TagChicago Park District

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.

Residents are gathering on Wednesday to voice opposition to wheel-friendly park along Bloomingdale Trail

Walsh Park rendering, from a September 2012 public meeting.

This message is for everyone who likes using parks designed for skating, BMX, Razor scooters, and doing tricks with wheelchairs. They’re typically called skate parks, but they’re not just for skateboards and inline skates anymore. The 606 should have (if not shut down by these people) a “wheel friendly park” at Walsh Park, at the eastern terminus of the Bloomingdale Trail, a constituent feature, at about 1800 N Ashland. Some neighbors will be gathering at the next Chicago Park District board meeting on Wednesday to voice their opposition. They have a petition.

Someone forwarded me their letter to people in the neighborhood (and to staff working on the Bloomingdale Trail project), pasted below, doesn’t describe their basis of opposition. It must be all those 5-year-old girls on push scooters, and 10-year old boys learning to ride a skateboard.

Can you spread this to a wider community of people who use skate parks? The Trust For Public Land, in charge of fundraising, describes the feature in Walsh Park as a “wheel friendly” zone, agnostic to the equipment (bikes, skateboards, and wheelchairs will be allowed).

—–

Hello Bloomingdale Trail Neighbors,

The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners is having a meeting on August 14th. My husband John will sign up to put our opposition to a skateboard park on the agenda. He would also like to present the Board with our signed petitions. Anyone with signed petition sheets please let me know so that we can work out a way to collect them. Anyone who has yet to sign the petition please let us know that as well so we can arrange to get your John Hancock.  (John’s email is [email protected] )

If you are able to attend, please join us.  The more supporters the better!  I’ll let you know what time slot John gets.  [text removed.]  He is a great spokesperson for us.  Please pick up a copy of the Red Eye on Monday to read an extensive article about Bloomingdale Trail.  John was interviewed for the article [excerpted below].  Ananda Breslof is also scheduled to appear before the Board regarding the Dog Friendly Area of the Park.  She needs all the supporters she can get as well.

LOCATION:
Board of Commissioners, Chicago Park District, 541 N. Fairbanks Court, 7th Floor, Chicago  60611

This is what the Park District sent out:

The Public Participation portion of the Board’s regularly scheduled committee meetings will commence at 10:30 a.m.; and  at 4:00 p.m. for the Board’s regularly scheduled Board meetings. Any individual interested in making a presentation must register with the Office of Secretary in person between 9:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M. on the day of the Board committee meeting; and between 2:30 P.M. and 3:30 P.M. on the day of the Board meeting. Individuals may also sign-up to speak via the Park District’s web site beginning at approximately 7:00 P.M. the Friday before the board meeting and ending at 5:00 P.M. the Tuesday before the board meeting.

Please pass this along to anyone I may have missed who would be interested in this important decision.

Here’s to a safe and well thought out 606 Project.

Judie Knoerle
[address redacted]
[phone number redacted]
John Knoerle
[phone number redacted]

—–

Interview with John Knoerle about the wheel-friendly zone in Walsh Park, published in the RedEye on August 11, 2013

JOHN KNOERLE

Author of the American Spy Trilogy, a series of World War II-era novels, but his housing situation may be more dramatic

When Knoerle first moved off the 606 with his wife, Judie, in 1999, freight trains were still traveling the trail.

Now Knoerle’s neighboring Walsh Park may feature a concrete skateboard space.

“It’s going to be insane,” Knoerle said. “We’ve been blessed to have a very quiet block here, and that’s going to change.”

Though he believes the project will increase his property value, and he enjoys occasionally walking the trail, he has concerns that crime and traffic will increase.

Beth White, the Chicago-area office director for the Trust for Public Land, said the concrete space in Walsh Park won’t just be for skateboarders, but rather a “wheel-friendly space” that can be used for concerts and plays. People in wheelchairs will be able to utilize it as well.

“It’s going to be a far safer space and actually a more quiet space than what is there now,” White said.

Knoerle said in recent years, trailgoers have thrown rocks at car windows and tagged walls of homes adjacent to the 606. Knoerle said he’s asked for an increase in bike patrols of the area. A Chicago police spokesman said the trail sees very little crime and police regularly patrol the area.

