CategoryNeighborhoods

Welcome back, Bloomingdale Trail

Back to transportation service, that is.

Before it was the Bloomingdale Trail – associated parks comprising The 606 – it was the Bloomingdale Line, an elevated railroad route along Bloomingdale Avenue to serve industrial customers in Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Bucktown, and Wicker Park.

It was abandoned in the early 2000s. I don’t know when the last customer received a delivery via the line. It reopened to use for transportation on June 6, 2015, or 6/06. Now that same embankment transports pedestrians and bicyclists, in addition to providing new recreational and public space.

I’ve ridden and walked on it four times now since the opening and there are people all over the place on it. I tweeted as much last night.

On Monday, two days after opening, I filmed this 14-minute video of the entire west-to-east length and condensed it to 4 minutes.

Bicycling west to east on the Bloomingdale Trail from Steven Vance on Vimeo.

The solution to its crowding problem (I guess one of those “good problems to have”) is more. More car-free spaces. More low-stress transportation spaces. Space for walking, and space for cycling. Which we currently don’t have on the ground.

Chicago’s TOD rule is the only reason multi-family is being built in neighborhoods

This is the ordinance that says residential developments have to provide 0.5 car parking spaces per home, and that the minimum home size can be smaller.

How many units? At least 1,500. Here’re the 19 buildings I know about that are being built within 600 and 1,200 feet* of a Chicago Transit Authority ‘L’ station – the only areas, essentially, where multi-family housing can be developed.

Why can’t dense housing be built elsewhere? Because the most desirable living areas in Chicago – along retail streets in Logan Square, North Center, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and West Town – are zoned for single-family use. (And ad-hoc zoning districts taking the place of community land use planning.)

How do I know popular neighborhoods are zoned for single-family use? Because Daniel Hertz’s new Simplified Chicago Zoning Map makes it easy to see. Yep, even along those dense business districts and even outside the train stations.

Do the single-family home zones contain single-family homes now? Absolutely not! Much of the buildings in areas zoned for single-family homes have everything but! The particular view of the map that Hertz uses in his blog post shows that even adjacent to CTA stations, and within 1 block, there are only single-family zones (in red). There are many multi-family buildings in these red zones.

Red areas are zoned for single-family homes only.

Red areas are zoned for single-family homes only. View the map.

What ends up happening there? Teardowns. And the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce finds believes that non-matching zoning – it matches neither the existing uses nor the needs for the neighborhood – and teardowns are going to cut into consumer spending on its lively retail streets. Lakeview is seeing a population change to families which tend to have less disposable income.

More housing in a popular neighborhood means more shoppers, more property taxes, more “boots on the ground”, more “pedestrian congestion” in front of our local businesses.

Doesn’t the ordinance make station-adjacent parcels friendly to multi-family housing because of the TOD ordinance? Yes, and no. As Hertz points out, “virtually every sizable development involves a zoning variance or planned development process that goes beyond the zoning you’ll see on the map”.

The TOD ordinance is 19 months old and working exactly as intended, building more housing next to train stations, and giving more people the opportunity to have access to affordable transportation. So it needs an upgrade to be able to do more. Since, in Chicago, zoning is our land use plan, we need the best kind of zoning rules and this is one of the best.

Imagine what the TOD ordinance could do if it were expanded. Think, making the parking requirement relief and allowing different unit sizes by-right instead of going through an arduous and expensive zoning change process. Then, expanding the rule to include more than just 600 feet (which is less than a block) from a train station – people walk several blocks to get to CTA stations, and bike even more. And, beefing up the affordable housing requirements.

Let’s do this, Commissioner Andrew Mooney. Let’s do this, housing advocates. Let’s do this, transit advocates. I’m looking at you, Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA), Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), We Are/Somos Logan Square, Pilsen Alliance, Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Active Transportation Alliance, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT).

* The distance depends on existing Pedestrian Street zoning. If the property is on a designated Pedestrian Street then the station can be up to 1,200 for the ordinance to apply, double the normal 600 feet.

Jefferson Park station renovation highlights train station planning deficiencies

Jefferson Park train station rendering

Jefferson Park train station rendering from the City of Chicago. The only difference you see is canopies. What you don’t see is a walkable connection ut thisetween shops southeast of here and the train station – they’re separated by a strip of parking.

Plans for the renovation of the Jefferson Park CTA station are illustrative of the City’s failure to think deeply about how to design the projects that is funding in a way that maximizes potential for residential and commercial development around train stations.

