Category: Bike Parking

Stop locking your bike at the Clybourn Metra station overnight

Existing bike parking at the Clybourn Metra station

This is a resolution.

WHEREAS, I love GIS.

WHEREAS, I was reading this blog post on the Azavea company blog about bike theft prediction and trends in Philadelphia.

WHEREAS, I analyzed bike theft location in Chicago in 2012 and the Clybourn Metra station emerged as the most frequent Metra theft location.

WHEREAS, I searched the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry for “clybourn” and several thefts have been reported to the registry in 2013.

WHEREAS, I believe the Chicago Police Department still doesn’t allow searching of their database for bike thefts thus leaving the CSBR as the premier source of data.

WHEREAS, I am watching this show called The Bletchley Circle wherein a group of four fictional women who cracked codes in World War II are solving a murder mystery in 1950s London.

BE IT RESOLVED that you should not leave your bicycle parked at the Clybourn Metra station overnight as it is a terrible place to leave a bicycle parked. Why? No one is around most of the time to socially secure your bicycle.

New bike parking at the Clybourn Metra station

This is a great place to get your bike stolen. In the dark. Overnight. With no one around to see it happen. 

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.

Enter the Houten Fietstransferium, and other bikes and transit commentary

Video by Mark Wagenbuur, aka markenlei on YouTube. See his original blog post about it.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that “Fietstransferium” means “bike transfer building”. It’s a structure underneath the train tracks at the Houten (in the Netherlands) main railway station (it has a secondary station on the same line a little bit south of the main one). You roll in directly from a car-free street in the center of a town, park your bike, and walk up to the platforms. Also available in the Fietstransferium are bike rentals (likely OV-fiets) and bike repair. It wasn’t open when I visited Houten in January 2011.

From the video (and from other sources) 60% of NS passengers arrive by bike. Good connections between bikes and trains helps maintain that access rate, but probably also helps increase it. Bike connections to major train stations in Chicago is woeful, even at the stations that are new enough to support a good connection. Let’s call Houten’s bike to train connection quality “roll in, walk 100 feet, service”: you roll into the bike parking area, and walk upstairs to your train (there’s even a ticket machine in the bike parking area). This differs from “roll on service” as that means you roll your bike into the train.

One shot from the video was taken from this vantage point, showing the bike parking, the staircase, the platform, and a train. Photo by Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten VNG (Dutch Association of Municipalities). 

Chicago

The LaSalle Street Metra Station got an upgrade in bike connections this year when the “intermodal center” adjacent to it on Congress Parkway and Financial Place was added. It came with bike parking, an elevator, and a staircase with bike ramp. The station has other access points, which are very well hidden. Unguarded.

The LaSalle Street intermodal center. 

Northwestern Station lacks indoor and guarded bike parking, and any that’s available is far away from the tracks. The sheltered bike parking is very undesirable, dark, and dirty; I don’t recommend parking on Washington Street. Nor do I recommend parking on any of the sidewalks surrounding the station block.

Union Station is similar to Northwestern Station: all bike parking is unguarded and far from the tracks. Millennium Station. Same problems.

The nexus of bikes and transit is something I enjoy planning, and talking and writing about. Read my past articles on the subject. I’ve created the biggest and best collection of bikes and transit photos in the eponymous Flickr group. It’s an important part of the Chicago Bike Map app. You can load train stations on the map, search for them, and get information about when and how to board a train or bus with your bike. Coming soon is information on accessible stations (which have wide gate turnstiles making for self-service bike entry) and stations that aren’t accessible but have the same wide gate turnstiles (called TWA, or turnstile wheelchair accessible).

Additionally, none of these stations are accessible by good bike lanes. Only Union Station and Northwestern Station have adjacent bike lanes, and then only ones that are north-south (Clinton and Canal). As the Chicago Department of Transportation noted in its multiple presentations about the upcoming installation of the Union Station bus intermodal station, biking on Canal Street is not good and the bike lane will probably be reconfigured during the Central Loop BRT project. To summarize, the connection quality that Chicago’s downtown train stations provide is “confusing service”: where does one park? will the bike be safe? how does one get to the platform now?

Biking on Canal Street outside Union Station. It has multiple entrances and access routes but which one is best?  Another photo from biking on Canal Street.

Near Northwestern Station, the Washington Street bike lane ends abruptly three blocks away at Desplaines Street. The Madison Street bike lane doesn’t reach Northwestern Station, nor would it be effective with its current design, as it would constantly be occupied by things that aren’t bicycles.

Biking on Washington Street, a very wide fast street, whose bike lane ends very soon (in the middle ground) where then you find yourself competing for space with buses and right-turning cars. As soon as one is “competing” on a street, the street fails to provide good space for either mode. 

