Tagvideo

That wasn’t a joyride on Lake Shore Drive

Video starts at Ohio Street (you can see the W Hotel after the curve at Ontario Street); the camera holder and driver speak with expletives.

Craig Newman at the Sun Times is wrong about the person in this video, who was filmed riding a Divvy bike-share bike along the jersey barrier on northbound Lake Shore Drive. He blogged today:

All excellent questions. But let’s maybe simplify and throw a warning sticker on the bikes: NO RIDING ON EXPRESSWAYS

And yes, I am a consistent bike commuter who enjoys the benefits and routinely laments stupidity, four-wheeled, two-wheeled and on foot we all have to fight through daily. But come on. Lake Shore Drive?

This person didn’t want to be cycling there. There are several ways one could make the mistake of riding a bike on this roadway. And once you’re on, you’re on for good until the next exit (which in this Divvy rider’s case is 1/4 mile north from where the video was shot).

She might have known there was something called the Lake Shore Path (as some people call it) or the Lakefront Trail – she couldn’t remember which. She didn’t see any “Route X” signs, or “Interstate Y” signs.

She saw a road that looks like so many others. It’s called a drive, not an expressway (it doesn’t meet those technical standards). She most likely entered from Lower Wacker (which connects to Michigan Avenue, where many people ride Divvy against Alderman Reilly’s desire) and went up the center, northbound ramp to Lake Shore Drive.

Stony Island Avenue in Chicago. The only difference between this and Lake Shore Drive is the more frequent stopping (unless there’s congestion on LSD) and the shopping. Photo by Jeff Zoline.

It can be easily mistaken for a typical road, looking similar to the stroads near wherever she lives. Like Stony Island, Cicero, Columbus, Archer, in Chicago, or any countless “major street” in the suburbs. Maybe she comes from Roscoe Village, where Western Avenue goes over Belmont, or Bridgeport/Brighton Park, where Ashland Avenue goes over Pershing Avenue. Or some other city where regular roads cross other regular roads at different grades.


View Larger Map

Local photographer Brent Knepper tweeted that he made the mistake before.

We have a problem with our design such that the highway didn’t sufficient communicate, “No really, you shouldn’t bike here”. On the contrary, we have roads that should be shouting, “Hey, you really should be biking here!”

Maybe that’s why Netherlands makes it perfectly clear with red pavement.

Believe me, not even Casey Neistat would ride up here intentionally.

Updated with a better guess of where she entered Lake Shore Drive.

Chicago’s train stations are dead zones

Perhaps not all of them: Millennium Station, serving Metra Electric and South Shore Line trains, was rebuilt and given a facelift and new tenants (including a few restaurants) when the City of Chicago constructed Millennium Park atop it. And not Northwestern Station since it has two food courts, activity from the thousands of workers above, and the new(ish) French Market.

But look at Union Station and LaSalle Station – they tell passengers to stay away. It’s obnoxious (and noxious) to be in them. These two stations have quite the space available for pleasant activities and waiting areas. Union Station has the Great Hall and a bar but it’s also a Great Distance away from the platforms. LaSalle Station is probably the worst: a dozen machines squawk at waiting passengers – if there are any – to tell people who are blind where each track is. Every 3 seconds.

I made a video to demonstrate a little of how unlovable train stations are in the United States. Not every station has the squawk boxes right in the main, but empty, waiting area, but the desolation and difficult access is widespread.

There’s a whole lot of nothing at LaSalle Station. Photo by Jeff Zoline. 

New iOS app offers most advanced Divvy route directions

Chicago Bike Route for iOS

Walking directions from my house to the Divvy station at the CTA California Blue Line station, and then from there to the Divvy station at LaSalle/Illinois Streets. Lastly, there’s walking directions to some arbitrary N LaSalle Street address.

Adam Gluck and Andrew Beinstein showed up at OpenGov Hack Night on July 16, 2013, to show off the technical concept of their forthcoming app for iOS devices. I looped them into the Divvy app-making progress I and others were undertaking (documented on a shared Google Doc).

They said they would make their app was going quite different from all of the eight apps for using Divvy that have since launched before theirs: it would offer directions for walking to the nearest Divvy station with available bikes, directions to the Divvy station nearest their destination with open docks, and then walking directions from that end station to their destination.

Chicago Bike Route launched Friday last week. Currently only three of the eight iOS apps released before Chicago Bike Route have routing. CBR takes directions to a new level by giving you directions from where you are to where you want to go, and not necessarily from a specific Divvy station (like my Chicago Bike Guide does). Instead, CBR gives you complete directions between origin and destination and smartly picks the nearest Divvy station with available bikes. Now, I believe most often this will just be the nearest Divvy station, period, as it’s relatively rare for a station to lack bicycles.

