Bikeways News

Join us at 7/24 Public Meeting on Clybourn Protected Bike Lane

Join us at 7/24 Public Meeting on Clybourn Protected Bike Lane

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will hold a public meeting on the proposed Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project on Thursday July 24 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at Near North Unity Program, located at 1111 N Wells Street, First Floor.

Active Trans members and supporters will recall first hearing about this project last Fall, when Alderman Walter Burnett announced the first protected bike lane on a state-controlled roadway would be installed on Clybourn Ave. between Disivion and North. The announcement was made during an honorary street naming ceremony in memory of Bobby Cann, who was killed after being struck by a drunken driver while riding his bike on Clybourn Ave in May 2013.

The meeting marks the first opportunity for the general public to learn more about the Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project and offer input to help shape the final vision for this important street.

In addition to the potential for including the first protected bike lane on a state controlled roadway, the project is also notable because city planners have publically discussed the possibility of installing a concrete curb to separate people riding bikes from motorized traffic. While concrete curb separated bike lanes have begun to appear in other cities, Chicago has not yet seen this type of infrastructure on our streets.

Beyond improvements for people riding bikes, this is a true complete street project that also promises to enhance the street for people walking, taking transit, or driving.

All are welcome to attend the public meeting. Please don’t miss out on this opportunity to give input on a project that has the potential to set the tone for the future of walking and biking in Chicago.

Here’s the complete announcement from the City of Chicago:

Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project

CDOT and IDOT will be holding a public meeting to gather input for the Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project which extends from North Avenue to Division Street. Community members are invited to learn about and provide input regarding potential safety improvements to Clybourn Avenue and Division Street that will benefit all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and motorists). The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 6 PM at the Near North Unity Program (1111 N Wells Street, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60610). A presentation at 6:15 PM will be followed by opportunities to ask questions and provide input. The meeting is accessible to all persons and materials presented at the meeting will be made available on CDOT’s website (http://chicagocompletestreets.org) after the meeting.

 

The next phase of Chicago’s bike lane revolution

The next phase of Chicago’s bike lane revolution

Back in 2010-11 when Active Trans asked Chicago mayoral candidates to support a 100-mile network of protected bike lanes by 2015, many scoffed. That may fly in Europe, we were told, but this is Chicago. Cars are king and cyclists are lucky to get a white stripe between themselves and cars.

But Mayor Rahm Emanuel loved the idea and so did his Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner, Gabe Klein. Within 30 days of Emanuel’s inauguration, the city’s first protected bike lane was installed on Kinzie St.

Many more projects have followed, and Chicago is leading the nation on advanced bike infrastructure:

  • Chicago has roughly 50 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes currently and expects to add another 40 miles this year.
  • Kinzie St. and the southern section of Milwaukee Ave. are among the busiest bike routes in the nation.
  • The Dearborn St. two-way protected bike lane in the Loop was recently named the nation’s best.
  • The state of Illinois recently agreed to allow protected bike lanes on some state-owned routes in Chicago, including a stretch of Clybourn Ave.

According to data collected from the Green Lanes Project, since 2011 Chicago has built nearly twice as many miles of barrier-protected bike lanes than any American city including New York, Portland and San Francisco.

But 100 miles by 2015? Well, that’s proven to be a very ambitious goal the city won’t meet. The city is counting protected and buffered bike lanes towards meeting a 100 mile goal for “advanced” bike lanes, which will be a huge accomplishment and way ahead of other cities.

We love buffered lanes, too, but remain committed to at least 100 miles of protected lanes as part of a comprehensive network.

Support from the mayor and aldermen has been crucial for these projects and is directly linked to strong grassroots support across the city. Through our on-the-ground mobilizing efforts, 12,000 Active Trans members and supporters signed petitions, turned out to public meetings, and made their voices heard in local media.

