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.