CategoryAdvocacy

Anti-traffic safety is now a political platform

Three of the five men running for Mayor of Chicago have pledged to eliminate enforcing red light running with cameras. Many aldermen have done the same. The Chicago Tribune has factually pointed out that Mayors Daley and Emanuel have mismanaged the red light camera program, with the bulk of it falling upon staff in the Daley administration. (The only part of the program under Emanuel that could be considered mismanagement was changing the business rules to issue tickets when the yellow light was recorded as 2.90 to 2.99 seconds long; Emanuel’s administration changed the rule back and has implemented many other changes following the inspector general’s report.)

Red light cameras lead to an increase in rear-end crashes but decrease the more severe angle (T-bone) crashes, which the Chicago Tribune “sorta” pointed out when it looked at frequencies but not injury costs.

Current 2nd ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy’ Garcia, William “Dock” Walls, and Willie Wilson all have decided that neither the facts nor safety for people inside and outside of multi-ton machines are important. They are supporting the right to endanger others by respecting the inconvenience of not always being prepared to stop at a traffic signal.

Fioretti has said he will introduce soon an ordinance to remove red light cameras by April, but I haven’t found it in the legislation database.

Even though Streetsblog Chicago is no longer publishing, John Greenfield is hustling to get us both working again. In the meantime I intend to cover parts of the election, which takes place February 24, with assistance.

Bike lane mileage is the wrong metric for your city to publicize

Sometimes I tweet things that get pretty popular and then I need to go into more details. Case in point:

Which I followed by tweeting:

Knowing how many miles of bike lanes you have has little importance in determining if I’m going to bike in your city when I visit, or if I’m considering moving there, or if I want to add you to a “bicycle friendly cities” list.

What’s more important is how much the number of people bicycling on those bike lanes has changed. This number will reflect the quality of your bike lanes. Are they still in good shape or have they faded a lot? Do they connect to each other to create a network, or are there gaps that increase the stress of a route? How have you treated the bike lane at intersections, the place where a conflict and crash is most likely to occur?

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin touched on these points in his recent critique, one of the few worthwhile articles the Tribune has published in the last year about bicycling, by interviewing an organization that tries to make it politically palatable to build unconventional – in the United States – bike lanes.

“Chicago has made incredible progress over the last few years,” said Martha Roskowski, vice president at People for Bikes, a Boulder, Colo.-based advocacy group. But, she added, “Chicago also has a ways to go.”

That’s saying it nicely.

Addressing the gaps in the city’s network of protected bike routes, Roskowski said: “People evaluate a potential bike ride on the basis of the weakest link, the scariest part of the trip, which might be a really busy road you have to ride along or across. People have tolerance for a little bit of that. But if it’s sustained or if it feels dangerous, they just won’t do it.”

Enter Close Calls, deteriorating bike lanes, bumpy pavement, and constant obstacles and you get Chicago’s ridiculously low bicycle commute to work numbers.

Since Emanuel took office in 2011, Chicago has installed 52 miles of protected bike lanes [it’s only installed 16 miles of protected bike lanes], which use a variety of means — plastic pylons, striped pavement markings and non-curbside parking spaces — to separate bikes from vehicles. That brings the city’s total bicycle lanes to 207 miles.

That’s cool that we have 207 miles. How many miles of streets without bike lanes do we have? It’s 4,000 and some change minus 207.

Why doesn’t Mayor Rahm Emanuel talk about how many people have taken up bicycling since he took office, or how many more trips Chicagoans made (and where) because of those 52 miles of new buffered and protected bike lanes?

He can’t say how many people are riding their personal bikes because the city doesn’t track this.

Conversely we can track Divvy bike-share use down to the minute and the company announced that Saturday, May 24, they had their most trips ever. Only to be eclipsed by almost 4,000 more trips on Sunday, May 25 (helped in no small part by the Bike The Drive event where people can bicycle on a Lake Shore Drive that’s closed to vehicles).