Knoerle’s now worried that the proposed changes would significantly increase the amount of traffic to his block. Knoerle said he’s gathering petition signatures so the Trust could rethink the skate park for Walsh Park, which is expected to be the largest of the five access parks. “It will be like living along the bike trail on the beach,” Knoerle said. “It doesn’t seem a pleasant prospect.”

Walsh Park’s final rendering, from a June 2013 public meeting. 

31st Street marina is open for business, with boat slips, boat launch, and new playground

In this photo you can see the new community center and harbor master office, picnic tables, parking garage, and shade sails on the roof of the community center. 

I completely agree with Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin’s description of those colored trees: “garishly painted recycled trees that goes overboard in an attempt to create a festive atmosphere”. I would prefer to see them removed and real trees take their place. I was saddened to see mature-growth trees being removed during construction. I appreciate a lot of the new features the marina brings to Burnham Park, like the upgraded playground, a small park on the pier and a bike trail that should bypass a lot of beachgoer traffic.

These mature trees were replaced with…

…these garish trees.

The sign in the background is outdated and should be replaced. To access the trail from 31st Street you ride down the driveway and then enter the sidewalk.

This playground looks like a lot of fun. It has a climbing wall! 

I have some criticisms about the new design of how people access 31st Street from the Lakefront Trail and vice versa.

1. The distance from 31st Street to the LFT has increased from the previous design. Before there was a short hill to traverse from the street to the trail. Now one must enter the trail by sharing the driveway with automobiles, then entering a sidewalk, and then entering the trail. At this sidewalk entrance, there’s an outdated sign. It says “Yield to pedestrians in crosswalk” when state law says motorists must “stop for pedestrians in crosswalks”. I think this sign should be immediately replaced.

The crosswalk that connects the sole sidewalk leading people from 31st Street to the beach house should be here, instead of 50 feet further south as this is the quickest way to reach the beach (actually the quickest way is to walk through the grass on the left side of this photo or through the shrubs left of the photo, off screen). 

2. This crosswalk is also too far from the beach house and people will be crossing the street at the end of the lower curve where there is no crosswalk and no sign.

New intersection to access the marina parking lot and boat launch area. 

3. I’d like to know if the intersection here is timed or has a sensor. If it has a sensor, will it pick up the presence of cyclists? Regardless, this intersection is an improvement over the previous access path which couldn’t facilitate Lakefront Trail cyclists who wanted to travel westbound on 31st Street (they could use the south side sidewalk, which is inappropriate). Westbound cyclists can now share the driveway with automobiles (less than ideal) but can enter westbound 31st Street without any awkward sidewalk moves or crossing the Lake Shore Drive ramp against the light.

4. My good friend Calvin points out that the new marina doesn’t have storage for small sailboats like Lasers and Vanguards. These boats are a cheap and easy way to teach children and young adults how to sail and are more accessible to the wider population. Storage is less expensive and they can be operated alone. He says that only Montrose and Belmont have storage for these boats.

Further reading

Freight trains in the city: photos from Ping Tom Park

The train is entering the crossing. 

If you weren’t aware, Chicago has a ridiculous number of trains passing through here. We’ve been the freight train capital of the country for over 100 years (I’m not going to verify this). And apparently it takes a train the same amount of time to pass through Chicago as it takes to travel from here to Los Angeles.

One of the interesting places they pass through in Chicago is at Ping Tom Park, in Chinatown, on the Chicago River at 18th Street. A double track part of the CN line borders the park on the east, separating the park from rowhouses in Chinatown. The Chicago Transit Authority’s Orange Line elevated viaduct shares the right of way.

I was showing the park to some visitors from Spain after we ate at Joy Yee Noodles (2159 S China Place)*. The at-grade crossing bells starting to ring, and the red lights started to flash. Then the gates came down. We were trapped! That’s the neat thing about the freight railroad here and the park: there’s a single entrance that’s blocked by a train. And this one was long.

A pagoda in Ping Tom Park. Here’s another view of the pagoda where you can also clearly see the Orange Line viaduct. 

As we just arrived, we weren’t interested in leaving. We explored the new north section of the park. This outing gave me several opportunities to test out the capabilities of my new camera, a Panasonic GH1, and accompanying lens, a LUMIX G 20/f1.7mm (that means it’s fairly wide angle and has an enormous aperture)**. It takes great photos in the dark without a flash. I was photographing the train, using the “panning” technique – this means you set the focus beforehand and then move (pan) the camera with the object to ensure it appears in focus in the resulting image. I succeeded with 50% of the photos; my issue was choosing the right speed at which to pan the camera.

