Tagbike parking

Emanuel releases plan for safe bicycling in Chicago. I reconsider.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention in the original post that Rahm gave a press conference on Sunday at Rapid Transit Cycleshop in Wicker Park (the bike shop doesn’t endorse any candidate for mayor). More photos from the event here and here.

Before Sunday, January 30th, 2011, when candidate for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel released details of his plans for bicycling in Chicago, I was a big fan of Miguel Del Valle (read my earlier posts).

I was excited by what he included and it made me think that someone’s been to New York City recently (or knows someone else who did), or Rahm watched Randy Neufeld talk about ten great ways to make bicycling great in Chicago.

So what does Rahm say? (Specifics in bold.)

  • Chicago lags behind many other cities in the rate of new bike lanes each year and providing bike parking in buildings. – Yep, check San Francisco, Portland, and New York City.
  • He will build 25 miles of new bike lanes each year and prioritize protected bike lanes. Great, Chicago will finally catch up on this sought-after bikeway over 12 years after one was installed in Davis, California. New York City installed several miles of this (“cycletrack”) in Manhattan in 2008 and continue today.

New York City’s first protected bike lane, or cycletrack, on 9th Avenue in Manhattan’s west side. Will Rahm’s administration install something like this in Chicago before 2015?

  • “…initiate a review of [the Bike 2015 Plan's] goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation.” Right on. This needs to be done so we know our progress.
  • “…create a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan – from kids on their first ride to senior citizens on their way to the grocery store – to feel safe on our streets.” Hey, that’s exactly what Randy said: Make bicycling for everyone, “from 8 to 80.”
  • Rahm will have the Bloomingdale Trail open and functional by the end of his term. The abandoned, elevated rail line promises to be an important part of the bikeway network, but also a neat recreational facility.

The Bloomingdale Trail is an elevated railroad viaduct (at 1800 North) running from Lawndale Avenue east to Ashland Avenue (possible to Elston Avenue). It is just under 3 miles of uninterrupted, car-free transportation for people walking and bicycling. Photo by Kasey D.

  • Make an ordinance that says buildings with over 200 workers must install indoor bike parking. More than their desire for workplace showers, people who bicycle to work (or are considering it) want a secure place to store their bike for 8+ hours.
  • Double the number of on-street bike parking, including in neighborhoods. This is another point Randy made – there must be a place to park one’s bike at home!

There are many opportunities in Chicago to install bike parking for neighbors. Not everyone can fit their bike inside or bring it up to the fifth floor. Bike parking could occupy a section of a wide parkway, or be in the street, providing space for 16 bikes where only 1 car can fit. Photo by Jonathan Maus.

So far, no other candidate for mayor has released such a detailed and specific plan to include bicycles as a part of Chicago’s transportation system.

The first thing I see in Amsterdam

I got off the final train of a 4 hour trip from Wuppertal, Germany, to Amsterdam Centraal Station via Venlo and Eindhoven and the first thing I see is parking for about 7,000 bicycles. WOW!

7,000 is just the quantity at the front of the station. There’s additional parking in the rear along a major “bike highway” going east-west (on two defunct barges in the river IJ) and underground (guarded) parking as well. In all there “officially” 10,000 parking spaces for bicycles – and it’s not enough. During construction of the new north-south subway, bicycle parking and station access by bike will be reconfigured. Some people say that when the additional bike parking comes online, it will again be insufficient.

Since you read this blog, you know I have a passion for bicycle parking. Just like planning for automobile storage, bicycle storage requires similar attention and infrastructure.

I’ve uploaded more photos of bike parking in Europe (so far just 16 photos), including the fancy underground garage at Amsterdam Zuid Station, with its own escalator! For more sweet bicycle parking in Netherlands, check out the Fietsappel on Daniel Sparing’s blog, Railzone.nl.

Grocery Store Ratings: Nevada takes a stab

I’m glad at least one of my ideas is “taking off.”

Muscle Powered, a community group in Carson City, Nevada, “dedicated to making Nevada’s capital city a better community for bicycling and walking,” has posted their first review of Carson City Grocery Store Bike Parking. They’ve geocoded their locations and graded the racks as well. The grading system is well-defined but still abstract enough so as not to let the issue of getting bike parking at stores in one’s community get bogged down by small details.

In Chicago, we have a “crew” of two working on identifying good and bad bike parking in Chicago. There’s me and Samantha, better known as Ding Ding Let’s Ride. The tough part is communicating good bike parking practices to the grocery stores. While the City of Chicago has clear guidelines on how and where to install bike racks, it cannot solve the grocery store problem because the store entrances are often so far away from the sidewalk. It’s also partially a business’s responsibility to provide “transportation storage” for their customers, especially for a destination that’s popular for people to ride their bikes to.

This Home Depot in Carson City, Nevad, has a decent bike rack (wide waves make it easy to maneuver bike into position) but poor placement. Bike racks should be place 24 inches from any wall or other object, at a minimum. Photos by Dan Allison of Muscle Powered. More photos from Dan below.