In another blow to good data for Chicago, Divvy will only be releasing trip data twice a year, while Citibike in New York City will be publishing it monthly, an improvement of Capital Bikeshare’s quarterly data releases.

If you’re not tracking who’s using your infrastructure, will you be able to know if the people you set out to attract have come out?

Getting a little closer to understanding Chicago’s pothole-filling performance status

Tom Kompare updated his web application that tracks the progress of potholes based on information in the city’s data portal in response to my query about how many potholes the city fills within 72 hours, which is the Chicago Department of Transportation’s performance measure.

He wrote to me via the Open Government Chicago group:

Without completely rewriting http://potholes.311services.org, I added a count of the number of open (not yet addressed) pothole repair tickets (requests) that exceed 3 days old. As of today, the data from the City of Chicago’s Data Portal shows 1,334 or the 1,404 open tickets in the 311 system are older than three days.

Full disclosure: The web app actually looks for greater than 4 days old. The Data Portal’s pothole data are only updated once a day, so these data are always a day old. 4 – 1 = 3.

Keep in mind that this web app only shows how many are yet to be addressed, and does not count how many have been patched within CDOT’s 3-day goal during some arbitrary time period. That is a much more intense calculation that this pure client-side Javascript web application can handle due to bandwidth restrictions on mobile (3/4G). This web app already pushes the mobile envelope with the amount of data downloaded. I can fix that, but, again, not without a rewrite.

Still, 1,334 open repair requests (12/16/2013 Data Portal data) is quite different than the number of open repair requests reported by CDOT (560 in Alley, 193 on street) on 12/16/2013. I’m not sure what is the difference.

This reminds me of a third issue with the way CDOT is presenting pothole performance data online (the first being that it’s PDF, the second that it doesn’t work in Safari). The six PDF files are overwritten for every new day of data. If you want information from two days ago, well you better have downloaded the PDF from two days ago!

CDOT misses the lesson on open data transparency

Publishing the wrong measurement as a PDF isn’t transparency.

The Chicago Department of Transportation released the first progress report to its Chicago Forward Action Agenda in October, two and a half years after the plan – the first of its kind – was published. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time reading it and putting off a review. Why? It’s been a difficult to compare the original and update documents. The update is extremely light on specifics and details for the many goals in the Action Agenda, which should have organizational (like record keeping and efficiency improvements) and public impacts (like figuring out which intersections have the most crashes). I’ll publish my in-depth review this week.

Aside from missing specifics and details, the update presents information differently and is missing status updates for the three to five “performance measures” in each chapter. It was difficult to understand CDOT’s reporter progress without holding the original and update side-by-side. I think listing the original action item, the progress symbol, and then a status update would have been an easier way to read the document.

The update measures some action items differently than originally called for, and the way pothole repair was presented, a problem for people bicycling and driving, caught my analytical eye.

CDOT states a pothole-filling performance measure of the percentage, which it desires to be increased, “patched or fixed within 72 hours of being reported” but the average, according to the website Chicago Potholes, which tracks the city’s open data, is 101 days*. The update doesn’t necessarily explain why, writing “the 72 hour goal for filling potholes is not always feasible due to asphalt plant schedules” and nothing related to the performance measure.

As originally written, the only way to note the performance would be to list the percentage of potholes filled within the goal time, at the beginning and in the update. This performance measure has a complementary action item – an online dashboard – which could have provided the answer, but didn’t.

CDOT published that dashboard this summer as a series of six PDF files that update daily and you can hardly call it useful.

Publishing PDF files in the day and age of open government data – popular with President Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel – is unacceptable. Even if they are accessible – meaning you can copy/paste the text – they are poor outlets for data given the nationally-renowned civic innovation changes that Emanuel has succeeded in establishing.

There’s another problem: the dashboard file for pothole tracking doesn’t track the time it takes to close a pothole request, nor the number of pothole requests that are patched within 72 hours. It simply tells the number completed yesterday, the year to date, and the number of unpatched requests. (I’ve posted the pothole-tracking file to Scribd because the dashboard [PDF] doesn’t work in Safari; I also notified city staff to this problem which they acknowledged over three weeks ago.)