Of course, those of us who ride bikes know that coasting on your momentum will only take you so far. So with one year to go before the next round of municipal elections, now is a good time to take stock of where we are and where we want to go:

Design and maintenance of barrier protected lanes.
These lanes are the safest and most popular design for average Chicagoans who are not yet “confident” cyclists. It’s our favorite design on streets where it works. Sweeping, snow removal and standing water are areas for improvement (while keeping in mind that this past winter has been one of worst recorded winters for snow and ice accumulation).

“Hardscaping” on protected lanes.
In order to make quick progress and demonstrate “proof of concept,” all on a shoestring budget, Chicago has used basic plastic bollards, parked cars and white lines for its protected bike lanes. The next generation of lanes can use permanent and more attractive ways to separate traffic wherever possible, like curbs, landscaped medians or raised bike lanes.

Buffered vs. protected bike lanes.
More than half of the city’s first 100 miles of advanced bike lanes are currently expected to be buffered bike lanes. With enough community support, some of these can be built as barrier-protected instead. In addition, buffered lanes can be enhanced with “bots dots,” reflectors or some other raised delineator in the left-side buffer zone that still allows cars and bikes to pass.

Closing gaps to create a connected network of low-stress routes.
Bike lanes are only useful if they connect people to where they want to go. Luckily, Chicago’s Streets for Cycling 2020 plan lays out a robust 645 mile network generated directly from community input. Filling in gaps and key links in our network will be essential to making biking an easy way for people to complete everyday trips.

Adding more Neighborhood Greenways on less-busy side streets.
In 2013, Chicago saw its first Neighborhood Greenway installed on Berteau Ave. with a second slated for Leland Ave. in Uptown this year. Neighborhood Greenways take advantage of Chicago’s strong street grid system by optimizing low-traffic residential side streets for people riding bikes. Expanding these types of facilities will help create a more comfortable riding experience and make cycling a more attractive alternative for more people.

As we have already witnessed, these improvements will be challenged by some local elected officials and community members who are unwilling to make some of the tradeoffs required, like rearranging street parking or reconfiguring lanes on a street.

It’s our job to respond to this challenge. Now is not the time to back down. We must redouble our efforts and continue to find new and creative ways to build support among our neighbors and leaders. And we can’t do it alone. Join the movement to create an even better bike network in Chicago by signing up for updates and alerts.

Milwaukee Ave. Complete Streets project: There’s nothing to fear about narrower roads

Milwaukee Ave. Complete Streets project: There’s nothing to fear about narrower roads

On Wednesday July 2, 45th Ward Ald. John Arena and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will host an open house to discuss alternative visions for a Complete Streets project on Milwaukee Ave. between Lawrence and Elston. 


Does this street look complete?  Milwaukee Ave. near Central Ave.
(Photo: Google Maps Streetview)

At an initial public meeting in January, the alderman and city said they were seeking to make improvements for people driving, walking, using transit and riding bikes.

With over 900 reported crashes between 2008 and 2012, including a single car crash that claimed two lives just days after the initial meeting, the project is first and foremost about making the street safer for everyone and avoiding preventable injuries and fatalities.

Of the serious injuries that resulted from these crashes, 40 percent were among people walking or riding bikes — the most vulnerable users of the road.

Numbers like these are simply unacceptable.

So what can be done?

Some of the possible elements to mitigate the problems and enhance the street for everyone include: improved crosswalks and pedestrian refuges, consolidated travel lanes to reduce speeding and weaving, improved bus service and shelters and new protected bike lanes.

All of these could be accomplished while still maintaining sufficient capacity to move the same amount of traffic Milwaukee Ave. sees on the average day.

Seems like an easy call, doesn’t it? We have the technology, we can rebuild it. Just fix the road.

But not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of narrowing the street and adding more accommodations for people walking, riding bikes and taking public transit.

One local group has been vocally opposed to some of the proposed elements of the Milwaukee Ave. Complete Street Project, particularly consolidating travel lanes and adding curb-side protected bike lanes.

The group claims it has gathered over 5,000 signatures on a petition by telling folks the project will cause congestion, create a negative climate for local businesses and block the road for emergency vehicles.