This photo is one of the better panning shots I created. 

The train, as many Illinois railfans probably expect, was carrying ethanol and empty flatbed cars, but also some hydrochloric acid. I’m going to guess some of the tankers were filled with America’s favorite artificial sugar: high-fructose corn syrup.

* There are two Joy Yee Noodles restaurants in the same Chinatown Square shopping center. They are of the same company.

** I bought the body from a friend and I bought the lens separately. I paid more for the lens than the body.

Short video on 31st Street marina construction

UPDATE: Thank you, Bill, for sending me a Chicago Park District document with additional artist’s renderings of the promenade, playground and restaurant.

Many Chicagoans are curious about the new marina the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Building Commission are building on Lake Michigan at 31st Street (3100 S Lake Shore Drive) near Bronzeville and the old Michael Reese Hospital campus.

Taken with a Sony HX5V on the handlebars of my Yuba Mundo cargo bike.

This video shows the new access path to the Lakefront Trail, the pier upon which construction equipment is stored, and some people working at the end of the newly constructed breakwater.

Also features a passing Metra Electric train and a view from the marina of the factories in Whiting and East Chicago Indiana.

I took these photos at the same time as the video:

A temporary new path will replace the existing access path. In the artist’s renderings for the new marina and surrounding facilities, the Lakefront Trail will go underneath a marina and parking lot access road that will intersect where the existing access path does now. People who want to access the Lakefront Trail will travel (off street) a little north to an intersection.

Construction equipment on the pier.

Park wins while parking fails neighborhood

This post on the removal of car parking at a park inspired me to write this post about the addition of car parking at a park.

Palmisano (Stearns Quarry) Park was created out of a dolomite limestone quarry and landfill in Bridgeport. The park is well designed and has a variety of landscape features. It’s quite popular, especially with elderly Asian residents.

Now, after a year of it being open, many diagonal parking spaces were installed on 27th Street. Space was removed from the parkway to create additional parking spaces where only parallel spaces existed.

Access to the park is not an issue. There are hundreds of households and thousands of residents within half a mile. There’re bike lanes and bus stops. There is a signalized intersection that makes it safer for people to cross the street to the park. Lastly, there are many unused parallel parking spaces lining two sides of the park.

So why was parking added? Did the neighbors ask for it? Did the Chicago Park District feel new parking was needed?

In a nutshell, my complaints against this are:

  1. It removed parkway – this should be sacred space. Perhaps we can institute a “tit-for-tat” policy (modeled after a parking meter agreement*) where if parkway is removed in one place, parkway has to be expanded or improved in another place.
  2. Potentially increases traffic in area by encouraging more driving by offering free parking. All parking surrounding the park is free.
  3. Parking space for drivers with handicap badges does not have a ramp. This is the most perplexing part – you may have to open the photo to its full size to notice this.
  4. Bumpout is not a bioswale. I highly doubt anyone will maintain the grass and soil. This landscaping will die.
  5. Bumpout’s large radius will not calm traffic (I watch it every day).

I would like to see the bumpout “island” transformed into a proper curb extension at a stop sign where drivers typically pause in the crosswalk and quickly turn right into southbound Halsted without stopping. I would like to see a bioswale collect the water from the street at this curb and divert it to the park’s wetlands.

*As I understand it, if parking meter spaces are removed and converted to another use (like a curb extension or on-street bicycle parking), a non-metered space must be converted to the equivalent metered spaces removed.

Non-auto construction projects in Chicago

There are 17 construction projects listed here and none are about automobiles. Additionally, there is information about 2 studies for bus rapid transit-like projects.

Download all of these into Google Earth with this KML file.

A couple of these projects are being held up by the current Illinois roadway construction workers’ strike. UPDATE: Apparently a deal has been reached to end the strike.

