Pavement to the people: an update on CDOT’s new public space initiatives


The People Spot at Little Black Pearl art center in Bronzeville. Photo courtesy of CDOT.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Thursdays.]

Local pundits like ex-Sun-Times columnist Mark Konkol and the Tribune’s John McCarron and John Kass have trashed the city’s new protected bike lanes as a waste of space on the streets. But Chicagoans tend to overlook the massive amount of room on the public way given over to moving and parking private automobiles.

A new Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) initiative called Make Way for People is dreaming up more imaginative uses of the city’s asphalt and concrete, creating new public spaces that are energizing business strips. In partnership with local community leaders, the program is taking parking spots, roadways, alleys and under-used plazas and transforming them into People Spots, People Streets, People Alleys and People Plazas, respectively, lively neighborhood hangouts.

“It’s not a top-down program where we come in and say, ‘We think you need a People Spot or a People Street,’” says Janet Attarian, head of the department’s Streetscape and Sustainable Design section. “Instead we say, ‘We want to help you build community and culture and place and, look, we just created a whole set of tools that wasn’t available before.’”

Continue reading Pavement to the people: an update on CDOT’s new public space initiatives

Bringing a bit of Copenhagen to Chicago: two north side aldermen discuss their recent trip to the cycling mecca


48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, CDOT Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly, 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar, and Active Transportation Alliance staff member Lee Crandell stand in front of a crowd of over 60 local residents to discuss a recent aldermanic trip to Copenhagen.

Earlier this year, three Chicago alderman along with two staff members from the Department of Transportation traveled to Copenhagen to learn about the city’s cycling infrastructure. Last Thursday, two of the alderman who took part in that trip – Ameya Pawar of the 47th Ward and Harry Osterman of the 48th Ward – held an event at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood to discuss their experience. They were joined by CDOT Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly, one of two CDOT staff members whom accompanied the aldermen to Copenhagen. The other was Bicycle Program Coordinator Ben Gomberg.

Scott Kubly began the presentation by discussing the history of Copenhagen’s cycling movement and describing some of the infrastructure elements that have allowed cycling to become so successful in the city. Kubly said that his biggest takeaway from the trip was that the city wasn’t always a bike utopia.

“If you go back as recently as the 1970s, it was very much a car-culture,” Kubly said. “They were building freeways. There was a time when all of this fantastic public space that we saw was dominated by parked cars. They’ve spent the last 30 to 40 years incrementally improving their infrastructure.” Continue reading Bringing a bit of Copenhagen to Chicago: two north side aldermen discuss their recent trip to the cycling mecca

“Stop for Pedestrians” signs show up in Andersonville and Lincoln Park


Photos taken at Clark and Olive by Kevin Zolkiewicz. 

Kevin Zolkiewicz posted photos this morning of Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) workers installing new signs at Clark Street and Olive Avenue, and Clark Street and Summerdale Avenue, that inform drivers that they must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. He adds:

These signs were added to this year’s list of menu items that alderman can select as part of their discretionary budget. Expect more to pop up around Chicago very soon.

This means that any alderman can use their annual $1.3 million “menu” fund to install these in the ward, alongside benches, bike lanes, street resurfacing, and a variety of other capital projects. Zolkiewicz went on to say why the signs are being installed:

State law was changed in July 2010 to require drivers to stop, and not just yield, to pedestrians in unsignalized crosswalks. But most drivers in Chicago haven’t gotten the message. These signs have been shown to increase compliance with the law.

The law applies to people in marked crosswalks and “in” unmarked crosswalks. We explained the difference in an earlier post.


The first of 19 signs in the 43rd ward (Michelle Smith) was installed on Thursday, June 28, at 1700 N Stockton Drive, according to Bike Walk Lincoln Park. Other streets in the ward to receive them will be Lincoln Avenue, Clark Street, Diversey Avenue and Belden Avenue (see exact locations).

Two intersections in the 47th ward (Ameya Pawar) will be installed this year, at Addison Avenue and Hoyne Avenue, and Addison Avenue at Hermitage Avenue. View a list of other projects in the ward that will funded by the alderman’s discretionary “menu” funds (.pdf).

Updated June 28, 2012, at 21:12, to add news of this sign being installed in other wards. 

Grid Shots: Community gardens


The @ward1bike #Twitterbike at a garden. Photo by John Lankford. 

After some debating with John Lankford about this, I gave in to create the Grid Shots theme of “community gardens”. He sent me the first photo to feature (above). The bottom line, that won me over, was that a lot of people bike to their community gardens. I’ve even biked to a community garden myself, with Brandon Gobel and Jana Kinsman, to deliver beehivesContinue reading Grid Shots: Community gardens

Grid Shots: Commercial statements

To get this Grid Shots going, I searched our Flickr group for “advertisement” and found only one photo. So I started at the end (the most recent photos) and browsed 10 pages to find this selection of “commercial statements” on our streets. Next week’s topic is “wayfinding”; submit your photos to our group and tag them with “wayfinding”.


A message to those waiting for the 22/Clark bus in Andersonville at Clark Street and Bryn Mawr avenue says they cannot wait inside the Subway sandwich shop. Photo by Brian Morrissey. Continue reading Grid Shots: Commercial statements

Out spokin’: The Windy City Cycling Club rides with pride


[This piece also runs on the environmental news website]

“It’s not that we don’t like straight people,” explains Jeff Rogers, president of the Windy City Cycling Club (WCCC), Chicago’s oldest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender bicycle group. “On the contrary: The biking community at large tends to be made up of very nice people who are very accepting of diversity in general. But gay and lesbian people have a comfort level with each other that’s different than with straight people.”

That sense of belonging is easy to see as we hang out at T’s bar, a buzzing lesbian, gay, and straight pub in Chicago’s LGBT-friendly Andersonville neighborhood, on a sunny February afternoon. A dozen or so club members, mostly women plus a handful of men, are gathered at an off-season social for Dykes Pedaling Bikes, the club’s monthly women’s ride. Ranging in age from late 20s to late 50s, they kibbitz over $5 hamburgers and tall glasses of hefeweizen with lemon slices as Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” blasts on the sound system. A couple of them wear the club’s jersey, featuring a bicycle wheel, the Sears Tower, the Chicago flag, and a rainbow banner.

Continue reading Out spokin’: The Windy City Cycling Club rides with pride