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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't remember a thread related to biking in the city so with two articles in the two papers today is a good day to make one....

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/...61.story?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=2&cset=true

Bike paths to nowhere
To cyclists' frustration, interruptions and dead ends mark many trails in the Chicago area


By Dan Gibbard
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 24, 2007

Unwinding for mile after scenic mile, the Chicago area's nationally recognized web of bike trails carries riders to realms far from city streets, to sun-splashed lakefront, industrial vistas and forests that seem light-years from civilization.

But gaps in those same trails can jolt cyclists back to reality. Some paths dead-end. Others dump riders into parking lots or side roads. Often, there is another bike path nearby, but getting to it can mean braving a ride in a gutter alongside rushing cars and trucks.

"All of a sudden you're not in a forest preserve anymore, you're on a busy, busy street," said Bob Friend of Riverwoods, whose pet peeve is a dead end in the Des Plaines River Trail, near Lincolnshire, which requires a detour along Milwaukee Avenue. "The only word I can really think of is frustrating."

As public officials try to close these gaps in their dream of a regional network of bike paths, they are finding that the last mile is often the hardest. Small spans present big obstacles that may take decades to overcome: lack of money for bridges, tunnels and land; property owners who don't want to sell; towns that either don't want paths or have other priorities.

"Part of the reality is we've done the easy stuff, and now we have the hard stuff," said Nick Jackson, deputy director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. "The gaps take a lot more work than the trails themselves."

Among dozens of missing connections, Chicago's Lakefront Path ends abruptly near multilane Hollywood Avenue to the north. The south end of the North Branch Trail leaves riders stranded at the busy intersection of Caldwell and Devon Avenues. The Illinois & Michigan State Canal Trail stops and starts at biker-unfriendly points such as Illinois Highway 83 near Lemont Road and 135th Street on the outskirts of Romeoville.

It's not simply about recreation. The area has added hundreds of miles of trails in the last 20 years, and it has become clear that tying those trails together has the potential to create a new transportation network, planners say, largely separate from road, rail and waterway.

"We want to provide community connectivity, so people can make short trips easily," said Tom Murtha of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. "It's important that people have a lot of [transportation] options."

Benefits, he said, include cutting car and truck traffic, reducing emissions, saving gasoline and providing exercise for bike commuters.

Funding key to linked system

A growing awareness of the benefits of alternative transportation helped open the federal spigot in the early 1990s, Murtha said. That funding has been critical to the creation of the trail system, he said, but there still is not always enough to build that last bridge or buy that last piece of property.

Also, there are owners who either don't wish to sell or are holding out for more money, including the owner of the last half-mile of property along the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, a 33-mile path that continues in Cook County. Lake County has been reluctant to use eminent domain to acquire the land, a decision with which some residents disagree.

"Eminent domain is not a policy that should be undertaken lightly," said Friend, an attorney. "But in rare exceptions, like when you have one parcel holding up 50 miles of trail linkage, that's the time to do it."

The paths aren't for every rider -- many "roadies" prefer the direct routes and fast pavement of the streets, but there are legions of recreational riders and commuters who aren't comfortable riding at the mercy of cars and trucks.

"There are a lot of people who have licenses but can't drive," said Barron Hooper Sr. of Chicago's Beverly neighborhood. "It's just too dangerous."

Hooper, 44, had to turn his bike around at the end of the South Side's new Major Taylor Trail as it dead-ended at a parking lot in the Whistler Woods Forest Preserve near Riverdale. "It's crazy. It'd be nice if they went all the way downtown. It would save on gas," he said.

That dream is a tall order.

"Our overall goal is to create as many continuous connections as possible," said Brian Steele, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation. "[But] you're dealing with a 150-year-old city, a tightly congested urban area, so in a lot of places [there is] a lack of land."