The changes proposed for one of Chicagoland’s most important transit centers are weak. There’s no development plan, or any kind of neighborhood plan or “Corridor Development Initiative” for the Jefferson Park transit center.

Current city policy identifies train stations as optimal places to build new housing and commercial uses.

Without challenging the design to respond to this policy the transit center will continue to use neighborhood space inefficiently and doesn’t respond to demands from residents to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety and increase economic development.

Judging by the renderings, nothing is changing at the Jefferson Park Blue Line station (4917 N Milwaukee Ave). All of the improvements save for the canopy are invisible in this rendering. The CTA’s list of improvements reads like the superficial makeover that many stations got in the Station Renewal program almost three years ago, a stopgap measure until Your New Blue could begin.

There will be LED lighting, new paint, new escalators and stairs, new paving, and a new canopy. Only a few of those things make the station easier to access and use.

Jefferson Park is a major asset to the neighborhood and the city. The station serves CTA trains, Metra trains, CTA buses, and Pace buses to Chicago’s suburbs. The CTA’s September 2014 ridership report [PDF] said there are an average of 7,420 people boarding the Blue Line here each weekday, a 0.1% increase over September 2013. It’s the busiest Blue Line station outside of the Loop and O’Hare airport.*

On Twitter I said that the station should be surrounded by buildings, not bus bays. I’m not familiar with how many routes and buses use the station daily, and I’m not suggesting that space for buses go away. I’m challenging the Chicago Transit Authority and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to come up with a better plan for vehicle and pedestrian movements, and to start welcoming new development.

I pointed out the new Wiehle-Reston Silver Line station in Virginia where a residential building was constructed atop a bus bay (where I transferred from the Washington Flyer bus from Dulles). A plaza connects the bus bay to and apartment lobby and the Metrorail station.

Bus bays under an apartment building in Reston

The bus bay at the Wiehle-Reston Silver Line station in Reston, Virginia, is under an apartment building and plaza linking it to the Metrorail station.

The Metropolitan Planning Council conducted a consultation for the Logan Square Blue Line station – Your New Blue will make upgrades here, too – and the next door city-owned parking lot. Their consultation involved 700 people to decide what development at this station should look like. Their desires were pretty specific: there should be affordable housing, but not any higher than six stories.

The current policy, enacted as an ordinance and expressed in other city documents, allows developers to build more units in the same plot and save them and their tenants money by building less parking. But this policy is insufficient in that has no design review or public consultation attached. It also provides no zoning recommendations to expand the number of places to which it can apply.

A development plan, for which the CDI serves as a good, starting model, would bring residents – and people who want to live in the neighborhood – to discussions about if and how the neighborhood should change. It would hook into another city proposal, from the Chicago Department of Transportation, to build protected bike lanes on Milwaukee, but which ultimately failed. The process would probably uncover latent demand to build new housing in the neighborhood that’s stymied by incompatible zoning.**

The city’s recent choices for development and (lack of) urban design at this station as well as across from the Halsted Green Line station in Englewood where the city is selling vacant land to build a Whole Foods-anchored strip mall demonstrates how little deliberation there is in maximizing transit-oriented development, or TOD.

Their suburban forms are the antithesis of how we should be designing the stations and their environs – they should have higher densities and walkable places.

* Metra has published its 2014 station-level counts! This station had 599 daily boardings, yet not every train stops here. The Union Pacific Northwest (UP-NW) line that stops at Jefferson Park saw a 3.8% increase in ridership [PDF] from January to September 2014 versus the same period in 2013.

** There are no parcels near the Jefferson Park transit center that allow the transit-adjacent development ordinance to take effect; developers have to go through an arduous and sometimes costly process to persuade the alderman to change the zoning. The ordinance only affects Bx-3 districts (where x is 1-3 and -3 is the allowable density identifier).

The effects of TOD bonuses versus what a transit overlay district could do

I responded to Carter O’Brien’s comment on an EveryBlock discussion about a gentrification series on WBEZ, Chicago’s National Public Radio affiliate. I reposted the comment here because I want to talk about the problems of piecemeal zoning and how the city’s TOD ordinance can be improved to generate more and diverse housing types (by types I’m talking about quantity of units and stories, not rent vs. own).

@Carter: I think we might be on the same page about something. You wrote:

The question becomes to what degree should zoning be used to encourage one form of land use over another. That’s the tool in the City’s toolbox, so to speak.