Harrison Street just south of the LaSalle Street Station is usually a good street to bike on, but it lacks the kind of bikeway infrastructure that attracts new people to transportation bicycling, and more trips to be made. (I’ve lately been thinking of ways to synthesize the argument about why protected and European-style bikeway infrastructure is necessary, so here goes: Bicycle usage will not increase without them.)

San Francisco

Photo of a man walking with his bicycle in a BART station by San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. 

BART in the San Francisco Bay Area tested in August policy of having no bike blackout periods on Fridays. That meant people could bring their bikes on the trains at all times on Fridays in August, and not just outside rush periods. Showing their high level of attention planning and policy, the agency evaluated the program with a proper survey. There’s a meeting tomorrow with the BART Bicycle Task Force; Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority should have such a group!

Stolen Bike Registry data: Which train stations have the most bike theft?

If you can help it, don’t park your bike on the sidewalk under the tracks at the Clybourn Metra Station. Too many opportunities for theft here. 

The Stolen Bike Registry is a website created by Chicagoans for people to notify the community that their bike has been stolen. I make no claims to the accuracy or completeness (or anything) about this list or the dataset from which it was created. Because of less than optimal data collection practices, and a diversity of website users, the location information is difficult to comb through and present. I’ve used Google Refine to clean up some of the location data so that I can pick out the theft locations that represent CTA or Metra stations.

This is a list of the most reported bike theft locations that are CTA or Metra stations, from about June 13, 2006, to April 2, 2011, representing 1,740 bike theft reports*. It’s not known how many bike thefts were reported to the police because they don’t know.

CTA (13 stations)

Logan Square Blue Line CTA 8
Rockwell Brown Line CTA 5
Addison Brown Line CTA 2
Fullerton Red/Brown Line CTA 2
Paulina Brown Line CTA 2
Western & Milwaukee (Blue Line) CTA 2
Western Brown Line CTA 2
Addison Blue Line CTA 1
Chicago Brown Line CTA 1
Damen Blue Line CTA 1
Ashland Orange Line CTA  1
Cumberland Blue Line CTA 1
Wellington Brown Line CTA 1

The new bike racks at Clybourn Metra station are in a more visible spot. Maybe there’s even a security camera pointed at them some of the time. 

Metra (24 stations)

Clybourn Metra 19
Ravenswood Metra 18
Edgebrook Metra 4
Evanston Main Street Metra 2
Forest Glen Metra 2
Healy Metra 2
Lake Cook Metra 2
Ogilvie Metra 2
57th Street Metra 1
College Avenue Metra Train Station 1
Corner of Maple & Church in downtown Evanston, near Metra 1
Glenview Metra Station 1
Harlem Metra Station Berwyn, IL 1
Irving Park Metra Stop 1
Jefferson Park Metra 1
LaSalle Street Metra 1
Mayfair Metra 1
Metra Station at Davis Street, Evanston 1
Morton Grove Metra Station 1
Prairie Crossing Metra Station 1
Rogers Park Metra 1
Union Station Metra 1
Western Metra Station 1
Wilmette Metra 1

* Reports come from around the world. 10 dates have been excluded because their dates were anomalous, empty, or not possible.

Updated September 30 to correct a Metra station and combine it with another.

Testing the Abus Bordo “folding” lock

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus 85cm locked around my WorkCycles Fr8’s frame, front wheel, and the standard Chicago bike rack (a u-rack).

Updated May 2016: After having two keys break inside the lock, I can no longer recommend it. While Abus replaced the first lock for free, I didn’t bother asking them to replace the second lock because I felt the problem would happen again. The keys broke, in part, because of the way I turned the key, as the lock rested, putting a lot of pressure on, and bending, the key. I did it like this so I could detach the lock with one hand. I now recommend chain locks because they fit around all kinds of fixed objects. Abus locks are still really good quality. I’ve been using this Abus chain lock for two months and I like it – it won’t have the key breakage problem because I have to grab and hold the lock before I can insert the key.

—–

I’ve been using the Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus lock for my Fuji Royale fixed gear bicycle for about three weeks now. Previously I had been using a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 Standard u-lock. The Abus Bordo lock style is very hard to describe; Abus calls it the “foldable lock”. It has a small block for the locking mechanism, and 6 rotating and connecting bars (“links”). One bar is fixed to the locking block, and the last bar gets hooked into the other side of the locking block. (They have the unique ability to be locked to another Bordo, in a chain of them.)