Lack of land an obstacle

The city plans to unveil a master plan for bike trails this year and has tried hard in recent years to link trails with bike lanes and better signs, he said. Abandoned rail beds have been converted into paths, including the soon-to-be-constructed Valley Line Trail along Kostner Avenue from Devon to Bryn Mawr Avenue, Steele said.

other places, though, the land problems could be intractable, such as at the north end of the Lakefront Path, which ends at a rocky shoreline. There, cyclists can either turn around or brave the narrow, crowded streets around Loyola University -- a situation not likely to change any time soon because all the lakefront property is privately owned, Steele said.

Things are more promising to the south, where officials hope eventually to link the Lakefront Path with the Burnham Greenway, which could open up the entire south side of the metro area, including Indiana. There are also plans to link the Major Taylor with a planned trail along the Cal-Sag Channel from Torrence Avenue to the Centennial Trail near Lemont.

"In not so many years, people will be able to bike from Chicago to Joliet almost exclusively on off-road trails," Murtha said. "One piece after another, we're putting this network together."

In the suburbs, there is a different set of obstacles.

More land is available, but paths can upset some homeowners. It took 20 years to plan and build the Old Plank Road Trail, which runs from Joliet to southern Cook County, said Bruce Hodgdon, spokesman for the Will County Forest Preserve District.

"[People worried] that gangs from Joliet were going to get on their bikes, rape and pillage in New Lenox, then ride back to Joliet with a big-screen TV on the back of their bike," he said.

Now, Hodgdon said, "There's been a 180-degree shift in sentiment. ... People are seeing this as a real asset to the community."

Other issues have priority

Funding is always an issue. Trails can cost $1 million a mile to build -- and bridges millions more -- at a time when budgets are tight and education, health care and other forms of transportation compete for money.

Yet there has been progress.

After trying for years, Lake County has gotten a railroad's permission to tunnel under a set of tracks near Lake Bluff, allowing the Skokie Valley Trail to link to the North Shore Path, which runs along Illinois Highway 176.

Joliet, meanwhile, recently celebrated the opening of a short stretch of the Joliet Junction Trail that links it to the I&M Canal Trail, Hodgdon said.

Then there is the Centennial Trail, which has spent more than a decade on maps as a dotted-line "planned trail" from Lyons to Lemont. Construction bids are being solicited, Cook County officials said, and work could soon begin to link the southwest suburbs to the I&M Canal Trail, among others.

And cyclists, when given the chance, are making their voices heard. At a meeting in April, more than 100 people packed a room in Northbrook to hear more about a project to use an abandoned rail bed to extend the south end of the Skokie Valley Trail from Lake-Cook Road to Glenview Road, linking it with the North Branch Trail.

"People came out in droves because they are excited about this stuff," said the bicycle federation's Jackson. "I think there's a real demand for more transportation options [and] it can help knit communities back together. I heard that a lot."

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My Mind Has Left My Body
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
It's easier bein' green

http://www.suntimes.com/news/transportation/441818,CST-NWS-bikelane25.article

It's easier bein' green
City looking to cut down on number of collisions between bikes, other vehicles with installation of colored bike paths at busy intersections


June 25, 2007
BY MONIFA THOMAS Staff Reporter

Those seemingly random patches of green pavement showing up at bike lanes on Elston, Lincoln and a handful of other city streets are no accident.

Rather, they're an attempt to prevent them.

The City of Chicago is installing colored pavement markings on city bike lanes to highlight potential collision points between bikes and other vehicles, such as areas where motorists have to cross over a bike lane to turn right at an intersection.
By making drivers more aware of places where bike and vehicle traffic merge, the new markings should cut down on accidents between the two.

At least, that's the idea behind putting the colored lanes at nine locations, including Elston at Division, Lincoln near Webster and Warren near Ogden.

Similar lane markings are already used on streets in several European countries, such as Germany, Sweden and Belgium.

Portland and the city of Burlington, Vermont have them, too.

