Tagdesign

Divvy considers my suggestions in bike-share kiosk map redesign

The new design that will appear at the newest stations first and then rolled out to all stations. 

I posted two months ago a critique of the Divvy bike-share maps, seen at 284 stations scattered around Chicago, focusing on the clutter of having so many maps (with the third being useless), unclear labels and labels that covered map objects, and the low prominence of the smartphone app and map legend. Two weeks ago the Divvy public relations manager emailed me a screenshot of the new map design and said that these points had been changed. He said they considered four of my suggestions:

  1. Make CycleFinder, the official Divvy smartphone app, more prominent
  2. Change “You are here” design to make it clear where you are
  3. Make streets and streets’ label text smaller
  4. Removed service area map and make legend more prominent

I replied to the manager and suggested that the “You are here” label be made slightly transparent to show that the road does continue beneath it.

Close-up of the original “you are here” design that covered up other objects and wasn’t centered in the walking distance circle.

The United States uses way too much text for regulatory traffic signs

Look at these two signs in Berlin (right outside the American embassy). They’re universal across the European Union – and probably in adjacent non-EU countries. The upper one means “yield” and the lower one with the white arrow means “compulsory right turn”. In the United States, there are several signs that mean the same thing. The simplest one we have comes in two forms: symbol and text. That makes two different signs, but there’s a third one. It’s also a text sign but has extra words!

American symbol sign (actually a symbol with text): The sign has an arrow pointing in an upward curve toward the right and the word “only”. Photo by Joseph Dennis. 

Yet there is no need to mix a symbol and a word, as both parts of the message (“right turn” and “only maneuver you can make here”) can be communicated with symbols. In the EU, the right turn sign has two states, both depicted by symbols: off and on. Off meaning you cannot turn right there and is depicted with an arrow pointing right, on a white background, circumscribed with a red circle. The “on” version means you must turn right there and is depicted with an arrow pointing right, on a blue background. (It would be pointless to have a sign saying you can turn right somewhere.)

The next sign is the text-only version of the “right turn only” sign.

American text sign: The sign says “right turn only”. Photo by Michael Jantzen. 

And then there’s the most ridiculous one, “right lane must turn right”. In many places, Chicago included, bikes and buses are excepted.

A group of people protest the stupidity of this sign design. I mean, a bunch of Tea Partiers protest our socialist road system. Or something. Photo by Susan Adams. 

All of the signs depicted above mean the same thing! Why have we developed four unique ways to communicate a single meaning?

While I’m on the subject of right turns, here’re two signs in San Francisco, on Market Street at Octavia Boulevard. Octavia is the end of the Central Freeway, so people driving here are in the mindset of fast highway driving. Cars cannot be turned right here and bicyclists are warned to look out for people making illegal right turns. In other words, “Beware car drivers who break the law”.

Photo of “right turn prohibited” symbol sign and “[bikes] watch for prohibited right turns” text sign by Adam Fritzler. 

Life at the speed of rail

Brandon Souba and I entered a design competition held by the Van Alen Institute.

The winners were announced publicly today and guess what, we were one of the 10 finalists! Here’re the other winners and their work.

Chicago photographer Drew Bly was instrumental in this as he provided the wonderful film portraits of people around which we created profiles of potential high-speed train passengers.

Mariane

Each person has a different transportation need and the profile describes how high-speed rail will fulfill that need. This is the purpose of the competition:

Life at the Speed of Rail seeks the visions of the architectural design community, planners, graphic designers, artists—anyone who wants to contribute to the discussion surrounding high-speed rail.

Life at the Speed of Rail calls for participants to produce projects and scenarios that engage high-speed rail at all scales — architectural, metropolitan, regional, national. Participants may decide to tackle one or more of these scales and produce projects that reimagine the high-speed train itself, the section of the railway line, the design of crossings and intersections, the form and program of railway terminals, the graphic identity of the high-speed rail network, and so on.

A selection of entries will form the foundation of an image library — a resource for print and online media seeking better ways of illustrating and analyzing infrastructure needs.

View our entire project in a slideshow.

Oscar

Erica

Jordan

Juliette

Daniel


Friday is final day for comments about Damen-Elston-Fullerton

Tomorrow, Friday, May 13, 2011, is the final day to email comments to Bridget Stalla, project manager for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton reconfiguration.

What should you do?

  1. Read an overview of the project and my analysis
  2. View photos of the posters at April’s open house to understand what will and won’t change
  3. Think of what you like or don’t like about the project
  4. Email your comments to Bridget: [email protected]
  5. Think about posting your comments here.

