Bikes Belong has been footing the bill over the last couple years for a number of city alderman and others in the bureaucracy to jet set off to foreign locales to drink some good beer and ride bikes around. The latest lucky SOBs to be chosen for this challenging mission are 47th ward’s newly elected Ameya Pawar and 48th ward’s Harry Osterman and upon returning stateside from Copenhagen, they chose to publicly rub it in all our faces with last Thursday evening’s presentation at Andersonville’s Swedish American Museum.
I met a couple of friends before hand at the glorious gastropub Hopleaf, conveniently located a block from the event. After gorging on Belgium mussels and frites and washing it down with a green line draft, we braved the wind and cold rain and headed up to see what the alderman learned on their summer trip to Denmark.
CDOT’s Scott Kubly began the presentation with a description of the way people ride in Copenhagen and the variety of infrastructure available.
Since the city’s infrastructure is essentially complete, the Danes have expanded to creating bicycle superhighways with adjacent parking so those that live in the exurbs can commute halfway via auto and then cycle the last leg into work downtown.
As a result of these government initiatives, Copenhagen boasts some of the most impressive cycling numbers in the world. 59% of trips under 3 miles are made by bicycle. American cities would be bowled over if they could reach a tenth of that.
By the way, it snows over there too, so there goes that excuse. Chicago received a bobcat style plow donation in 2011 to be used on the Kinzie protected lane over the winter but the city will need to add a few more to the fleet in order to adequately plow the additional lanes that have been built this construction season.
After Kubly’s section, Ald. Osterman took the mic to describe some of the new bicycling tidbits being introduced in his ward. Along the small stretch of Clark St. where the Swedish Museum is located, two on street bike corrals have been added. One is located in front of Hopleaf on Foster and Clark and the other is a block north next two their brand new parklet. The parklet utilizes two or three metered spots on the busy commercial stretch and returns that space to the people. The parklet features landscaping, benches to relax on and even a steep grassy berm for stretching out on.
Osterman’s latest foray is the redesign of the Thorndale red line El station. 5 stations within his ward received a revamp this summer and fall but Thorndale’s is by far the most dramatic.
Previously under utilized space beneath the viaduct will now be used for significantly increased covered bike parking while reserving space for the future installation of Chicago’s bike share next Spring.
Next up, Ald. Pawar gave a brief run through of the latest progress on Berteau’s greenway or bicycle boulevard. A lot of the great infrastructure inclusions in the original plan were lost in the course of community meetings. Unfortunately what remains now are a few planter chicances and a pedestrian refuge or two. My hope is that what was eviscerated from the orignal renderings can be born again on another street once people see the good that slowed traffic on Berteau does for the neighborhood. Bicycle boulevards are the infrastructure concept that most excited me within the Streets for Cycling 2020 plan. They’re one of the cheapest and most maleable options as well. They can be done to the nines or feature simpler painted sharrows and intersection curb bump outs so they’re made to be tailored to the budget of any alderman.
After the talk, the hosts gave out free beer tickets so the party could roll down the street to Hopleaf but sadly, I had already had my allotted half a beer for the evening so it was time for me to bid adieu.
A cyclist was killed this morning while riding southbound on Wells and Oak in the Old Town neighborhood. Police say that he swerved from the bike lane to avoid an open car door and fell beneath the wheels of a passing semi truck.
A vigil will be held on the spot he lost his life tonight at 9pm. Bring candles or flowers if you are able.
I was hoping to be able to post some glamour shots from our bike to school day celebration today but sadly we were rained out. Instead I’ve got this high tech screen capture of my route. CPS must follow the Bike Snob school of reasoning that says “If it rains, take the bus”. Even sadder than bike to school day being canceled, there was no notice of its cancelation sent out so a few kids showed up to school on their bikes but the administration wouldn’t store them in the gym as was originally planned. None of the kids seemed to have locks so the options presented to them were to leave their bikes out front to be swiped or call their parents to come pick them up. Insult added to injury.
I had the foresight to ride the big rig this morning with the ability to tow the kiddo’s 16” bike home so luckily, I was able to remove her front wheel at school and clamp her bike in the quick release axle for the trip home. Poor kid will have to be soggy all day in class though.
This is the first rain we’ve had since the start of fall and while it was somewhere around 58 or 60F this morning, I know that the colder rains are on their way. I guess it’s time to dig out the rain cover from storage and pop it back on until next April.
I didn’t find this weekend’s NY Times article particularly well researched or articulated and since articles like this pop up on a nearly weekly basis now I had planned to ignore it. But, I did enjoy the discussion around it on NPR’s Here and Now today. It raised some great points and I specifically appreciated learning that Time’s reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal spent some time as an ER doctor before her current gig and still argued for reasonable risk assessment for urban commuters over complete insistance on helmet use for all.
I’m trying to be supportive of this event. My kid’s school makes a bike deal out of it and has parent volunteers on hand to “valet park” any bikes in the gym. Today my daughter told me that if she wears a helmet on her ride to school she even gets to wear blue jeans for the day. That was the selling point for her.
However, our school does not have any bike racks. Most Chicago Public Schools don’t. Without adequate secure bike parking, biking to school will remain something that students do one day a year. A few teachers at our school commute by bike during pleasant weather months and they’re stuck locking to a chainlink fence. I imagine they’ll quit riding when someone armed with a toe nail clipper comes along and liberates their bikes.
I’d love to see more of a push locally for the parents who live within a 1/2 mile of their children’s school to walk or ride with their kids to school instead of driving. When I drive in the afternoons for pick up, I always park in an available residential spot about a block from the school because parking directly in front and on either side of the building is disallowed. But, it seems like I’m the only parent that actually follows the letter of the law. Everyone else parks in the no parking areas, then the later arrivals double park in front of them, and eventually the straggles come and triple park in front of those parents. It is a complete clusterfuck of danger. A mom making a three-point u-turn directly in front of the school at release time backed into me with her SUV last year and then had the gall to say she didn’t see me. Well, duh. Maybe you should not be making such ridiculously dangers and illegal maneuvers where children and parents are crossing.
I’m trying to reconcile all of these feelings and wrap my brain around others putting their own convenience above the safety of their fellow citizens but when it comes down to it, as long as biking and walking to school is an act relegated to one pathetic day a year, no one’s behavior will change.