CategoryNew York City

Chicago’s first protected bike lane!

UPDATE 04-28-11: I’ve written new articles about this subject. The first is “Put the first cycle track somewhere else.” Then there’s my list of proposed protected bike lane locations.

Chicago just got its first two-way protected bike lane! And all because of a construction detour for the next 17 months!

I’m sort of joking, but sort of not.

This detour from the Lakefront Trail onto a street for 100 feet should give Chicagoans a taste for what a protected bike lane looks like, until April 2012. You can see it’s quite simple to build: shift traffic over, install K-rail concrete barriers, paint a dividing line. But what’s simple to build is not always simple to implement.

But how can we get a real one constructed?

It’s not for lack of demand. But it could be that our demand for a safer bike lane is not well known.

The Chicago Bicycle Program has “proposed” a buffered bike lane on Wells Street (by merely displaying a rendering of it on the backside of a “public meeting” handout). They have no released any further information about this. It would most likely be paid for with Alderman Reilly’s Menu Program funding. (Each alderman gets $1.3 million annually to spend at their discretion and he spent some of it on new bike lanes on Grand Avenue and Illinois Street.)

Contact the Alderman to let him know you want to be able to bike more safely on Wells Street into downtown. And make sure he and the entire Department of Transportation (CDOT; contact Commissioner Bobby Ware) know that people who ride bikes want to be involved in its design; when it comes to informing the public, CDOT has a lot of room for improvement. They could do this by being more timely in providing project updates, like the status of awarding contracts or starting construction on streetscape projects (the website lists the names and locations, but no other information). A major project missing is the Lawrence Avenue streetscape and road diet between Ashland and Western.

Other streets in Chicago are ripe for protected bike lane similar treatment. Can you suggest some places? I’ll keep a list here where we can debate the pros and cons of each location. Through an educated and data-supported campaign, we can advocate for the best locations at which protected bike lanes should be installed.

The new two-way protected bike lane in Chicago on a Lake Shore Drive offramp. More photos.

The Sands Street bikeway becomes protected as you ride closer to the Manhattan Bridge ramp. More photos of biking in New York City.

Protected bike lanes are all the rage in New York City. They have several miles of buffer and barrier separated bike lanes. Portland, Oregon, also has a diversity of protected bikeways. Minneapolis has several miles of off-street trails going to and through neighborhoods (which is why they’re key to the overall network).

Take the helicopter to the airport!

If you have a lot of money, you can skip the road traffic and take a helicopter from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark airports. U.S. Helicopter provides shuttle service for $800 one-way and will get you there in 10 minutes or less. HeliNY Charters charges $1,850.

After the helicopter landed, some people got on and one minute later it took off. While I stood here, a couple helicopters came and went. I took video but I accidentally deleted it later.

Sources: U.S. Helicopter, Downtown Manhattan Heliport, HeliNY

Update on Prospect Park West bike lanes

On Thursday, the day of the anti-bike lane rally and adjacent counter rally, the New York City Department of Transportation released preliminary “before and after” data about speeding and sidewalk riding, the two major concerns the neighborhood had about the street.

Instead of 46% of people riding bikes on Prospect Park West sidewalks, only 4% do. And only 11-23% exceed the speed limit, where before the new bike lane, 73-76% would. Download the document (PDF) via TransportationNation.

A commenter (BicyclesOnly, from NYC) weighs in:

One of the main complaints against the redesign is that it reduces the roadway from three lanes to two, which means that double parking (which is very common here) effectively reduces the roadway to one lane. At one lane, you get some congestion and delays.

[…]

But is that really so bad? The impetus behind this project was concerns for rampant motor vehicle speeding. Because this roadway at three lanes had excess capacity, more than half the vehicles can and routinely would exceed the speed limit, creating a barrier between park slope residents and their park. 90% of the Park Slope community lives, not on Prospect Park West, where this project was installed, but to the west.