The “Chicago Works For You” website reports a different metric, that of the number of requests made each day, distributed by ward.

I discussed the proposed dashboard with former commissioner Gabe Klein over two years ago. He said he wanted to create a dashboard of projects “we’re working on that’s updated once a week.” Given Klein’s high professional accessibility to myself, John Greenfield and other reporters, I’ll give him and CDOT a pass for not doing this. But Klein also said, “I’m really big on transparency and good communication. When I left [Washington,] D.C. our [Freedom of Information Act Requests] were dramatically lowered.”

I’ll consider the pothole performance measure and action item “in need of major progress.”

* For stats geeks, the median is 86 and standard deviation is ±84.

When did everyone start caring about bicyclists dying?

A Plague of Cyclists appear to run cars off the road on The Weekly Standard’s cover.

A couple weeks ago a bunch of journalists from major international news outlets were having drinks somewhere (maybe The Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago’s basement) and wrote the same story.

Actually, they didn’t, but it’s surprisingly weird how close they were.

On Sunday the New York Times published “Is It O.K. To Kill Cyclists?”. Next, on Monday, Crain’s Chicago Business published “Why everyone hates bicyclists—and why they hate everyone back”.

Daniel Duane’s op-ed in NYT garnered a lot of response (7 of them are linked here, which doesn’t include Crain’s or The Weekly Standard). The Economist responded to the NYT article with “Cycling v cars: The American right-of-way” saying we should adopt laws like the Netherlands and gave several examples there of who’s liable for a crash between a car and bike (nearly always the driver). Bike Snob wrote the response I most agree with. Karen Altes of Tiny Fix Bike Gang got pissedTwin City Sidewalks (in Minneapolis/St. Paul) wrote that “bicyclists need to stop blaming themselves for dangerous roads”, referring to the bicyclist in question, Daniel Duane, the NYT op-ed contributor.

Tanya Snyder, writing for one of my employer’s sister blogs Streetsblog Capitol Hill, headlined her own roundup post, “The Times Blows a Chance to Tackle America’s Broken Traffic Justice System”. Andrew Smith at Seattle Transit Blog said that he gave up cycling to work in the first week he tried it. Brian McEntee wrote on his blog Tales from the Sharrows about two scenarios to consider about “following laws” (which isn’t what cyclists or drivers should be aiming for).

David Alpert, who runs a Streetsblog-like blog called Greater Greater Washington, said that it’s not okay to kill cyclists, “but if a spate of other op-eds are any indication, it’s sure okay to hate them and the facilities they ask for in a quest for safety”. BikeBlogNYC later published myriad examples of how streets continue killing everyone who’s not driving a car.

Then The Weekly Standard published something very similar to Duane’s piece. I don’t know when – it’s in the issue marked for November 18, but I believe it went up Monday, with a sweet cover. It went by two names. On the cover, “A Plague of Bicyclists” (by Christopher Caldwell) and on the site, “Drivers Get Rolled: Bicyclists are making unreasonable claims to the road—and winning”.

Most of the proceeding discussions revolve around “who’s right”. And the Economist skirts discussing the answer and instead just gives the answer: the bicyclist, because they’re the ones who die.

When you are driving in the Netherlands, you have to be more careful than you would when driving in America. Does this result in rampant injustice to drivers when accidents occur? No. It results in far fewer accidents. As the ANWB [Royal Dutch Touring Club, like the AAA] says, some drivers may think the liability treatment gives cyclists “a blank check to ignore the rules. But a cyclist is not going to deliberately ride through a red light thinking: ‘I won’t have to pay the damages anyway.’ He is more likely to be influenced by the risk that he will land in the hospital.”

I like what Evan Jenkins, a sometimes urbanist blogger studying mathematics at University of Chicago, wrote on his Twitter timeline:

That’s encouraging. He linked to several of his past articles about cyclist murder.

 

What’s also funny about this weekend’s bike-journo-fest is that Whet Moser, writing for Chicago Magazine, interviewed me two weeks ago about bike infrastructure and penned this uncomplicated, unruffled but comprehensive article saying “drivers and cyclists don’t have to be angry and fearful…with smart planning, a city can design safe roads for all.”

Chicago has started on that path. You know what might influence more change than any bike lane built? Speed cameras. And no, I won’t let them be removed.

Updated multiple times to add more responses to Duane’s op-ed. 

On Active Transportation Alliance’s transportation summit

Active Transportation Alliance invited Eric Hanns and I to speak about “using data for advocacy” at their first annual transportation summit held after a member meeting two Saturdays ago. My and Eric’s talks were complementary and centered around the data tool I built and which Eric and the other volunteers in the 46th Ward participatory budgeting program used to prioritize and market infrastructure projects in Uptown.

The tool in question is the Chicago Crash Browser I made last year and improved this year to load data faster, with great help from the Smart Chicago Collaborative and several members of the OpenGov Hack Night group I cherish.

Click or tap a spot in Chicago to retrieve the number of bicyclist-car and pedestrian-car crashes within 150 feet. With this information, the PB volunteers could show the alderman how important it was for him to support bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects in the ward, and to persuade ward voters to fund these projects.

Find more information about the four other summit “breakout groups” on Active Trans’s website. Eric and I prepared a “Using Data for Advocacy: Making the Case with Compelling Facts” handout which you can download as a PDF or see on our Google Doc. I’ve conveniently listed the links from the handout below but if you want more pointed advice on where to look for specific data, or get an answer to questions you have but don’t grok the context of each of these tools, leave me a comment.

NIMBYs can’t have it all: Student instructor at West Town Bikes supports wheel-friendly park

Lebster, far left, three students at West Town Bikes, and executive director Alex Wilson, head to Open Streets on State Street. 

Update August 27:  Lebster was interviewed by RedEye reporter Leonor Vivanco today.

Lebster Pabon, an instructor at West Town Bikes in Humboldt Park (it used to be in West Town!), attended an important Chicago Park District board meeting yesterday and brought one of his high school students and that student’s mother. They spoke up to support what would be the city’s first wheel-friendly park, where people can skate, bike, and… which would be new to Chicago… use wheelchairs in the park. Neighbors of the Bloomingdale Trail were in attendance to oppose the park.

Lebster called me to say that another attendee spoke up to say he would like to bring his grandchildren to such a park, and that a board member added he has to take his kids out of Chicago to use bikes in a park like this. Lebster mentioned that since it’s at the end of the Bloomingdale Trail it would be very accessible: ride up Rockwell from West Town Bikes, a low-traffic “side street”, hop on the Bloomingdale Trail, and ride 10 minutes over to Walsh Park. When asked if the park would attract people from other suburbs, Lebster said it would attract people from around the country because it could host events.

Finally, a Chicago Park District board member asked if bikers and skaters coexist. Lebster told me he said, “Yes, the culture is very disciplined in skate parks”. I’ve witnessed it myself and I didn’t expect it, imagining that teenagers are unruly. Rules aren’t needed, though, as each person has learned to take a turn in the park and then respect the time and talent of the other skate park users.

This is a very special and unique moment for young Chicagoans who are active outside as this proposed park would be the first to accommodate bicycles and wheelchairs. The Chicago Park District’s first core value is “Children first”. The website says, “Our most important task is to bring children and families into our parks and give them great reasons to stay and play for a lifetime”. Lebster’s contributions to the meetings, and the conversations around the park, were integral to that value and the District’s mission.

About West Town Bikes

West Town Bikes and I have a good history. I came into contact with the organization in 2006, the year I moved to Chicago. I joined a scavenger hunt in October that ended at the shop. I met a lot of people there that have shaped my bicycle advocacy future, including Kevin Monahan, who put John Greenfield and I together after which we started Grid Chicago, Jim Freeman, Kevin Conway, Gin Kilgore, and countless other people. West Town Bikes is also the host and a sponsor of my annual Cargo Bike Roll Call events.

