Tagstreetscape

Chicago’s ward boundaries should go down alleys instead of main streets

Dividing a small part of a business district, centered on one street, into three fiefdoms cannot be an efficient way to govern a neighborhood, aggregate resources, or provide services.

This graphic illustrates how many elected “stakeholders” – each with their own ideas – a city transportation department and its contracted engineers have to deal with to repave a street and rebuild the sidewalks.

The constituents are the same, however. They are all small business owners, and if you want to get together and advocate for change, you’ll have to make three different appointments.

Say the first elected official supports your small group’s proposal. Are they going to talk to the next door elected official and collaborate?

Naw. Not in Chicago. This is the city where a bike lane will be repaired on a street, but only up to the point where the fiefdom boundary ends, because the next official didn’t want to pay for the maintenance on their side.

I can see one situation where having three boundaries is good: Say one of the official is really good, responsive to needs, pushes for street upgrades, spends their discretionary funds in ways that you like, and attracts more businesses to locate there.

The next door official, however, isn’t as responsive or “good”, but they want those businesses to locate on their side of the street. They’ll become better, in essence, competing.

I don’t think this happens in Chicago, because you’ll tend to have officials who are about the same.

The depicted project was proposed a little over four years ago, and is now complete, it appears.

Chicago is the First City when it comes to permeable paving

The New York Times wrote on Sunday about the Pilsen pollution fighting bike lanes I’m really gung-ho about. They didn’t provide any new information, failing to even mention their location. But they did publish an excellent 3D graphic showing how it works! (The article’s main focus is how Chicago is predicted to become hotter and wetter, “more like Baton Rouge”, and how city planners, geniuses all, are working on this problem.)

First, here’s a photo of what the bike and parking lanes look like now, both made with a topper created by Italcementi that removes nitrous oxides from the air:

Then take a look at this diagram showing the streetscape design on Blue Island between Wood and Ashland (still under construction).

Hat tip to The Car Whisperer – “Chicago may stop paving streets altogether in ten years”.

That was easy: Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA approves on-street bike parking installation money

Read the discussion about this on The Chainlink.

I went to the Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area (SSA) #33 commission meeting on Wednesday night. Jason Tinkey joined me. I had a lot of questions before going in about the on-street bike parking I wrote about yesterday and many were answered in the proceedings. At the end I asked my final questions. Today’s meeting was about passing a motion, which passed unanimously, to approve funding $4,000 to pay CDOT for the installation.

Here’s the story:

A Dero Downtown rack will be installed in front of the Flat Iron Arts Building in a parallel parking space that is not currently metered. The bike rack is designed to store 12 bicycles. The Dero Downtown rack looks identical to Chicago’s Plaza racks but has slightly different geometry. It has square tubing and is of high quality; it can stand alone or be anchored easily, even to asphalt – I definitely approve this rack choice.

It will be purchased by the SSA* and donated to the Chicago Department of Transportation which has agreed to assume liability. I don’t know what the installation includes, but the cost, $4,000, seems quite high! The SSA has a target installation month of June 2011. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, may have its second by the end of May.

Orange lines indicate approximate location – could be north or south of the fire hydrant. These are the non-metered parking spaces.

The Dero Downtown rack looks just like this Plaza rack, so named because of its first appearance at Daley Plaza.

Expect to see a scene like this in Wicker Park by the end of summer 2011.

*The standard price for this bike rack, in 2011, is $1,584 for powder coat or galvanized, or $1,836 for thermoplastic or black rubber dip. Delivery will cost over $500. The SSA passed a motion in March 2011 (PDF) to approve $4,000 to procure the bike rack.

Construction update: Pilsen streetscape improvement

The most popular posts on Steven Can Plan are Chicago infrastructure construction updates.

In October 2009 I told you about the Cermak/Blue Island Streetscape project from the Chicago Department of Transportation. The article was called, “Pollution fighting bike lane coming to Pilsen.” I was kind of skeptical at first, but never mentioned this to anyone.

I’m happy to say it’s a reality and you can see the world’s first (I think) bike lane made of permeable pavers that have an ingredient that reduces the amount of nitrogen oxide in the nearby air. On Tuesday I was riding to Bridgeport via south Halsted Street and saw the construction on Cermak Street. I rode west to check it out. Then I saw work happening on Blue Island Avenue and had to check it out. These’re the results!

The construction situation at the northwest corner of Halsted and Cermak, where new sidewalks will be built.

Some vaulted sidewalks are being filled in.