I’m glad that there are others out there that take bicycle parking as seriously as I do. I know of some other people around the country. Are you one?

These racks at Safeway are not acceptable. They do not allow the bike rider to lock any part of the bicycle frame.

Another scene of bike parking in Carson City, Nevada.

Introducing Grocery Store Bike Parking Ratings

This article is part of a series (it seems) of grocery stores with poor bike parking – it first started with my local Dominick’s. I started an inventory and rating system for Chicago. I welcome your contribution. If you want to start a page for your town, I can help you with that.

After seeing the photos of the wacky bike parking situation at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods on Ding Ding Let’s Ride, I had to take a trip there myself!

By my count, I find that with 3 wave racks (of 2 sizes) and 3 grill racks, there are 27 bike parking spaces. You can debate me and possibly find 4 more.

Surely you can fit more, just like you can fit 4 bikes on a 2-space Chicago u-rack.However, the racks are installed so closer together to make this area quite a pain to find a space. And if you have a long wheelbase cargo bike (bakfiets, Madsen, or Yuba Mundo), GOOD LUCK!

The only space available for a longtail cargo bike like my Yuba Mundo is in a car parking space next to a hybrid Chevy Tahoe illegally parked in a handicapped parking space.

Photo showing too-close placement of the two kinds of racks. Notice that some bikes hang into the curb – it was the only way to use that bike rack. Other spaces might not have been opened when these people arrived.

But officially, for planning purposes, the Chicago Department of Transportation considers that rack as only fitting 2. This area could easily be sheltered. I think it’s something the store should look into. It provides sheltered car parking, which costs proportionally more than sheltered bike racks!

In the future, I expect better from Whole Foods.

For now, Target takes home the cake for providing consistently “good” bike parking. (Great’s the best a store can achieve.) So far, the rating system isn’t fully formed or automated. It’s a work in progress!

Sidenote: Access to Whole Foods via bicycle really sucks. There’s a 5-way intersection controlled by stop signs; then there’s the old railroad track and potholes. It might be better if you come in from the south, but then you have more RR track to deal with.

Photo montage showing how to access Whole Foods from Sheffield by bicycle.

Finally justice for bike shoppers in Bridgeport

I just got off the phone from a vice president at Dominick’s who personally informed me that the company will be installing a bike rack in the sheltered alcove of their grocery store at 3145 S Ashland, in Bridgeport, Chicago. He was unsure of the bike rack type, but was confident that it was the wave rack type they installed at the Lincoln Square store (I approve).

Bike parking at new, LEED-certified Dominick’s in Lincoln Square, Chicago.

Hard work pays off. I emailed and mailed the CEO of Safeway, Steve Burd*, after my letter to the store’s manager and call to customer service fell on, not dear ears, but unmotivated ones. Read the complete backstory.

He admitted the company failed to install a rack during the 2008-2009 renovation – possibly due to budgetary concerns. Which is really funny because the bike racks I know of cost about $300. And it doesn’t need annual maintenance.

Anyway, he said the installation target date is November 5, 2010!

*Mr. Burd’s email is either [email protected], or [email protected] One of them bounced, and now I can’t recall which.

Keeping score: Portland, one million and Chicago, zero

UPDATE 10-15-10: There’s good news. The Chicago situation is nearly resolved.

Up the score for Portland and bicycling by another gazillion points and keep Chicago at zero.

New Seasons Market grocery store (think Whole Foods lite) opened a new store Wednesday in Portland. On a bike boulevard. With 50 bike parking spaces (almost used up on the first day). Grocery delivery by bike. Free air and patch kit. You can even borrow a cart to tow stuff home. (By the way, the store provides only 36 auto parking spaces, on its roof – where it belongs.)

What do we have in Chicago?

A Dominick’s (part of Safeway companies) grocery store that refuses to install a single bike parking space, even after major renovation in 2008-2009. Don’t worry though – I’m on the case! I just mailed my letter to Safeway CEO Steve Burd in Pleasanton, California, yesterday. (Read about my recent struggle getting bike parking installed here.)

And Dominick’s, when you do get around to installing it, please don’t pick this piece of garbage.

Abysmal bike rack selection at Dominick’s near Roosevelt and Canal in Chicago, Illinois – notice how the bike can’t be properly locked here. Don’t repeat this mistake. Learn what’s best when it comes to bike parking.

Thanks to BikePortland and Tucson Velo for the story.

Open letter to Blair Kamin about Safeway and Dominick’s

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic wrote about the new LEED-certified Dominick’s* (Safeway) grocery store in Lincoln Square at Lincoln and Berwyn. This store features copious bike parking of a decent quality and design (see photo below).

In February 2009, I wrote a letter to the General Manager at their 3145 S Ashland store (read my letter). Someone at the company promptly made a request to the City of Chicago in March 2009 for a bike rack. The request was denied because the store is too far away from the nearest public right-of-way.

The following is my letter to Blair Kamin, John Hilkevitch (Tribune transportation writer), and the CEO of Safeway, Steve Burd.

Dear Blair,

I would like your help in getting better accommodations for bike riders at a local Dominick’s.

