TagMBAC

CDOT’s response to helmet inquiry at MBAC

Waiting at a red light on Milwaukee Avenue at Western Avenue. 

Erica Salem of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) emailed me in February asking about data on children’s bike accidents (crashes) and any related data about ER visits and head injuries. I forwarded her to my friend Bill who is working on such data at UIC’s Urban Transportation Center (UTC).

She was looking for information to make the case for kids to use helmets while biking. And she brought this up at the June 2012 Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC). She’s a member of the council under the new rules and format.

Here’s a paraphrased version of the discussion:

Erica Salem (ES): How do you quantify the increase in bike riders in the city?

Mike Amsden: That’s a huge challenge. Bike/ped data collection is very difficult. Right now it’s just work trips, and there’s even talk of eliminating that. We do before/after data collection of bikeway facilities. That’s where this Green Lane Project will come in and help with promotion and resources.

ES: The CDC released data showing 88% CPS middle schoolers and 94% of CPS high schoolers don’t wear a helmet when biking. Some of us think there should be an ordinance for helmet use in children. And some of us don’t.

Charlie Short: Safe Kids Program out of Children’s Memorial has done bike helmet giveaway. Targets low-income children. That seems to be where most initiative is coming from.

ES: The funds are drying up. I’ve talked to them already.

James Boratyn (of Illinois Department of Transportation): IDOT helps fund Children’s Memorial’s Safe Kids Program [also funds Bike Ambassadors]

Alex Wilson (of West Town Bikes): Major issue was storage concerning their move. We just filed a grant for 500 helmets.

Luann Hamilton (representing the Chicago Department of Transportation): We’ve always taken the position to provide education, outreach, and providing free helmets, as opposed to mandate. Of all the issues the police are dealing with, it doesn’t seem like a useful way to deal with the issue. [emphasis mine]

A cogent and welcomed response.

Mayor Bloomberg (of New York City) responds directly to a question about helmet laws:

It would be better if everybody wore a helmet. I think in a practical sense a lot of people won’t, and they’re better off taking a bike than driving or walking in the streets and getting pedestrian accidents (sic). The most important thing we can do is separate bicycles lanes from traffic, and that’s one of the things we’re really trying to do.

Infrastructure and traffic enforcement will do more to reduce injuries than helmets.

My friend Brian pointed me to this article about how a helmet law may make a killed child’s parents (somewhat) responsible for their own child’s death. A 14-year old boy was cycling and killed by a then-48-year old driver. The boy was not wearing a helmet but state law requires that children 15 and younger wear helmets while cycling. The lawsuit was filed by the driver, from prison, in 2010. I don’t know what the outcome is.

Updated June 19 at 13:34 to add Mayor Bloomberg’s response to a question about helmet laws. Updated June 28 at 20:31 to add link to child death article. 

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.

Recap for the June 2011 MBAC meeting

Updated June 15, 2011: Added section on snow removal for the Kinzie Street bike lane. Updated October 16, 2011, to add quotes protected bike lane planning. 

Every three months, staff from the Chicago Department of Transportation and Chicago Bicycle Program come to Room 1103 in City Hall to tell the bicycle community at large what they’re up to – it’s the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council. Other organizations get an opportunity to speak as well (especially Active Transportation Alliance) but a majority of the time is dedicated to the divisions of the Bicycle Program (namely bikeways, bike parking, and education).

Wednesday’s meeting was the only one I’ve been to where I felt that CDOT was doing something new, different, and interesting. And I’ve been to many, all as an employee of CDOT – at least 10 meetings since 2007. A LOT of new information was imparted at this meeting.

Thanks to Jim Limber, you can watch the meetings live. Or watch the recordings: Part 1, Part 2.


Here’s my MBAC recap, originally written for the weekly Chainlink newsletter:

Streets for cycling and protected bike lanes

Ben Gomberg introduced Mark de Lavergne of Sam Schwartz Engineering who will be leading the new Streets for Cycling planning process that will include 3-6 public meetings across the city to talk about future locations of Chicago’s bikeway network. The plan will include a toolbox of ideas and implementations adapted from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The report will be completed by Bike To Work Day 2012.

The first 25 miles of protected bike lane locations has apparently already been assessed and will be done right away, without waiting for the plan to be completed. The starting place for these protected bike lanes is getting people in and out of downtown.

Bicycle Program coordinator Ben Gomberg said that the location of 25 miles had already been assessed. Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton said,

We’re being asked to be creative and come up with new information quickly by the new mayor, but we already did some planning before the new mayor. Our starting place: How to get in and out of downtown.

People interested in providing their ideas before the public planning process begins can send them to Mike Amsden. [email protected]

Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign

Adolfo Hernandez from Active Transportation Alliance announced the Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign, to be led by John Lankford (not present). Here’s a paraphrasing of what he said: “There will be a fight early on about bikeways. The people in this room love these things. Businesses to be supportive of this, our local alderman. This isn’t on every alderman’s radar. As cycling advocates, we need to talk to our neighbors, businesses, churches, and schools. As part of the campaign for 100 miles, we are going to meet with people to do some organizing, spreading messages, building support, before the backlash. People are going to be upset, not going to like it.”

Kinzie Street snow removal

When a meeting attendee asked how snow would be dealt with on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, CDOT Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton mentioned that new CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein built similar lanes in Washington, D.C., where it also snows, and will bring his experience in this to Chicago. 

Poor bicycling conditions on Vincennes

Anne Alt showed in a slideshow and described the reasons why Vincennes Avenue is a great bike route (even if bike lanes were removed and never reinstalled) but it has a lot of problems. She highlighted problems, especially at the train viaduct at 83rd and Parnell. Luann said that CDOT would help Anne identify the responsible railroad as a first step to getting the nearly invisible potholes under the viaduct repaired.

She posted her narratives and photos on The Chainlink.

I took a lot more notes so if you have any questions about something else that was said or wasn’t said, let me know and I’ll update it. I picked these as the most interesting and important parts of the meeting. One more thing: The Bicycle Program officially announced the on-street bike parking in Wicker Park, which I discussed a couple weeks ago.

Gin and I rode on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane together right after the meeting. Notice how wide it is! I’ve said it before: bikes are social. I’d already written over this a few times prior to the meeting, but I wanted to ride with someone else to see that experience. There’s normally not enough room in the bike lanes to ride next to someone, but here there is. I’m very excited about the opportunities this kind of facility opens up.

MBAC meeting now online

In a small victory for open government (Gov 2.0), one new City of Chicago meeting has gone “live.”

Well, it was live two Wednesdays ago (if you showed up at City Hall at 3 PM on the 11th floor*), but you can watch the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council on Ustream. Thanks to Jim Limber for setting up the webcam and streaming it. I haven’t watched it yet; you can also read the meeting minutes and see one of the distributed handouts.

MBAC is where people involved in bicycle projects come together to talk about them. It includes riding and racing clubs, police, city agencies, CTA, advocacy groups, messengers, and regular citizens.

An MBAC meeting in June 2009. This was a special meeting and the only relevant photo I had for this blog post.

*I missed this MBAC; first one since working at the Chicago Department of Transportation, where I started in October 2007. I’ll be leaving at the end of this month and I’m looking for new employment. You can hire me.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