TagWicker Park

Why Jefferson Park residents should allow more housing

Short answer: To provide more shoppers for the local businesses. Read on for the longer answer. 

Over on Chicago Cityscape I added a new feature called “market analysis” which measures the number of people who live within specific walking areas (measured by time) and driving areas (measured by distance). 

I am in favor of removing apartment & condo bans in Chicago, especially in areas where they were previously allowed and near train stations.

Jefferson Park is centered around two co-located train stations, serviced by CTA and Metra respectively. There have been multiple proposals for multi-family housing near the stations (collectively called the Jefferson Park Transit Center) and some have been approved. 

Always, however, there are residents who resist these proposals and the number of originally proposed apartments or condos gets reduced in the final version (classic NIMBYism). 

There’re four reasons – at least – why more housing should be allowed near the Jefferson Park Transit Center:

  • Locally owned businesses require a significant amount of shoppers who live nearby and walk up traffic
  • More people should have the opportunity to live near low-cost transportation
  • It will include more affordable housing, through Chicago’s inclusionary zoning rules (the Affordable Requirements Ordinance, ARO)
  • There will be less driving, and therefore lower household transportation costs and less neighborhood pollution

To support the first reason, I used the “market analysis” tool to see just how many people live in a walkable area centered around Veterans Square, a mixed-use office and retail development adjacent to the train stations. 

Only 9,368 people live within a 10 minute walk to Veterans Square (get the Address Snapshot). 

Comparatively, 19,707 people live within a 10 minute walk to The Crotch, or the center of Wicker Park, at the intersection of Milwaukee/North/Damen (get the Address Snapshot). The Blue Line station is about 75 feet south of the center point.

I would grant the low Veterans Square number a small discount based on the proximity to the Kennedy Expressway, which severely truncates walking areas up and down the northwest side. Still, even with that discount, ending up with less than half the amount as the one in Wicker Park, is disturbing. Wicker Park is hardly characterized by high-density housing. In fact, all of the new high-rises are just outside the 10 minute walk shed!

The rate of change on city streets: USA versus the Netherlands

ThinkBike 2013

One of the people in this photo is Dutch. We’re on the Dearborn bike route installed downtown in 2012. The next downtown protected bike route was installed in 2015 serving a different area. However, the Dearborn bike route has become so popular that it’s size and design (t’s a narrow, two-way lane) are insufficient for the demand (who knew that bicycling in a city center would be so high in demand, especially on a protected course?) and there are no plans to build a complementary facility to improve the conditions.

My friend Mark wrote the following paragraph on his blog, BICYCLE DUTCH, relating the need to change a city and its streets to the way families change the contents of essential parts of their homes. In other words, cities and streets are like our living rooms and they must also change as we change.

Think about your living room, chances are you change it completely every 15 to 20 years. Because you need a wider sofa for the expanding family, or because you rightfully think that table has had its best years. Maybe the extra big seat for granddad is sadly not needed anymore. Of course, things can’t always be perfect: you have a budget to consider and it is not so easy to change the walls. Replacing things does give you the opportunity to correct earlier mistakes and to get the things which are more useful now. While you are at it, you can also match the colours and materials better again. Our cities are not so different from our living rooms. Just as families grow and later decrease in size again when the children leave the house, the modal share of the different types of traffic users changes over the years. These shifting modal shares warrant changes to the street design. So you may need some extra space where it was not necessary before, but if you see less and less of a certain type of traffic, its space can be reallocated to other road users.

What I really want to talk about is the rate of change in the Netherlands. I’ve visited Mark’s home in s’Hertogenbosh (Den Bosch), and we’ve walked around Utrecht.

One thing he told me, which is widely evident, is that the Netherlands is always renewing its streets. Or it has been for decades (maybe since World War II). They update street design standards regularly and streets that no longer meet these designs (or a few generations back) are updated to meet them.

Now, the two changes – updating the standards and updating the streets – don’t happen so gloriously hand in hand. Just like in the United States it takes a couple of years to come up with the right design.

The difference between our two countries is the regularity in updating the designs, and the regularity in updating streets.

