Should You Practice The Art of Compromise In The Cycling Infrastructure Arena?

Background Reading


ChainLinkers awoke to a slightly different reality than they had hoped for today. The DNAinfo early edition read:

WICKER PARK — Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park gets plenty of bike traffic, but one influential neighborhood group says the city shouldn’t add protected bike lanes on the street at the expense of parking spots.

Members of the Wicker Park Committee recently voted 15-8 against adding protected bike lanes on Milwaukee between Division Street and North Avenue, group president Teddy Varndell said.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) had asked the group to take the advisory vote on installing the protected lanes, which would use physical barriers to separate bikers from traffic and would require the elimination of street parking on one or both sides of the street.

Milwaukee now has white bike lane pavement markings between Division and North but no buffers or barriers between cyclists and cars.

Ed Tamminga, the committee’s membership chairman, said as a biker he appreciates the city’s efforts to promote cycling, but eliminating parking would not serve merchants well.

“They need to find a way to get the bike lanes and the cars to coexist. Most folks end up having a biker friend that has been injured. I would like to see some serious fines for ‘dooring’ bikers, maybe a $1,000 fine to get people to look out their rearview mirror before they open their door.”

Lee Crandell, campaign manager for the Active Transportation Alliance cyclist advocacy group, said the city’s Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan calls for studying protected bike lanes on Milwaukee between Elston Avenue and Devon Avenue.

By the end of 2020, the plan would like Milwaukee to be one of a half dozen “spoke routes” into downtown, Crandell said.

“It doesn’t mean the city has a plan or a drawing board. We’d just like to see the process moving forward,” Crandell said.

While the Chicago Department of Transportation is moving ahead with building protected lanes on an .85-mile stretch of Milwaukee between Kinzie and Elston in West Town this summer, department spokesman Pete Scales said Tuesday the stretch of Milwaukee in Wicker Park “is not as wide as it is farther south,” and it might not be feasible to put bike lanes in there.

“We’re going to be evaluating it as we repave Milwaukee” this summer, Scales said.

The Active Transportation Alliance has collected 2,400 online signatures in support of the protected lanes on Milwaukee.

For many ChainLinkers this was frustrating. Their responses read like these:

Reply by Daniel G 9 hours ago
Blood on their hands.

Reply by Kevin T. 9 hours ago
In all honesty, I think there would be fights erupting if Milwaukee gets any worse, I avoid that street like the plague, even if it entails going out of the way a bit. The whole stretch from Division is a clusterf–k.

Reply by Tony Adams 6.6 mi 9 hours ago
Fascinating that a BAR owner wants places for people to park their cars. I guess he has good dram shop insurance and no conscience whatsoever. I’m making a mental note to never spend a dime at Pint.

Reply by Lisa Curcio 4.0 mi 9 hours ago
Anyone know what, if any, relationship there is between the Wicker Park Committee and the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce? Or why Waguespack asked the Wicker Park Committee for feedback rather than the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce administers the SSA for the area through the Wicker Park Bucktown Organization and bike issues are a major focus of the organization’s transportation committee. Here are minutes from the March meeting:…

It is also interesting that Waguespack took the lead on this since that stretch of Milwaukee is, at least at the moment, in the 1st Ward.
Of course comments quoted in reports like this are taken out of context, so it is really hard to make judgments on the overall discussion. However, I doubt that more than two or three businesses on the entire stretch would be full to capacity if two people from every car that can park on one side of Milwaukee Avenue between Division and North were to show up at once. And if they have “fly-over” space for the bikes, those folks on bikes will not stop at the businesses.
I live in the neighborhood–near North and Ashland. I would never think of trying to park on Milwaukee. I walk or I ride my bike. It is so much easier.

Reply by Mike Zumwalt 9 hours ago
If they did put in a “bike lane” you know it would be parked in anyway, valets would use it and people would walk in it.
They have potential spots for parking garages but not on Milwaukee unless people want to park in the 7-11 lot, the K-mart/Jewel lot and walk. They could also put one in next to the currency exchange on North ave.
A bridge over up Milwaukee where’s THAT money going to come from?
And you’re right Lisa unless they put in bike racks and stairs down every block or so no bikes or people could get down and people would walk up there too, then we need cameras or police patrols.

Reply by Michael J Blane 9 hours ago
Fewer than 30 people voted. I’m surprised that low of a number is even a quorum.