However, thousands of projects that involve narrowing or consolidating lanes have been installed throughout the country, including many right here in Chicago, all without leading to the nightmare scenarios envisioned by opponents of this project (see CDOT photo to right of before/after recent project on Wabash in the South Loop.)

So let's set aside hypothetical negatives and focus on the facts.

AARP (yes, that AARP) developed a great factsheet recently that dispels many of the most commonly believed myths about "rightsizing" roads. (AARP and others often use the term "road diet" to describe these types of projects, but no one likes going on a diet, so we prefer using other ways of describing these projects.)

Let’s take a look at a few of the big myths AARP includes in its list:

  • Narrowing the street will cause congestion and divert traffic. According to the Federal Highway Administration, properly designed lane consolidations don’t divert traffic. In fact, there are many examples of traffic increasing after construction. By maintaining a center turn lane, space remains for turning or other stopped vehicles to get out of the way of through traffic, thus avoiding back-ups.
     
  • Local business will suffer if we consolidate lanes. By reducing traffic speeds, businesses are more likely to be seen. By encouraging more walking and biking, these projects also attract customers that tend to spend more per month than drivers.
     
  • Emergency vehicles will be impeded if there is only one lane in each direction. A good design can ensure emergency vehicles and first responders are able to quickly respond to any incident. Center turn lanes provide space for ambulances, fire trucks or police to safely pass any traffic that may be on the street.

Besides not creating problems, consolidating and narrowing lanes can solve quite a few. By reducing traffic speeds and dangerous behavior like weaving, fewer lanes can boost safety while maintaining a more consistent and smooth traffic flow.

Chicago sees a lot of "hurry up and wait" driving, where people put the pedal to the metal at a green light, only to arrive at the next red light to wait longer.

By slowing down between lights, the same average speed can be maintained while reducing the hazard speeding brings to everyone on the street.

As a bonus, the additional space created by consolidating lanes can be re-purposed for things like protected or buffered bike lanes. Everybody wins!

Be sure to join us and other supporters of safer and better streets at the July 2 Milwaukee Ave. Complete Street Project open house. You can download and read the AARP factsheet on road diets here.

On Wed., July 2, a chance to make Milwaukee Ave. safer on NW Side

On Wed., July 2, a chance to make Milwaukee Ave. safer on NW Side

This is where we make change happen on our streets.

You may recall earlier this year 45th Ward Ald. John Arena and the Chicago Department of Transportation shared plans for potential safety improvements and other enhancements to Milwaukee Ave. between Lawrence and Elston, a corridor that has seen more than 900 crashes in recent years, including several fatalities.

Now, after gathering community input for several months, CDOT and Ald. Arena are hosting a public open house meeting to share several alternative visions for the corridor and collect your feedback.

The first round of public meetings received a lot of attention for how contentious they were, with local groups organizing both in support of and against some of the proposals. This is an opportunity for us to show decision makers that we care about safe, livable streets.

If you live, work, visit or travel on this part of Milwaukee Ave. and care about safer and better streets for walking, biking and driving, you deserve a say in the future of this project.

Now is the time to come out and show your support! I hope to see you there.

What: Milwaukee Ave. Complete Street Project Open House
When: Wednesday, July 2 from 5 pm – 8 pm
Where: Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. 

West Town and Lakeview launch Bike-Friendly Business Districts

West Town and Lakeview launch Bike-Friendly Business Districts

By Marianna Foral, Active Trans Campaign Intern

This week, Active Trans is partnering with the West Town and Lakeview Chambers of Commerce to launch Bike-Friendly Business Districts in their communities. The districts are the first of their kind in Chicago and intend to encourage cycling as part of their neighborhood identities through new discount programs for customers who arrive by bike and a number of bike-focused events.

Bike Friendly Business Districts are commercial zones where local business owners, community groups and residents actively promote biking in their neighborhood through special promotions, public events, and improving conditions for cycling. The Bike Friendly Business District model has flourished in cities like Long Beach, CA and New York, and it makes sense.