My draft comments

Here’s what I plan to email Bridget tomorrow:

  1. Bike lane on Damen – There should be a bike lane on Damen connecting the two ends north and south of Fullerton. Additionally, the bike lane should go THROUGH both intersections. See an example of a “through bike lane” in this photo. Too often bicyclists in Chicago are “dropped off” at intersections, left to fend for themselves and get caught in the same problems as automobiles. But automobiles and bicycles are different kinds of vehicles and need different treatments and direction.
  2. Roundabout – Was a roundabout considered for any of the three intersections? What were the results of this analysis? A modern, turbo roundabout should be given serious consideration for at least one of the three intersections.
  3. Curve and wide road on New Elston Avenue – On “New Elston Avenue” between Fullerton and Damen, there are two regular lanes and one bike lane in each direction. The widening of Elston was not justified. The high radius curve on New Elston Avenue on the east side of the project, and two regular lanes in each direction, will likely cause higher-speed traffic than bicyclists are used to on many roads on which they travel in great numbers. Automobile drivers speeding around the curve may enter the bike lanes. This is a good case for protected bike lanes at least on this part of the roadway.
  4. Removing the center island – Was removing the center island an alternative the project team considered?
  5. Queue backups caused by Fullerton-highway ramp intersection – The project area should be expanded to include the intersection to the west of the project area, at Fullerton/Kennedy ramp. Westbound drivers constantly and consistently block the Fullerton intersections with Damen and Elston while waiting to go through the signal at the highway ramp.

A bird’s eye view of the new configuration.

Design a promotional message

If you were asked to design a poster, postcard, flyer, or what have you, to promote bicycling, what would you create?

A photo of my sister riding a bicycle in Chicago alongside the text, “I want to get in shape, waste less time, and save money.” Similar to Mikael’s “The bike, think about it.”

No one asked me to design the poster above. Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic (who I met in January 2011) is constantly reimagining car advertisements and plastering cheeky messages on photos. I created this to expand my creativity, use computer software I rarely try out, as well as promote one of the answers to a lot of problems, be they personal, environmental, or social.

I don’t think there’re enough positive messages about bicycling being spread in media or in our media-filled physical environment – we see the opposite. If you watched the Super Bowl commercials on Sunday (or online today), you’d have seen Audi’s “Green Police” arresting people for not recycling or for driving something other than their “clean diesel” car. Audi advertised the same “clean diesel” car in a different commercial that suggested bicycling was difficult and degrading, and probably only done while it’s raining.

To promote bicycling as the cure to what ails us, Mikael designed this poster of a patch kit and the text, “The bicycle. Fixing broken cities. You’re welcome.”

Mikael and I posing for a shot next to hand and foot rail for cyclists after riding our bikes around Copenhagen after sipping some beer and eating expensive, but tasty, hamburgers.

Promoting bicycling doesn’t always need a narrative message, though. This poster for the great people of San Francisco identifies each neighborhood by a kind of bicycle. The funniest one is the exercise (stationary) bike for Castro. Think about the neighborhoods in your city – which one would a fixie represent and which one would get the cargo bike?

One of my favorite messages is apparently quite old: Put some fun between your legs.

I support the Columbia College urban bike project

Senior Product Design students at Columbia College in Chicago studying under Carl Boyd have developed prototypes for bicycle use for several years. I first saw these students in action in December 2007 when they presented their products to some MBAC attendees.

I later wrote about one project, bike-friendly enhancements for the ‘L’ from Adair Heinz and Tune Koshy.

A different team at the same presentation showed off their specialized bag for paramedics who bike. At the bike swap meet in February 2010, the students showed off the result of their collaboration with Po Campo, a Chicago company selling handmade bags for women who ride bikes.

Students worked closely with Emily and Maria of Po Campo to design new products the company could adopt into its product line. They present these designs to attendees at the swap meet earlier this year.

Carl is trying to get some of these products into commercial production with the next group of graduates, with help from anyone and everyone through Kickstarter. The annual program for 2010 has completed. Carl writes on Kickstarter:

In the past 4 years, the Urban Bike Design Project, has always come *this* close to seeing projects launched into the real world, but the lack of starter funding kept dropping the kickstand on each one. Our students have limited pocket money, and we want these prototypes made street-ready, to put in the hands of people who need them. This time we are seeking funds for prototyping costs, and we know that the Kickstarter community cares as much about this project as we do!

I’ve twice witnessed the high-quality and thoughtful designs from the students and I pledged money. The project needs $2,000 by November 3, in order for the pledges to turn into donations.

