Good Reads : Week of 10 January 2016

DOWNTOWN — Attorney Andy Moss rides his bike 20 miles roundtrip from his Oak Park home to his office Downtown almost every weekday of the year.

He loves that his preferred routes of Washington Boulevard, Madison Street and Lake Street all have dedicated bike lanes. There’s just one problem with each of his treks: There is always something parked in those lanes.

“By causing me to ride outside the bike lane, it creates a danger for me, but it also creates a danger for drivers and slows down traffic for everybody,” Moss said.

Moss was the first contributor to a recent post from The Chainlink called “What’s this doing in the bike lane?” asking for cyclists to submit photos and videos of vehicles parked in bike lanes. Moss submitted a picture of a Chicago Police SUV in a green Downtown bike lane. That’s concerning to cyclists, considering police are supposed to enforce laws against parking in the lane.

“I am hoping, by giving Chicago cyclists a way to document the occurrences, we can raise the awareness and bring about change to make the bike lanes safer to ride in,” said Chainlink president and owner, Yasmeen Schuller.

Cars, police vehicles and CTA buses in Chicago bike lanes.

Atlanta is going to be busy pedaling this year. The clock is ticking on Mayor Kasim Reed’s 2016 deadline to make the city one of America’s most bicycle-friendly places.

Bikeability in the car-centric city has improved dramatically in the last three years. Atlanta’s Bike Score jumped from 43 to 50, earning it an official “Bikeable” moniker. Preservationist/cyclist Nedra Deadwyler launched Civil Bikes, offering bike tours designed to spark conversations about equity and accessibility in the city.

But there’s a lot more work to be done. Despite promises, the long-awaited Atlanta Bike Share didn’t launch in 2015. After an avalanche of anti-cycling backlash, the Georgia Department of Transportation removed bike lanes from its plans during a re-striping of busy Peachtree Road.

Enter Becky Katz, Atlanta’s first chief bicycle officer. She was appointed in the fall, but a great profile of her today in Reporter Newspapers (definitely worth a read) gives local bike advocates a glimpse into what they can expect of their new city hall counterpart.

Katz is a long-time cyclist, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition volunteer and former grants project manager for Park Pride, a nonprofit that works with Atlanta communities to improve local parks.

She’s also a woman who lets nothing get in the way of her ability to ride: not a collision with a car that resulted in a broken shoulder socket and wrist last year, not the demands of business casual.

“I love running into Becky biking to get places, usually in a dress,” Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, told the newspaper.

As chief bicycle officer, Katz will, among other tasks, work with planning and development departments to conduct public outreach, see an extension of the city’s bike paths and shared lanes to 120 miles, and implement that delayed bike-share program.

According to Atlanta Magazine, the latter’s launch was postponed so the city could find the right people to run the program, including Katz. She told the magazine that making Atlanta Bike Share the most useful, meaningful tool it can be takes time, thoughtful planning and public input about rental station locations, educational campaigns and related services. She wants the program to be realistic public transportation for residents, not just a leisure activity for tourists.

A new launch goal has been set for this summer.

She also envisions an Atlanta where short trips to the store or to visit a friend are made by bike instead of car. Naysayers of a more bike-friendly Atlanta often cite the cities’ sprawling distances as evidence that cycling will never catch on, and bemoan the construction of bike lanes they accuse of choking out cars. But Katz told Reporter Newspapers that her goal isn’t to promote cycling over driving, only to make the roads safer for all modes of transportation:

“Our goals are very aligned,” [Katz] said of cyclists and motorists. “We want safe streets for people to get around in the mode they want to — or have to — get around.

“Our roads are precious. We need to work together, for a healthier, more sustainable and economically viable city. This is the only way,” she said.

A Streets Alive bike parade in Atlanta (Photo by alans1948 via Flickr)

One of the biggest mistakes made by the Urban Cycling Movement is in taking stances that make it ‘come off as self-righteous‘. That then leads to the kinds of backlash that the Atlanta area has witnessed.

Take for instance the question of traffic controls. Groups like the Active Transportation Alliance will say ‘on camera‘ that they support cyclists obeying the traffic laws.


But when it comes to discussions held on forums like there is clearly a bit of chafing going on under the proverbial collar of bicyclists who express a sentiment that says they should not have to come to ‘complete stops‘ at stop signs or in some instances they even question whether it is necessary when approaching an intersection with a red light.

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

Some of the participants of such forums argue that ‘in practice‘ the Idaho Stop Law is alive and well within the city limits of Chicago because police do not strictly enforce the laws regarding observing traffic controls. And in my own personal experience this is indeed true. Some cyclists take a perverse delight in showing other law-abiding cyclists just how bad-ass they can be when running red lights and ignoring stop signs.

Quid Pro Quo?

