CategoryEvents

Big Marsh Bike Park is the coolest new city park

Big Marsh Bike Park opening day from Steven Vance on Vimeo.

Rahm Emanuel has opened a lot of cool new parks – Maggie Daley, Northerly Island, 606, and Grant Park Skate Park – since he became mayor. (Making arguments that the parking lot south of Soldier Field can’t be anything but a parking lot pretty lame.)

This morning Emanuel cut the ribbon on the Big Marsh Bike Park, first announced in July 2014. It’s still known as Park 564, until the Chicago Park District board adopts a new name.

It’s located at 11599 S. Stony Island Ave. in the South Deering community area in an area already known as Big Marsh. I mapped the park into OpenStreetMap based on a map from the architect, Hitchcock Design Group*.

I've traced an architect's map of the park into OpenStreetMap.

I’ve traced an architect’s map of the park into OpenStreetMap.

The single-track trails, terrain park, and pump track, are free and open to the public every day from dawn until dusk. It resembles the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder Colorado, which I visited in 2014.

Big Marsh was listed in the city’s Habitat Directory in 2005, noting, “Big Marsh is the largest individual wetland in the Calumet Open Space Reserve with approximately 90 acres of open water. Hiking and biking trails and canoe launch are ideas for this area in the future. As of this writing, the site is undeveloped.”

A map of the Big Marsh wetland in 2005 in the City of Chicago's Habitat Directory.

A map of the Big Marsh wetland in 2005 in the City of Chicago’s Habitat Directory. The bike park is mainly in the cleared space east of the #2 on the map.

The area is also part of the the State of Illinois’s Millennium Reserve program, a group of projects to restore natural areas, create new economic development opportunities in the area, and build more recreational sites.

There is no bike infrastructure to access the site, and many roads leading to the site are in bad condition, or have high-speed car traffic. There is a large car parking lot at the site.

* If you would like to help me map the bike park into OpenStreetMap, you can load the architect’s map of the site into JOSM using this WMS tile layer.

Panorama of the bike park, and the landfill to its south

A rider on the terrain park small trail

Adrienne Alexander tells ChiHackNight what she does as a union lobbyist

Adrienne Alexander speaking to ChiHackNight at Braintree. Photo by Chris Whitaker.

Adrienne Alexander speaking to ChiHackNight at Braintree. Photo by Chris Whitaker.

ChiHackNight is Chicago’s weekly event to build, share & learn about civic tech. Me and 100 of my friends (50 of whom are new every week!) meet in the Braintree auditorium on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart. Sign up for notifications on upcoming presenters. The content of my blog post is derived from real-time note taking.

Adrienne Alexander, or @DriXander on Twitter, came to ChiHackNight last night to tell us about her experience as a lobbyist working for the state’s largest public employees union. She lobbies the Chicago City Council and the Illinois state legislature for bills and budget modifications that would impact the members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees council 31.

Members of AFSCME (afs-me) are staff at numerous Chicago city departments and in state government. Alexander watches new bills that come in and analyzes what their impact might have on its members.

She gave the example of the privatization legislation that she lobbied, the Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance, for three years. Salon reported on the PTAO in 2013, saying, “[it] is designed to help prevent abuses of privatization, and avoid the kinds of deals negotiated in the past that were intended to help close budget deficits but turned out to be massive boons for corporations and Wall Street while losing long-term revenue for the city.”

Alexander, however, had been battling efforts to privatize city functions earlier. In 2011, she said, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was trying to privatize the water billing group. This would have been realized by amending the budget and reducing the amount budgeted for that group of staff.

“We represented those folks”, she said. “It got a lot of aldermen upset, it was supposed to save $100,000 annually but also lay off 40 people.” It didn’t happen. And neither did the 311 privatization that Emanuel proposed in 2015 for the 2016 budget. 

Alexander said that it was hard to keep the press focused on this issue for three years, because nothing was happening. “If there’s nothing happening, they would say, then there’s nothing to write about”, she said.

It was passed in November 2015. “It’s hard to get things passed that don’t have the mayor’s support,” Alexander said. “A lot of the calls the aldermen get are not about policy, but about alleys, trash, tree trimming, these very ‘quality of life’ issues specific to their ward”. 

There’s a good reason – for them –in all of this, she explained. “You can be the most citywide alderman, really focused on policy, but if you don’t take care of the stuff in your ward then you will lose your election.”

Alexander gave some advice to ChiHackNight members who are building tools that explain why some policies aren’t working and should change. Claire Micklin asked how to get alders to “mobilize on and care about policy issues, and can they affect policy change from the ground up if the mayor isn’t necessarily generating or supporting that policy issue?”

