Grid Shots: Great public spaces

Public spaces are not necessarily where transportation occurs. But sometimes transportation creates public spaces.


A crowded ‘L’ car. Photo by Mike Travis.


Relaxing on a temporary lawn during this year’s Open Streets on State Street event. Photo by Jane Healy. 


The wide, well-lit sidewalk under the Palmer House Hilton’s overhang. Photo by John Iwanski. 


Taking the scenic route through Lincoln Park in October. Photo by Michelle Stenzel. 


Daley Plaza, surrounded by Clark, Dearborn, Randolph, and Washington Streets, is the location for many a gathering, protest, and market. Here is Critical Mass prior to departure in September 2012. Photo by Dubi Kaufmann. 


Ping Tom Park in Chinatown provides some views of the Orange Line viaduct and this moveable steel bridge across which Amtrak trains travel. Photo by Adam Herstein. 


Enjoy this path on Northerly Island while it lasts. The path will be reconfigured and “shortened” in the next few years as the “island” is transformed. A campground and lagoon are slated to be built. Photo by Michelle Stenzel.

Add your photos to our Flickr group for consideration for future Grid Shots posts. View past Grid Shots post. See what themes are coming soon.

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

Highlights from the Chicago Pedestrian Plan


A Metra train crosses Canal Street, while a person waits to cross the tracks. Photo taken by ryanbytes. 

Our article on Monday discussed some highlights and shortcomings in the Pedestrian Plan, released last week. This post spotlights more of the smart objectives and features in the plan. It additionally features ideas that have been on the books for a while, with little progress made. It helps to have the Chicago Pedestrian Plan open while you read this post; the plan isn’t available as a website.

The previous post listed improving expressway entrances (mainly near train stations, p.73-75), six-way intersections (p.69-71), and developing standards for the pedestrian experience within parking lots (p.76). Each tool or strategy below summarizes the aim of each in “What it says” but isn’t a complete representation of the milestones or action items for that tool or strategy.

Mobility education, 53 Continue reading Highlights from the Chicago Pedestrian Plan

Open Streets, closed coffers: City Hall takes a pass on Chicago’s ciclovia.


Open Streets director Julia Kim at last year’s Open Streets on State Street. Photo courtesy of Active Trans.

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

Note: I wrote this piece early last week, a few days before Open Streets in the Loop took place on Saturday. As predicted, it was a wonderful event, with even more fun stuff going on than last year. As always, it was thrilling to see a street that’s normally clogged with motor vehicles turned over to positive human interaction. Next Sunday’s Open Streets Wicker Park/Bucktown, on bustling Milwaukee Avenue through bike-crazy neighborhoods, should be even better. It takes place on Milwaukee from Ashland to Western Avenues from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. See Steven’s thoughts on the downtown event below my article.

Last year I wrote a Newcity cover story with the subtitle, “Can Open Streets downtown sell City Hall on future ciclovias?” For this year at least, the answer was no.

Since 2005 I’ve been chronicling the Active Transportation Alliance’s valiant efforts to stage ciclovías, Latin-American-style events that shut down streets to cars traffic, encouraging healthy recreation, community and commerce. It’s hard to believe I still have to report on the relative lack of support from the city, especially since Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) commissioner Gabe Klein have generally been terrific on sustainable transportation issues.

Continue reading Open Streets, closed coffers: City Hall takes a pass on Chicago’s ciclovia.

Cargo Bike Roll Call is an opportunity to test cool bikes and grow community


The author and his mother. Ed. note: I asked Calvin Brown to write a review of the Cargo Bike Roll Call so that I didn’t end up reviewing my own event.

Last Saturday, June 9, 2012, was Cargo Bike Roll Call (second edition), which means that I finally got to ride a cargo bike for the first time, unless “surfing” on a trailer attached to a cargo bike counts. The event is unique because cargo bikes are not something you see very often in Chicago or the United States. At the event, however, the brilliant subculture emerged and a wide spectrum of cargo bikes amassed at West Town Bikes. Scouring the web for photos and videos of the amazing possibilities and capabilities of bicycles is always worthwhile, but the event brings the foreign and unusual realm of cargo bikes home to Chicago, where a robust and growing cycle culture is starting to reshape and improve our city, but which has also not fully exploited the magic of the cargo bike. Yes, I see a lot of other folks sporting a nice red milk crate on the back of their bike, like me, but I am much more likely to see a delivery truck parked in every bike lane, than I am to see a bicycle carrying some real cargo. Continue reading Cargo Bike Roll Call is an opportunity to test cool bikes and grow community

Roundup of bikeway discussions on EveryBlock


This is what Open Streets, one of the discussions below, can do for your neighborhood. Photo by Active Transportation Alliance.

We use EveryBlock as a promotional tool for our articles, but we also use the site to inform neighbors about projects in their area that they hadn’t yet heard of (I’m gauging that based on the lack of posts on the site about the project). The discussions I start usually go pretty well, and rarely do they go off topic. Here’s a list of the latest ones, including one I didn’t initiate: