CategoryBike Parking

Stop locking your bike at the Clybourn Metra station overnight

Existing bike parking at the Clybourn Metra station

This is a resolution.

WHEREAS, I love GIS.

WHEREAS, I was reading this blog post on the Azavea company blog about bike theft prediction and trends in Philadelphia.

WHEREAS, I analyzed bike theft location in Chicago in 2012 and the Clybourn Metra station emerged as the most frequent Metra theft location.

WHEREAS, I searched the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry for “clybourn” and several thefts have been reported to the registry in 2013.

WHEREAS, I believe the Chicago Police Department still doesn’t allow searching of their database for bike thefts thus leaving the CSBR as the premier source of data.

WHEREAS, I am watching this show called The Bletchley Circle wherein a group of four fictional women who cracked codes in World War II are solving a murder mystery in 1950s London.

BE IT RESOLVED that you should not leave your bicycle parked at the Clybourn Metra station overnight as it is a terrible place to leave a bicycle parked. Why? No one is around most of the time to socially secure your bicycle.

New bike parking at the Clybourn Metra station

This is a great place to get your bike stolen. In the dark. Overnight. With no one around to see it happen. 

Updating street life on Milwaukee Avenue

Photo of the new on-street bike parking corral at Revolution Brewing (2323 N Milwaukee Avenue) in Logan Square, less than 10 hours after being installed. 

First, Revolution Brewing now has 20 (or more) new bike parking spaces in what used to hold about two cars. Kudos to that awesome restaurant and brewery for working through the arduous process with the Chicago Department of Transportation and Alderman Moreno (who likely helped with the transfer of the metered car parking spaces). CDOT’s Scott Kubly admitted to having a bad process for businesses who want to install their own bike parking.

Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA had issues after the first round of bike racks we* installed in 2011. We donated the bike racks to the city for them to install at mutually agreeable locations at which they marked the spot for the contractor. We wanted to repeat the process in 2012 and bought the racks but they couldn’t be installed because CDOT, accepting the racks as donations in 2011 said that that wasn’t the right process and couldn’t do it again. So they had to figure out a new process. The racks were manufactured and delivered in 2012 to CDOT but weren’t installed until April 2013. Before the fix came in April 2013, we were going to have to go through the most basic process of buying a permit for each one (for $50) and then pay to have them installed ourselves.

The fix was great for the SSA, and I’m glad CDOT was able to make it happen: they got IDOT to amend the existing bike parking contract to allow the contractor to install non-city-paid-for bike racks. (This was the issue for the 2011 racks.)

Second, I’m proposing that private automobile traffic be banned on Milwaukee Avenue from Paulina Avenue to Damen Avenue. It would be better for the residents, and the businesses, and would encourage more cycling in the neighborhood, as well as surrounding neighborhoods having residents who would bike on Milwaukee Avenue if it was safer (there’s a big dooring and general crash issue). I reference the single, car-free block on Nørrebrogade in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, Denmark. One single block (plus bikeway and pedestrian-way improvements on the other blocks) and car traffic goes down but bus and bike traffic go up.

What Milwaukee Avenue looks like every afternoon. 

What Milwaukee Avenue could look like every afternoon. 

* I volunteer on the transportation committee, since about May 2011.

Enter the Houten Fietstransferium, and other bikes and transit commentary

Video by Mark Wagenbuur, aka markenlei on YouTube. See his original blog post about it.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that “Fietstransferium” means “bike transfer building”. It’s a structure underneath the train tracks at the Houten (in the Netherlands) main railway station (it has a secondary station on the same line a little bit south of the main one). You roll in directly from a car-free street in the center of a town, park your bike, and walk up to the platforms. Also available in the Fietstransferium are bike rentals (likely OV-fiets) and bike repair. It wasn’t open when I visited Houten in January 2011.

From the video (and from other sources) 60% of NS passengers arrive by bike. Good connections between bikes and trains helps maintain that access rate, but probably also helps increase it. Bike connections to major train stations in Chicago is woeful, even at the stations that are new enough to support a good connection. Let’s call Houten’s bike to train connection quality “roll in, walk 100 feet, service”: you roll into the bike parking area, and walk upstairs to your train (there’s even a ticket machine in the bike parking area). This differs from “roll on service” as that means you roll your bike into the train.

One shot from the video was taken from this vantage point, showing the bike parking, the staircase, the platform, and a train. Photo by Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten VNG (Dutch Association of Municipalities). 

Chicago

The LaSalle Street Metra Station got an upgrade in bike connections this year when the “intermodal center” adjacent to it on Congress Parkway and Financial Place was added. It came with bike parking, an elevator, and a staircase with bike ramp. The station has other access points, which are very well hidden. Unguarded.

The LaSalle Street intermodal center. 

Northwestern Station lacks indoor and guarded bike parking, and any that’s available is far away from the tracks. The sheltered bike parking is very undesirable, dark, and dirty; I don’t recommend parking on Washington Street. Nor do I recommend parking on any of the sidewalks surrounding the station block.

Union Station is similar to Northwestern Station: all bike parking is unguarded and far from the tracks. Millennium Station. Same problems.

The nexus of bikes and transit is something I enjoy planning, and talking and writing about. Read my past articles on the subject. I’ve created the biggest and best collection of bikes and transit photos in the eponymous Flickr group. It’s an important part of the Chicago Bike Map app. You can load train stations on the map, search for them, and get information about when and how to board a train or bus with your bike. Coming soon is information on accessible stations (which have wide gate turnstiles making for self-service bike entry) and stations that aren’t accessible but have the same wide gate turnstiles (called TWA, or turnstile wheelchair accessible).

Additionally, none of these stations are accessible by good bike lanes. Only Union Station and Northwestern Station have adjacent bike lanes, and then only ones that are north-south (Clinton and Canal). As the Chicago Department of Transportation noted in its multiple presentations about the upcoming installation of the Union Station bus intermodal station, biking on Canal Street is not good and the bike lane will probably be reconfigured during the Central Loop BRT project. To summarize, the connection quality that Chicago’s downtown train stations provide is “confusing service”: where does one park? will the bike be safe? how does one get to the platform now?

Biking on Canal Street outside Union Station. It has multiple entrances and access routes but which one is best?  Another photo from biking on Canal Street.

Near Northwestern Station, the Washington Street bike lane ends abruptly three blocks away at Desplaines Street. The Madison Street bike lane doesn’t reach Northwestern Station, nor would it be effective with its current design, as it would constantly be occupied by things that aren’t bicycles.

Biking on Washington Street, a very wide fast street, whose bike lane ends very soon (in the middle ground) where then you find yourself competing for space with buses and right-turning cars. As soon as one is “competing” on a street, the street fails to provide good space for either mode. 

Harrison Street just south of the LaSalle Street Station is usually a good street to bike on, but it lacks the kind of bikeway infrastructure that attracts new people to transportation bicycling, and more trips to be made. (I’ve lately been thinking of ways to synthesize the argument about why protected and European-style bikeway infrastructure is necessary, so here goes: Bicycle usage will not increase without them.)

San Francisco

Photo of a man walking with his bicycle in a BART station by San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. 

BART in the San Francisco Bay Area tested in August policy of having no bike blackout periods on Fridays. That meant people could bring their bikes on the trains at all times on Fridays in August, and not just outside rush periods. Showing their high level of attention planning and policy, the agency evaluated the program with a proper survey. There’s a meeting tomorrow with the BART Bicycle Task Force; Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority should have such a group!

Stolen Bike Registry data: Which train stations have the most bike theft?

If you can help it, don’t park your bike on the sidewalk under the tracks at the Clybourn Metra Station. Too many opportunities for theft here. 

The Stolen Bike Registry is a website created by Chicagoans for people to notify the community that their bike has been stolen. I make no claims to the accuracy or completeness (or anything) about this list or the dataset from which it was created. Because of less than optimal data collection practices, and a diversity of website users, the location information is difficult to comb through and present. I’ve used Google Refine to clean up some of the location data so that I can pick out the theft locations that represent CTA or Metra stations.

This is a list of the most reported bike theft locations that are CTA or Metra stations, from about June 13, 2006, to April 2, 2011, representing 1,740 bike theft reports*. It’s not known how many bike thefts were reported to the police because they don’t know.

CTA (13 stations)

Logan Square Blue Line CTA 8
Rockwell Brown Line CTA 5
Addison Brown Line CTA 2
Fullerton Red/Brown Line CTA 2
Paulina Brown Line CTA 2
Western & Milwaukee (Blue Line) CTA 2
Western Brown Line CTA 2
Addison Blue Line CTA 1
Chicago Brown Line CTA 1
Damen Blue Line CTA 1
Ashland Orange Line CTA  1
Cumberland Blue Line CTA 1
Wellington Brown Line CTA 1

The new bike racks at Clybourn Metra station are in a more visible spot. Maybe there’s even a security camera pointed at them some of the time. 

Metra (24 stations)

Clybourn Metra 19
Ravenswood Metra 18
Edgebrook Metra 4
Evanston Main Street Metra 2
Forest Glen Metra 2
Healy Metra 2
Lake Cook Metra 2
Ogilvie Metra 2
57th Street Metra 1
College Avenue Metra Train Station 1
Corner of Maple & Church in downtown Evanston, near Metra 1
Glenview Metra Station 1
Harlem Metra Station Berwyn, IL 1
Irving Park Metra Stop 1
Jefferson Park Metra 1
LaSalle Street Metra 1
Mayfair Metra 1
Metra Station at Davis Street, Evanston 1
Morton Grove Metra Station 1
Prairie Crossing Metra Station 1
Rogers Park Metra 1
Union Station Metra 1
Western Metra Station 1
Wilmette Metra 1

* Reports come from around the world. 10 dates have been excluded because their dates were anomalous, empty, or not possible.

Updated September 30 to correct a Metra station and combine it with another.

Testing the Abus Bordo “folding” lock

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus 85cm locked around my WorkCycles Fr8’s frame, front wheel, and the standard Chicago bike rack (a u-rack).

Updated May 2016: After having two keys break inside the lock, I can no longer recommend it. While Abus replaced the first lock for free, I didn’t bother asking them to replace the second lock because I felt the problem would happen again. The keys broke, in part, because of the way I turned the key, as the lock rested, putting a lot of pressure on, and bending, the key. I did it like this so I could detach the lock with one hand. I now recommend chain locks because they fit around all kinds of fixed objects. Abus locks are still really good quality. I’ve been using this Abus chain lock for two months and I like it – it won’t have the key breakage problem because I have to grab and hold the lock before I can insert the key.

—–

I’ve been using the Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus lock for my Fuji Royale fixed gear bicycle for about three weeks now. Previously I had been using a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 Standard u-lock. The Abus Bordo lock style is very hard to describe; Abus calls it the “foldable lock”. It has a small block for the locking mechanism, and 6 rotating and connecting bars (“links”). One bar is fixed to the locking block, and the last bar gets hooked into the other side of the locking block. (They have the unique ability to be locked to another Bordo, in a chain of them.)

I’m not a lock designer, nor a bicycle thief, so I cannot talk about the advantages or disadvantages of this design over another lock design (like the ubiquitous u-lock, the style I’ve been using for six years). I can tell you its advantages on use: it’s a lot easier to use than a u-lock as it makes possible additional locking situations. The 6 flexible bars (or links) means you can wrap the lock around a variety of bike rack sizes and shapes, through two bikes, or through your bike’s frame and wheel (which is annoying to do with u-locks).

It took me a few days to find the fastest way to lock my bike with the Bordo and I think I’ve found it. Unlock the locking block and let all of the 6 bars drop towards the ground. Then thread the first one through your wheel (no handling necessary), grab it from the other side of your bike, pull it around the fixed object to which you’re locking, and pull it towards the locking block. It takes the same or less time to lock with the Bordo than with a u-lock. U-locks are difficult to get through a front wheel and frame unless the bike rack is empty and you’re the first one there, meaning you get to decide how to place your bike against the rack’s metal tubes.

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

I can fairly quickly lock with a Bordo by slipping the open link through the wheel spokes first, then around the fixed object. Then with both hands I grab each end of the lock and insert the open link into the locking bracket, shuffling them around the bike frame until the open link can reach the locking bracket. The Bordos are covered in a rubber-feeling plastic that protects your frame’s cover/coating.

The specific Bordo model I’ve been using is the Granit X-Plus 6500, which weighs a little more than the standard model (see weight specifications below). It comes with a carrying case that straps to any tube on your bicycle. There are two ways to mount the case: temporary and semi-permanent. With the temporary method, you wrap the velcro straps around the seat tube (reduce the chance for theft of the carrier by wrapping zip ties on it). By having it attached this way, you can move it to another bike in 30 seconds. The semi-permanent method lets you screw the case into braze-ons on the tubes, typically ones meant for a water bottle cage.

My new bike, a WorkCycles Fr8, provides me a new opportunity to test the folding lock’s abilities. The Fr8 has very wide tubes and large wheel rims and tires. I suspect that my Kryptonite u-lock won’t be able to wrap around the front wheel, frame, and the fixed object to which I’m locking. I tested the Bordo: it can definitely hold the front wheel, frame, and fixed object, but only if I’m really close to the fixed object. I haven’t tested the u-lock yet.

For people who are concerned about weight, they are as follows:

  • Abus Bordo 6000 75cm, 1.03 kg
  • Abus Bordo 6000 90cm, 1.22 kg
  • Abus Bordo Granit X-Plus 6500 85 cm, 1.58 kg
  • Kryptonite Evolution Series 4, 1.70 kg

The top-of-the-line Abus Bordo still weighs less than the Kryptonite Evolution Series 4. Kryptonite’s New York Standard weighs 1.97 kg. See the full product line up on Abus’s website and see Kryptonite’s line up of u-locks.

This review shouldn’t be taken as a dis-recommendation of the Kryptonite u-locks. I like them – I have three – and they may have prevented theft of the various bicycles I’ve used for 6 years; the lock in combination with other factors prevented theft, which can’t be known unless my bike was monitored 24/7 (in other words, have no idea if anyone’s tried to steal my bicycles). The Bordo lock’s sole disadvantage is its price: $100 for the short version, and $117 for the 15cm longer version. The Granit X-Plus is $153. My personal bike locking strategy is to buy the most expensive lock you can afford and to make your bicycle harder to steal than the bikes you park next to. The Bordo should do that.

My only gripe about the lock is the velcro strap on the carrier: it’s long and sticks out to the side a little and scratches my leg on every pedal. I used a zip tie to hold it down; I would prefer a kind of slot to insert the extra velcro to keep it out of the way.

Abus was a sponsor of the 2012 Cargo Bike Roll Call, donating a Bordo 6100 combination lock to the raffle. They gave me a second lock to test, a Bordo 6000, 75cm. However, I gave that lock to Brandon Gobel and I was given the lock I’m using in this review by Harry (Hans) of Larry vs. Harry. Here’s Brandon’s short review:

I like this lock for its compact size and light weight, while maintaining strength. It takes longer to lock, unlock and put in the frame holster than a mini u-lock, though. [For comparison, the Kryptonite Mini weighs 0.98kg and the lock Brandon is using is 1.03kg.] I carry the mini u-lock in my back pocket so it’s slightly more convenient. However, the Bordo is much more versatile, and you can wrap it around objects that are larger than the typical Chicago bike rack.

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

This photo of a Kryptonite mini lying on top of the Bordo 6000 75cm shows the open areas of each lock. The Bordo has a significantly larger open area and weighs less. 

Both of us are also using an Abus brand rear-wheel lock. Mine came with the WorkCycles Fr8 while Brandon’s was a gift from Harry. We both appreciate the piece of mind and ease of use of the rear-wheel locks. See all photos in the Abus lock review gallery.

 

Buying links

This is what transit stations should look like

The CTA Morgan Green/Pink Lines station had a soft opening today. No press conference, no fanfare. I learned about the opening the night before on Twitter.

This station makes several strong statements: it clearly identifies the CTA as the organization that services this building, this operation, this monument to efficient transportation. The MORGAN STATION text tells you where you are, and you can read it from blocks away. And the artistic bike parking with a sufficient storage quantity says that the neighborhood will be biking here. Continue reading

“My” new bike racks have appeared at CTA and Metra stations

I received some exciting news last week in the form of a photo a friend posted to Twitter. He took it at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Loyola Red Line station and it features a double deck bike rack from Dero.

Photo by Erik Swedlund.

Erik didn’t know this, but that bike rack was installed there because of a project I worked on at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) in 2009. The working title was something like “bike parking RTA ICE grant”. That means an Innovation, Coordination, and Enhancement grant from the Regional Transportation Authority. It was also known as round 2 of transit bike parking. You might know round 1 as the project that put hard-to-use double deck bike racks at four CTA stations: Midway Orange (well used), Sox-35th Red (mostly well used), Damen Blue (not used), and Jefferson Park Blue (mostly well used) – all opened in 2008. Round 1 was paid for by CMAQ funding CDOT received in 2003.

The scope of my involvement was limited to finding stations “at which sheltered, high-capacity bike parking will be used most effectively”. Looking back, that should probably have said, “will be most used”. What does “used most effectively” even mean? The scope did not include deciding what the bike parking area would look like, or how many spaces there would be. That was up to an engineer who was managing the overall grant and project – I just recommended stations.

Summary of my methodology

I developed my own method (after researching the method for round 1 selections, and other methods) to select several train stations geographically distributed around the city where bike parking would be most used. I developed a spreadsheet and inputted the station attributes my method required. The formula then ranked the stations. The outcome I wanted was essentially a number that represented the likelihood of people cycling to that station. I tweaked the formula many times based on what rankings it came up with and whether or not the top ranked stations fit expectations I came up with for a station that would have a lot of people cycling there (access mode data didn’t exist at all for CTA stations, and was old for most Metra stations).

For example, if my formula ranked Pulaski Orange very high, did that station fit the expectations of a station that attracted a lot of CTA passengers to arrive by bicycle?

After coming up with a “top 30” of geographically diverse CTA and Metra stations, my boss and I rented an I-GO car to visit 15 of them to record measurements of physically available space, take photographs, and discuss things like how people might access the station with their bicycles (it wasn’t always clear, and many stations turned out to have sufficient bike parking for the amount of people who cycled there).

To make this project respect geography, and to do it as simply as possible, I divided the stations into north and south categories, separated by Madison Street. Stations in the south category were compared only with fellow south stations. I don’t know if this was an appropriate to consider geographic equity, but I had limited time and resources to develop a method and complete this project. In other words, I did the best I could and I think I did a pretty good job. Hopefully time will tell and I can learn from successes and mistakes with this project. That it’s actually being constructed makes me very happy.

Considering the stations

Lots of u-racks at the 55th-56th-57th Metra station in Hyde Park. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

I recommended that bike racks for the 55th-56th-57th Street station be installed at 57th Street because it has more space than the other entrances. Here’s what else I said about the space:

North side of 57th St, east of station house

This space is very large like Space C, but it’s extremely grungy and dank. The restaurant in the station house is currently storing its garbage bins here. The space receives natural light all day because of a gap in the viaduct. There’s an attendant at this station house on weekdays from 6 AM to 2:30 PM, but this person has NO view of the space. 57th St is one-way east of Lake Park Ave, and two-way west of Lake Park Ave.

Sheltered, except for gap in the viaduct roof.

I’m happy to report that the situation has been improved over the description in my “station profile”: the sidewalk concrete was replaced, and the walls and pylons were cleaned and painted white. The restaurant’s garbage bins were moved east in the open air (not under the viaduct). Another change was at Loyola Red Line station: I recommended they be installed in one of two outdoor locations but the bike racks were installed inside the station house.

The other tier 1 locations in my recommendation were Western Orange Line and 95th Red Line (both CTA). Howard Red Line was a tier 2 station (and is built), along with Ravenswood Metra and Logan Square Blue Line. I found out later that the Howard Red Line station also received some double deck racks. Ravenswood station is being completely replaced soon so I understand why that didn’t get any new bike parking as part of this project. I don’t know why Logan Square Blue Line didn’t receive any, if Howard did. It might be that there wasn’t enough money in the $375,000 grant, or that someone has other plans for the CTA station.

A sixth station was part of the project, but not part of my recommendations. The Clybourn Metra station (2001 N Ashland, serving both the UP-North and UP-Northwest lines) was already in planning and design phases and was included in the RTA ICE grant round 2 project to complete the funding arrangement. The bike parking area at Clybourn was to be paid for by Chicago TIF funds; combining the TIF funds with the RTA ICE grant would provide the local match the RTA ICE grant needed (requiring a local match is typical).

See more photos and information on Grid Chicago.

BikeLock app based on dataset I opened up

Bike parking at Daley Plaza, downtown Chicago. 

It’s really cool to see work you did “go places”. A friend of mine who works at Groupon just linked me to an iOS app called BikeLock that finds bike racks near you on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. It’s based on bike rack location data in the City of Chicago’s Data Portal. (The data on there is old, while the data in the public API I built is real time.)

Download it from the iTunes Store for 99 cents. The developer is Mike Jahn, another Groupon staffer. You can get the same information for free, though, on my mostly mobile-friendly Can I bring my bike on Metra? web app, and a website I made for the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT).

A screenshot of the Can I bring my bike on Metra? bike rack finder website. 

That data comes straight from the Bike Parking Web Application I started developing in 2008 soon after I started working in the Chicago Bicycle Program. It was good that my supervisor had the same perspectives I did about open and transparent data and work. But it didn’t start like that; here’s the full story:

My first job at the Bicycle Parking Program was to deal with abandoned bikes, get them off the street. I was taught the existing method of keeping track of my work, but I used my programming skills (in PHP, MySQL, and with the Google Maps API) to develop a web application that tracked it faster and mapped out the abandoned bikes I had to visit and tag with a notice. I was using this for a few days or few weeks and then show my boss. His reaction was something like, “Great! Now make one for bike racks!”

Why? Well, let’s take this quote from Judy Baar Topinka, Illinois comptroller, speaking Tuesday about her office’s new website, The Ledger, which lists the state’s unpaid bills among other financial data.

“The object of the exercise is to make everything that we know of in the comptroller’s office public. If we know it, you’ll know it.” WBEZ

I made one for bike racks. I created two environments, one for private administration at the office (“Bike Parking Web Application”) and one for the public (“public interface”). A later feature I added to the public interface was the Advanced Search. This allows you to filter by Ward, Community Area, and Status. You can then choose your sorting method. A map will appear above the results. You can download the results as either an XLS file, and XLS file that’s designed to be imported in GIS programs (like QGIS), or a KML file.

I’m aware of just one other app that uses this data set: MassUp.us. I don’t know if MassUp uses the real-time API that my Metra bike rack finder uses.

Looking at multi-unit residential bike parking

Residential complexes with eight or more units are required to have bike parking because they’re required to have parking. The zoning code requires a ratio of 1 bike parking space to 2 car parking spaces (the quantity of car parking spaces it needs is a determination the Department of Housing and Economic Development makes).

A Grid Chicago reader recently sent me some photos of the bike parking inside the parking garage at the 900 S. Clark AMLI South Loop Apartments (see map). I was not surprised by what they showed based on what I’ve seen at other residential complexes in Chicago.

The photo above shows a double-decker bike rack with height alternating bike parking slots. This means that bikes can theoretically be spaced closer together because one bike’s handlebars won’t interfere with the bikes on either side of it. The bike rack has 10 slots. There are at least 16 bikes in the photo (it’s hard to count them from just the picture) and it seems only 5 are actually in slots.

The Chicago zoning code that applies to this situation is section 17-10-0207-C. As the complex is providing over 200 car parking spaces in this garage (I counted them in Google Earth), the AMLI South Loops Apartments must be providing 50 bike parking spaces (17-10-0301-B says max 50). Granted, the remaining 40 spaces could be inside the apartment tower, I highly doubt it. I don’t have enough information about this location to know if zoning code was not correctly or fairly applied.

Aside from obviously not having enough bike parking spaces, here’s what else isn’t cool about this bike parking installation:

  • The rack design offers no locking points. I believe this rack was intended to hold bikes at a retail store.
  • It’s outside, so bikes are getting wet
  • It’s over 200 feet away from any residential unit
  • It’s in a far corner of the parking garage (but not the furthest from the garage entrance)
  • An upper level rack design is not easy to use: one must first lift their bike to the second level, and then awkwardly reach around the frame and wheels to lock it.

I’ve created the Simple Bike Parking website as a resource and tool for anyone who wants to install bike parking. It discusses the three rules I’ve developed over the 4+ years I’ve consulted on bike parking in Chicago. It’s simple to have good, useful, and desirable bike parking if it’s:

  • Close to the entrance where people commonly enter and exit
  • Of the right design (nothing hard to use, please)
  • Placed at least 36 inches away from anything else, on all sides

There are a lot of abandoned bikes on the streets of Chicago, but I’m sure there are plenty more in residential buildings. I’m blaming difficult to reach and hard to secure bikes for this.

Updated 1145h to correct the maximum number of bike parking spaces a developer must provide, based on a different reading of the zoning code prompted by a reader. Thanks, Erik. 

On sucker poles

Twice in the past seven days I’ve encountered an unsecured sucker pole.

A sucker pole next to a highly-secure bike rack provided by the City of Chicago’s Bicycle Program. The adjacent placement of the two fixtures is an unfortunate side effect of construction crews who didn’t receive guidance on bike rack placement. 

What’s a sucker pole? Any sign pole that’s not embedded in concrete or securely fastened to the ground in another fashion. A simple hex nut on a bolt fastens the pole to the base.

So last Saturday I encountered my latest one in front of India House (59 W Grand), just hours after Alexis Finch of Thought You Knew pinup calendar fame mentioned a specific sucker pole at the Green Eye (2403 W Homer) – I could completely remove the pole from its base.

Alexis reported that when she visits that bar, she removes the pole from its base and lays it on the sidewalk to prevent others from locking their bikes there.

I want you to spread the word about sucker poles while at the same time requesting a bike rack for that spot. I invite designers to remake this crappy poster I created and thankfully never printed.

Remake this “beware of sucker poles” poster into something cool and I’ll pay to print a few copies for you to keep and give to friends or bike shops. 

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