Streetscapes

  • Blue Island/Cermak – I wrote about this project at length in October 2009. Construction should begin as soon as the strike is resolved. CONSTRUCTION UPDATE, 10-21-10: Bioswale, or creek, is mostly complete at Benito Juarez Community Academy (BJCA). Plaza with permeable pavers, and sheltered bike parking also complete. Photos here.
  • Congress Parkway – Full details and renderings from CDOT (PDF). Project should begin in 2010 and will narrow lanes, reduce number of lanes, straighten lanes (no more mid-intersection lane shifts), widen sidewalks, and improve crosswalks. Will add a lot of landscaping and unique and decorative lighting.
  • PROPOSED: Lawrence Avenue between Ashland and Western. Reduce the number of travel lanes from four to three, adding bike lanes and a center turn lane. Project limits include the rebuilt Ravenswood Metra station at 1800 W Lawrence. More details on Center Square Journal. Construction wouldn’t begin until 2011.

Transit

  • Morgan/Lake Green and Pink Line CTA station (new) – Details and renderings from CDOT (PDF) – Overview from Chicago Transit Authority – Tons of bike parking included at the beginning, how it should be. Construction should start this year. To better serve the West Loop area, where more people are moving to, but also has lots of existing businesses.
  • State/Grand Red Line CTA station renovation – Construction should finish this year.
  • 35th/Federal Rock Island Metra station (new) – Construction started in 2010.
  • LaSalle/Congress Intermodal Center – To improve connection between buses and the LaSalle Metra station. Mentioned in the Congress Parkway streetscape presentation (PDF).
  • Wilson Red Line CTA station renovation – Down the street from a new Target store that opens this weekend and hundreds of brand new housing units in the Wilson Yard development. Will use TIF funds from the Wilson Yard district. Overview on CTA Tattler.
  • Ravenswood Metra Station – A popular station on the Union Pacific-North line (to Kenosha). Will add longer and sheltered platform and become accessible. Details with Chicago Square Journal.
  • FLOATING: New Green Line CTA station at 18th or Cermak. Roosevelt station serves three lines. South Loop neighborhood fast growing. The new station would improve transit access to McCormick Place (at least if built at Cermak). Follow the Chicago Journal for more news on this topic.

morgan cta station rendering

Rendering from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) showing context-sensitive design. See the full presentation (PDF) for architectural influences.

Bridges

  • Halsted Street over North Branch Canal of the Chicago River. Replaces 99-year old moveable span with fixed span. No information on how it will accommodate the Halsted Street bike lane. Construction to begin in 2010 (PDF). CDOT project number 74062.
  • Navy Pier Flyover – Elevated section of the Lakefront Trail to bypass current bottleneck where the Lakefront Trail currently enters the Lake Shore Drive bridge over the Chicago River and DuSable park. Details from CDOT presentation on July 15, 2010.
  • PROPOSED: 35th Street pedestrian bridge over Metra/Illinois Central tracks and Lake Shore Drive to lakefront and Lakefront Trail. Bridge will be self-anchored suspension, like the new Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco. Overview on Burnham Centennial (drawing says 2007).

Rendering of the Navy Pier Flyover as it travels over the Lakepoint Tower condominiums as seen at the Cities and Bicycles forum with David Byrne in June at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Other

  • Various CREATE projects. All CREATE projects involve railroads in some way and most projects will construct grade separations. I’ve written about CREATE.
  • The Chicago Park District opened a new beach at Oakwood/41st Street this year. The grand opening for the beach house happened this past Saturday.
  • The Chicago Park District is currently building a harbor and marina immediately south of the 31st Street beach. The Public Building Commission of Chicago has the details and renderings. AECOM, the architect of record, produced these concept drawings (PDF). It appears how bike riders currently navigate the intersection at the entrance to the beach will change to be a little more normal and not force bike riders on the sidewalk. It’s unclear how many new parking spaces are being created along the lakefront – the fewer the better. The concept plan shows a new parking lot on the west side of the railroad tracks, a design I wholly support.
  • FLOATING: Luann Hamilton mentioned at the Cities and Bicycles forum with David Byrne in June that CDOT was thinking about a buffered bike lane on Wells Street.

31st street harbor concept rendering

Rendering of the 31st Street harbor concept plan. As seen in the contractor’s presentation to the Public Building Commission of Chicago.

Related

Although not construction projects, two additional proposals merit your attention. The Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Transit Authority each received grants this month to study and develop two corridors with bus rapid transit-like features. CDOT’s plan is to develop a priority bus lanes for up to seven routes between the Metra stations and Navy Pier and North Michigan Avenue (the Miracle Mile). Thank you to Kevin Z for the update.

CTA’s grant money is to fund the development of a speedy bus service from the southeast side to the West Loop via the north-south Jeffrey Avenue.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