So to be fair, I wouldn’t suggest that the project has had NO effect on residents. But from a safety and utility perspective, and looking at the entire community of people who use this corridor–not just the people who live on it–the trade offs clearly are worth it. That’s why the local Community Board endorsed this project. And it bears mention that the Community Board is hand-picked by the Borough President, who is the leading OPPONENT of the project. So the community review process was NOT rigged in favor of approval.

Photo showing bike lane construction in progress.

New Yorkers really want to keep their bike lanes

UPDATE March 21, 2011: Seniors for Safety and Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes have sued the New York City government. Stay up to date with Streetsblog and Brooklyn Spoke. While both are clearly in favor of the protected bike lanes on Prospect Park West, the other news sources (like the daily papers there) are getting decidedly nasty in their reporting. Brooklyn Spoke has been reporting on the Community Board 6 meetings. Read about why I post about this on Steven Can Plan.

UPDATE 10-22-10: Streetsblog has posted new data showing before and after conditions on Prospect Park West.

Alternate headline: People protecting their protected bike lanes, New York City edition.

New Yorkers will show up at rallies to ensure the protected bike lanes STAY. Photo by bicyclesonly.

New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) installed in early 2010 a two-way bike lane protected by a “floating parking lane” on Prospect Park West, an “arterial” road on the west side of Prospect Park. I rode on this bike lane during my August 2010 visit. It was fantastic.

It’s like riding on an off-street trail – cars won’t be giving you the ol’ right hook.

The only safety consideration is yielding to pedestrians who cross the bike lane. There’s no worry about dooring and little worry about moving cars hitting you.

Pay attention to the pedestrian crossing. Note the painted large pedestrian refuge area.

As you can see in this satellite image from Google Maps (link to map), the current roadway configuration from west to east is:

Parking lane – travel lane – travel lane – parking lane – buffer – bike lane (SB) – bike lane (NB)

Some residents want the bike lane removed. Their rationale is unclear, but it may have something to do with the perceived loss of parking. And being able to speed. The jury’s out on this matter. These residents announced a rally to demand its removal from the overbearing DOT. They specifically name DOT Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan as the sole source of all that is wrong in transportation in New York City. Even the Borough President, Marty Markowitz*, is against it. (Also for irrational reasons.)

So the bike lane opponents showed up to their rally. But 200-300 bike lane supporters came, too (Streetsblog). A neighborhood group researched automobile speeding before and after the bike lane installation and found, post-installation, a drastic reduction of people driving more than 40 MPH.

Us Chicagoans need to borrow some of this pro-bike lane energy to support the Bike Boulevards Now! effort (I haven’t heard anything about this since it began in 2009.)

*From what I’ve read, the office Borough President is a ceremonial position. They get a spot on the Planning Commission board and Panel for Education Policy.

New York City, a dreamland

Rather than write a lengthy post here describing my recent trip to New York City (I went in the last weekend of August), I will invite you to peruse my 50 photo gallery. They are in order by date and time taken and fully mapped and described.

I was last in New York City in August 2001, for the MacWorld Conference where I saw Steve Jobs announce the iPod – I got that iPod for Christmas that year. I stayed in Connecticut. The first day, my dad and I drove into the city. The next day we took Metro North from Bridgeport. The only thing I remember doing on that trip is taking the subway from the Javits Center to the Hard Rock Cafe and over to Grand Central Station.

I’ll describe my 2010 trip as a “whirlwind tour.” In three days I rode over 100 miles on a too-small borrowed bike. I met fourteen people. I went up and down the island four times. I wouldn’t shut up at work about it for a week.

The first photo in the set, about the typography of the New York City yellow cab system.

The last photo in the set, about pedestrian craziness in the segregated bike lanes.

Full photo set. The set is sure to grow, so stay tuned to my Flickr photostream or Twitter feed for updates.

It helps to be loud

When in New York City, be as loud as possible. You’re going to have to get someone’s attention.

My reflection in the shiny bell while riding through Central Park (on a roadway closed to cars – imagine that!).