Reply by Lisa Curcio 4.0 mi 8 hours ago
Cannot find a list of members, and cannot tell how many people usually attend the meetings, but they don’t need much for a quorum:
“Section 3.2 Quorum. A quorum for the conduct of business at any membership meeting shall consist of ten percent (10%) of the current membership. When a quorum is present at any meeting, the vote of the majority of eligible voting members present shall decide any question brought before such meeting except as provided by Illinois law, the Articles of Incorporation, or these Bylaws.”
Also, they were taking an advisory vote–not sure that could be considered to be business of the committee that would even require a quorum.

Reply by envane (69 furlongs) 8 hours ago

We need to unite to stand up to protected bike lane thugs.

Reply by Kevin C 8 hours ago
Could have been a committee vote rather than a member-wide vote.

Reply by Juan 2-8 mi. 8 hours ago
Soooo, the petition we all signed had nil effect. ARG

Reply by Kevin C 8 hours ago
Incorrect. CDOT is still going ahead with its plans to put a protected bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue between Racine and Kinzie, where a PBL is completely unnecessary.

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 8 hours ago
Pedestrians are probably the most valid of the concerns raised. That stretch of Milwaukee is a heavy pedestrian area, with relatively few good places to cross the street. In the 1/3 mile between Wood and Damen/North, there really isn’t a good crossing point. This leads to a lot of mid block crossing. To be successful in an area with that much mid block crossing, any bike lane installed would have to be very different from anything we’ve seen so far.
Currently most pedestrians crossing mid block queue between the parked cars and dart across the relatively narrow shared bike/car travel portion of the street. If the parked cars were replaced with a protected bike lane, the crossing distance would increase. Due to the different traffic patterns between a bike lane and a car lane, the easiest way for a pedestrian to cross this configuration would be in three stages (the first bike lane, the car lanes, and the second bike lane). For the three stage crossing to happen there has to be a place for pedestrians to wait between the bike and car lanes and some design feature to stop pedestrians from walking into the bike lane without looking. If the protected lane were installed using the flexible posts typical of most protected lanes in Chicago, there would almost certainly be many pedestrians queuing in the bike lane mid block to cross the car lanes and some stepping into the path of cyclists without looking. If you think Dearborn was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
A protected lane isn’t impossible here, but there are a lot of legitimate concerns and it’s going to take much better design than we’ve seen so far.

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km 6 hours ago
Good job Wicker Park! Keep on at it, and pretty soon all the local businesses will have moved to more bike and pedestrian friendly and welcoming locations and all you are left with are chain stores and bars catering to bro’s and bro-ettes.

Reply by william 5 hours ago
As much as I like PBLs, I think it’s a bad idea on that busy and narrow stretch of Milwaukee. I dont ever see it happening and, if it were to be installed, I think it would still be a traffic clusterfuck — just a different kind of traffic clusterfuck where cyclists are now scapegoats #1.
I dont see the advantage. And if there is no clear advantage, it strikes me as rather ideological or dogmatic to continue to support a PBL through that area.
I agree with Cameron. Perhaps there is a better design to consider or a better location somewhere on Milwaukee.

Reply by James BlackHeron 5 hours ago
Boo hoo traffic clusterfuck. If people want to drive then they should move over onto the Kennedy just to the side.
Too many people are using cars for short trips and Milwaukee is a prime example of this. The Kennedy is right off to the side if they don’t like driving on a parking lot. I say slow them down even more. Maybe they’ll decide to take a bike or ride the Blue line. So many alternatives and yet cars STILL drive up and down Milwaukee like it is the interstate on the long haul downtown or outbound.
Make it narrower, make it slower, make it unbearable to drive on in a big hulking gas-guzzling CO2-spewing car. That’s the whole point.
Built it and they will come. Maybe unbuild it and the damn cars will finally go somewhere else.

Reply by william 3 hours ago
And that’s exactly the rigid, ideological, or even fundamentalist thing I mentioned in my previous post. Nice job, perfect timing there.
Like it or not, we share the road with cars. Peak oil disaster scenarios aside, that aint going to change anytime soon. City planners need to balance pedestrian/bicycle/auto traffic. And in such tight areas as that stretch of Milwaukee, it has to be just right or else the result would be more of clusterfuck than it already is and perhaps lead to further setbacks to other City of Chicago bicycle initiatives.