I’ll lead with one example in Chicago and ask that you tell me about projects in your city that repair what’s long been a pain in the ass.

An intersection in the Wicker Park neighborhood got modern traffic signals, added crosswalk signals (there had never been any), and a stupid, sometimes dangerous little island removed. One of the four legs didn’t have a marked crosswalk. The state of Illinois chipped in most of the cost of the update – this was known at least four years before the construction actually happened.

When I wrote a blog post about the project for Grid Chicago in 2012, I found a photo from 1959 that showed the intersection in the same configuration. I also wrote in that post that the construction was delayed from 2012 to 2013. Well, it got built in 2014.

Milwaukee & Wood ca. 1959

Intersections like this – with difficult-to-see traffic signals that motorist routinely blow past, missing crosswalks, and curb ramps that aren’t accessible – persist across Chicago in the state they’ve been in for 55 or more years.

The “reconstructed bicycle route” that Mark discusses and illustrates in his blog post is known to have been updated at least once a decade. He wrote, “pictures from 1980, 1998 and 2015 show how one such T-junction was changed several times. The protected intersection went through some stages, but having learned by trial and error, the design we see now is one that fits the present ‘family’ best.”

Three books by well-known city transportation planners have all been published within months of each other. I read and reviewed Sam Schwartz’s “Street Smart”, and I’m reading Janette Sadik-Khan’s “Street Fight“. Gabe Klein’s “Startup City” is the third. All of them advocate for new designs to match the changing attitudes and needs cities have. Actually, the needs of the cities haven’t really changed, but our attitudes and policies – and the politics – around how to update cities has evolved.

I don’t know what can spur all of these seemingly minor (they’re no Belmont Flyover) infrastructural updates. I don’t think a lack of money is to blame. I think a lack of coordination, staffing, and planning ensures that outdated and unsafe designs remain on city streets.

P.S. The Netherlands “renewal” attitude isn’t limited to streets. The Dutch national railway infrastructure company “ProRail” (which is “private” but owned by the government) has been completely replacing all of the primary train stations. The Dutch have been rebuilding dikes and building flood control projects for decades, many under the common name “Delta Works”.

Here’s a photo in Nijmegen where the government was building a new, bypass canal that would ease a shipping route, create a controlled flood area, a new recreation area, but that would also displace homes.

Divvy activity in Wicker Park-Bucktown

Divvy Bikes Outside Smoke Daddy

The Divvy bike-share station outside Smoke Daddy on Division Street at Wood Street is the fourth most popular in the Wicker Park & Bucktown neighborhoods. Photo by Daniel Rangel.

This is an analysis of the station use for Divvy bike-share stations in the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods (they blend together and it’s hard to know if the club or bar you’re going to is one neighborhood or the other).

Numbers represent a discrete trip, from one station to another (or the same station if the trip was greater than 3 minutes, to eliminate “hiccups” where the bike left the dock but didn’t actually go anywhere). Customer means someone who used a 24-hour pass and subscribers are annual members. Gender is self-reported on a member’s DivvyBikes.com user profile.

17 stations listed.

[table id=10 /]

This map of Wicker Park Divvy stations shows a residential service gap among the Damen/Cortland, Ashland/Armitage ( Metra) and North/Wood stations.

This map of Wicker Park Divvy stations shows a residential service gap among the Damen/Cortland, Ashland/Armitage (
Metra) and North/Wood stations.

Based on the popularity of the Ashland/Armitage station, which is right outside the Clybourn Metra station – a very popular train stop – I think there might be a residential service gap near Saint Mary of the Angels School. I recommend a Divvy station at Walsh Park this year because the Bloomingdale Trail will open and terminate there.

Notes

Not all of these stations were online when Divvy launched on June 28, 2013, but I haven’t yet looked into the history to see when each went online. Therefore direct comparisons are not appropriate until you have a trips per day number. Then, seasonality (very cold weather) has its own effect. At the very least, all stations were online by October 29th, with the final addition of the Lincoln Ave & Fullerton Ave (at Halsted) station.

