[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings. Although we’re running this on Grid Chicago a bit late for some of the winter holidays, we hope you’ll enjoy reading about some of the great products coming out of Chicago nowadays and consider them for future purchases.]
A true Chicago sustainable transportation blackbelt is never late, unless it’s the CTA’s fault. But if you’re running a little behind in your winter gift shopping, here are a few last-minute ideas for the walking, biking and transit enthusiasts in your life. Most of these nifty items are locally made and available at independent stores, which means a minimum of gasoline was burned getting the products to market, and by purchasing them you’ll be supporting the local economy. Plus, these presents will encourage your friends’ and family members’ healthy commuting habits. You can’t get much more politically correct than that.
Our city’s over-dependence on automobiles really makes you appreciate those rare spots where you can take a break from the sight, sound and smell of car traffic. Give the gift of tranquility with Peaceful Places Chicago by local journalist Anne Ford. Her book features over one-hundred serene locations, most of them accessible by transit, with many destinations for relaxing, strolling and biking. Some of my favorites include the Indiana Dunes, Bridgeport’s Stearns Quarry Park, The Magic Hedge bird sanctuary at Montrose Harbor, Rosehill Cemetery and the Osaka Japanese Garden in Jackson Park. $14.95 at Women and Children First, 5233 North Clark.
Continue reading Holiday Express: A Chicago sustainable transportation gift guide
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Google Streetview of the crash site, 26th and East in Berwyn, from the driver’s perspective.
Click here to donate to a fund that will help cover Justin’s medical expenses.
Steven and I don’t normally devote full posts to non-fatal bicycle crashes, but the case of Justin Carver, a friend of a friend of mine, really hit home with me and has also struck a chord with the local bike community. Because of a careless move by a driver, Justin is currently in the intensive care unit, fighting for his life with a traumatic brain injury and several broken bones.
According to Justin’s wife Kim MacGregor Carver, Justin bicycled from their home in Oak Park to his job at the Stickney-Forest View Public Library several times a week. On Monday, December 3, around 5:15 pm, he was riding north on East Avenue in Berwyn, a residential street. When he came to the intersection of 26th Street, the driver of a southbound Chevrolet Suburban SUV made a left turn onto 26th and failed to yield to the cyclist, striking the left side of his body.
Justin, who was wearing a helmet, sustained severe head injuries. Although there were no skull fractures, there was trauma to the front of his brain and bleeding on the brain, and he received lacerations to his forehead. He also suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibia, a broken clavicle and scapula on his left side, and a broken finger in his left hand. “I have to imagine the helmet lessened the impact,” Kim told me on the phone yesterday afternoon, speaking from Justin’s hospital room. “I believe that if he didn’t have his helmet on it could have been over instantly.”
Continue reading An update on cyclist Justin Carver, critically injured by a left-turning driver
ClearStreets’s new look.
Last January I told you about ClearStreets, an alternative to the City of Chicago’s Plow Tracker website. The main difference is that Plow Tracker shows the current location of snow plows while ClearStreets tracks where they’ve been. Both sites have been updated today in time for our first winter storm, but since the world is ending tonight, you better look at them quickly.
Photo of mobile-friendly Plow Tracker by Dan O’Neil.
Plow Tracker has been updated to better display on mobile devices, at a different URL: http://m.cityofchicago.org/plowtracker. If you load it on a desktop browser, it doesn’t appear correctly.
During my conversation with lead creator of ClearStreets, Derek Eder, I told him that I believe there’s a weak relationship with the focus of Grid Chicago – sustainable transportation. The updates don’t change that, but we had a good discussion about the future of ClearStreets, and the implications and potential it has, as a platform, for other ideas and apps where that relationship could improve. Also, I’ve been exploring technology and transportation with this blog for some time as I’m a programmer myself. Continue reading Updated ClearStreets, alternative to Plow Tracker, brings new features and mobile-friendly design
One of Salt Lake City’s “saner” downtown streets with one travel lane each direction and left-turn lanes where needed. There’s one light rail lane in each direction. A bicycle priority lane is marked in the two travel lanes.