But while red and blue tend to be the colors of choice for bike lanes in other cities, Chicago requested permission from the Federal Highway Administration to use green because it is more visible and less likely to be confused with other pavement colors, said Brian Steele, a spokesman for the city's Department of Transportation.

"Crosswalks are either white or red, and lane markings are white or yellow. We wanted a color that was distinct," Steele said.

The green coloring on the bike lanes may look like paint, but it's actually a skid-resistant thermoplastic that sticks to the asphalt when heated, Steele said.

A report on Portland's blue bike lanes showed that drivers were more likely to yield to cyclists after the new lane markings were put in. But fewer bicyclists turned their heads to look for vehicles, suggesting that the lanes may lull some bikers into a false sense of security about having the right-of-way, the report said.

Still, Chicago bike riders say the colored lines are a nice addition.

"It really shows the city's commitment to innovation and really doing everything they can to make biking as safe as possible," said Nick Jackson, a spokesman for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

Grant money from the Federal Highway Administration paid for the pavement markings, which will cost $100,000 to install.

The city plans to analyze before and after accident data and get feedback from bikers and motorists to determine whether more colored lanes should be added.
 

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It's definitely possible to protect your bike from theft. There are really two tricks to it: locking your bike properly, and making it look unattractive to thieves. For the first, use a flatkey (or new Bic-proof barrel key) U-lock or encased chain, not a cable, and research brands before buying--not all U-locks or chains offer the same protection. And think for a second about how you're locking it up; I've seen SO many front wheels locked up, the bikes they were attached to having long ago been stolen. I use a chain that's long enough to lock my frame and front wheel to a rack or streetlamp (if you have complaints about this practice, lobby for more bike racks). That said, I still always bring my bike indoors whenever humanly possible.

Just as important, though, is making your bike LOOK like an ugly piece of crap with few quality components and no resale value. A lot of people don't want to do this because of some kind of status thing, but face it, people in Hummers are going to make fun of you for riding a bike no matter what it looks like. I wrap the frame in electrical tape to mask brand names and protect the bike from rust, use plain-looking tires without pretty stripes, and let some dirt accumulate on the rims and hubs. If you're properly oiling the chain, things are going to get gunky anyway.

As for bike lanes, I think one of the things they're good for is channeling cyclists onto particular streets and helping to create enough bike traffic on those streets to force drivers to pay attention. This is something that's only really going to happen as the number of bicyclists increases, but check out Portland as a city that's come a long way in that respect; I spent years getting around there almost exclusively by bike and rarely even had a conflict with a driver, much less an actual accident, because there were enough bikes around that even people who hated us had to look out for us. Chicago obviously has a LONG way to go in this regard. In my opinion, the most hostile drivers are in Lincoln Park; I simply avoid the place on bike.

Finally, one of the crappiest disconnected spots in the bike trail system is on the far North Side, where the North Channel Trail jumps the river with no way to get across it except on busy streets with bad sidewalks. A bridge was actually approved and funded, but stopped from construction by Alderman Bernard Stone. His main competitor, Naisy Dolar, made a big deal of it in the last election, but for some reason beyond my comprehension, Stone still squeaked by to win...
 

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As someone who commutes by bike, I disagree that Chicago has a "long" way to go. I am out there every day in traffic. I know how many bikes there are, which is why I am also not convinced that there is a lot more that needs to be done, other than persuading more of the public to embrace biking as a serious means of transportation. My 3 1/2 mile commute involves a whopping three blocks of marked bike lanes, so bike lanes are pretty much a non-issue with me. I know which streets are the most bike-friendly, I stick to those, and they are just fine the way they are, so I don't believe the city should waste money marking them. Kinzie should be marked, in my opinion, but there are so many bikes on it that it could easily be cited as an example of why bike lanes are not necessary at all.

Which is my point: Chicago is an intrinsically bike-friendly place, which means minimal retrofit required. It has flat terrain, and a connected street grid, meaning no shortage of quiet side streets running parallel to the major arterial roads. The important routes (Wells, Halsted, Milwaukee, Damen, etc.) are already marked. I don't know what else could be done.