Can someone use “R” to make a time series chart on the entire trips dataset so we can find the best cutoff time to eliminate “hiccups”?

Query used: SELECT count(`trip_id`), usertype, gender FROM `divvy_trips_distances` WHERE (start_station = ‘Claremont Ave & Hirsch St’ or end_station = ‘Claremont Ave & Hirsch St’) AND seconds > 180 GROUP BY `usertype`, gender

Updating street life on Milwaukee Avenue

Photo of the new on-street bike parking corral at Revolution Brewing (2323 N Milwaukee Avenue) in Logan Square, less than 10 hours after being installed. 

First, Revolution Brewing now has 20 (or more) new bike parking spaces in what used to hold about two cars. Kudos to that awesome restaurant and brewery for working through the arduous process with the Chicago Department of Transportation and Alderman Moreno (who likely helped with the transfer of the metered car parking spaces). CDOT’s Scott Kubly admitted to having a bad process for businesses who want to install their own bike parking.

Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA had issues after the first round of bike racks we* installed in 2011. We donated the bike racks to the city for them to install at mutually agreeable locations at which they marked the spot for the contractor. We wanted to repeat the process in 2012 and bought the racks but they couldn’t be installed because CDOT, accepting the racks as donations in 2011 said that that wasn’t the right process and couldn’t do it again. So they had to figure out a new process. The racks were manufactured and delivered in 2012 to CDOT but weren’t installed until April 2013. Before the fix came in April 2013, we were going to have to go through the most basic process of buying a permit for each one (for $50) and then pay to have them installed ourselves.

The fix was great for the SSA, and I’m glad CDOT was able to make it happen: they got IDOT to amend the existing bike parking contract to allow the contractor to install non-city-paid-for bike racks. (This was the issue for the 2011 racks.)

Second, I’m proposing that private automobile traffic be banned on Milwaukee Avenue from Paulina Avenue to Damen Avenue. It would be better for the residents, and the businesses, and would encourage more cycling in the neighborhood, as well as surrounding neighborhoods having residents who would bike on Milwaukee Avenue if it was safer (there’s a big dooring and general crash issue). I reference the single, car-free block on Nørrebrogade in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, Denmark. One single block (plus bikeway and pedestrian-way improvements on the other blocks) and car traffic goes down but bus and bike traffic go up.

What Milwaukee Avenue looks like every afternoon. 

What Milwaukee Avenue could look like every afternoon. 

* I volunteer on the transportation committee, since about May 2011.

I found the Milwaukee Avenue peloton this morning

You can spot at least 10 people bicycling southbound on Milwaukee Avenue through Bucktown. 

I work from home and don’t commute downtown like I believe a majority of cycle commuters do. I was bicycling towards the Wicker Park-Bucktown Chamber of Commerce office for an 8:30 AM meeting of the Special Service Area’s transportation committee. We talked about bike racks, street furniture, and the progress of Open Streets. We partnered with Active Transportation Alliance to put that on, September 16, a Sunday and the week after Open Streets on State Street.

Policy insight for Monday, August 1, 2011

This isn’t refined. These are just my notes that I speak from. I may not have spoke about everything written here and I may not have written here everything I spoke about. This is for Moving Design

There was report of cyclist crashing on the Tuff Curb at the on-street bike parking facility in Wicker Park.

Installing the Tuff Curb

experimental projects need reviews. I don’t mean projects that are considered experiments, I mean projects that are new to the people who designed it, and new to the people who will be using it.

we need good data collection.

Did the Kinzie bike lane cause congestion? So what if it did?
We would need data points that were collected using well-known methods, and probably at different times of the day and week. And we’d have to be sure to count cyclists, too.
Then 3, 6, or 12 months later, we’d have to do it again.

What was the change?
Is that a change that meets our goals?

Back to the cyclist crashing on tuff curb, what is the city’s plan to monitor the use (or disuse) of the facility? How will the city collect data on something like this?

Census – not gonna happen in 2020
American Community Survey – 5-year estimates (with data gathered annually) will replace decennial Census.