Possible extended title: They have so many persistent disadvantages even after several (but weak) mitigation attempts
Preface: Utah law says that people driving automobiles must yield for pedestrians in or approaching crosswalk (stop if in a school zone and the school zone light is flashing). Drivers and bicyclists in Illinois must stop to let people cross the street, in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
If you read my last “Dispatches from Utah” post you remember that I took a ride on the inaugural Frontrunner South train from Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah. Then my laptop died and things got hairy. I’ve been back in Chicago for over a week now. Riding the trains, both light rail and the commuter rail, was one of the transportation highlights of my trip. The second was walking a couple of miles from one TRAX light rail station to my family’s home. This walking experienced was then followed by a driving trip to meet my cousin at a “local” Thai restaurant. (When your city is as spread out like Salt Lake City, and less dense than Chicago, your definition of “local” is expanded.)
I drove for 20 minutes to meet him. I drove down Salt Lake City’s State Street for a majority of the way. It’s 102 feet wide, with 3 lanes in each direction, a center turn lane, parallel parking on both sides, and sidewalks. There are no bikeways. Many of the city’s and region’s streets are like this. I had an immediate problem: I was driving southbound but the restaurant was on the northbound side of the street. Under no circumstances did I feel safe slowing down and turning left across 3+1 northbound lanes into the restaurant’s parking lot – I didn’t even know if this was legal. I couldn’t even see the addresses of the buildings on the opposite side of the street. After passing the approximate address, I turned left at a signalized intersection and then did a full roundabout drive through a neighborhood for 3-5 minutes before coming back to State Street, now driving on the same side of the street as the restaurant. Continue reading Dispatches from Utah: Why wide streets are unpleasant
Cyclist on Douglas Boulevard in the 24th Ward before protected lanes were installed.
Eboni Senai Hawkins, founder of the local chapter of the African-American cycling group Red Bike and Green, recently emailed me that some local residents are “up in arms” about the protected bike lanes being built along the West Side boulevards. This 4.5-mile route leads from Garfield Park to 24th Street in Little Village. 24th Ward Alderman Michael Chandler has asked the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to suspend construction of the lanes on Independence Boulevard, which runs south from Garfield Park, until these issues are resolved. I called Eboni last night for more info and her perspective on the situation.
So what are people’s concerns?
Basically they’re creating a protected bike lane on one side [of Independence] by moving the parked cars to the middle on [the southbound] side, and on the other side going north they’re just doing it as a buffered bike lane, with the bike lane to the left of the parked cars. So essentially they started implementing this particular design for these bike lanes and then there was ticketing that wasn’t supposed to happen that all of the sudden happened because people didn’t know where to park. The lanes are half constructed. So all these tickets were issued and everyone’s up in arms in this particular community, which is mostly Lawndale. [The tickets have since been dismissed.]
A special concern is the number of churches that are along this corridor. They’re concerned about their congregation and their ability to park. And there’s also this concern about safety. Basically people kept saying at the meeting, you have to get out of your car in the middle of the street.
Continue reading Concerns from locals about protected lanes on the West Side boulevards
Active Transportation Alliance posted a 1:50 video showing before and after conditions.
The Dearborn Street two-way protected bike lane looks to be the biggest deal, nationally, in bicycle infrastructure since the City of Chicago built the Kinzie Street cycle track three weeks after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office. If it had an account on Twitter, it’d be competing with Justin Bieber.
Here’s a collection of “chatter” about the project from within the short 90 hours it’s been open.
“More than just bike benefits”
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) produced their own 1:50 video interviewing Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein about the economic benefits of building bicycle infrastructure and showing scenes from the press conference and of people bicycling in the Dearborn Street bike lane.
“Back to the Future moment”
Architecture “observer” Lynn Becker reviewed how this new piece of infrastructure fits into the history and culture of Chicago, then and now. The following are unconnected excerpts.
On Friday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein dedicated the city’s most ambitious commitment yet to the ideal of taking biking beyond the recreational to make it an integral part of Chicago’s transportation system.
It was a Back to the Future moment, as Chicago rose the crest of the first major bike boom back in the 1890’s, when the introduction of the affordable safety bicycle set sales soaring. It also created a new industry, with Chicago at its center.
The Trib’s John Kass, as part of his ongoing battle against the 21st Century, rails against “elitist politically coddled bicyclists” by indulging his usual habit of seeing everything in Chicago he doesn’t like as a Rahm Emanuel plot, raising spectres of traffic tickets and tolls for bikers.
It’s like having to learn a new language, relearning how we “read” the city as we move through it. No doubt about it, it’s a bold initiative, and a real gamble. It not only serves a constituency, but aims to shape behaviour.
Read on for Becker’s full commentary and a video of Klein and Emanuel’s speeches. Continue reading Dearborn Street’s celebrity status skyrockets