Residents are gathering on Wednesday to voice opposition to wheel-friendly park along Bloomingdale Trail

Walsh Park rendering, from a September 2012 public meeting.

This message is for everyone who likes using parks designed for skating, BMX, Razor scooters, and doing tricks with wheelchairs. They’re typically called skate parks, but they’re not just for skateboards and inline skates anymore. The 606 should have (if not shut down by these people) a “wheel friendly park” at Walsh Park, at the eastern terminus of the Bloomingdale Trail, a constituent feature, at about 1800 N Ashland. Some neighbors will be gathering at the next Chicago Park District board meeting on Wednesday to voice their opposition. They have a petition.

Someone forwarded me their letter to people in the neighborhood (and to staff working on the Bloomingdale Trail project), pasted below, doesn’t describe their basis of opposition. It must be all those 5-year-old girls on push scooters, and 10-year old boys learning to ride a skateboard.

Can you spread this to a wider community of people who use skate parks? The Trust For Public Land, in charge of fundraising, describes the feature in Walsh Park as a “wheel friendly” zone, agnostic to the equipment (bikes, skateboards, and wheelchairs will be allowed).

—–

Hello Bloomingdale Trail Neighbors,

The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners is having a meeting on August 14th. My husband John will sign up to put our opposition to a skateboard park on the agenda. He would also like to present the Board with our signed petitions. Anyone with signed petition sheets please let me know so that we can work out a way to collect them. Anyone who has yet to sign the petition please let us know that as well so we can arrange to get your John Hancock.  (John’s email is [email protected] )

If you are able to attend, please join us.  The more supporters the better!  I’ll let you know what time slot John gets.  [text removed.]  He is a great spokesperson for us.  Please pick up a copy of the Red Eye on Monday to read an extensive article about Bloomingdale Trail.  John was interviewed for the article [excerpted below].  Ananda Breslof is also scheduled to appear before the Board regarding the Dog Friendly Area of the Park.  She needs all the supporters she can get as well.

LOCATION:
Board of Commissioners, Chicago Park District, 541 N. Fairbanks Court, 7th Floor, Chicago  60611

This is what the Park District sent out:

The Public Participation portion of the Board’s regularly scheduled committee meetings will commence at 10:30 a.m.; and  at 4:00 p.m. for the Board’s regularly scheduled Board meetings. Any individual interested in making a presentation must register with the Office of Secretary in person between 9:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M. on the day of the Board committee meeting; and between 2:30 P.M. and 3:30 P.M. on the day of the Board meeting. Individuals may also sign-up to speak via the Park District’s web site beginning at approximately 7:00 P.M. the Friday before the board meeting and ending at 5:00 P.M. the Tuesday before the board meeting.

Please pass this along to anyone I may have missed who would be interested in this important decision.

Here’s to a safe and well thought out 606 Project.

Judie Knoerle
[address redacted]
[phone number redacted]
John Knoerle
[phone number redacted]

—–

Interview with John Knoerle about the wheel-friendly zone in Walsh Park, published in the RedEye on August 11, 2013

JOHN KNOERLE

Author of the American Spy Trilogy, a series of World War II-era novels, but his housing situation may be more dramatic

When Knoerle first moved off the 606 with his wife, Judie, in 1999, freight trains were still traveling the trail.

Now Knoerle’s neighboring Walsh Park may feature a concrete skateboard space.

“It’s going to be insane,” Knoerle said. “We’ve been blessed to have a very quiet block here, and that’s going to change.”

Though he believes the project will increase his property value, and he enjoys occasionally walking the trail, he has concerns that crime and traffic will increase.

Beth White, the Chicago-area office director for the Trust for Public Land, said the concrete space in Walsh Park won’t just be for skateboarders, but rather a “wheel-friendly space” that can be used for concerts and plays. People in wheelchairs will be able to utilize it as well.

“It’s going to be a far safer space and actually a more quiet space than what is there now,” White said.