Micklin led the development of “My Building Doesn’t Recycle”, a map where Chicagoans can report that their multi-unit building doesn’t have a third-party recycling service (required if the tenants of a building with 5 or more units request it).

Alexander said “I think there’s not so much a culture of [alders generating their own policy initiatives] here, but I think it’s possible”.

She advised Micklin, and anyone else who’s working to change a city policy, to:

  • Choose your sponsor carefully.
  • Be clear of what your expectations are, have a plan so you can help guide them
  • Have grassroots support, so it’s more than one person coming and talking to them about it
  • Make sure they’re hearing about it from different places, and find out who else they’re listening to.

In each ward, she said, there’s at least one organization that an alder really cares about, so if that organization is making something an issue, or it would be beneficial to that organization, then they could be helpful.

I’ve seen this kind of organization-derived influence a lot in property development matters. If there’s a neighborhood-based organization that purports to represent resident issues in a specific boundary, then the alder who’s receiving a new property development proposal will ask that the developer meet with the organization to gain their approval. I’ve seen situations, especially in the 1st Ward, where the alder supports the development if the organization supports the development.

Alexander concluded her response to Micklin’s question, saying, “It’s really helpful if you can do a lot of the legwork, and you can get the alderman plugged into the process.”

5 reasons to come to Bikecitement Night!

WTB@YBS

West Town Bikes sent these young adults to Youth Bike Summit in New York City (2013). Photo: Michael Young

I am copying this message straight from the West Town Bikes e-newsletter I just received, with some personal notes in brackets. WTB holds multiple fundraisers each year. Tour de Fat is their largest, but we need something to do in the winter, right?

Bikecitement in three weeks is a time for people to get to know more about West Town Bikes, its people and its programs, than possible at Tour de Fat – all while enjoying Revolution Brewing refreshments.

1. Support one of Chicago’s premier bike-based, youth development organizations.
[I support it in multiple ways: blogging about it now, going to their events, taking friends there to help them fix their bikes, and buying my bike parts there. I also make monetary donations.]

2. Meet our talented & enthusiastic youth leaders.
[The youth who join West Town Bikes – either as students, or as apprentices and later staff members – are the coolest, brightest young adults I know.]

3. Bid on auction items like theater and performance tickets, dinner at fine restaurants, Chicago sports memorabilia, and much, much more.

[I don’t like going out to these things, so I’ll leave room on the silent auction bidding sheet for your name.]

4. Enjoy craft beers & tasty treats from Revolution Brewery.

[Revolution Brewing makes the best beer, Eugene Porter, and donates a portion of its profits to bike culture endeavors – the more you eat and drink at Revolution the more money they can devote to that cause. The founder, Josh Deth, is also an urban planner and basically did his own zoning analysis about parking requirements for the brewpub.]

5. Enjoy the “Bike Scene” with the West Town Staff!

[The staff, what can I say, are committed, passionate, and fun to hang out with.]

West Town Bikes

Emily Leidenfrost, a program coordinator at West Town Bikes, helps kids make crafts at Tour de Fat this summer. Photo: Daniel Rangel

Addendum: This summer I co-taught a bike planning class with Emily Leidenfrost. She led the class while I joined a few times each week to teach urban planning and bike infrastructure design concepts. I instructed a group of five high school students (most of whom became college freshman last month) to collect and analyze data, and prepare a professional report that described the problem of bicycling among key sites along Western Avenue in multiple neighborhoods.

When
Monday, November 9, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

at Revolution Brewing’s brewpub in Logan Square
2323 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Buy tickets now!

Why architects should learn OpenStreetMap

I’m teaching OpenStreetMap 101 at the first MaptimeCHI.

Architects will learn that OpenStreetMap can be used as a data source when developing projects and as a basis for designing custom maps in project publications (website, anthology, monograph, client presentations).

This meeting is about getting an introduction to OpenStreetMap and learning to make your first edit in the “Wikipedia of maps”.

Thursday, July 17th, from 6-8 PM
Thoughtworks office
200 E Randolph St

RSVP on EventBrite.

Here are two examples of how architects could use OpenStreetMap data.

Example 1 of how to use OpenStreetMap. Instead of publishing a screenshot of Google Maps in your documents or website, create a custom design map like this without having to spend so much time tweaking it in Illustrator. This map was created by Stamen Design using TileMill.

