CategoryLaws

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.

Tucson’s neighborhood friendly ordinances

I’m moving to Tucson so I can bike on Dutch-style separated bike paths.*

My Grid Chicago writing partner John Greenfield visited Tucson, Arizona, earlier this month. His post about their bicycle facilities is on our site today. I published two posts about my visit in 2010, first Tucson has every kind of bikeway and Rialto theater in downtown Tucson.

In John’s post, he describes that the proliferation of bikeways (of all kinds!) are in part due to a city ordinance that requires they be installed in all road projects. Think Complete Streets but where you actually have to make one instead of just “considering” making one, which is what happens here.

I started digging into the city code to find the ordinance and its exact language. I haven’t found it yet, but I did find this:

Chapter 15, Section 13 is about going to the voters to approve or reject the city’s involvement in any project to construct “freeway, parkway or other controlled-access highway” or “grade-separated interchange”. So, in a regular or special election, the city must ask voters whether or not the city should be involved in building big roads, on a project by project basis.

Imagine that. What if the voters of Chicago could reject the destruction of their neighborhoods because of expressway construction for the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, and Kennedy? Well, first of all, would people approve or reject those projects?

“(e) If the voters reject the proposed project, the mayor and council shall request that the state department of transportation not include the proposed project in the state highway system.”

An approval for a project is valid for five years. If no construction happens in that time, then the project approval has lapsed and the voters must be asked again. I’m sure many people (especially the people proposing the project) would find this law an enormous barrier to “progress”, but it ensures some level of public participation.

* Just kidding.

Bikes are social

This entry originally appeared as a guest post on Let’s Go Ride a Bike, last week. I am posting it here now for you and recommending you visit that blog.

Two Mondays ago someone on the sidewalk yelled “Happy birthday” to me while I was riding to Bridgeport through University Village (UIC’s south campus). It was my birthday. I turned around to identify the shouting person. Joe was a classmate and now I most often see him at a local bike shop or playing bike polo. We went inside the store and chatted for awhile.

The bicycle is an extremely social tool. While it helps me get to the places I need to go, it does so in such a way that fosters community and interaction. As I ride, I’m exposed to the whims of the street: the noises, the chatter, the honks, the people, and the people I know. But it also helps me get to know new people.

Ready to zombie?

I met some new people on the Zombie Ride in October that started at West Town Bikes in Humboldt Park and finished at Johnny Sprockets bike shop in Lakeview.

I participated in another bike light distribution with Active Transportation Alliance on November 17, 2010. I photographed a previous distribution in Wicker Park a week earlier. This time around, at the corner of Halsted and Roosevelt at the UIC campus, I took a more direct role by flagging people riding bikes without lights to pull over and stop. I would then attach a brand new headlight to their bicycle, courtesy of customers of Groupon and the law office of Jim Freeman. During the two minutes I had their undivided attention, I told them about the state law requiring a front light and the role of Active Transportation Alliance in the city and suburbs.

This time I wanted to record more information about all the people I helped and talked to. I kept a little note card in my pocket and recorded the revealed reasons why the person didn’t have a headlight, how many men and women I helped (I only recorded two categories), and some select quotes.

I think six people refused my offer for a free headlight – this is because they couldn’t hear me (several wore headphones), didn’t understand our intentions, or both. Also confused, a man driving a car said, “You little bastard with your bikes,” but I won’t let anyone distract me.

Genaro gives a free headlight to someone without it

Genaro installs a headlight to someone riding on Halsted Street in University Village.

Of all the people I stopped, I identified 21 men and 11 women (32 total). Four people said they lost their lights or had them stolen and hadn’t yet replaced the lights. One person forgot their lights. 27 of the 32 people riding bikes didn’t know it was state law to ride a bike with a headlight on at night. Here’s what some riders had to say:

“No one told me that!” I suspect this is an extremely common explanation. This is definitely an opportunity for local bike shops to educate their customers, but there are other places people can get this information, like resident advisers at dorms, churches, and workplaces. The Active Transportation Alliance fights tirelessly to instill basic information into the minds of people riding bikes around town.

One person I was talking to hadn’t heard of the Active Transportation Alliance and after I explained to him what the organization does, he said, “My friends and I want to start our own group.”

Someone on foot asked me, “How long are you going to be here? I want my friend to get one.” This guy came back with his friend and they both got free headlights.

Speaking of the bicycling leading me to meetings with people I know, three friends were walking by and said hello. I had met one of them, Andrew, at the same spot, in front of the UIC Skyspace as we both raced in an October 2006 scavenger hunt.

Blues unite!

Walk under the Skyspace to get a direct and undistracted view of the sky and space.