Substantial zoning bonuses which will create brand new high rise towers in a neighborhood of lower-density historic architecture will encourage the settling of one economic class of people and the removal of another. [snip] The evidence is that we see shrinking populations of lower-middle class people raising families by the L stops in Wicker Park, Bucktown, Old Town, Lincoln Park and Lake View.

[Actually, pause now and go read Carter’s full comment – he mentions teardowns as an issue that should be part of a gentrifying neighborhood discussion.]

I like that the TOD ordinance seems to be fueling proposals to build many units near transit stations, but it may be building more many units than the community prefers.

I’d like to see transit-oriented zoning also used as a tool to also spur smaller, multi-unit buildings (two flats, three flats, four flats, courtyard buildings) by perhaps preventing low-density buildings so close to transit.

Across from Goethe Elementary School a huge parcel of land is being turned into 7 single-family homes on Medill Ave. That’s great land near a good school and 3 blocks from the California Blue Line station.

Zoning could have been used to require 2-4 unit buildings so that more families have a chance of benefiting from that location but instead the zoning district here makes building 2-4 unit residences on those parcels illegal.

A “transit overlay district” would be something new to Chicago and could do away with the piecemeal zoning of differing densities, one right next to or mixed in with the other. You might see Bx-1 next to Cx-2 and then a Rx-4. Create concentric zoning circles that keep the density uniformly high nearest the train station and then drop off the further away you get.

zoning districts around the California Blue Line station

This map includes the California Blue Line station and the Goethe school houses (empty area northwest of the RM-5 zone on Medill Avenue). The school is outlined inside PD 349.

Quick zoning primer

  • Adapted from Second City Zoning’s plain-English zoning district descriptions.
  • B = retail and apartments above
  • C = commercial (more business types than B) and apartments above
  • RS = single-family homes only
  • RT = 2-4 flats, single-family allowed
  • RM = multi-unit, single-family allowed

The -x number of a district indicates the density allowed (this works for single-family homes, too, setting the minimum parcel area upon which the house is built).

Note: This post has slightly different text from my EveryBlock comment because I had to edit that one for length (the site accepts 2,000 characters maximum).

Finding teardowns in Chicago

1923 South Allport Avenue, built 1884

A recent suspected teardown, at 1923 S Allport in Pilsen (25th Ward, 19th place for teardowns from 2006 to now). The demolition permit was issued August 7 and the new construction permit was issued August 5. The new building will have an increase in density, with three dwelling units. Photo by Gabriel Michael.

From Wikipedia, a teardown is a “process in which a real estate company or individual buys an existing home and then demolishes and replaces it with a new one”.

You can find suspected* teardowns in the building permits data on Licensed Chicago Contractors by looking for demolition permits and new construction permits for the same address. I limited my search to situations where the demolition permit was issued within 60 days prior or subsequent to the new construction permit. This shows properties that have a quick turnaround (thus more likely to get built). I didn’t want to include buildings that may have been demolished one year and got a building two years later.

Analysis

This analysis is based on data since January 1, 2006, the start of the first complete year of building permits data in the Chicago open data portal, and ends today. The first demolition permit in this analysis was issued January 10, 2006, and its associated new construction permit was issued five days prior. There may be a case when the demolition permit and new construction permits were issued in different years, but for this analysis I only consider the year in which the demolition permit was issued. (In my review of permits since March I believe that new construction permits are issued most often after the demolition permit.)

Suspected teardowns

The number for teardowns decreased dramatically as the economic crisis approached.

Results

There were 1,717 suspected teardowns in Chicago distributed across 57 community areas (of 77, whose boundaries don’t change) and 45 wards (of 50, whose boundaries changed in 2012).

West Town, Lake View, and North Center share top billing, with the most teardowns each year, but Lake View was #1 for seven of 10 years. Other top five community areas comprise Logan Square (thrice), Lincoln Square (thrice), Bridgeport (twice), McKinley Park (once), and Near West Side (once).

From 2012 to current, the most teardowns occurred in Wards 32 (Waguespack), 47 (Pawar), 1 (Moreno), 44 (Tunney), and 43 (Smith). All of those wards include parts of the top three community areas mentioned above.

The sixth ward with the most teardowns in this period was 2 (Fioretti) but this boundary no longer represents any part of the pre-2012 boundary that covered almost the entire South Loop. That means Ward 2 is now covering the west side. Additionally, the 2nd Ward made sixth place with 28 teardowns and fifth place, the 43rd Ward had 60 teardowns.

