TagChicago Police Department

Pride Parade 2012: Easier on transportation system over last year

Bodhi Spiritual Center says, “You are fabulous”. 

After last year’s near-meltown of transportation surrounding post-parade trips, parade organizers, aldermen, and the city redesigns the parade route, to make it longer and eliminate the hard to access “internal triangle” between Halsted and Broadway (with a vertex at Grace/Halsted/Broadway). The meltdown was that thousands of people tried to board at the CTA Belmont Station. The station stopped allowing new passengers 5 times to ease overcrowding. I can’t recall if trains had to skip the station because they were full.

The new design allowed for better access from more CTA train stations, more bus routes, and allowed for more even spectator dispersal along the route (with 6 pedestrian crossings operated by many police officers). The CTA, which is usually very good at communicating service changes, made a webpage dedicated to the Pride Parade and even designed their own map. That and their social media communication stressed the other stations paradeogers should use: Wilson, Sheridan, Addison, and Fullerton. That was in addition to the other bus routes that now had closer access to the changed route.

I wrote about the 2011 transportation experience on Grid Chicago in which I suggested shutting down private vehicle traffic on more streets and further away from the parade route, allowing only buses and bicyclists. I couldn’t tell if that happened this year. Last year I entered the parade “shed” on Belmont and then Addison. All east-west streets it seemed were closed to traffic from Clark Street to Halsted Street (which is a good thing). Clark Street was closed this year for a couple of blocks south of Diversey Avenue (also a good thing).

Chicago Fire Department miniature trucks. 

I didn’t notice these last year, but the fire department utilized ATV-like trucks to transport sick spectators. I didn’t see any Chicago police officers riding ATVs, but I may have read the department abandoned those because of their increased danger on crowds and the officer driving it.

I think the route changes were effective in making for a better (and safer) parade experience. Organizers and the City’s OEMC estimated attendance at 850,000, just 50,000 over last year. Because of the changes and the great weather (it was very breezy), I expected a higher increase. Some people who attended last year may have been turned off by the unease of the crowded viewing experience.

Data collection issues in police database design

Please don’t park on sucker (er, sign) poles. And use a good lock. When your bike is stolen, no one but you will care. And the police won’t even know. 

When I asked the Chicago Police Department for statistics on how many bicycles are reported stolen each year, the response was that statistics couldn’t be provided because the database can’t be filtered on “bicycle theft”. I called the police officer responding to my FOIA request to learn more. He said that bike thefts are only categorized as “property thefts under $300” or “property thefts over $300”.

It would be possible to search through the database using keywords, but that would have been an unreasonable use of the officer’s and department’s time in accordance with FOIA laws (FOIA meaning Freedom of Information Act, known as FOIL in other states).

What a poorly designed database.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has Uniform Crime Reporting standards that police departments nationwide voluntarily adopt. It’s mainly a way for the FBI to collect statistics across the country and I assume this program is necessary because of a state’s right to impose its own standards. That sounds fine by me, but it shouldn’t impede collecting data to assist the Department of Transportation, and the Police Department itself, to combat bike theft. The Bike 2015 Plan, released in 2005 and adopted by the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC), includes several strategies to reduce bike theft in Chicago.

The FBI has a standard reporting code for bike thefts: 6Xf. Its definition is “the unlawful taking of any bicycle, tandem bicycle, unicycle, etc.”

The Chicago Police Department should upgrade its database to code property theft of bicycles as a “bike theft”. For now, though, advocates and activists will have to rely on the homegrown Chicago Stolen Bike Registry*. If you don’t know the extent of the problem, it’ll be hard to develop any solution.

The Bike 2015 Plan called for a report, by 2006, to be written that determined the “amount and types of bike theft”. We’re in 2012 – where’s that report?

Thinking about New York City

New York City’s Police Department (NYPD) has similar, but more grievous, database problems. Right now the New York City Council is holding a hearing to figure out why the NYPD isn’t investigating reckless drivers who’ve killed people walking and cycling. And I read this about it:

 Vacca’s first question to Deputy Chief John Cassidy, the NYPD Chief of Transportation, was about speeding, and how often drivers caught speeding are charged with reckless endangerment. The answer came not from Cassidy, but from Susan Petito, an NYPD attorney, who politely explained that they simply don’t know, because reckless endangerment charges “are not segregated in the database” and can’t be easily found. Via Gothamist.

Hmm, seems like the same issue the Chicago Police Department has.

* The Stolen Bike Registry has its own issues, which is often because of “user error”, wherein people who submit reports to it don’t provide much detail, especially as from where the bike was stolen.

So that bike lane enforcement

Where is it?

This is beginning to make me angry.

The Chicago Police Department has issued 5 citations so far this year to drivers parking in the bike lane (well, as of October 11, 2011). I’ve taken photos this year of more than 5 drivers parking in the bike lane. Here’re frequencies from all the years I asked about*:

  • 2007 – 2 citations
  • 2008 – 6
  • 2009 – 8
  • 2010 – 2
  • 2011 – 5

At the September 2011 Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said that he’s working on an enforcement plan. I’d like that plan to start with more frequent enforcement of Ordinance 9-40-060 – Driving, standing or parking on bicycle paths or lanes prohibited.

A blocked bike lane can make cycling more uncomfortable and dangerous, especially for inexperienced cyclists who often don’t change lanes in a visible and safe way.

*I’m only asking for 2007-2010 because I want it to coincide with the crash data I have.

Chicago Police responds to my FOIA request about bicycle theft

A Chicago Police (CPD) officer called me this morning to discuss my FOIA request for bike theft data. It was very revealing.

The first problem is that I forgot to ask for a time frame. No big deal, I can tell him over the phone that I want the last three full calendar years.

The second problem is that there’s not a separate code for recording bicycle thefts. It’s recorded under “Simple Theft” and as being under $300 or over $300.

Third problem is that the database front end (the graphical interface that allows officers to search the reporting database) doesn’t allow him to search all of the report narratives for “bike” or “bicycle” and limit the search to “Simple Theft” in a specific time frame. Some report codes allow narrative searching, and some don’t. He said it would be impractical to search all narratives for the words “bike” or “bicycle” because a lot of reports not about theft would appear in the results.

In my last blog on the Chicago Police Department’s FOIA response (for my request about bike crashes), they explained that they don’t have to create records that don’t already exist (like a list of bike thefts). This response is identical, but they called and gave me a better explanation. The officer also said they don’t have the staff resources to spend on collating their records for bicycle theft reports. I understand this.

He also explained that reporting standards at the CPD are guided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the department’s “Incident Reporting Standards.” In the FBI’s reporting standards, there exists a line item for “bicycle theft” but it’s the same code as “simple theft.” There are separate codes for “credit card theft” and “motor vehicle theft.”

It seems the solution to the problem of obtaining records on bike theft in Chicago is to update the Incident Reporting Standards and include a new code for bike theft reports. At the end of the call, I understood that I was not going to get a list of bike theft dates and times from the police.

For now, Chicagoans should also report their bicycle theft to the Stolen Bike Registry so there’s a publicly available record of theft locations.

A Chicagoans rides his bike north on Halsted Street through University Village. If his bike is stolen, we can’t expect the Chicago Police Department to keep an easily findable report of it.

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