Elevating Chicago

Pedestrians Archives

New Monroe St. Crosswalk: thanks for following the law!

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

Before the weekend sets in, just a tinge of outrage over something that is so close to being perfect.  Blair Kamin writes about the new crosswalk on Monroe between the Art Institute's Modern Wing and Millenium Park.  It's a great compromise between safely getting pedestrians across the street and unnecessarily impeding traffic with a full-on traffic light.

It's very simple: you press a button, wait for the big flashing yellow lights around the pedestrian signs to alert the cars to your presence, (very handy as daylight gets shorter as we head into winter,) and then cross! Cars continue on their way, you enjoy your day, everybody's happy.

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Image courtesy Chicago Tribune


But wait, what's that last note there? "Thank the driver"? Yes, even the mechanical voice that accompanies the signs reminds you, "And remember, thank the driver for stopping as you are crossing the roadway."  I'm all in favor of Nice Midwestern interactions, but as of this summer, all cars must stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.  Yes, that's right, we're now being instructed to thank people for following a simple, straightforward law.  A law which, if drivers follow it, will mildly inconvenience them--if they ignore it, odds are a pedestrian gets hurt or dies.

So much of the rest of this--from process to final product--was executed well, but this kind of auto-centric urban design is absolutely flabbergasting.  Go enjoy your weekend, and be safe in those crosswalks.

Drunk Drivers are Dumb

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Drunk drivers are dumb.  Drunk drivers who purposely try to hit cyclists are even dumber.  Not sure if you know where I'm going with this, but last year in Brookfield this actually happened.  On May 31, 2009, Erik Fabian and Armando Reza got drunk, went behind the wheel, and played the game "hit the cyclist;" they were sentenced to two years probation, and ten days in jail, respectively.  This relatively light sentence has caused a great deal of outrage in the Chicago cycling community (led by the Active Transportation Alliance's effort), sparking debate all across the country.  (Streetsblog wrote an informative write-up, check it out.)

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I think there should be penalties for hitting a cyclist, drunk or sober, and I think these two boys should have received graver penalties.  Thankfully, neither "hunted" cyclist was injured, but it brings up the question, how do these bike related accidents keep happening?  And why are the punishments so light?  First, the 2 girls killed down state, and now this case, how can we stop it?

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You drink, you ride, you lose.

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

I've previously written about how we need more regulation along the lakefront bike path because of all the avoidable crashes; it seems as if someone listened.  Since Memorial Day, the Chicago PD has heavily increased their numbers along the path, especially in between Fullerton Ave. and Ohio St.  Even though I don't know if people necessarily feel safer when more cops are present, I like the fact that the police department is trying new things to crack down on the problems we have on the path.

When friends come visit me in Chicago, one of the first questions I tend to get is, "Where are all the Cops?"  I usually respond with, "Where they need to be," and until recently, they didn't need to be on the lakefront path; however, I'm glad they are now.  First, they're there because North Ave Beach has supposedly become the meeting place for a lot of suburban and north side gangs (see Daley's comments here).  Not sure why they picked that spot, but apparently they did.  Lately, if you go by the beach, there are cops in regular uniforms, obvious undercover uniforms, and even some in jeans.

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Give it up for the Little Guys

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Last Friday, several dozen cyclists rode to the US Department of Transportation's headquarters in Washington with a signed letter by hundreds of local bike-ped advocacy organizations, showing their love for Secretary of Transportation LaHood's commitment to their causes.  Read about it here.  Many organizations that Ted and I routinely promote, such as: Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Transportation for America, and the National Complete Streets Coalition, were among the advocates in attendance.  Whether they'd admit it or not, their trip to US DOT's headquarters was in essence sucking up to LaHood and lauding him for his commitment to what these organizations are fighting for.  I have nothing wrong with this, especially because no money was involved, and I support these advocacy organizations in their fight to get their voices heard - today I want to talk about these organizations and how we can all help in their fight.