The South Loop, represented by the Near South Side community area, has had 0 suspected teardowns from 2012 to now. There was one teardown in the entire time period, where a three-story commercial was demolished at 1720 S Michigan Ave and replaced with a 32-story residential tower.

What else do you want to know about teardowns in Chicago?

* Notes

I use “suspected” because it’s impossible to know from the data if buildings were actually demolished and constructed.

Download the data as CSV for yourself.

Finding interesting data in the building permits dataset

I had several great conversations with fellow #chihacknight visitors at the 1871 tech hub (222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza) about how to reveal more information about what’s being built in Chicago. I had introduced Licensed Chicago Contractors at the previous week’s hack night and tonight I showed site changes I made like how much faster it is now that I use DataTables’s server-side processing function.

Some of the discussions resulted in suggestions to try new tools and methods that would make processing the data more efficient, or more revealing. What are the ways I can aggregate the data, or connect to similar data from other sources?

One of the new features I announced I’ll be adding is statistics on building activity by neighborhood. I started testing some queries to see the results, and to find the query that outputs that information in a way that’ll pique users’ interests.

I calculated the aggregate estimated costs of all building permit activity for the past 90 days in select neighborhoods. All of the data was automatically generated using a simple MySQL query, but one that will get faster after switching to Postgres. (I eliminated any project whose estimated cost was less than $1,000 because there are many project types that are $0 to several hundred dollars.)

  • Logan Square: 77 projects, totaling $16,295,997.50 at a $211,636.33 average cost
  • West Loop: 30 projects, totaling $27,646,899.00 at a $921,563.30 average cost
  • Andersonville: 6 projects, totaling $358,770.00 at a $59,795.00 average cost
  • Bronzeville: 34 projects, totaling $17,050,662.00 at a $501,490.06 average cost
  • Hyde Park: 20 projects, totaling $13,492,265.00 at a $674,613.25 average cost
  • Humboldt Park: 35 projects, totaling $41,917,988.00 at a $1,197,656.80 average cost

How does Humboldt Park double the other neighborhoods’ average? I think it’s pretty simple: this $40 million Salvation Army residence that’s going to be built at 825 N Christiana Avenue.

The results for Bronzeville were higher than I expected because this is a distressed neighborhood that has lost of lot of population and has seen little development in the past several years. This isn’t to say the neighborhood is poor – I saw a report last fall that highlighted how the purchasing power of Bronzeville residents was quite high relative to neighboring communities.

Ronnie Harris showed me the report when I participated in the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s civic app competition and hackathon. We, along with Josh Engel, designed Build It! Bronzeville, although my participation was really pushing them to develop Josh’s game idea more and construct a paper version of it. Our team won the competition and Ronnie and Josh have kept working on it (I saw them at last week’s hack night).

Projects that pushed up Bronzeville’s average included several multi-family homes at around $1.4 million each on the blocks of 4700 and 4800 S Calumet Avenue.

Code discussion

I can’t test for the “Loop” right now in the way I have my data structured because a LIKE ‘%loop%’ query of the database will include “West Loop” records.

I need to change how the building permit data is stored – in my database – a little so that my site’s PHP codebase and MySQL queries can sift through the data faster. For example, I’m storing several key-value pairs as a JSON-encoded string in a TEXT field. One #chihacknight developer suggested I switch from MySQL to PostgreSQL because Postgres has native JSON-parsing functions.

I looked up how to use Postgres’s JSON functions and realized that, yes, I probably should do that, but that I also need to change the array structure of the data I’m encoding to JSON. In other words, with a tiny change now, I can be better prepared for the eventual migration to Postgres.

Divvy activity in Wicker Park-Bucktown

Divvy Bikes Outside Smoke Daddy

The Divvy bike-share station outside Smoke Daddy on Division Street at Wood Street is the fourth most popular in the Wicker Park & Bucktown neighborhoods. Photo by Daniel Rangel.

This is an analysis of the station use for Divvy bike-share stations in the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods (they blend together and it’s hard to know if the club or bar you’re going to is one neighborhood or the other).

Numbers represent a discrete trip, from one station to another (or the same station if the trip was greater than 3 minutes, to eliminate “hiccups” where the bike left the dock but didn’t actually go anywhere). Customer means someone who used a 24-hour pass and subscribers are annual members. Gender is self-reported on a member’s DivvyBikes.com user profile.

17 stations listed.

[table id=10 /]

This map of Wicker Park Divvy stations shows a residential service gap among the Damen/Cortland, Ashland/Armitage ( Metra) and North/Wood stations.