“Slower speeds increase the visibility of storefronts, helping to convert passers-by into loyal customers,” notes Kace Wakem, program manager at the West Town Chamber of Commerce. Studies also show that although customers who arrive by bike spend less per trip, they will visit more frequently and spend more per month than customers in cars.

West Town and Lakeview already have a thriving bicycle culture. The Milwaukee Avenue protected “Spoke Route” through West Town and the Lakefront Trail through Lakeview are two of the heaviest bike-trafficked roads of their kind in the country. With the city investing in safer bikeways and the Divvy bikeshare initiative, more and more people are using bicycles in their daily lives and local businesses recognize an opportunity to benefit.

Fittingly, West Town and Lakeview Bike Friendly Business Districts are kicking off during Chicago’s Bike Week, which starts June 13 and runs through June 20. In addition to the commitment of over 60 businesses participating in the neighborhood discount program, there will also be a number of events s in each neighborhood.

Saturday June 14
Lakeview: Schubas Bike Bash, at 3159 N Southport, 12-4PM: Kick off Bike Week with bike tune-ups, demos, raffle prizes and workshops, as well as BBQ and music. https://www.facebook.com/events/766557963388350/

Monday, June 16
Lakeview: On the Route Bicycles Commuter Pit Stop, at Lincoln and Barry, 6:30-9AM, with support from Whole Foods: Stop for free coffee, giveaways and bike mechanic. www.bikefriendlylakeview.com

Tuesday, June 17
Lakeview: Heritage Bicycles Commuter Pit Stop at Lincoln and Wellington, 6:30-9AM, with support from Whole Foods: Stop for free coffee, giveaways and bike mechanic. www.bikefriendlylakeview.com

West Town: Paramount Room, After Work Happy Hour and Pit Stop at 415 N. Milwaukee, 4-8PM, featuring: 20% Off Food and a $4 Craft Beer Pints all night, cyclist networking, presentations from a bike advocacy group, bike maintenance demos, and complimentary passed hors d'ouevres

Wednesday, June 18
West Town: Frontier, “Bikes Stunts and Oysters” at 1072 N. Milwaukee 4-9PM, Patio Happy Hour Oyster Boil featuring: $12 Boiled Dozens and $1 Raw Oysters, $5 Half Acre Family Tall Boys, and BMX Demos from Let's Roast Bike Shop starting at 6pm

Thursday, June 19
West Town: Duran European Sandwiches, “Brake for Breakfast” at 516 N. Milwaukee, 7-10AM, $3 for choice of bagel and smear and La Colombe coffee, or a made-to-order bagel sandwich with coffee for $5

Friday, June 20
West Town: Ancien Cycles, 6-9PM Live Music, Beer, Free Burgers & Pho-Style Soup

Find participating businesses in both neighborhoods and links to each community's webpage at our Bike Friendly Business District homepage.

 

National report spotlights Chicago businesses that love protected bike lanes

National report spotlights Chicago businesses that love protected bike lanes

Last week, People for Bikes and Alliance for Walking & Biking issued a great new report, Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business, and the voices of Chicago businesses are featured prominently.

The report offers the best compilation to date of facts, figures and stories that showcase the economic impact that protected bike lanes are making in cities across the U.S.

Specifically, the document highlights four key ways protected bike lanes are influencing the bottom line of all kinds of businesses: increasing real estate values, attracting talented residents, improving employee health and boosting retail traffic.

In addition to sharing key stats and research findings, the report also features the voices of real-world business owners telling their stories of how protected bike lanes are helping to boost their bottom line.

Here’s a breakdown of the Chicagoans that feature prominently in the report:

  • Jeff Judge, CEO of Signal, a tech start-up that develops marketing software for small businesses, says Chicago’s recent work to build its network of protected bike lanes helps enterprises like his attract the talented people they need to be successful.
  • Karen Bean, of the Field Museum, and Cheryl Zalenski, of the American Bar Association, both share their experiences on how the health benefits of cycling helps to make them better employees.
  • Chris Dunstatter, owner of 694 Wine & Spirits on Milwaukee Ave. in West Town, says the increased bike traffic in front of his business has been a boon as it brings more traffic at a slower rate by.