I’m not a lock designer, nor a bicycle thief, so I cannot talk about the advantages or disadvantages of this design over another lock design (like the ubiquitous u-lock, the style I’ve been using for six years). I can tell you its advantages on use: it’s a lot easier to use than a u-lock as it makes possible additional locking situations. The 6 flexible bars (or links) means you can wrap the lock around a variety of bike rack sizes and shapes, through two bikes, or through your bike’s frame and wheel (which is annoying to do with u-locks).

It took me a few days to find the fastest way to lock my bike with the Bordo and I think I’ve found it. Unlock the locking block and let all of the 6 bars drop towards the ground. Then thread the first one through your wheel (no handling necessary), grab it from the other side of your bike, pull it around the fixed object to which you’re locking, and pull it towards the locking block. It takes the same or less time to lock with the Bordo than with a u-lock. U-locks are difficult to get through a front wheel and frame unless the bike rack is empty and you’re the first one there, meaning you get to decide how to place your bike against the rack’s metal tubes.

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

I can fairly quickly lock with a Bordo by slipping the open link through the wheel spokes first, then around the fixed object. Then with both hands I grab each end of the lock and insert the open link into the locking bracket, shuffling them around the bike frame until the open link can reach the locking bracket. The Bordos are covered in a rubber-feeling plastic that protects your frame’s cover/coating.

The specific Bordo model I’ve been using is the Granit X-Plus 6500, which weighs a little more than the standard model (see weight specifications below). It comes with a carrying case that straps to any tube on your bicycle. There are two ways to mount the case: temporary and semi-permanent. With the temporary method, you wrap the velcro straps around the seat tube (reduce the chance for theft of the carrier by wrapping zip ties on it). By having it attached this way, you can move it to another bike in 30 seconds. The semi-permanent method lets you screw the case into braze-ons on the tubes, typically ones meant for a water bottle cage.

My new bike, a WorkCycles Fr8, provides me a new opportunity to test the folding lock’s abilities. The Fr8 has very wide tubes and large wheel rims and tires. I suspect that my Kryptonite u-lock won’t be able to wrap around the front wheel, frame, and the fixed object to which I’m locking. I tested the Bordo: it can definitely hold the front wheel, frame, and fixed object, but only if I’m really close to the fixed object. I haven’t tested the u-lock yet.

For people who are concerned about weight, they are as follows:

  • Abus Bordo 6000 75cm, 1.03 kg
  • Abus Bordo 6000 90cm, 1.22 kg
  • Abus Bordo Granit X-Plus 6500 85 cm, 1.58 kg
  • Kryptonite Evolution Series 4, 1.70 kg

The top-of-the-line Abus Bordo still weighs less than the Kryptonite Evolution Series 4. Kryptonite’s New York Standard weighs 1.97 kg. See the full product line up on Abus’s website and see Kryptonite’s line up of u-locks.

This review shouldn’t be taken as a dis-recommendation of the Kryptonite u-locks. I like them – I have three – and they may have prevented theft of the various bicycles I’ve used for 6 years; the lock in combination with other factors prevented theft, which can’t be known unless my bike was monitored 24/7 (in other words, have no idea if anyone’s tried to steal my bicycles). The Bordo lock’s sole disadvantage is its price: $100 for the short version, and $117 for the 15cm longer version. The Granit X-Plus is $153. My personal bike locking strategy is to buy the most expensive lock you can afford and to make your bicycle harder to steal than the bikes you park next to. The Bordo should do that.

My only gripe about the lock is the velcro strap on the carrier: it’s long and sticks out to the side a little and scratches my leg on every pedal. I used a zip tie to hold it down; I would prefer a kind of slot to insert the extra velcro to keep it out of the way.

Abus was a sponsor of the 2012 Cargo Bike Roll Call, donating a Bordo 6100 combination lock to the raffle. They gave me a second lock to test, a Bordo 6000, 75cm. However, I gave that lock to Brandon Gobel and I was given the lock I’m using in this review by Harry (Hans) of Larry vs. Harry. Here’s Brandon’s short review:

I like this lock for its compact size and light weight, while maintaining strength. It takes longer to lock, unlock and put in the frame holster than a mini u-lock, though. [For comparison, the Kryptonite Mini weighs 0.98kg and the lock Brandon is using is 1.03kg.] I carry the mini u-lock in my back pocket so it’s slightly more convenient. However, the Bordo is much more versatile, and you can wrap it around objects that are larger than the typical Chicago bike rack.

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

This photo of a Kryptonite mini lying on top of the Bordo 6000 75cm shows the open areas of each lock. The Bordo has a significantly larger open area and weighs less. 

Both of us are also using an Abus brand rear-wheel lock. Mine came with the WorkCycles Fr8 while Brandon’s was a gift from Harry. We both appreciate the piece of mind and ease of use of the rear-wheel locks. See all photos in the Abus lock review gallery.

 

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