The Chicago Perimeter Ride: a century for all


Exploring this historic Pullman railcar factory on the Far South Side. All photos by Andrew Bedno.

For the past decade John has led the Chicago Perimeter Ride, a roughly hundred-mile pedal around the approximate edge of the city, visiting historic sites and wacky commercial architecture. This year he handed over the reins to David Gebhardt, who did an excellent job planning and leading the ride, with dozens of people participating over the course of the long day. Andrew Willoughby, a car-free Chicagoan who moved here from Oklahoma two years ago for “the music, architecture and freedom to ride a bike everywhere,” provided the following write-up. Andrew tweets at @willowbeehive.

I had no idea what to expect. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous. Biking a hundred miles in a day did not seem like an easy thing to do. There was a reason I had never attempted it before: I’m not a professional, I just bike to work every day and around town. Yet, there I was, watching Buckingham Fountain thrust its first drops of water into the air as I waited with fifty other riders, many who were attempting their first century too.

Continue reading The Chicago Perimeter Ride: a century for all

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

Final Bloomingdale Trail meeting presents nearly final designs and plans


The Bloomingdale Trail design team, a consortium of engineers, planners, artists, and horticulture experts from Chicago and around the country, presented their latest designs at the final public meeting on Monday night at the Humboldt Park field house. The elevated park’s design was divided into 7 segments and printed on enormous posters in two rooms. An eighth segment summarized the phenology planting concept and artwork scattered across the Bloomingdale Trail.

I inspected many of the designs and listened to people express their admiration, excitement, as well as lingering concerns. They included:

  • How tall is the privacy screen? 10 feet; the privacy screen consists of a metal mesh wall covered in plants.
  • Will traffic configurations change on Lawndale Avenue or Bloomingdale Avenue? Nope.
  • How are fast cyclists going to be slowed down? This question has been answered identically at every meeting: the design team has implemented a variety of solutions including horizontal and vertical “deflection” that serve to calm traffic. In this author’s opinion, the mix of traffic (people walking, jogging, pushing strollers, rolling on mobility devices) will slow cyclists.

Enjoy the designs (view the full set of photos). When available, we will publish the digital versions of these images. A comment card at the meeting indicated that this was the final period for neighbors to make comments about the designs (email them to Read our past coverage of the project.

Update: Less than 2 hours after posting, the digital images are available. Download a 3 MB .pdf file Continue reading Final Bloomingdale Trail meeting presents nearly final designs and plans

Open Streets on Milwaukee Avenue steals spotlight from State Street


Brent Norsman, owner of Copenhagen Cyclery, relaxes in front of the store before riding with his daughter on the street.

Call Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park and Bucktown the right blend of commercial and residential density to support a livelier, possibly better attended instance of Open Streets. Not to mention it was 1.5 miles long with only one crossing for cars and buses.

The longer distance allowed the programming (which there seemed to be an equal or lesser amount than on State Street) to be more spread out, providing more room to ride a bicycle with your crew. And unlike the event on State Street, it seemed that most people were intentionally choosing to be here, rather than finding themselves at Open Streets when shopping on State Street.

Continue reading Open Streets on Milwaukee Avenue steals spotlight from State Street

Chicago’s first pedestrian plan includes great ideas, lacks some information


A press conference was held last Thursday at the southeast corner of Dearborn Street and Madison Street to announce the city’s first pedestrian plan. Present were commissioners of transportation and public health, Gabe Klein, and Bechara Choucair, respectively, Metropolitan Planning Council vice president Peter Skosey, and various CDOT staff.

After 20 minutes of speeches from Klein, Choucair, Skosey, and Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke, CDOT pedestrian program coordinator Suzanne Carlson and Klein applied a diamond shaped decal to a sidewalk corner across Madison Street. The bright yellow “sticker on the street” says, “Be Alert. Be Safe. We’re all pedestrians.” It’s part of the Pedestrian Safety Campaign launched last year that also included 32 mannequins scattered around Wacker Drive and then to other sites, as well as orange flags at certain crosswalks, and a somewhat grotesque ad campaign on trash bins and buses.

The Pedestrian Plan has its merits and faults. The document is nicely designed, easy to read, informative (it does a great job introducing people to “pedestrian safety tools” that are mentioned later in the plan), but still speaks to the car-centric profession of traffic (transportation) engineering exhibited in Chicago. Continue reading Chicago’s first pedestrian plan includes great ideas, lacks some information

Open 311 public tools and developer access for Chicago “weeks” away


Jesse Bounds talks about the “311 volley” at the last OpenGov Meetup. 

Update September 14: One month later and the Service Tracker is now live. Input your SR number and watch its status (hopefully) change. 

At the August OpenGov Meetup, Jesse Bounds, developer with Code for America, demonstrated some of the tools to interface with “Open 311” that are available now for many cities around the country to improve city services data collection and presentation. John Tolva, Chicago’s Chief Technology Officer working with Bounds and other Code for America fellows, said that a read and write programming interface for developers will be available “in weeks, not months”.

You can view two of the tools now, but neither show information from Chicago until the launch. They’re part of “311 Labs”: The Daily Brief, and Open 311 Status – both of these are designed for non-developers. Bounds also showed off the “311 Service Request Tracker”, which was designed after shipping company package tracking websites. It shows step-by-step the process for a citizen’s request for service.

Continue reading Open 311 public tools and developer access for Chicago “weeks” away