The app uses Google Directions and for every trip makes a maximum of three calls to their API; counts against the app’s free quota from Google. The first call gets walking directions from the origin to the nearest Divvy station with available bikes, and the second call gets bicycling directions to the Divvy station with available docks nearest the destination, and the third call (assuming the destination isn’t that Divvy station) gets walking directions from the end Divvy station to your destination. The next step, I believe, is to have the app use a prediction model to accurately choose the end Divvy station. A lot can happen at that Divvy station in the 30 minutes (or whatever) it takes to get there. It may not have open docks when you arrive.

Two other suggestions I have: an improvement to the autocomplete destination function because it didn’t recognize “Chicago city hall” or its address, “121 N LaSalle Street”; and adding a “locate me” button. Additionally I’d like them to add some basic resources to advise users on where they can get more information about Divvy or bicycling in Chicago.

Adam and Andrew are going to publish a “dock surfing” function in the app that will incorporate multiple segments on Divvy to make a trip longer than the free 30 minute period. This would probably mean a fourth call to the Google Directions API. I emailed Adam and Andrew to learn more about the app development.

Video of Beinstein and Gluck presenting their app to Hack Night. Created by Christopher Whitaker for Smart Chicago Collaborative.

Why did you make Chicago Bike Route?

We made the app because we wanted to make something civic related. We thought that Divvy was an exciting new civic program coming into existence, and we kept seeing it all over the place. It also solves a real problem in public transportation that we notice and hear about a lot living in Hyde Park called the “last mile problem.” We also had the data in our hands from having attended civic hack night at 1871 when Divvy came and we thought “let’s make a native Divvy app!” And that’s what we did. We also released a framework for interacting with the Divvy API natively for developers who don’t want to get their hands dirty playing around with the iOS frameworks.

What makes your app stand out from the pack?

I think the routing but also the simplicity of design of the app.  We wanted it to be something you could just open up and use and was like all the other mapping utilities that one has on their phone (Google Maps, Apple Maps). And that’s what we did. You open it, enter an address, and you get routed to that address. Something that people could use to get up and running with Divvy with basically no familiarity with the system.

What features are you planning for the future?

Bike surfing! Seriously though. We think that it would be a really useful feature for some people, and also help reduce the cost of using the bikes. It would be useful for the regular riders where the $2 additional charge could really add up but also if you are someone who is not part of the program and are just taking the bike out for a joy ride. It can actually get kind of expensive, since every half hour after the first hour in a half is an additional $8, rather than $4.50 for members. You would also be less familiar with the bike stations under that situation. We also need to integrate with Chicago public transportation. But, we also want to keep with the simplicity, and create a user experience with basically no learning curve, and we are a little cautious to throw something in that could complicate things.

Revealing driver behavior on Clark Street with a radar gun

People prefer to cross Clark Street at Menomenee Street in groups of unacquainted individuals.

This is a more detailed post of the one at Streetsblog Chicago.

On the overcast morning of Friday, May 4, 2012, I recorded the speeds of 412 cars at four locations along Clark Street in Old Town and Lincoln Park for 15 minutes at each location. I missed counting the speeds of 42 cars. The embedded map shows the locations and some basic statistics.

What did I find? There’s a relationship between street width and the speed people drive. The highest speeds were found on the widest portions, and the lowest speeds on the narrowest portions. However, this basic study is far from scientific. A better study would record the locations simultaneously (necessitating 4 radar guns), calibrated equipment, consistent training for the researchers on data collection methods, a longer recording duration, and comparison to a control street that had a uniform width at four locations.


View Radar gun places on Clark Street in a larger map

1. Southbound Clark Street at Germania Place

My assistant and I set up the radar gun and camera immediately south of Sandburg Terrace and pointed the radar gun at people driving southbound on Clark Street between a row of parked cars at the concrete median (pedestrian refuge island). Classes would start soon at the Latin School on the east side of Clark Street. Compliance with state law requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk was weak, to say the least, but compliance wasn’t explicitly measured.

  • Average speed: 17.21 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Maximum speed: 30 MPH
  • Cars measured: 151
  • Speed limit: 30 MPH
  • Drivers exceeding the speed limit: 0
  • Width: 224 inches (from west curb to pedestrian refuge island)
  • Effective width: 140 inches (excludes parking by subtracting 7 feet)
  • Crashes: 35, of which 4 were bicycle, and 3 were pedestrian.