I read your article about the new, LEED-certified Dominick’s in Lincoln Square with copious bike parking available. (This should help with the potential auto parking issues you identified by encouraging people to bike to the store.)

The Dominick’s nearest me, at 3145 S Ashland, underwent major renovation in 2008 and 2009. People who ride their bicycles to the store (myself included) locked them to the shopping cart guard rails that were removed during renovation.

Bike parking was not included in this renovation.

LEED certification shouldn’t be the only impetus for installing bike parking. Currently it only gains the development 1 point and more than 40 are needed (more for Bronze, Gold, Silver, or Platinum). Installing bike parking should be an economic decision.

A single bike rack (holding two bikes) will cost less than $300 and require no maintenance for at least 5 years (some bike racks installed by the City are over 10 years old and look/work fine). A car parking space costs $1,000 per year to maintain.

We currently lock to garbage bins in a sheltered area near the store entrance. I ask that Dominick’s install real bike parking here in 2010. If they do, I’ll then ask them to work on the bike parking situations at their other stores (like the store at 1340 S Canal).

Thank you for your attention to bicycle infrastructure matters in Chicago.

Steven Vance

http://www.stevevance.net

P.S. The Dominick’s at 3145 S Ashland also has the unfortunate situation of being in a strip mall far away from any public roads. This precludes the City from installing bike racks; the nearest public space is more than 50 feet away.

Jewel…you’re up next!

The bike parking area at the new Dominick’s grocery store in Lincoln Square. Sure beats locking to a garbage bin at the Dominick’s at 3145 S Ashland in Bridgeport. That store underwent renovation in 2008 and 2009.

What bike parking at 3145 S Ashland looks like.

*The store is not yet LEED certified. Blair reports it’s expected to receive a Silver rating.

Trying out new GIS software

I want to draw 50 and 120 feet buffers around the points of store entrances to show where bike parking should and shouldn’t be installed. I want to follow this example:

walgreens with bike parking buffers

Aerial photo of a Tucson, Arizona, Walgreens showing the location of existing bike parking and two buffers (50 and 120 feet) where proposed city rules would allow bike parking. I advocate for ratifying the 50 feet rule, which I’ve discussed on this blog and elsewhere many times.

I want to do this easily and accurately, so I will use GIS software to create a “buffer.” I use QGIS occasionally, but I want to try out other Mac-friendly applications. I’m getting my orthoimagery (geometrically corrected aerial photography) from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) using a web protocol called Web Map Server. I’m trying:

  • Cartographica, $495, with free trial license.
  • uDig, completely free software. UPDATE: I have had NO success getting any data to load from a WMS connection into uDig. I would like to understand why. Cartographica can obtain some of the WMS-stored data I want, although it messes up often.

I’m having success with neither – both are having issues downloading or maintaining a connection to the USGS orthoimagery. In one case, Cartographica trims the Bing Maps imagery to match the extent of my other objects (the buffer). In another case, it won’t even download the USGS imagery (and gives no indication that anything is happening). uDig hasn’t been able to download anything so far – I hope it’s asking for the current extent, instead of all data because it’s taking a looong time to do anything (so long that I just quit in the  middle of it).

This screenshot shows how to add new WMS connections to Cartographica.

UPDATE: I did it! I successfully used Cartographica (and the integrated Bing Maps) to create this drawing that shows the current (abysmal) bike parking at a Chicago Home Depot outside the 50 feet line.

Bike parking distance being put to test in Tucson

Work is underway to implement strict (but appropriate) rules about where Tucson, Arizona, businesses must install bike racks. This news comes from Tucson Vélo. It first came to my attention in May when I was creating and expanding my definition of Bike Parking Phenomenon A, which I now call the “50 feet rule.”

3 of4 bikes are parked on hand rails within 20 feet of this Seattle Whole Foods entrance while one bike is parked more than 50 feet away at the City-owned bike rack.

I left this comment on yesterday’s article from Tucson Vélo:

“Distance is more key to bike parking usage than the quality of bike parking fixture. Bicyclists prefer to use an easily removable sign pole that is closer to final destination than lock to a permanent bike rack further away.”

Some businesses there are complaining that devoting room in front of their business to bike parking removes space available for selling goods. I encourage everyone to support rules requiring bike parking within 50 feet. If installed further away, it simply will go unused.

I’ve written about distance parking many times:

After new bike racks were installed within 10 feet of the Logan Square Chicago Transit Authority entrance, no one parks at the original spots. See how the foot makes a difference?

What I do for a living

Everyone asks, and I always tell. But I’ve never blogged about it.

I’m the Bicycle Parking Program Assistant at the Chicago Bicycle Program, in the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) Division of Project Development.

According to the Chicago Municipal Code, I tag abandoned bikes. After 7 days, a CDOT crew removes them to Working Bikes Cooperative.

I arrange for…

  • The installation of bike racks, including at Chicago Transit Authority train stations
  • The maintenance and removal of bike racks
  • The removal of abandoned bikes

I also manage the Chicago Bicycle Program website, Facebook Page, Flickr accountgroup, and Twitter.

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