Read the full report online at People for Bikes website.

Dearborn protected bike lane named America’s best

Dearborn protected bike lane named America’s best

Nearly one year after the Dearborn Street protected bike lane’s opening in the Loop, the national advocacy group People for Bikes announced it as their pick for the top protected lane in the country on their Green Lane Project blog. 

In addition to the on-street markings, People for Bikes praised the bike traffic signals on Dearborn that have increased traffic light compliance from 31 to 81 percent for people biking.

The Dearborn Street protected bike lane

Active Trans advocated for the Dearborn protected bike lane throughout the approval and construction process. Active Trans' Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign organized aldermanic support and circulated a petition signed by nearly 4,700 people in support of the Dearborn project.

Also on the People for Bikes top 10 list was the Milwaukee Avenue bike lane, coming in at number seven in the country.

Keep tabs on the Dearborn lane’s celebration on its Twitter page, and keep riding in these great bikeways right here in Chicago!

Petition: keep biking free — say "no" to bike registration fee

Petition: keep biking free — say "no" to bike registration fee

We want more people riding bikes in Chicago, not fewer.

Requiring Chicagoans who ride bikes to pay an annual fee, as recently proposed by a member of the city council, would result in fewer people taking advantage of a healthy, green and cheap transportation option.

That's why we are asking you to sign our petition opposing bike registration fees in Chicago.

Our city faces many challenges, including a gaping hole in our budget. When it comes to saving money, though, cycling is a part of the solution, not the problem.

Cycling’s benefits include lowering road maintenance costs, reducing air pollution and traffic congestion, combatting obesity and enhancing public health, and increasing Chicago’s livability and its desirability to employers.

Furthermore, a city-wide program to require people who ride bikes to pay a registration fee would be impractical and likely cost more to administer than it would generate in revenue.

After a year of great progress in our efforts to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the U.S., now is not the time for us to turn back.

Please stand with us in opposing the bike registration fee proposal by signing our petition and sharing it with your friends and family.

Victory! Alderman Says State Will Allow Protected Bike Lane on Clybourn Ave.

Victory! Alderman Says State Will Allow Protected Bike Lane on Clybourn Ave.

After months of pressure from grassroots advocates, it’s been announced that protected bike lanes will be installed for the first time on a state-controlled roadway, Clybourn Avenue.

The announcement came from 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. during a ceremony to unveil an honorary street named for Bobby Cann, a bicycling advocate who was killed in a crash on Clybourn Ave. in May of this year.

As a state-controlled roadway, Clybourn Ave. was previously subject to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s ban on protected bike lanes. But the tragic crash that claimed Bobby’s life also inspired an upwelling of grassroots activism calling for the state to change its policy.

Today, those efforts have paid off as word came that a protected bike lane will be allowed on Clybourn Avenue.

We would like to extend big thank you to the many Active Trans members and supporters who added their voices to those calling on the state to change its policy. Your efforts are what made this change possible.

Read Active Trans’ press release on the announcement. Stay tuned to the blog for more updates as they become available.

The Dutch take on Chicago’s Streets: Free events Sept. 26 & 27

The Dutch take on Chicago’s Streets: Free events Sept. 26 & 27

Don’t miss two free events on Sept. 26 & 27 that will bring Dutch cycling to Chicago!

A delegation of Dutch transportation experts is coming to town, bringing lessons learned from the most bike-friendly nation in the world to help develop innovative design concepts for better Chicago bikeways.

It’s part of a two-day workshop and idea exchange with Chicago officials and stakeholders called ThinkBike. The ThinkBike workshop will begin with a public kick-off presentation showcasing cycling in the Netherlands and Chicago, and will end with a report-out presentation sharing design solutions for two Chicago streets developed in the workshop.

The presentations are free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required. Learn more and register. 

The ThinkBike workshop is sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in cooperation with the Dutch Cycling Embassy, and with support from the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Active Transportation Alliance.

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