Only one car-car crash (actually a 3 car crash) produced an injury. What’s interesting about this location is that in a lot of the crashes, the cars were traveling in the same direction. There’s a lot of school drop off and pick up activity here for Latin School of Chicago students, so it could be that many people are pulling away from the curb to merge into traffic and collide.

2. Northbound Clark Street at Menomenee Street

  • Average speed: 30.83 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Maximum speed: 50 MPH
  • Cars measured: 121
  • Speed limit: 30 MPH
  • Drivers exceeding the speed limit: 53.72%
  • Width: 395 inches (from east curb to dividing line). This includes the parking lane but no cars were parked within 50 feet, north and south, of the measurement location.
  • Crashes: 20, of which 2 were bicycle, and 1 were pedestrian. Many of the non-bike and non-ped crashes involved a parked car or taxi. The only injuries experienced were by the 2 cyclists and 1 pedestrian.

3. Northbound Clark Street at Lincoln Park West

We stood on the “pie” (traffic island) that separates northbound Clark Street traffic from northbound Lincoln Park West traffic to measure the traffic driving on Clark Street between the pie and the concrete median separating it from southbound Clark Street.

  • Average speed: 25.60 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Maximum speed: 40 MPH
  • Cars measured: 58
  • Speed limit: 30 MPH
  • Drivers exceeding the speed limit: 27.59%
  • Width: 252 inches (from concrete median curb to west curb on the pie)
  • Crashes: 4, of which 1 was bicycle, and 2 were pedestrian.

4. Northbound Clark Street between Lincoln Park West and Dickens Avenue

This location is 125 feet north of the previous location.

  • Average speed: 22.54 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Maximum speed: 35 MPH
  • Cars measured: 58
  • Speed limit: 30 MPH
  • Drivers exceeding the speed limit: 2.44%
  • Width: 264 inches (from east curb to dividing line).
  • Effective width: 180 inches (excludes parking by subtracting 7 feet)
  • Crashes: 0

Me measuring speeding drivers on Clark Street with the speed gun, my clipboard and paper, and a GoPro camera to record the speeding drivers and the results on the speed gun. 

Bike Walk Lincoln Park’s proposal

In 2011, Michelle Stenzel and Michael of Bike Walk Lincoln Park published a document to “Make Clark a Liveable Street“. The first two pages show an aerial photo of the same section of Clark Street where I measured automobile speeds, North Avenue and Armitage Avenue. On the first page, existing conditions are laid out. The second graphic shows proposed improvements.

At Menomonee Street, measurement location 2, the document says “pedestrians must cross 6 lanes with no safe haven”, a width of just under 66 feet. In the later pages, the first existing condition is blatant: “Wide lanes of auto traffic moving at speeds in excess of the speed limit”. My analysis in May demonstrates this.

How does BikeWalk Lincoln Park propose to “transform this stretch from a car-oriented ‘super-highway’ to a people-oriented liveable street”? By installing protected bike lanes, putting the street on a diet, and installing new and well-marked crosswalks among other ideas.

Width and speed summary

Ordered by location:

  1. 224/140 inches. 0% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  2. 395/395 inches. 53.72% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  3. 252/252 inches. 27.59% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  4. 264/180 inches. 2.44% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit

Ordered from narrowest to widest to see how width relates to speed:

  • 224/140 inches. 0% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  • 264/180 inches. 2.44% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  • 252/252 inches. 27.59% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit
  • 395/395 inches. 53.72% of drivers exceeded 30 MPH speed limit

Notes

Crash data is within 100 feet to avoid the overlap of the final two locations, which were 125 feet apart. Crash data comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation for 2005-2010. The Bushnell Velocity Speed Gun was borrowed for this analysis. The radar gun was filmed to show a speeding car and its speed simultaneously. The video below shows a driver traveling at 50 MPH in a Children’s Safety Zone (as it’s within 1/8 mile of a park, Lincoln Park, making it eligible for automated speed enforcement).

Curiously, no traffic counts have been collected on Clark Street near any of the count locations.

View the video on Vimeo.

Screenshot of traffic count website. Go to the Traffic Count Database System and search for “1700 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL” in the map. 

Video of the South Shore Line train at Chicago Botanic Garden

I took the UP-North Metra train to Braeside and biked ~1 mile (less than that on city roads) to the Chicago Botanic Garden. I saw a sign for “Model Railroad Garden”, asked a staffer where it was, and immediately made my way there to pay $6 to see the most wonderful garden in the region.