Knoerle said in recent years, trailgoers have thrown rocks at car windows and tagged walls of homes adjacent to the 606. Knoerle said he’s asked for an increase in bike patrols of the area. A Chicago police spokesman said the trail sees very little crime and police regularly patrol the area.

Knoerle’s now worried that the proposed changes would significantly increase the amount of traffic to his block. Knoerle said he’s gathering petition signatures so the Trust could rethink the skate park for Walsh Park, which is expected to be the largest of the five access parks. “It will be like living along the bike trail on the beach,” Knoerle said. “It doesn’t seem a pleasant prospect.”

Walsh Park’s final rendering, from a June 2013 public meeting. 

Tell me I’m wrong with my Parking Meter Deal Part Deux calculations

A parking meter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, displays the word “fail”. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

I want nothing more than to believe Mayor Rahm Emanuel has created a good deal but I believe his own parking meter deal is just as ridiculous as the deal – from Richard M. Daley and 45 aldermen – that preceded it.

Rahm’s deal changes none of what Chicagoans abhor about the current deal, which include:

  • It scheduled many price increases, without offering the buyer, those who pay to park, any additional value. Value could come in the form of a parking benefit district, where the revenues pay for local infrastructure improvements.
  • The city gets none of the revenue (it collects fines, though).
  • It costs us more than we ever expected (disabled parking placard, reimbursement for street closures, road work, and festivals).
  • It removes control from the city administration and aldermen over our streets. Thanks goes to Active Transportation Alliance for pointing this out in their excellent June 2009 original report (since retracted and revised) in which the organization said, “As a result [of the lease], planners and neighborhoods have lost control over one of their most powerful urban planning and revenue generating tools.”

It changes nothing that policy makers dislike about it:

  • We can’t implement dynamic or market or congestion pricing, unless the revenues for CPM stayed the same or were increased (although this would have to be negotiated).
  • It throws another cog into the city’s plans to expand bike lane mileage. We’re already having a difficult time with merchants not wanting to lose parking in front of their store, despite all the evidence pointing to bike lanes increasing revenues. To make way for a bike lane, the metered parking space has to be moved to an equally valuable spot within the same Parking Region. The alderman has to get involved and it’s not an easy process.

Rahm’s deal, which the city council must approve as an ordinance, doesn’t help Rahm’s priorities.

The Active Transportation Alliance report said, “This lease agreement [from 2009] compromised the city’s ability to adjust parking policy; because of the agreement terms, meters will be the primary consideration in the planning of our city streets. Everything else, from traffic flow to pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities may only be considered after meters and their corresponding income has been considered.”

Rahm’s new deal doesn’t change that, but in fact will likely give CPM the same or more revenues under the plan. It will reduce the chargeable hours by 12 hours on one day (the newly free Sunday) and increase by 1 hour at more valuable times (weekday and weekend evenings) in areas that charge $2 and $4 per hour, and is increased by 3 hours at the same times in areas that charge $6.50 per hour. I’ve attempted to estimate how much more revenue with the spreadsheet below.

The city isn’t saving $1 billion – it hasn’t spent that money and there was no surety that it would; the press release acknowledges this, calling them ” estimated future charges”. The point here is that CPM and the city have agreed on how things like street closures and disabled parking placards will be paid for (by the city). CPM isn’t going to agree to any deal that reduces the value of the company to its shareholders.

No one asked to have free parking on Sunday. No one asked to have free parking on any day. Sunday is the day when people drive the least! If anyone deserves a break, it shouldn’t go to a small segment of the popular (“Sunday churchgoers”, Rahm said, acting as if they’re being harmed, and excluding churchgoers who don’t attend on Sundays), but to everyone who had to pay more than the parking space was worth and anyone who couldn’t get a bike lane in while people are being doored left and right.