The pollution fighting bike lane! Not complete: it needs signage and striping so you may see people parking in the future bike lane. The top inch of the permeable pavers has TX Aria from Italcementi.

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.

Motoring is triple threat to bicycling and the environment

Location: Northwest corner of Clark Street and Congress Parkway.

This photo shows the damage that automobiles inflict on our cities, environment, and, closest to my heart, bikes and bike parking.

An errant motorist jumped the curb and crashed first into the tree, then the bike rack, and finally the bike parked here. The LaSalle Blue Line station entrance is just steps away (in the background). Imagine the fate of a bicyclist who might have been locking their red Schwinn road bike to the bike rack only to find a 2-ton metal box hurtling in their direction. This photo makes clear how driving is a threat to so many aspects of our streets.

The collision had a direct monetary cost. The city will most likely pick up the tab for everything except replacing the bike. Here’s what I surmise from the photographed scene:

  • Tree removal and replacement: >$1,000
  • Bike rack removal and replacement: $450 ($300 for a new one, $150 to remove)
  • Vintage Schwinn: $200
  • Bike removal: $50
  • Cleanup: $150
  • Total: At least $1,850

Please drive carefully. Send me your photos of the automobile imposition – reader updates are here. But wait, I’ve encountered this again and again:

Location: Northwest corner of Elton Avenue and Cicero Avenue.

Location: Northwest corner of Lawrence Avenue and Kostner Avenue in front of Chicago Public Library, Mayfair branch.

UPDATE: Thanks for the mention, BikePortland.

Pollution fighting bike lane, coming soon to Pilsen

Rendering of the project by CDOT. See all photos about this project.

A planner from the Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program in the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) came to speak to my Sustainable Development Techniques class at UIC about adding “green” to urban design.

Among other topics, he talked about CDOT’s streetscape project for Cermak and Blue Island in Pilsen, a near southwest side neighborhood a couple miles outside of downtown Chicago. The project, like all streetscapes, is one of economic development. But this project is unique in that the goal was to look at every element and make each as green and sustainable as possible.

You can read about the project through the Program’s presentation here (Flash slideshow). Please note there are many versions of the same presentation on the web and each my be different depending on their intended audience.

I will be discussing a single showcase element from the project: A bike lane on Blue Island between Ashland and Western where currently one does not exist. The bike lane and the adjacent parking lane (on the bike lane’s right side, as normal in Chicago) will be constructed with permeable pavers mixed with smog eating concrete. Wait? Smog eating concrete? Keep reading!

The bike lane will begin at Ashland/Cermak/Blue Island, a well-traveled intersection for heavy trucks, three bus routes, and many passenger cars. The bike lane will connect Pilsen to Little Village and extend the existing bike lane on Blue Island in Pilsen’s central shopping area. This segment is also a designated truck route and to safely accommodate the parking lane, bike lane, and travel lane, the road will be widened by reducing the width of the sidewalks. The sidewalks here are 20 feet wide, double the standard width, and four times wider than sidewalks in many parts of Chicago. There’s very low pedestrian volume here and very little residential use so the plan is to have 8 foot wide sidewalks, and a 5.5 foot planter, breaking occasionally for bus stop shelters.

The bike lane will be 5 feet wide (including striping) and the parking lane will be 8 feet wide. The novel part of the two lanes is that they will be made with permeable pavers.

This will be the first paver bike lane in the City of Chicago. The blocks will be oriented so that bicyclists feel the least amount of bumps and won’t get their tire stuck in a groove that could harm.

The smog eating concrete’s trade name is TX Active, invented by Italcementi Group, a large, multinational corporation founded and based in Italy. Since the original installation of TX Active cement on the Dives in Misericordia Church in Rome (designed by Richard Meier), Italcementi has developed two lines of photocatalytic cement, only one of which reduces pollutants in the area (TX Arca). The other cement is for architectural uses helps keep the concrete surface clean from dirt and particulate matter.

CDOT will use the second line, TX Aria, in the top half inch of the pavers. The company has tested the product to demonstrate its effectiveness at reducing the presence of Nitrogen Oxides (commonly written as NOx, a family of toxic substances emitted by internal combustion engines) and published its laboratory results in an easy to follow report on its website (PDF). The technical report goes into more details and explains how the process works (through photocatalysis) and what substances their product can be designed to diminish. The technical report is unclear on whether or not all forms of the TX Active product abate all substances. It may be that the maker only tested its effects on Nitrogen Oxides levels.

I look forward to watching the construction progress and to breathing the cleaner air while bicycling to a new destination in Pilsen.

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