Example 1 of how to use OpenStreetMap. Instead of publishing a screenshot of Google Maps in your documents or website, create a custom design map like this without having to spend so much time tweaking it in Illustrator. This map was created by Stamen Design using TileMill.

And the second.

Willow Creek Church on OpenStreetMap: After

Here’s one example where OpenStreetMap could be useful. Let’s say you’re working on a site plan for Willow Creek Church in South Barrington and you need a general layout of the parking lot. 1. You can get it from OpenStreetMap because it’s already there. 2. You can draw it in OpenStreetMap yourself (to benefit all other OSM users) and then extract it as a shapefile.

Maptime is time for mapmaking and it’s taking the country by storm.

Where do Divvy riders go?

Divvys

Divvy bikes fit people of almost all sizes. Photo by Mike Travis (mikeybrick).

Divvy released the 2013 trip data on Tuesday for their data challenge, and presented alongside me the data, basic system operations info, and existing visualizations and apps, at a Divvy data-focused Open Gov Hack Night I put together at the weekly meeting. Thank you Chris Whitaker at Smart Chicago Collaborative for writing the meeting recap.

I “ran the numbers” on some selected slices of the data to post on Twitter and they range from the useless to useful! I’m using the hashtag #DivvyData.

  • Average trip distance of members in 2013 is estimated to be slightly shorter than casuals: 1.81 miles versus 1.56 miles – tweet
  • Bike 321 has traveled the furthest: 989 miles. Beat the next bike by 0.2 miles – tweet
  • Women members on average took longer trips (but fewer trips overall) on @DivvyBikes than men in 2013. – tweet
  • The average trip distance of 759,788 trips (by members and casuals) in 2013 is an estimated 1.68 miles. – tweet
  • In 2013, 79.05% of member trips were by men and 20.95% by women. – tweet
  • On average in 2013, 24-hour pass holders (whom I call casuals) made trips 2.5x longer (time wise) than members. – tweet
  • Damen/Pierce Divvy station (outside the Damen Blue Line station) is most popular in Wicker Park-Bucktown – data

And other stats, presented as embedded tweets:

 

 

OpenStreetMap editing and two Chicago events in April

A mapping party! Photo by MapBox. 

I use OpenStreetMap (OSM) heavily since I learned how to edit the map. OSM is the Wikipedia of worldwide mapping: it allows anyone to edit and contribute and allows anyone to copy and extract the data.

I edit places that lack information, fix mistakes (like how roads are drawn, or typos), and add new places. This work is important to my app because what is shown on OpenStreetMap is what appears in my iOS app, the Chicago Bike Map app.

The Chicago Bike Map app map tiles currently look like the above screenshot. Before releasing the next version I will download the latest version of “planet”, which has 100% of buildings now, thanks to Ian Dees

When I locate a place that needs more detail and I want to add it, I open JOSM.app and then, on the OpenStreetMap.org website, I click “Edit>Edit with Remote Control”. JOSM pans over to that spot and downloads all of the OSM data. It works very much like a GIS application and AutoCAD: it has points and polygons that you can move or resize. When you’re done adding features or editing the geometry or metadata of existing ones, click “Upload data”, add a message summarizing the changes you made, and hit the “Upload” button.

Screencast showing how I locate places to which to add detail and then add them with JOSM.

Your changes will be integrated in the OSM database almost immediately. The changes will appear on the live OpenStreetMap.org map tiles in minutes. The “extract services”, which take the data out and send to you as a compressed file or even ESRI shapefile, will read the “planet” file (complete OSM database) soon; some update nightly while others update weekly.

Here are the extract services I use (each one for different reasons):

  • BBBike.org – nightly; allows you to select any area with a self-drawn polygon; exports in ESRI shapefile and other formats; extracts take 15-30 minutes.
  • Michal Migurski’s Metro Extracts – monthly; has ~100 cities pre-extracted; this is now hosted on Smart Chicago Collaborative’s resources alongside my Crash Browser.
  • GEOFABRIK – nightly; all continents, many countries and all fifty states are pre-extracted;

Events!

These are copied straight from the Smart Chicago Collaborative website. I will be at the Map-a-Thon. I’m still thinking about the Hackathon. While I can’t program in the languages required, I can write decent documentation.

OpenStreetMap Map-a-Thon

Beginning mappers are invited to be a part of a national OpenStreetMap Map-a-thon by learning how to use our tools to improve the map in your area. You can add your favorite restaurant or comic book store, a local school or hospital. During the map-a-thon we’ll walk you through the process of finding your area, creating an account, and making your first edit. With that foundation, you can go on to make an impact by adding tons of information relevant to you and your community!

