Tagsidewalk

Where else is it hard to “be a pedestrian” in Chicago?

I’m researching for an article about the many places in Chicago where pedestrian facilities should be improved. This is not about the lack of pedestrian safety in Chicago, but about deliberate designs that place push buttons or street crossing out of reach for some residents. So far this is what I’ve got.

Jackson Drive to cross Lake Shore Drive. To press the crosswalk signal activation button you have to step in a big mess of mud.

Robinson Street to cross Ashland Avenue. To press the crosswalk signal activation button you have to reach over or through a fence.

Southwest corner of Kinzie Street at Clark Street. There are no ramps at this crosswalk. A short distance west of here on the south side of Kinzie Street there are also stairs to traverse.

Where are there others?

N.B. While the word “pedestrian” is based on the word for “feet” in other languages, a pedestrian is considered anyone who isn’t getting around on a bicycle or automobile and uses the sidewalk. People using wheelchairs are grouped into “pedestrians” along with those who don’t.

On sucker poles

Twice in the past seven days I’ve encountered an unsecured sucker pole.

A sucker pole next to a highly-secure bike rack provided by the City of Chicago’s Bicycle Program. The adjacent placement of the two fixtures is an unfortunate side effect of construction crews who didn’t receive guidance on bike rack placement. 

What’s a sucker pole? Any sign pole that’s not embedded in concrete or securely fastened to the ground in another fashion. A simple hex nut on a bolt fastens the pole to the base.

So last Saturday I encountered my latest one in front of India House (59 W Grand), just hours after Alexis Finch of Thought You Knew pinup calendar fame mentioned a specific sucker pole at the Green Eye (2403 W Homer) – I could completely remove the pole from its base.

Alexis reported that when she visits that bar, she removes the pole from its base and lays it on the sidewalk to prevent others from locking their bikes there.

I want you to spread the word about sucker poles while at the same time requesting a bike rack for that spot. I invite designers to remake this crappy poster I created and thankfully never printed.

Remake this “beware of sucker poles” poster into something cool and I’ll pay to print a few copies for you to keep and give to friends or bike shops. 

Curb connoisseur

My sometimes traveling companion Brandon makes fun of me thinking I only travel to check out the curbs in every city. It started when we visited Portland together and yes, my camera was often aimed towards the ground. Here is a roundup of what curbs look like in other cities – I could only find these five photos that really focus on the kerb. 🙂

Starting in Chicago, Illinois

A curb and ADA-accessible ramp in Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The City of Chicago, as part of a lawsuit, agreed to renovate thousands of curb cuts across town that did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1993. This particular location was more involved than others because of the real brick crosswalk. It had to be removed and then replaced after the level of the street was raised.

Moving west to Portland, Oregon

In a long walking tour of Portland, Oregon, with PBOT worker Greg Raisman, we came across my first ever mountable curb. It’s a raised part of the street and motorists in small vehicles will probably avoid driving on it. It was installed because this is part of a truck route and it’s easy for truck drivers to roll on top of it without driving on the sidewalk.

Jumping south to Tucson, Arizona

A typical bumpout or curb extension, as seen in Tucson, Arizona. This design is not unique to Tucson, but I point it out because this one comes with accompanying signage telling people bicycling and driving that they must stop when they see a person trying to cross the street.

Taking the train over to San Francisco, California

An atypical situation in San Francisco, California, (not the tracks, but the way the tracks terminate in a mound of danger) that I hope gets corrected right away. In downtown San Francisco, there are very wide crosswalks made with colored stone that sets it apart from the rest of the roadway. But the sidewalk ramps are still very narrow. Also, granite curbs are more slippery than concrete. This all just seems like a bad situation, but it looks pretty.

Flying the long way to Milan, Italy

I have it on good authority that Julius Caesar was at the curb dedication ceremony here in Milan, Italy, and saw far into the future people chatting about bicycles on the sidewalk.

Crawling a little north to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Curbs in Amsterdam, Netherlands, play a vital role in a calm and managed all-mode transportation system. Here the curb is a ramp up onto the sidewalk and separated bike lane that leads into a neighborhood street. Mounting the curb should signal to the driver that they are entering a different space that has different rules and responsibilities.

TOD doesn’t have to be fancy

Developers and real estate workers like buzz words. They’re a great way to grab attention. But a development doesn’t need “TOD,” “near trains,” or “transit friendly” written on marketing materials, or subsidies and tax breaks from the municipality, to pass as Transit Oriented Development.

A photo of the Los Angeles Gold Line light rail passing the Mission Meridian “transit oriented development” (above, top) and marketing materials for the project (above, bottom).

Sometimes you just need a stairway and a sidewalk.

Townhomes on Carey Trail (view in map) in Wood Dale, Illinois, have easy access to the Wood Dale Metra station on the Milwaukee District West line. Look at the map to see how the neighboring developments fare in access to the station.

The snow debate: Who should clear sidewalks?

A couple of days ago (I think it was Friday night, December 18, 2009), a storm dumped several feet of snow in the northeast United States, covering New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The storm was so eventful that Metro (Washington, D.C.) stored many of its trains in the subway tunnels to avoid getting them covered in heavy snow, and applied “heater tape” to the third rails to keep them from getting new ice after two passes from plows and deicing trains. [This information comes from the linked Metro press release on December 19, 2009.]

Now Streetsblog NYC is hosting the debate about snow removal from sidewalks. Why doesn’t anyone do it, and who should do it? Images of unplowed sidewalks and pedestrians walking in clean and clear streets bring up issues about priorities in street design and maintenance.

Many municipalities have ordinances requiring the property owner to remove snow from the sidewalk (Chicago even specifies a time frame in which the work must be completed; at my last apartment, I shoveled the snow from the sidewalk and porches for a deduction in rent). Many people report how these laws pass through the winter without enforcement.

My bike waits for me on unplowed sidewalk in front of my school. I live in Chicago, Illinois, not the east coast.

A plow removes snow from a bike lane in Copenhagen, Denmark. Is this something we can bring to our bike lanes and sidewalks in the United States?

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