The bike I borrowed and rode over 100 miles on in three days during my four day trip to New York City this past weekend came without a bell (it’s required by law). I headed over to a store that sells Dutch bikes (where else?) to buy a pretty and loud bell.

After I installed this $8 beauty on my Trek Something Undersized, I couldn’t stop ringing it. For fun and for warning others.

People getting around this city are insane. I think that’s because there’re so many people going every which way, insanity is the only way to cope.

Looking through photos of other huge (by population) cities around the globe, it seems a similar transportational insanity exists. Think of the thousands of motorcycles and jitneys in Delhi, India, or the 1,000 people who cross this intersection in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.

Delhi, India, traffic by Chris Brunn.

Pedestrian crossing in Shibuya district of Toky, Japan, by Pasutadoll Pseangsong.

I saw all the movie and photo shoots in New York City

New York City doesn’t need Google Street View.

Every street has been captured at some time or another in a shoot for photos, music videos, or movies.

Two simultaneous photo shoots. I couldn’t tell if they were related. The one on the right might be pointed in the wrong direction and feature the people in the left. Right above this was a movie shoot on the High Line.

I saw one movie shoot, five photo shoots, and this music video shoot all while riding and walking around New York City. Just in three days!

A rap music video shot across the street from Recycle-A-Bicycle.

Everything in New York City is normal.

Travel grief

I came back to Chicago today after a trip to New York City.

The first thing I did when I arrived was imagine all the things that I want to change based on what I saw and learned in New York City. Someone told me this is travel grief, states of emotion and motivation in order to effect change.

What was the first thing I saw?

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has three types of ticket vending machines (TVM) in the O’Hare Blue Line station. One is the common TVM that can create cards with cash value, add value to existing cards, or add value to Chicago Cards (with cash). The second TVM did all of this and accepted credit cards. The third TVM issued single or multi-day passes (I don’t remember if it took credit cards).

The vending machines in the New York City subway perform the functions of all CTA three machines AND all accept credit cards. Since 1999.

There’s more. I tried to keep a list. As I process my 500+ photos, I’ll be reminded of the ones I forgot to write down.

Bike parking news for Chicago and NYC

First, let’s talk about Chicago’s bike parking news.

The Chicago Bicycle Parking Program, in August 2008, launched a web application that “does three things” (straight from the website) for Chicago residents: allows them to request a new bike rack; allows them to track their request; allows them to find existing and requested bike parking locations.* We call it the “Public Interface” in the office.

In the past three weeks, our “bike parking locator” was featured on:

  • Chicago Reader
  • Cyclelicious
  • GapersBlock (via Chicago Reader)
  • RedEye – “How much bike parking is in your ‘hood?” – This piece excited me the most. It was printed and distributed to thousands of Chicagoans on Friday, December 11, 2009! The article included a map based on the data that anyone can download from the Public Interface’s advanced search page.

Scan of article printed in the 12/11/09 publication of the RedEye, a Chicago Tribune tabloid-style newspaper.

Screenshot of the Advanced Search page in the Bike Parking Public Interface web application.

Now let’s move on to the news in New York City. The Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law went into effect on December 11, 2009. Briefly, the law says buildings with at least one freight elevator and without listed exceptions must create a “bicycle access plan” for residents/tenants upon request. For interested tenants of building owners and managers, the NYC Department of Transportation’s “Bikes in Buildings” website is the first stop. It describes the process and offers tenants and building owners and managers an automatic request generator or plan builder. This also helps the NYC DOT track requests and deal with exception requests. In the spirit of President Obama’s desire for government openness and the Office of Management and Budget’s recently released “Open Government Direction,” I hope NYC DOT publishes the information it holds.

Streetsblog has posted a roundup of its previous articles leading up to the bill’s passing in July 2009.

*Disclaimer: I coded the web application. My boss was also involved, mainly in directing how it should function and what it should say (he’s way better at copywriting than I am). I also got help from someone who’s blind to test the accessibility of the website.

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