I was here for four hours. Four of my friends then showed up halfway through (they biked from Chicago and had equipment troubles). Afterward, we biked on the Green Bay Trail and Robert McClory Bike Path north to Lake Bluff, Illinois, to eat at Pasta Palooza and drink three growlers from Lake Bluff Brewing Company next door (I added it to OSM today). Their beer is good and it only costs $15 to fill up a growler! (Don’t forget to bring more beer for the Metra ride home.)

The state of bike path signage in Illinois is pretty abysmal and that was made very clear when the RMBP transitioned from the southeast side of an intersection to the northwest side of an intersection (see it on OpenStreetMap). What happened? Well, we were traveling northbound and a sign said “Robert McClory Bike Path; Ends”. This is patently false. The named path keeps going north. There was barely enough visibility to see that there was a “Bike Route [this way>]” sign on the opposite corner of the intersection. Google Maps for iOS verified that this kept us going to our destination.

View more photos from the Model Railroad Garden.

Amtrak “speeding” down the track. This was an interesting model: it’s articulated and electric, a trainset type that Amtrak doesn’t run. 

N.B. This trip is telling me to expand the Chicago Bike Guide map to include at least this far north. The map currently extends to Wilmette. However, there’s a tradeoff: when I extend the map, the file size increases.

Daley Plaza is the “realest” public space in Chicago

People in Daley Plaza from Steven Vance on Vimeo.

I find that Daley Plaza is Chicago’s “realest” public space in the city. Real in the tradition of public spaces in cities around the world where history is made in the form of speeches and protests and where people are not afraid to occupy the space to relax, be idle, chat, and eat. Also real in that the legally space is owned by the city, and by extension its citizens, but never its corporations. Real in that commercial interests for that space are maintained. Real in that people have adopted the space as a natural, close, and unblocked meeting point.

Where Daley Plaza isn’t a real public space is that it is surrounded by roaring machines on three sides (the fourth doesn’t function as part of the plaza). It becomes less peaceful because of the metal boxes hurtling through space at every edge and vertex of the granite.

Millennium Park fails as a public space because it has rules. Because private security enforces these rules and bothers guests for the most normal of activities. The space is managed by contract from the city to a corporation. It has hours of use. You surely can’t protest, let alone ride a bike. Half of it was paid for by the names that adorn its features.

In Millennium Park, and many other corporate “plazas”, you can be told to leave.

Panorama of Daley Plaza during Critical Mass in March 2013. 

It would be disingenuous of me to only compare Millennium Park as an example of real public space in Chicago. It’s the extreme opposite of Daley Plaza in the spectrum of public spaces here. Grant Park is closer to Daley Plaza, but lacks the closeness, the tight feeling that you are in a community of other humans. There are smaller spaces that would be in the same vein as Daley Plaza, like Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square, and Federal Plaza just down the street at Adams. There are plenty of smaller examples, like the sidewalks and tiny plazas at Blue Island, Loomis, and 18th Street.

Daley Plaza’s water fountain near the southwest corner does a good job of masking the rumbling automobile engines and tires rubbing on the pavement. It provides stimulation for other senses, including vision (the water seems infinite!) and tactile perception (the water has a temperature and a texture against the skin).

I wrote this on June 18, 2013. I have a tendency to draft articles and then not publish for a long time. I have a draft about Berlin, Germany, from September 2012. 

OpenStreetMap editing and two Chicago events in April

A mapping party! Photo by MapBox. 

I use OpenStreetMap (OSM) heavily since I learned how to edit the map. OSM is the Wikipedia of worldwide mapping: it allows anyone to edit and contribute and allows anyone to copy and extract the data.

I edit places that lack information, fix mistakes (like how roads are drawn, or typos), and add new places. This work is important to my app because what is shown on OpenStreetMap is what appears in my iOS app, the Chicago Bike Map app.

The Chicago Bike Map app map tiles currently look like the above screenshot. Before releasing the next version I will download the latest version of “planet”, which has 100% of buildings now, thanks to Ian Dees

When I locate a place that needs more detail and I want to add it, I open JOSM.app and then, on the OpenStreetMap.org website, I click “Edit>Edit with Remote Control”. JOSM pans over to that spot and downloads all of the OSM data. It works very much like a GIS application and AutoCAD: it has points and polygons that you can move or resize. When you’re done adding features or editing the geometry or metadata of existing ones, click “Upload data”, add a message summarizing the changes you made, and hit the “Upload” button.

Screencast showing how I locate places to which to add detail and then add them with JOSM.

Your changes will be integrated in the OSM database almost immediately. The changes will appear on the live OpenStreetMap.org map tiles in minutes. The “extract services”, which take the data out and send to you as a compressed file or even ESRI shapefile, will read the “planet” file (complete OSM database) soon; some update nightly while others update weekly.