Reply by Daniel G 1 hour ago
As long as you know that your third-way realism is pretty useless to everybody but you.
Milwaukee is one of the highest traffic bicycle corridors in the city and it’s also one of the most dangerous. Status quo means needless deaths. Politics is all about competing interests being balanced and we all know what’s realistic. Don’t try to outsmart politics and do your opponents’ job for them. When you’re the little guy, advocate your side and damn the rest. Or be inconsequential.

That last bit by Daniel G. is the most important thing said. From my experience with the Urban Cycling Movement there is a “Take No Prisoners” attitude that probably does more harm than good. As I read his remarks Daniel is taking that position.

Wise Counsel from the League of American Wheelmen Summit

Political hacks are much the same everywhere. In fact I doubt that few of the people who show up to “protest” or for “photo ops” are much more than hacks. Rather than spending a lifetime trying to actually create something from your own sweat, it is much easier to join a group and be on camera as often as possible with the hope that the position you are advocating will become law. Then you can strut around taking credit for what was accomplished and have something to share with your kids towards the end of your miserable life. Meanwhile the nerd that discovers something that changes life as we know it largely goes unheralded unless a reporter happens to dig into the archives of science and discovers that he was a giant among men.

Political hacks are annoying because they are about as graceful at applying the laws of diplomacy as a lounge lizard with a hairy chest and gold bling was in the 1970s. No movement has ever needed that type of person but most are filled with them. And the ones that drop out of politics become televangelists who are glib enough to con money out of little old ladies whom they promise will meet God in the afterlife if only they can send in $2,000.

The truth is however far less glamorous than being political hack. We no longer need to be or have political hacks in our midst. But frankly I think the Tea Party approach has caught on in the Cycling Movement and the conventional wisdom is that it works. But like it or not Doug Meyer is telling the straight-up truth:

“These are some small but not unimportant bumps in the road,” Meyer said.  ”But with a little bit of bicycle handling, advocates can get over and past them.”

There were a number of compelling findings in Meyer’s research, but the most important take-away: Biking is not a fringe movement. Advocates no longer need to pitch the legitimacy of bicycling as a mode of transportation. “You’ve been asking for a seat at the table — it’s time to sit down,” Meyer said on Tuesday.

In fact, staffers told Meyer that lawmakers’ image of bicycling has shifted from  a middle-aged man wearing Lycra, to a working woman using a bikeshare program to commute to work. Adding to that credibility was the visible and vocal support of outgoing Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, who consistently positioned bicycling as an important mode of transportation. The good news: Everyone understands that biking is a key piece of the mobility puzzle.

But Meyer’s research also revealed challenges — and opportunities. Other top findings included:

  • Bicycle advocates as “sore winners:” The interviews revealed that federal lawmakers generally believe bicycle advocates don’t get just how successful we were in the passage of the new transportation law, MAP-21. While opponents aimed to eliminate all funding and eligibility for bicycling, Congressional allies and grassroots mobilization kept biking in the bill. By spreading the message that MAP-21 was a loss for bicycling, has painted us as “sore winners” to many on Capitol Hill.
  • Dedicated funding is not the end all, be all: While many in bicycle advocacy have pushed hard for dedicated funding streams in MAP-21 and other federal legislation, many on Capitol Hill don’t take well to the idea. They say the funding trend is away from the federal level, and has moved toward local and state decision makers.
  • The future is a multi-modal transportation system; embrace it and use it: Rather than pitching Congress on the “bicycling movement,” staffers felt advocates would be more successful if be frame biking as a key cog in a larger multi-modal transportation system.
  • Asking for a “fair share for safety” doesn’t resonate: To lawmakers, asking strictly for funding sounds like a money grab. Asking for safer streets through performance measures — or a national goal — is far more compelling. After all, bicyclists are a “cheap date,” and provide tremendous return on little investment.

Ironically it turns out that the Cycling Movement is moving into adulthood. Now is the time to cut our hair and wear a tie and shirt to meetings. The place for things like Critical Mass is rapidly fading. Our membership is soon to be filled with middle-aged women who have kids and spreading thighs but want to ride to work. As working mothers the chance to go out drinking until dawn is past. We need to tailor our message to a more mature and sedate audience.

In short we need to learn the Art of Compromise as badly as does the GOP in dealing with gun control or deficit reduction.