“Here are a few Streetsblog posts about Census and NYC DOT’s bike counts, and the problems with each. The first post has some stuff about what could be done to improve on them:” (Ben Fried, Editor in Chief, Streetsblog NYC)

http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/04/27/how-many-new-yorkers-bike-each-day/
http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/10/01/did-nyc-bike-commuting-decrease-in-2009-thats-what-the-census-says/
http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/04/13/actually-if-you-build-it-they-will-bike/

Read more policy insights from Steven Vance. 

Where would you ride

Infrastructure and street design is the most influencing factor in how we behave and maneuver our vehicles (bicycles included, even if Illinois doesn’t think so and California does) in the roadway.

I’m taking a non-scientific poll.

1. Given the lane configuration in the photo below, and the dearth of vehicles in any lane you see, where would you ride your bicycle, and why?

2. Now take a look at this photo mockup of a protected bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue through the 1st Ward in Wicker Park. Where would you ride your bicycle, and why?

Which facility would you prefer to ride your bicycle in?

1, or 2?

Read more about cycle tracks/protected bike lanes on Steven Can Plan.

How far can a protected bike lane go in the 1st Ward

Now’s the time to start imagining a future Chicago that has a protected bike lane on the busiest and most crash-prone street for bicycling in Chicago. And 1st Ward Alderman, Joe Moreno, seems to have gotten the wheels turning.

This is what a cycle track or protected bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue between California Avenue and Division Street might look like; the whole stretch is in the 1st Ward. If I had the skills, I would photoshop in some bollards or Jersey barriers making it look similar to this lane in Brooklyn.

Actually, this is what it would look like. Thank you Nate Lynch for creating it. 

The overarching challenge of creating such a facility, which would make bicycling through a bit safer by eliminating most doorings, is dealing with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC (CPM). If you’ve been living out of the country or under a rock, it’s the company owned by a bank or two and leased Chicago’s on-street parking spaces and revenue collection system (the city still gets to collect the fines). CPM essentially owns the space. And if we want to do something with that space, we either have to buy it back through an annual fee or trade them equivalent performing (expectedly) spaces elsewhere that aren’t currently controlled by parking meters.

When asked about this problem on April 20, 2011, at the Boiler Room in Logan Square, Alderman Moreno said, “Fuck, em.” John Greenfield has the full story:

“Six years ago Chicago was ahead of Seville in terms of biking,” says Moreno. “Now Seville has physically separated bike lanes and a bike-sharing system, and they’ve closed down their center city to cars. It’s so easy to bike there, everybody’s doing it: old people on adult tricycles, young men in suits and women in heels.”

“What I meant was, this is 2011. I’ve talked to Rahm Emanuel and he’s on board with moving forward in a bold direction, so I’m not going to stop,” Moreno told [John]. The alderman says he might be willing to swap LAZ’s lost parking spaces for a high-density garage on Milwaukee. “I say to them, if you want to be part of the solution, great. If not, feel free to sue the city.”

Please send your support to Alderman Moreno.

As a first location for a protected bike lane under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 100 days plan, I don’t support choosing Milwaukee. It will take too long to get paint and bollards on the ground here while Grand, Clybourn, or Blue Island Avenues pose fewer barriers.

What is gentrification?

Update: Read the discussion happening on YoChicago.com.

What is “a hipster”? The Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, was called a hipster last because he likes bicycles a lot.

What is Pilsen? What makes Pilsen different or not different from any other Chicago neighborhood? Does it have a similar history to Wicker Park or Old Town, other art communes?

Photo of a found drawing about getting intimidating “white hipsters” out of Pilsen by Jared Kachelmeyer.

I lived in Pilsen for two years and then moved south to Bridgeport for another two years, still riding through Pilsen almost daily and doing my grocery shopping at La Casa del Pueblo (it’s very cheap). I’ve written about Pilsen a few times before, first on pollution and then on its sticky relationship to University Village.

Pilsen is known for its mural art: each one is a statement about life in Pilsen or life before or after Pilsen. They’re messages to visitors and to residents; reminders about leaders and struggles.

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.

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