Attend the Map-a-thon April 20th and 21st at 1871 on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza from 12 PM to 6 PM. Participants will enjoy food and drinks thanks to Smart Chicago Collaborative.

For more information about the map-a-thon and to RSVP, please visit the Meetup page for the event.

OpenStreetMap Hack Weekend

If you know your way around a compiler, feel comfortable with JSON and XML, or know the difference between an ellipsoid and a geoid, then the Hack Weekend is for you. We’re looking for those with technical know-how to help make a difference in OpenStreetMap’s core software by writing patches and new software to help make mapping faster and easier. Special thanks to Knight-Mozilla OpenNews for their support and sponsorship.

The hack weekend will be held April 27th and 28th at 1871 from 9 AM to dinner time each day.

For more information about the hack weekend, please visit the OSM wiki page for the event. Two MapBox staffers will be here. MapBox is awesome; they make TileMill which makes my iOS app possible.

The Green Lane project is announced in Chicago

I covered this event for a Streetsblog article (which has been delayed). Essentially the Bikes Belong Foundation and its donors are trying to get “better bike lanes” (Euro-style) installed faster across North America. It’s more of a strategic planning thing; the money isn’t going to be used for paying for construction of the bike lanes.

It’s about knowledge sharing and technical assistance and documenting the process. Eventually this knowledge will be shared with all cities in the whole country. But essentially, Austin, Texas, can use this network to be able to get some help from Chicago or San Francisco, without incurring on those cities’ ability to quickly get their own lanes in.

See all photos from the soirée and then the next day’s press conference (Wednesday, May 30, and Thursday, May 31).

I am somewhat impressed that the director of the Federal Highway Administration*, Victor Mendez, pictured above, came from Washington, D.C., to tell us about the federal government’s support for bike lanes. I wish he could have said the same thing about House Republicans’ support. They’re against transit, too. I asked Victor to tell transportation secretary Ray LaHood to read Grid Chicago.

Watch this video by Nick Brazinsky. I believe he was hired by Bikes Belong to shoot it. That he roller skates to take video makes the film a little cooler.

The Green Lane cities are:

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Austin, Texas
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco, California
  • Memphis, Tennessee (this one’s inclusion is exciting)

* The FHWA administers bike lane funding, as well as funding for roads and highways. They are in charge of the CMAQ, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, funding program.

Cargo Bike Roll Call equivalent across the pond

The Cargo Bike Roll Call equivalent in Nijmegen, Netherlands, is called Bakfietsdag, or “box bike day”. The city is pronounced “nigh-may-hen” and is the home of a very awesome bridge that only carries trains and bikes.

Photo by Daniel Farrell. All other photos by Jan Beeldrijk.

See the full set of photos from my friend Jan’s photostream. I met Jan in Utrecht, and we rode our bikes from the Utrecht train station, through town, to nearby Houten, and then back to Utrecht. We visited the Spoorwegmuseum, too!

I am planning for the second annual Cargo Bike Roll Call. I held the first at West Town Bikes in September 2011. It’ll again be at West Town Bikes (Division Street and Campbell Street), but I’m aiming for June and I hope to have a street closure permit so we can (legally) take up more space this time. The police were friendly in our encounters last year, asking us to keep the beer inside and then asking us to stay in the parking lane and parkway. But this party is only going to get bigger.

I like this Long John’s design: instead of the cargo area being above the “forward” or “cargo tube”, it’s on the sides. I don’t know what advantages of disadvantages this has. You can also tell this bike was “homemade”. Another kind of Long John-style cargo bike is the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt, also spotted at Bakfietsdag.

Open House Chicago 2011 rocked

You can see Adler Planetarium from the Sky Park at MDA City Apartments, 63 E Lake Street. 

The Chicago Architecture Foundation arranged with building owners and tenants to give the public access to awesome spaces this past weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. Aside from frustration with the interface and design problems with the website, I thoroughly enjoyed each site I visited. View a list of all the sites that were open.

I checked out:

Inside the Christian Scientist chapel at 55 E Wacker Drive. 

The Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects. And it’s actually going to be built. 

Video tour of Open Streets

What is Open Streets?
It’s when a street is closed to cars and transformed into a safe place for fun and recreation. Read more on Grid Chicago.

Filmed by Steven Vance while sitting on the cargo deck of a Larry vs. Harry Bullitt, John Player Spezial. Cycling by Brandon Gobel, Bullitt owner.

Filmed with a handheld Sony DSC-HX5V. Edited with Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.

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