2451 N Kedzie Avenue
Chicago, IL  60647

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Chicago Department of Transportation and Amtrak will host a public meeting from at Union Station to discuss possible improvements suggested by the Chicago Union Station Master Plan study. The meeting will be an open house, with experts and visuals explaining ideas to increase capacity for more trains, people, and traffic on nearby streets.  A narrated presentation will be made at 4:30 PM and again at 6 PM, allowing commuters to attend before boarding trains home.

4 to 7 PM
Union Station, Union Gallery (southwest corner)
210 S Canal Street
Chicago, IL 60606

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A fundraiser for West Town Bikes after the Afterglow Cyclocross race brought to you by Cuttin Crew and Robots <3. The first race category starts at 10 AM in Humboldt Park field house. Register online now.

2 PM
Division Street Bar and Grill
2525 W Division Stret
Chicago, IL 60622


A bus on I-35W in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The bus driver is allowed to drive on the shoulder under certain traffic jam conditions. This will start in Chicago on November 14, on the Stevenson Expressway with Pace bus routes 755 and 855 from Plainfield, Illinois, to downtown Chicago. Photo by Aaron Brown.

October 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pace Bus will hold a town hall meeting “to discuss the issue of buses that will be driving on the shoulder of Interstate Highway 55 [Stevenson] beginning November 14, 2011” (Chicago Tribune). See this video for how that will work. Pace warns drivers to not follow the bus(it’s illegal for private vehicles to be driven on the shoulder except under certain circumstances). More details on TribLocal Plainfield.

4:30 AM to 7 PM
Bolingbrook Village Hall
375 W Briarcliff Road
Bolingbrook, IL

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will hold 5 public meetings regarding the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail corridor. This EIS deals with double tracking the Union Pacific railroad south of Joliet and making other improvements north of Joliet to reduce transit times.  The goal for this project is a four hour trip time, with 9 daily round-trips. The nearest meeting to Chicago is in Joliet. See the other 4 events on the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association website.

Jacob Henry Mansion
Victorian Ballroom
15 S. Richards St
Joliet, IL

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Chicago City Council will hold a hearing about the Department of Transportation 2012 budget.

9 AM onward
City Hall
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL

Thursday, October 27, 2011

IDOT will hold an open house and formal public meeting about the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project. It’s a project to improve rail and road congestion in a large area around 75th and Western and between Halsted and the Dan Ryan. Details are on the project website.

4 PM to 7:30 PM
Freedom Temple Church of God in Christ
1459 W 74th Street
Chicago, IL

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Chainlink, a forum for bicycling in Chicago, hosts a Halloween party. The party is sponsored by Half Acre Beer Company and features many raffle prizes from local businesses. Details on The Chainlink.

8 PM to 12:00 AM
Galway Arms
2442 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL

Monday, October 31, 2011

Two transportation committees will meet: Transportation and Public Way (12 PM) and Pedestrian and Traffic Safety (1 PM). The PTS committee meeting will likely discuss the recent trip to Amsterdam and other cities in the Netherlands taken by Alderman Solis and city staff sponsored by Bikes Belong.

12 PM, 1 PM
City Hall
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL

November 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council

3 PM
City Hall
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bicycle Film Festival. There’s also a pre-BFF bike ride and post-BFF Goldsprints party.

Logan Square Auditorium
2539 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Saturday, November 5, 2011 (two events)

Bicycle Film Festival. There’s an after party TBA.

Logan Square Auditorium
2539 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

We Role Cycle Works presents “Cycle More” classes, 12 PM to 2 PM

Growing Power Farm
3333 S Iron Street
Chicago, IL

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bicycle Film Festival

Logan Square Skatepark
2430 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647

Monday, November 7, 2011

Active Transportation Alliance holds their annual member meeting to give an overview of accomplishments and reveal the 2012 legislative agenda.

5:45 PM to 8 PM
American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Green Opportunities Hack Salon. Apps for Metro Chicago will host “Go Green Hack Salon” at the Green Exchange-Greenhouse Loft (2545 W. Diversey Avenue) from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The event will include experts discussing green ideas and sustainability concerns, group collaboration and app building. To attend, register on-line.

Monday, November 14, 2011

High Speed Rail Symposium. On November 14, Northwestern University will host the 2011 Lipinski Symposium “High Speed Rail: Perspectives and Prospects,” from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

8:15 AM to 5:30 PM
Allen Center
2169 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208