Here are the extract services I use (each one for different reasons):

  • BBBike.org – nightly; allows you to select any area with a self-drawn polygon; exports in ESRI shapefile and other formats; extracts take 15-30 minutes.
  • Michal Migurski’s Metro Extracts – monthly; has ~100 cities pre-extracted; this is now hosted on Smart Chicago Collaborative’s resources alongside my Crash Browser.
  • GEOFABRIK – nightly; all continents, many countries and all fifty states are pre-extracted;

Events!

These are copied straight from the Smart Chicago Collaborative website. I will be at the Map-a-Thon. I’m still thinking about the Hackathon. While I can’t program in the languages required, I can write decent documentation.

OpenStreetMap Map-a-Thon

Beginning mappers are invited to be a part of a national OpenStreetMap Map-a-thon by learning how to use our tools to improve the map in your area. You can add your favorite restaurant or comic book store, a local school or hospital. During the map-a-thon we’ll walk you through the process of finding your area, creating an account, and making your first edit. With that foundation, you can go on to make an impact by adding tons of information relevant to you and your community!

Attend the Map-a-thon April 20th and 21st at 1871 on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza from 12 PM to 6 PM. Participants will enjoy food and drinks thanks to Smart Chicago Collaborative.

For more information about the map-a-thon and to RSVP, please visit the Meetup page for the event.

OpenStreetMap Hack Weekend

If you know your way around a compiler, feel comfortable with JSON and XML, or know the difference between an ellipsoid and a geoid, then the Hack Weekend is for you. We’re looking for those with technical know-how to help make a difference in OpenStreetMap’s core software by writing patches and new software to help make mapping faster and easier. Special thanks to Knight-Mozilla OpenNews for their support and sponsorship.

The hack weekend will be held April 27th and 28th at 1871 from 9 AM to dinner time each day.

For more information about the hack weekend, please visit the OSM wiki page for the event. Two MapBox staffers will be here. MapBox is awesome; they make TileMill which makes my iOS app possible.

Thank god there’s transit

By Diana Lind for Next City.

An enjoyable Friday morning collecting car speeds on Clark Street

Watch this 7 second video of a person driving a late model Toyota Camry in Lincoln Park at 50 MPH, next to the park. 

mean 30.83 mph
median 31
mode 30
min 17
max 50
frequency: 121 cars
greater than 30 mph: 65 cars
% greater than 30 mph: 53.72%

Statistics exclude the three buses counted at 26, 18, 20. Time was 8:23 to 8:38 on Friday, May 4, 2012, at Clark Street and Menomenee Street. The street width at where I collected the data is 65’9″ (789 inches). This location is eligible for a speed camera as it is within 1/8 mile of a park and is thus a “Children’s Safety Zone”.

I’m still working on the report for an article to be published on Grid Chicago. I used this Bushnell Velocity Speed Gun.

Driving in the protected bike lane, eh

Updated 4/5/12 to add links to other discussions on this topic, my response to one of the discussions, and a link to my tweet mention this issue to 25th Ward Alderman Solis. 

I was hanging out on 18th Street on Tuesday, watching traffic as I often do, and interviewing Alyson Fletcher about her bike count project. I captured this driver of a Chevy Malibu casually driving in the protected bike lane.

Aside from emailing this to Alderman Solis and the Chicago Department of Transportation, I have no idea what to do about this (I haven’t done either of those things yet – maybe you, as a resident, should do that; I tweeted to Alderman Solis on April 4, 2012). I think the design could be modified to physically prevent automobile traffic here (except, perhaps, emergency vehicles). Other things could be added to make this more apparent as a bike lane, by adding more color and doubling the size of the pavement bicycle symbols.

I also photographed two other people driving in the bike lane. Is there not a place where people can cycle without the danger of drivers impeding their space?

Kia Forte driver.

BMW driver.

Follow the discussion elsewhere:

  • The Expired Meter – Author poses question about possible lack of clarity in the signage, symbols, or road design that sends the message that the curbside lane is for cycling only. I haven’t investigated this part. I don’t know if there are signs at the entrances to the lane that describe it as “right lane bike only” (I’m not sure if this sign is acceptable to the MUTCD – I can’t find it there – but there are many instances of it being used in Chicago). However, that sign’s posted restriction is further than what’s necessary. A sign that says “bike lane” (R3-17) is sufficient to cause that any driving in said lane is a citable offense under Municipal Code of Chicago 9-40-060.
  • EveryBlock – I posted it here.
  • Grid Chicago – I posted this about this topic later on Grid Chicago asking which bike issues most concerns readers.

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