So why then do bicyclists display an equally perverse pleasure in ‘calling out‘ each and every infraction of laws that they hold dear? What this does (in conjunction with their delight in not being ticketed for ‘rolling stops‘) is give law enforcement and the general public the sense that when in comes to strict obedience to the laws of he land, we cyclists take exception to being held on too tight a leash, but have no problem tightening that leash when it comes to punishing anyone who dares to ‘violate our bike lanes‘.

For me that reeks of pettiness. But that seems to be the order of the day with respect to cycling activists. The cry foul when they are given tickets for riding on the sidewalks of Michigan Avenue but shed crocodile tears over the fact that even beer delivery trucks are unloading in their precious bike lane.

And if you know what members of the Urban Cycling Movement cherish most, you know it is alcohol. So getting upset when your ‘life’s blood‘ is being delivered is something of real significance. Perhaps it is time to ‘lighten up‘ a bit. Being overly melodramatic regarding the reasons why you cannot simply ride around a vehicle in the bike lane is not helping.

After all if you are faced with a cyclist too impatient to wait until a red light turns green and decides to ‘ride into oncoming left-turning traffic‘ it calls into question just how unsafe something like riding around an illegally parked vehicle really is, when you have no compunction about executing the Idaho Two-Step (shown above).

If you feel strongly enough that everyone should obey the traffic laws to have a motto written on the Illinois state license plate, then for goodness sake exhibit a bit of follow-through when it comes to doing what you claim should indeed be done.


As the motto says, ‘Same Rights, Same Rules!

Join us for Stories on the Move, a transportation-themed storytelling event that benefits Active Transportation Alliance, Chicagoland’s voice for better biking, walking and transit.

Stories on the Move is a collection of stories told live by some of your favorite personalities in the active transportation movement. Bring your own story along as we’ll have open guest timeslots. Confirmed storytellers include:

– Randy Neufeld, SRAM Cycling Fund
– John Greenfield, Streetsblog Chicago
– Rebecca Resman, Chicago Kidical Mass
– Courtney O’Neill, XXX Racing
– Olatunji Oboi Reed, Slow Roll Chicago
…and more!

When: Thursday, January 21st, doors open at 6:30, show at 7pm.

Where: Township, 2200 N California Ave, Chicago IL 60647

Finally a fundraiser format that is not an embarrassment. Keep up the good work!

The writers at Bicycling Magazine have it all wrong. What we commonly know as the ‘Bike Lane‘ should actually be referred to as ‘The People’s Lane‘. It should be there to accommodate bicyclists, electrified wheelchair riders, joggers, skate board riders, E-Bike riders, velomobiles, scooters and yes hover boards. I would also gladly toss in Segways as well. The more the merrier!

Time for the arrogance of bicyclists to be challenged with a more egalitarian retinue of users. And if moms pushing prams want to join the mix, fine by me.

How many pedestrians have to get killed on Louisville’s Dixie Highway before the press and police stop blaming victims? Image: Google via Broken Sidewalk

Cyclists are great at blame displacement. If one of us hits and kills a pedestrian, the rule is to remain silent and hope that no one notices. If that does not work then dredge up campaign against automobiles parking in the bike lane and be sure to use lots of venomous logic in the process.

But Goodness knows that ‘streets to do not kill‘. People do. That would include the subject of humanity represented by those who identify as cyclists. Our roads work quite well when everyone is ‘on their toes‘. Get them drunk of high and all bets are off.

Let them stay on the roadway for 16 hours without sleep and you have a recipe for disaster. But the roadway itself, is not the problem. It is as Pogo said:

Pogo Earth Day strip[56]

Pogo Earth Day strip[56]

Because Illinois is losing population, we’ve lost six Congressional seats since 1980.

Something tells me our focus on getting more bike lanes is a wee bit misguided.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he will forge ahead with the annual Martin Luther King breakfast on Friday, even though there could be a ton of empty tables.

Accusing Emanuel of participating in the very code of silence he has condemned, religious leaders plan to boycott and picket the event and urge black elected officials to join them.

“The Martin Luther King mayoral breakfast is not about me. It’s about Dr. King and his life that he led and his life’s work. And we have a lot of work ahead of us — not only as a city, a state and a country — being consistent with his life’s work of economic and social justice,” the mayor told reporters after a City Council meeting.

“It started under Mayor Harold Washington. Every mayor has held it. And I’m going to continue to hold it as I have in the past and in the years ahead in this term. It is a time in which the city, regardless of our differences, comes together to honor Dr. King, honor his life, honor the message of his life and use that to re-energize ourselves towards economic and social justice.”

The mayor added, “Obviously, certain people will take certain actions. I know what we, as a city, should do in using this moment in time and work very hard towards that effort. . . . I’m going to continue to stay determined, driven with the desire to get change, make the necessary decisions to push the city forward.”