Bike crash reporting tool: I receive a response to my FOIA request

UPDATE 12-15-10: I forgot to add that the letter stated that the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t require the responding agency to create new datasets or records where one doesn’t already exist. This means that if what you ask for doesn’t exist in their databases or file cabinets, the agency is not about to filter or search through existing data to create a custom set for you.

I continue to prepare to create a bicycle crash reporting tool (or web application). Here are the previous posts. Readers have sent me many great suggestions and concerns about how to create it, what data to use, and how to present such data. I don’t expect to begin any demonstrable work on this until mid-January when I return from my 21-day European vacation.

Today I received a response letter from the Chicago Police Department regarding my recent FOIA request for bicycle crash data.

This was disappointing: “After a thorough search, it was determined that the Department has no existing record responsive to your request.” I thought, “that doesn’t seem right. They don’t make reports on bicycle crashes?”

Police respond to a bicycle crash in Newberg, Oregon. Photo by Matt Haughey.

The letter later states, “The Department  does not currently possess a record which aggregates bicycle crash data.” Ah, this means something now. It seems that while the Chicago Police Department does make reports on bicycle crashes, it doesn’t keep a running tally or stored database query which it can use to produce the data I want – what I want would require a little more work, I guess.

The final paragraph does recommend that I contact the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Traffic Safety’s Crash Reporting Section, where the police forward their reports. It turns out that I already received crash data on IDOT and I’m “playing around with it” using Google’s Fusion Tables.

Flickr is not a stock photo website

Contrary to popular belief, Flickr is not a stock photo* website with a cornucopia of beautiful and relevant photographs of people, objects, and infrastructure you need for your professional or academic project.

I have heard several stories, and witnessed on multiple occasions, workers and students appropriating photos they find on Flickr .

Flickr seems to have, on average, more interesting, and higher quality photos than other photo sharing websites, including Picasa, Photobucket, MySpace, and Facebook. But Flickr enables its users to display the rights visitors have to use their photos (if any). These are rights granted to content creators by the federal government the moment such content is created. These rights can then be sub-granted to others through licensing. Flickr users can identify their photos to visitors as having one of the Creative Commons licenses, or reserving all rights (this means visitors shouldn’t even download the photo to their computer).

A couple of months ago I started watermarking my photos on Flickr because I didn’t want someone to use my photo without following the rules of the Creative Commons license. (All of my photos have the Creative Commons-Attribution-Share Alike-Non-commercial license ascribed – this license allows anyone to use your work as long as they don’t make money by using it, they attribute you, the creator, and they share their work in the same fashion.) The photo above shows two uses of my photos where neither myself or my employer (who commissioned the photos) are credited.

This scheme also makes it easy for photographers on Flickr to share their work widely. In April, a professional association emailed me to ask if they could use a photo I posted on my Flickr photostream in an upcoming publication. The photo was clearly listed as having the Creative Commons license I described above. They didn’t need my explicit permission to use the photo. I understand, though, that the license permissions displayed on Flickr may not satisfy corporate or organization policy, and a written agreement is needed. That’s fine – when you require such an agreement, don’t then make it difficult for the original content creator (myself) to agree to it. The organization wanted me to print a document, sign it, and fax it to them. Or I could open the PDF agreement in Adobe Illustrator and attach my digital signature and email it to them.

Visitors to Flickr who are looking for high-quality, desirable photos to use in their own works should respect the licenses listed on every photo’s page. When a Flickr users reserves all rights to the photo, visitors can consider contacting the user for special permission to use the photo. Using someone else’s work without their permission or against their preferences is also rude and unprofessional.

*Stock photos are those taken expressly to be used in other people’s works and the photographers have agreed to either a payment given at once, or by royalties. iStockPhoto and Getty Images are major stock photo warehouses.

Bike passengers, an update on the rules

You read in “Passenger is the new cargo” about how carrying a passenger is the hot new bike accessory.

Someone in Portland received a citation (back in 2007) for carrying a passenger. And he retained a lawyer to fight it.

The Oregon Revised Statute (814.460) seems more detailed than the Chicago Municipal Code (9-52-090), but carrying a passenger is a-okay.

Sort of: according to the defendant’s lawyer, it will be easiest to win a case if the bicycle was advertised as being able to carry a passenger (like Yuba Mundo, XtraCycle, JoeBike, Madsen, and pretty much every Dutch bike).

Read the full story on BikePortland.org.

Check out the Illinois Compiled Statute on the matter (11-15-1503):

(a) A person propelling a bicycle shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto. (b) No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped, except that an adult rider may carry a child securely attached to his person in a back pack or sling [emphasis added].

I wonder what the motivation was behind adding the language in bold.

Not busy? Check out Marc’s 700+ photos of passengers on bikes in the Netherlands.

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