This map of Wicker Park Divvy stations shows a residential service gap among the Damen/Cortland, Ashland/Armitage (
Metra) and North/Wood stations.

Based on the popularity of the Ashland/Armitage station, which is right outside the Clybourn Metra station – a very popular train stop – I think there might be a residential service gap near Saint Mary of the Angels School. I recommend a Divvy station at Walsh Park this year because the Bloomingdale Trail will open and terminate there.

Notes

Not all of these stations were online when Divvy launched on June 28, 2013, but I haven’t yet looked into the history to see when each went online. Therefore direct comparisons are not appropriate until you have a trips per day number. Then, seasonality (very cold weather) has its own effect. At the very least, all stations were online by October 29th, with the final addition of the Lincoln Ave & Fullerton Ave (at Halsted) station.

Can someone use “R” to make a time series chart on the entire trips dataset so we can find the best cutoff time to eliminate “hiccups”?

Query used: SELECT count(`trip_id`), usertype, gender FROM `divvy_trips_distances` WHERE (start_station = ‘Claremont Ave & Hirsch St’ or end_station = ‘Claremont Ave & Hirsch St’) AND seconds > 180 GROUP BY `usertype`, gender

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.

Revealing driver behavior on Clark Street with a radar gun

People prefer to cross Clark Street at Menomenee Street in groups of unacquainted individuals.

This is a more detailed post of the one at Streetsblog Chicago.

On the overcast morning of Friday, May 4, 2012, I recorded the speeds of 412 cars at four locations along Clark Street in Old Town and Lincoln Park for 15 minutes at each location. I missed counting the speeds of 42 cars. The embedded map shows the locations and some basic statistics.

What did I find? There’s a relationship between street width and the speed people drive. The highest speeds were found on the widest portions, and the lowest speeds on the narrowest portions. However, this basic study is far from scientific. A better study would record the locations simultaneously (necessitating 4 radar guns), calibrated equipment, consistent training for the researchers on data collection methods, a longer recording duration, and comparison to a control street that had a uniform width at four locations.


View Radar gun places on Clark Street in a larger map

1. Southbound Clark Street at Germania Place

My assistant and I set up the radar gun and camera immediately south of Sandburg Terrace and pointed the radar gun at people driving southbound on Clark Street between a row of parked cars at the concrete median (pedestrian refuge island). Classes would start soon at the Latin School on the east side of Clark Street. Compliance with state law requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk was weak, to say the least, but compliance wasn’t explicitly measured.

  • Average speed: 17.21 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Maximum speed: 30 MPH
  • Cars measured: 151
  • Speed limit: 30 MPH
  • Drivers exceeding the speed limit: 0
  • Width: 224 inches (from west curb to pedestrian refuge island)
  • Effective width: 140 inches (excludes parking by subtracting 7 feet)
  • Crashes: 35, of which 4 were bicycle, and 3 were pedestrian.

Only one car-car crash (actually a 3 car crash) produced an injury. What’s interesting about this location is that in a lot of the crashes, the cars were traveling in the same direction. There’s a lot of school drop off and pick up activity here for Latin School of Chicago students, so it could be that many people are pulling away from the curb to merge into traffic and collide.

2. Northbound Clark Street at Menomenee Street

  • Average speed: 30.83 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Maximum speed: 50 MPH
  • Cars measured: 121
  • Speed limit: 30 MPH
  • Drivers exceeding the speed limit: 53.72%
  • Width: 395 inches (from east curb to dividing line). This includes the parking lane but no cars were parked within 50 feet, north and south, of the measurement location.
  • Crashes: 20, of which 2 were bicycle, and 1 were pedestrian. Many of the non-bike and non-ped crashes involved a parked car or taxi. The only injuries experienced were by the 2 cyclists and 1 pedestrian.

3. Northbound Clark Street at Lincoln Park West

We stood on the “pie” (traffic island) that separates northbound Clark Street traffic from northbound Lincoln Park West traffic to measure the traffic driving on Clark Street between the pie and the concrete median separating it from southbound Clark Street.

  • Average speed: 25.60 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Maximum speed: 40 MPH
  • Cars measured: 58
  • Speed limit: 30 MPH
  • Drivers exceeding the speed limit: 27.59%
  • Width: 252 inches (from concrete median curb to west curb on the pie)
  • Crashes: 4, of which 1 was bicycle, and 2 were pedestrian.