Pastor Ira Acree said he has no interest in providing “political cover” for the mayor when he is firmly convinced that Emanuel “concealed” both the Laquan McDonald shooting video and the contract kickback scandal that culminated in the guilty plea by former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett until after the mayoral runoff election April 7.

“CPD scandals continue to unfold every day, and our community is incredulous at the role the mayor of our city played,” Acree told a news conference before the City Council meeting Wednesday.

“I will not be attending Mayor Emanuel’s MLK breakfast because if Dr. King was alive, he would not be welcome, nor would he attend. Considering the conspiracy, considering the concealment of evidence, considering the cover-up and toxicity of the corruption of this mayor’s administration, it would be a shame for us as ministers to be there and provide for Mayor Emanuel the political cover that he would desire.”

Last month, Emanuel apologized for the “systematic breakdown” that culminated in the “totally avoidable” police shooting death of Laquan McDonald and acknowledged the “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department he once tried to keep out of a court record.

The cathartic and emotional speech before a special City Council meeting did nothing to silence demands for Emanuel’s resignation.

Pastor ira Acree and other religious leaders plan to boycott Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s annual Martin Luther King breakfast on Friday and urge black elected officials to join them. | Sun-Times file photo

Not since the Freedom Riders of the 1960s have we seen such a brazen disregard for human rights. Chicago is in danger of surpassing the KKK havens of that ugly period.

But most bicyclists cannot see beyond the idea of bike lanes. The notion of ‘equity‘ for them extends only to the idea of installing more Divvy stations in black neighborhoods. This is very sad, but is the status of the navel-gazing tribe masquerading as a movement.

Some day they may get over their indignation at having cars parked in the bike lane to consider the murders of young black men. Until then their only concerns are for themselves. The concern highest on their list is whether they should consider coming to a complete stop when greeted by one of these:

Stop means stop, and traffic studies show that there is really no need for the supplemental signs.

Stop means stop, and traffic studies show that there is really no need for the supplemental signs.

Sharrows are the dregs of bike infrastructure — the scraps cities hand out when they can’t muster the will to implement exclusive space for bicycling. They may help with wayfinding, but do sharrows improve the safety of cycling at all? New research presented at the Transportation Review Board Annual Meeting suggests they don’t.

Sharrows are useless and perhaps even harmful, a new study found. Photo: University of Colorado Denver
Sharrows without traffic-calming won’t do much to make cycling safer. Photo: University of Colorado Denver
A study by University of Colorado Denver researchers Nick Ferenchak and Wesley Marshall examined safety outcomes for areas in Chicago that received bike lanes, sharrows, and no bicycling street treatments at all. (The study was conducted before Chicago had much in the way of protected bike lanes, so it did not distinguish between types of bike lanes.) The results suggest that bike lanes encourage more people to bike and make biking safer, while sharrows don’t do much of either.

Ferenchak and Marshall’s study divided Chicago into three geographic categories using Census block groups: areas where bike lanes were added between 2008 and 2010, areas where sharrows were added, and areas where no bike treatments were added. They then looked at how bike commuting and cyclist injuries changed in these areas over time.

They found that bike commute rates more than doubled in areas with new bike lanes, compared to a 27 percent increase in areas with new sharrows and a 43 percent increase in areas where nothing changed.

Meanwhile, the rate of cyclist injuries per bike commuter improved the most where bike lanes were striped, decreasing 42 percent. Areas that got sharrows saw the same metric fall about 20 percent –worse than areas where streets didn’t change (36 percent), although the difference was not great enough to be statistically significant.

One caveat with the study is that measuring bike commuters who live in a given area is not the same as measuring the number of people who actually bike on those streets. Still, the results strongly suggest that sharrows are ineffective as a safety strategy.

Ferenchak told Streetsblog sharrows seemed to have a small effect on encouraging people to bike but provide no additional protection. This is in line with what Dutch bike planner Dick Van Veen told Streetsblog about sharrows in the Netherlands: They should be used in tandem with significant traffic-calming measures — on a street with fast traffic, to put down sharrows alone would be considered “unethical.”

“I think our main takeaway is that we need appropriate infrastructure,” Ferenchak said. “Sharrows don’t dedicate any space to bicyclists.”

Sharrows without traffic-calming won’t do much to make cycling safer. Photo: University of Colorado Denver


Like it or not most of the ‘bike lanes’ around the country are ‘sharrow lanes‘. They represent what both suburban and urban DOTs can afford. What really works best (at least here in Chicago) are ‘buffered lanes‘. They have the effectiveness of a ‘sharrow lane‘ in that they are easy to clean and maintain (especially in winter) while at the same time discouraging the use of the ‘Door Zone‘.

