December MBAC highlights


Might we see a return of the small group discussion public meeting format in 2012?

The final 2011 Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC) was held Wednesday, December 14, 2011, at City Hall. The format that’s been in place for several years will disappear and be replaced by the original format set up in 1991. Aside from a review of the Chicago Bicycle Program’s new bikeways and two announcements about Complete Streets, this was, for me, the bike planning news of the week.

Original format

After introductions, Bike Program coordinator Ben Gomberg brought up how the council was established with representatives from various stakeholders the year in which Richard M. Daley had his first re-election. But, “it’s changed over the years, for whatever reason, to a public info session”. He mentioned how there’ve been suggestion to reconstitute it as a council. The council is described in the Bike 2000 Plan, a seven page document produced by the council. It lists specific members, like Randy Neufeld, currently a board member of Active Transportation Alliance, and Erma Tranter, longtime president of Friends of the Parks. I’m not aware of what the other members are doing. But are they still council members? Continue reading December MBAC highlights

Isaac Grigsby of WIG Bags


Photo by John; all others courtesy of WIG Bags

This is the second in a series of interviews looking into what it will take for Chicago to develop a thriving bike-related business community, focusing on messenger bags. Earlier I talked to Tia Meilinger from New York City’s Vaya Bags to learn how she launched a successful global business. Last week I caught up with Isaac Grigsby from Chicago’s WIG Bags over breakfast at the West River Café, 4400 N. Kedzie in Albany Park, a few blocks from his workshop, to discuss his business and his views on the local scene.

In the early 2000s Grigsby started WIG, Wheels in Gyration – “It means the wheels are always turning, I’m always trying to figure something out or put something together,” he says. Since then he’s made thousands of custom bags and shipped them to every corner of the globe. But he says he has no interest in having his products – messenger bags, backpacks, camera bags and more – sitting on store shelves.

We talked about the origins of his business, the features of his courier bags, how he gets the word out about his products and why he doesn’t like sewing custom images on the flaps of his bags. Grigsby also gave his opinion about why it’s difficult to launch a bike business in this city and told me what it’s like sewing carrying cases for rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Continue reading Isaac Grigsby of WIG Bags

Grid Shots: Weekend cycling events

There were two whacky events on Saturday: the Afterglow post-season cyclocross race in muddy and snowy Humboldt Park, and the Dreidel & Santa Rampage!, an event with seemingly no other purpose than to have a fun bike ride and perpetuate the tradition (you must be dressed as Santa, an elf, or a dreidel to join).

A cyclocross race is like riding a souped-up road bike on a track people would normally ride mountain bikes on. And there’s always jeering and costumes.


Audrey can often be found at races with a megaphone “encouraging” riders to stop going so slow.  Continue reading Grid Shots: Weekend cycling events

The plan for Union Station


Accessing Union Station is done by many modes, but each has its own challenges and annoyances. 

Over 50 people attended the 4:30 PM presentation of the Union Station master plan in the Union Gallery on Thursday. The Chicago Department of Transportation is the lead agency on this project even though it may have less at stake in the plan. It’s more likely to lead a fair planning process than if Amtrak, the station’s owner, or Metra, the station’s busiest user, led the master plan. After the presentation, visitors were able to speak directly with staff from the stakeholders and partners (see full list at end).

The plan divides goals and objectives into short, medium, and long term ideas.

Two short term projects are already in the works and each has received funding. They are the “Central Area East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project” and “Union Station Transportation Center”, which I’ll also call an intermodal center, as it gets people from buses onto trains and vice versa. The BRT project includes bus priority lanes and intersection priority (buses can go before other traffic) on Canal, Clinton, Madison, and Washington (see embedded map). The BRT application also indicates a Madison Street bike lane will be installed (which already happened) and an eastbound bike lane will be “considered”. The intermodal center will include stair, elevator, and escalator access to an existing underground walkway into Union Station. Continue reading The plan for Union Station

Awards for the best bike parking in Chicago


Bike parking at the new, LEED-certified Dominick’s at Foster and Sheridan. This installation has several good qualities: it’s near the entrance, sheltered, has good clearance, and an acceptable rack style. Please nominate the best bike parking! 

At the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council on Wednesday afternoon at City Hall, Bicycle Parking Program manager Christopher Gagnon recapped the year by saying the City installed 749 standard u-racks on sidewalks (more than usual because 2010 saw few installations), Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area (SSA) donated 20+1 racks (including the City’s first bike corral), and Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce donated 20 racks (you can see some on Clark Street).

That’s great! But what about that little part of the zoning code that requires property owners to provide bike parking? What do we know about them? Continue reading Awards for the best bike parking in Chicago

Ray LaHood stops in Logan Square, announces $20 million in stimulus funds for Blue Line repairs, bike share


U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood swung through Chicago this afternoon as part of a national tour to publicize federal stimulus funding for transportation projects. Joining Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a press conference outside at the CTA’s Logan Square stop in frigid, blustery weather, LaHood heralded a $20 million TIGER III (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant for Chicago.

According to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), $16 million will go towards fixing slow zones on the Blue Line between Belmont and Damen, in combination with money for the project from a CTA operating surplus. This work will allow trains to travel more than twice as fast in some locations, cutting the travel time from the Loop to O’Hare by several minutes.

The remaining $4 million of the grant will go towards Chicago’s new bike sharing system, slated to launch next summer. Added to the project’s existing $18 million Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) funding that will pay for the first 3,000 bikes and 300 docking stations, the TIGER money will allow the city to eventually add 1,000 additional bikes and 100 more stations.

Chicago originally applied for a total of $50 million in TIGER III funds, $40 million for the Blue Line and $10 million for the bike share system, according to CDOT. Here’s a transcript of LaHood’s remarks at the press conference.

Continue reading Ray LaHood stops in Logan Square, announces $20 million in stimulus funds for Blue Line repairs, bike share