4. Northbound Clark Street between Lincoln Park West and Dickens Avenue

This location is 125 feet north of the previous location.

  • Average speed: 22.54 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Maximum speed: 35 MPH
  • Cars measured: 58
  • Speed limit: 30 MPH
  • Drivers exceeding the speed limit: 2.44%
  • Width: 264 inches (from east curb to dividing line).
  • Effective width: 180 inches (excludes parking by subtracting 7 feet)
  • Crashes: 0

Me measuring speeding drivers on Clark Street with the speed gun, my clipboard and paper, and a GoPro camera to record the speeding drivers and the results on the speed gun. 

Bike Walk Lincoln Park’s proposal

In 2011, Michelle Stenzel and Michael of Bike Walk Lincoln Park published a document to “Make Clark a Liveable Street“. The first two pages show an aerial photo of the same section of Clark Street where I measured automobile speeds, North Avenue and Armitage Avenue. On the first page, existing conditions are laid out. The second graphic shows proposed improvements.

At Menomonee Street, measurement location 2, the document says “pedestrians must cross 6 lanes with no safe haven”, a width of just under 66 feet. In the later pages, the first existing condition is blatant: “Wide lanes of auto traffic moving at speeds in excess of the speed limit”. My analysis in May demonstrates this.

How does BikeWalk Lincoln Park propose to “transform this stretch from a car-oriented ‘super-highway’ to a people-oriented liveable street”? By installing protected bike lanes, putting the street on a diet, and installing new and well-marked crosswalks among other ideas.

Width and speed summary

Ordered by location:

  1. 224/140 inches. 0% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  2. 395/395 inches. 53.72% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  3. 252/252 inches. 27.59% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  4. 264/180 inches. 2.44% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit

Ordered from narrowest to widest to see how width relates to speed:

  • 224/140 inches. 0% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  • 264/180 inches. 2.44% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  • 252/252 inches. 27.59% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  • 395/395 inches. 53.72% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit

Notes

Crash data is within 100 feet to avoid the overlap of the final two locations, which were 125 feet apart. Crash data comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation for 2005-2010. The Bushnell Velocity Speed Gun was borrowed for this analysis. The radar gun was filmed to show a speeding car and its speed simultaneously. The video below shows a driver traveling at 50 MPH in a Children’s Safety Zone (as it’s within 1/8 mile of a park, Lincoln Park, making it eligible for automated speed enforcement).

Curiously, no traffic counts have been collected on Clark Street near any of the count locations.

View the video on Vimeo.

Screenshot of traffic count website. Go to the Traffic Count Database System and search for “1700 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL” in the map. 

What abysmal pavement quality on a brand new bike lane means

Approaching the intersection and bike lane minefield. 

I find it very embarrassing that Chicagoans are supposed to ride their bicycles in this. I feel embarrassed riding my bike in this. I rode my bike on this pavement of abysmal quality and then felt ashamed and uncomfortable that I exited the bike lane and rode elsewhere.

The bike symbol succumbs to flooding which occupies half the bike lane’s width. 

I felt like a person in a wheelchair given an “accessible” theater seat behind a column that blocks a majority of my view of the stage. I felt like I was a reporter at a newspaper given a new computer where the keyboard was missing 42 keys. The bike lane was unusable, I was the butt of a cruel joke. This felt like a pittance, throwing crumbs to the masses.

2013 April Fool’s Day came early, in fall 2012. 

The photos in this post show a bike lane in Douglas Park against the curb, with a painted buffer, running in a minefield of patches and potholes on asphalt pavement. The bike lane was installed in the fall of 2012, as part of Mayor Emanuel’s efforts to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes. The goal has since been reduced after the definition of a protected bike lane was surreptitiously changed. The change was revealed by Grid Chicago.

You can find this at the intersection of Sacramento Boulevard and Douglas Boulevard in Lawndale on the Near Southwest Side of Chicago. View more photos of this and the other West Side Boulevards bike lanes on my Flickr. They’ve probably been the most controversial: there were complaints because of ticketing cars parked in the under construction bike lane on Marshall Boulevard; then there were complaints about the “decreased safety” of the protected bike lane on Independence Boulevard which has prompted CDOT to agree to remove it and replace it with a buffered bike lane. The Independence Boulevard debacle started because of ticketing cars parked in the under construction bike lane – I doubt it would have become an issue if cars weren’t ticketed.

Franklin Boulevard at Kedzie Avenue, taken on the same day. Thankfully it’s wide enough that you can bike around it while still being in the bike lane. 

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