Metra 35th St. station surely won’t win any design awards

UPDATE 04-07-11: The station opened on April 3, 2011. Blair Kamin explains why it doesn’t look as good as originally designed:

It didn’t have to be this way. The Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill came up with a promising design for the station, one that justified the demolition of a Mies-designed brick hut that reportedly served as the entrance to an underground testing facility for explosives during the Cold War.

But then, things went seriously off the rails.

This new Metra commuter/regional rail station at 35th Street and Wentworth/Federal won’t win any design awards. Neither will the Lovana S. “Lou” Jones/Bronzeville Station stand out for having such a generic design.

The station under construction as of October 3, 2010.

Artist’s renderings of the station and street-level plaza, looking northwest. Left photo from Metra’s website and right photo from Singh & Associates’s website.

The amount of visible concrete used in the stairs and ramps construction (one complete set on either side of the tracks) is fitting if you consider the station’s surroundings: a 12-lane highway (the Dan Ryan, I90/94), thousands of surface auto parking spaces to the west (for the White Sox stadium), and an empty lot.

But what if we looked for design inspiration from the east?

Imagine a station shelter modeled after the sound mitigation “tube” over the Illinois Institute of Technology McCormick-Tribune Campus Center a few blocks away at State Street designed by Rem Koolhaas.

Photos above taken by Steven Crane.

Throw in some curves like the Canary Wharf stations on the Jubilee and Docklands Light Railway lines.

Photo of the Canary Wharf Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station by stephenk1977.

Photo of the Canary Wharf Jubilee Underground Line station by Payton Chung.

Companies involved:

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.

Chicago’s big box saga continues

The Chicago big box saga is a tale of who gets to build where, how big, and how much wage it pays. It can be extended to include debates on store design.

While big box stores were built here before the first Wal-Mart in Chicago, the saga begins with that megastore. The City Council passed a “living wage” ordinance (also called the big box wage ordinance) that required stores with over 90,000 square feet and $1 billion in revenue to pay their employees a minimum of $10 per hour, and an additional $3 per hour in fringe benefits. The Mayor vetoed the ordinance. Wal-Mart built its store in the Austin neighborhood and paid their normal wage (in 2010 it seems to be $8.75). It won’t be until 2011 (at the earliest) that the second Wal-Mart will open in Pullman.

An urban-friendly Best Buy in the same complex as a senior citizen assisted living center.

Meanwhile, Target opens new Chicago stores in McKinley Park and West Rogers Park (on Peterson Avenue), both in 2006. Best Buy opened stores on Elston Avenue, Belmont Avenue, Clark Street, Roosevelt Road, and Michigan Avenue. Kohl’s, a discount department store, opened a store alongside Best Buy on Elston (to the tune of 130,000 square feet, on par with Wal-Mart) in 2005. Home Depot and Menards have also opened stores since the big box ordinance veto in 2006 seemingly without a hitch.

This month, Target proposed to a group of residents and the 2nd Ward Alderman, Robert Fioretti, a new store at Jackson and Aberdeen in the West Loop. Many residents were disappointed by the store design. At least one resident didn’t understand the need for a store with the South Loop store on Roosevelt so close.

How the saga can end

The prevailing wages at big box stores in Chicago should be researched. The current research about Wal-Mart and big box stores’ tax revenue contributions should be validated by additional studies. There are several universities up to this task, and mine, the University of Illinois at Chicago, has released multiple studies – here’s one about localized job creation and elimination.

With solid background information, alderman and city agencies, as well as residents, can potentially make better informed and more effective decisions about the future of large-scale retailing in Chicago.

More of this please (Home Depot hardware store in dense neighborhood)…

…And less of these.

Lastly, the City Council and Zoning and Planning departments should set design standards for this style of shopping to ensure urban friendly and transit oriented developments. Home Depot and Target should be lauded for their stores on Halsted Street in Lincoln Park (more info), and on Roosevelt Road in South Loop, respectively*. However, each has since built their typical suburban monstrosities in other neighborhoods, that neither recognize that some customers would like to arrive by car (instead by transit or bike), nor consider the environment (minimum-size parking lots make a large contribution to the city’s current problems managing stormwater runoff). Future Wal-Marts should promote sustainable design.

First and second photos by Payton Chung. Third photo by PonderInc.

*While the Target in McKinley Park (Chicago) is LEED Certified, the South Loop store probably has an annual lower carbon footprint because of all the visitors who arrive by transit and bike. The South Loop store is near a major train station and several bus routes (at least five). The McKinley store is on a highway and two bus routes.

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