The idea that new bike infrastructure is linked to of gentrification is nothing new in Chicago. Leaders of Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican community originally opposed bike lanes on the neighborhood’s Division Street business strip because they believed the city was installing the lanes mostly for the benefit of new, more affluent residents. And while the recently opened Bloomingdale Trail elevated greenway has attracted an economically and ethnically diverse crowd of users, many longtime residents are concerned that a real estate boom around the trail will displace low-income and working-class families.

Researchers at McGill University and the University of Quebec in Montreal wanted to lend credence to the claims that cycling infrastructure and gentrification are related. In a study presented this week at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting, Elizabeth Flanagan, Ahmed El-Geneidy and Ugo Lachapelle found a correlation between bike infrastructure and socioeconomic indicators related to gentrification in Chicago and Portland.

For the report, titled “Riding tandem: Does cycling infrastructure investment mirror gentrification,” the researchers looked changes in the rates of home ownership, home values, college education, age, employment, and race in neighborhoods between 1990 and 2010. Then they mapped these demographic changes alongside the locations of bike lanes, bike rack, and, in Chicago, Divvy stations.

While they found that dense neighborhoods and areas close to downtown tended to have infrastructure, they also found that demographic characteristics were a big factor. In Portland, changes in home ownership and education level had the largest influence. However, in Chicago, probably because our city is more diverse, race and home value also played a large role.

The study found that Chicago neighborhoods where more than 40 percent of residents are people of color are less likely to gentrify and have bike infrastructure. Interestingly, however, it also found that, in neighborhoods where 60 percent or more residents are white, a higher percentage of people of color corresponds with more bike infrastructure.

I haven’t had a chance to fully digest the report yet but it appears that, unlike a recent League of American Bicyclists study that declared that Chicago’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 is inequitable, the Montreal researchers used accurate bike infrastructure data. It probably helped that Flanagan worked as a transportation planning intern at Bronzeville Bikes in the summer of 2014, which included discussing transportation equity issues with Chicago Department of Transportation and Divvy staffers.

However, I noticed one statement about the bike-share system in the report that seems like a jump to conclusions. “Examining Divvy Bike’s 2013 ridership data, it was found that there are in fact so few stations in the South Side that the average trip length of rides originating or terminating in the South Side is over half an hour.”

While the greater distance between stations on the South Side compared to downtown and dense, more affluent North Side areas makes the system less convenient to use, which discourages ridership, it’s not necessarily the reason for longer trips. Less awareness of Divvy’s fee structure, or more interest in taking longer recreational rides could also be factors in why South Side trips tend to be longer.

But the report seems to be valuable for quantifying what we already knew to be the case, that wealthier, whiter parts of Chicago, and areas that have been moving in that direction, have historically gotten a disproportionate amount of bike infrastructure. In recent years, that trend has been reversing somewhat. According to CDOT, 60 percent of bike lane mileage installed under the Emanuel administration has gone to the South and West Sides. Still, many have argued that the decision to concentrate the majority of the first 300 Divvy stations in dense, i.e. affluent, parts of town made the system less equitable.

While the report notes the correlation between gentrified neighborhoods and cycling infrastructure, it doesn’t take a stand on whether a bike lanes, racks, and bike-share stations are a cause of gentrification, or rather a symptom of it. Instead the researchers argue that the existing link between infrastructure and privilege suggest we need to change the way that bike amenities are distributed.

“Low-income and communities of color, who would benefit most from increased cycling infrastructure for the economic, health and safety benefits, have been less likely to receive municipal or private investment,” the report concludes. “Mitigating these disparities in the future will be challenging and require rethinking assumptions about cycling culture and planning processes.”

The Division Street bike lanes in Humboldt Park. Photo: John Greenfield

I am unclear why this is even being reported as ‘news‘. The Mayor of Chicago is quite clear in declaring that the bike lanes of the city are designed to attract ‘elites‘ from other cities like New York, Portland and Seattle. And since these folks are currently ‘finding their footing‘ here in the Chiraq they are most likely to settle in areas where others of their ilk already live.

The Urban Cycling Movement is largely reflective of a hipster mentality and while some of the older movement members are still around, the bulk of them are younger folks. This cultural difference explains why few of the admittedly small group of bicyclists who ply the streets of the city are from area south and west of the Loop.

To the degree that services like Divvy move into a community it bodes well for ‘elites‘ hoping to ‘resettle‘ these areas. That in turn causes real estate values to skyrocket. This leaves the current residents who might have marginal means of financial support in the lurch.

But frankly none of these ramifications that result from impending gentrification are a problem for ‘elites‘. They seem to exhibit a fair amount of insensitivity to anything that does not relate directly to their acquisition of ‘bike lanes‘.