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Lahood w/ Obama

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Trying to Cross the Road, but Kept from Reaching the Other Side

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

One of the advantages of the Chicago street grid is that it allows for mixed-use neighborhoods even if individual properties are not mixed-use.  You can see how this works in practice by looking at a typical quarter-mile square like the one on the northwest side bordered by Belmont, Cicero, Diversey, and Laramie below.  On the major streets there are almost exclusively commercial and business uses (zoned in blue and pink, respectively,) while the interior blocks are residential (the tan "RS-3" tag.)  Although not ideal, this still means that with the right mix of stores, a local resident's needs can be taken care of with a quarter-mile walk in any direction.

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Image courtesy Chicago Zoning Map, http://maps.cityofchicago.org/website/zoning/


In practice though, the major streets are not commercial corridors which allow walkability.  Really, Chicago's street design encourages residents not to cross their nearest arterial, no matter how enticing the retail possibilities are on the other side.  The city's stance on arterials completely ignores the existence of the non-driving public in its official Street Design Standards [pdf, emphasis mine]:

"The arterial streets are intended to provide for the movement of large volumes of through traffic and commercial traffic for longer distances, while local streets are intended primarily for the provision of access to adjacent property."

You can see--and have probably felt--the results whenever you've come to an intersection where a local street meets an arterial.

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Provisional Solutions, not Provisional Leaders

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

One of the things I mentioned on Tuesday with regards to Bobby Ware and the direction CDOT needs to take bears explaining a little more.  One of the most important aspects of running a business in the private sector is the notion of "agility."  If a business can't adapt to changing times, they'll go the way of the buggy whip.  Disruptive technologies like the car at the beginning of the 20th century or the internet at the end drove many businesses under and produced new titans of industry.

What does all this have to do with CDOT?  Like businesses, cities have to adapt to changing times.  Cities need diverse economies, a large pool of human capital, and a willingness to try new solutions.  Chicago has the first two and that sets us up to at the very least survive the current upheaval.  But if we want to thrive in the next generation like we're capable of, we're going to have to be creative.

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Parks to Pavement

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

I just read a post on StreetsBlog about the implementation of a great idea in San Francisco; turn unused street space and extra parking spots into parks/parkletes.  Ted wrote a post a few weeks ago about the connection between tree-grates on our sidewalks and walkability; I want to add to that today and talk about how turning "pavement to parks" will make our sidewalks even more walkable.

StreetsBlog's post, People, Parkletes, and Pavement to Parks (plus Mojo Bicycle CafĂ©), is about San Francisco city planners' ideas to greenify, both in terms of green color and in terms of the green revolution, unused city land.  In San Francisco there are many awkward intersections throughout the city due to the merging of three streets or because of streetcars, which have left space unused.  That unused space is as good a space as any to add public benches, trees, or even grass.  I think that if sidewalks are greener, they will become much more walkable.

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      Photo - Thanks to SF Parks to Pavement Org.


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Etiquette School

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Today I want to write about what many of you reading this might recognize, but others seem not to, and that is proper etiquette on our pedestrian walking/bike paths throughout the city. Unfortunately, many Chicagoans still do not understand the proper way to act while on the paths, which has lead to many injuries and angry pedestrians; this needs to stop.

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Completing Our Streets

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Today I'd like to add to the post I wrote last Thursday regarding safe routes to school.  My previous post was more or less about how the threat of gang violence has made Chicago students' commute to and from school far too dangerous.  In this post I will talk about how making the route to school safer, as well as more walkable and bikable, will help end an equally as dangerous problem as the gang violence threatening our youth: childhood obesity.

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What? I Have to Stop at Crosswalks?

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

I am going to be a little selfish and write this post 95% for me, and only 5% for you, and that is because a new bill has passed in Illinois, and I want to learn about its implications.  Did you know that last month the Illinois Senate passed a bill that requires motorists to come to a complete stop when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk, even if there are no stoplights or stop signs?  I thought this might have been the case, but I wanted to know for sure, so I dug a little deeper.

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