Why else is free parking a bad idea? The experts at Active Transportation Alliance wrote:

Underpriced curb parking is a hidden source of traffic congestion and stimulates the most inefficient form of urban transportation. Underpriced parking encourages drivers to cruise for cheap parking, which harms everyone’s health and safety, slows down automobiles and buses behind the cruiser, and provides little benefit to the cruiser. It is a danger to bicyclists and pedestrians because cruisers focus on finding the right spot, not on whether a pedestrian is crossing the street.

It’s this last point, the lack of focus on anything but the parking spot, that is believed to be the cause of a cyclist being severely injured last week on Milwaukee Avenue.

Just like Daley, Rahm didn’t consult the one alderman whose ward might be affected most (it’s unknown if any aldermen were consulted). If this trend of the current city council being the most “rubber stamping” in all time (by my favorite local blogger Whet Moser), I predict it’ll be passed.

Calculations

[table id=8 /]

Since the number of spaces doesn’t change between the old and new scenarios, there is no need to calculate the total $ per space per region. Revenue estimate assumes the space is always occupied. In the new scenario, proposed by Rahm Emanuel and CPM, all spaces not in neighborhoods have become slightly more valuable, enough to more than make up for the reduced value of spaces in neighborhoods.

Updated May 3, 2013, 15:51 to add a link to the current version of Active Transportation Alliance’s parking meter report and to say that it replaced the original report. 

BikeSpike has major potential impact for data collection

This is a pretty hilarious video showing the main reason one would get a BikeSpike: to catch a thief. 

Bill Fienup emailed me in December or January asking to meet up to talk about their bike theft tracking device (that does a whole lot of other stuff) but I couldn’t meet until February as the transition from Grid Chicago to Streetsblog Chicago was occupying my brain time. Bill’s part of Team BikeSpike.

The BikeSpike in hand. It’s very small and weighs 3.1 ounces.

It was convenient that they were at 1871 on a Tuesday night; I was there for Hack Night, they for one of the other myriad events that occurs on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart. They showed me a 3D-printed mockup of the BikeSpike, and told me what it was capable of doing. They seem to have a good programmer on their team in Josh Billions – yes, that’s his real last name.

I came to their lab near Union Park to talk in depth about BikeSpike with Bill, Josh, Harvey Moon, and Clay Neigher, garner more information, and provide them with some more insight into how the product can be useful to the transportation planning work I do as a Streetsblogger, advocate, and programmer. I brought my friend Brandon Gobel and he became interested to hear about how it could help him manage the future fleet of Bullitt cargo bikes he’s now selling and renting at Ciclo Urbano.

Beside the fact that BikeSpike can show law enforcement workers the EXACT LOCATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, I like its data collection aspects. Like many apps for iOS (including Moves and Google Latitude), BikeSpike can report its location constantly, creating opportunities for individuals to track training rides and urban planners to see where people ride bikes.

Cities should know where people are riding so they can build infrastructure in those places! Many cities don’t know this until they either count them frequently and in diverse locations, or when they ask. But neither of these methods are as accurate as hundreds, or thousands of people reporting (anonymously) where they ride. I’ve got three examples below.

I imagine the BikeSpike will produce a map like this, which was created by Google Latitude constantly tracking me. 

Team BikeSpike: Clay, Bill, Ben Turner (I didn’t meet him), Josh, and Harvey.

1. Want to see if that new buffered bike lane on South Chicago Avenue actually encourages people to ride there and wasn’t just an extra-space-opportunity? Look at BikeSpike data.

2. The number of people biking on Kinzie Street shot up after a protected bike lane was installed. How many of these new Kinzie riders switched from parallel streets and how many were new to biking? Look at BikeSpike data.

3. Given relatively proximal origins and relatively proximal destinations, will people bike on a buffered bike lane (say Franklin Street or Wabash Avenue) over a protected bike lane (say Dearborn Street)? Look at BikeSpike data.

There are many other things BikeSpike can do with its GPS and accelerometer, including detect if your bike was wiggled or you’ve crashed. I want a BikeSpike but you’ll have to back the project on Kickstarter before I can get one! They need $135,000 more pledged by April 9.

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