Lincoln Park, by the way, is actually one of the EASIEST places to negotiate by bicycle in the entire metro area. Belden, Webster, Dickens, Wrightwood: all easy E-W routes. Long, tree-lined streets with low traffic volumes and low velocities. Halsted, Southport, Lincoln, Wells: easy north-south routes, all with bike lanes, all extremely easy to ride on. The Lakefront Path nearby. Most, if not all of the yuppies who live there are recreational bikers themselves, and unlike the ghetto-bangers, actually fear the prospect of lawsuits. If you REALLY find it a challenging place to ride (which I find hard to believe), you are either extremely inexperienced or extremely chicken.

Finally, would you kindly take your electioneering to a political forum? This thread is about biking in Chicago, not a moratorium on the recent aldermanic election. We already know your politics. We want to hear what you have to say about BIKING IN CHICAGO.
You are right that Chicago is much better for biking than plenty of other cities, and please realize I'm coming from the perspective of somebody who has recently been living in Portland, probably the most bike-friendly place in the country both in terms of infrastructure and driver behavior, so I have high standards. But yes, Chicago does have a long way to go before people can generally feel safe biking throughout the city, and it is mostly due to the disregard shown for bikes by drivers.

Let me suggest another use for bike lanes and marked bike routes: not everybody is intimately familiar with every neighborhood, and it helps a lot to be able to find a good route on a map. I'll grant that sometimes this can backfire, as it did once when I let the Chicago bike map convince me that Canal would be a safe route to take.

Lincoln Park is a difficult area to bike through, as opposed to within, mostly because of taxis, SUVs, luxury cars, and people getting into and out of cars quickly and without looking. I definitely agree that sometimes bike lanes are useless, as the ones in that area on Halsted and Wells certainly are because people blatantly ignore them. The problem with people who see biking as a recreational activity is that they expect bikes to be extremely slow-moving and to stop whenever a motorist decides to block the bike lane. I've biked everywhere in Chicago, and for my money it doesn't get hairier than Lincoln Park, Old Town, and the Gold Coast. Granted, people don't throw rocks at you like they do in West Garfield Park, but at least the traffic's lighter and the streets are wider there so you can get the hell out fast.

I think something else may be important here too. I'm young, I wear a messenger bag, and I ride an older road bike. I think this makes me a ripe target for hostility from a lot of drivers. If I were riding a comfort bike, wearing a polo shirt, and 30 pounds heavier (definitely not assuming you fit this description of course), I would probably have a much easier time on the road, regardless of the way I ride.

As for the last point, first, the original post included an article about the disconnected status of off-road trails in the region. I offered a reason that one of those disconnected points exists. It's obviously a fact that politics plays a huge role in whether some of these trails get constructed or maintained. Second, nobody on this forum, as far as I know, has ever been criticized for using any opportunity to proclaim their love for Mayor Daley. This is no less a political statement than what I wrote.
 

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I'm a little disappointed this topic died prematurely. I think most folks here want Chicago to be as bike-friendly as possible, and there's a lot to talk about as far as how that should happen. I especially find the question of bike lanes interesting; several pros and cons have already been mentioned. There are other systems, like Madison's bike lanes separated from the street and streets in Portland that are one-way for vehicles, allowing bikes to have more space in both directions. I wonder if there are places here where something like that could be useful. Does anyone think that someday there could be a system for biking on the lower level streets downtown to ease conflicts with pedestrians and cabs? What about other grade-separated former railroad rights-of-way that could be converted to bicycle use like the Bloomingdale Trail?

I think there are especially great opportunities here because Chicago is one of the few cities in America where the most practical way of getting around for many people is biking. It's faster than buses (often faster than driving too), it's dirt cheap, it's flat, and in many neighborhoods there are a lot of options for getting around. And to clarify what I wrote above, I think driver attitudes here can be pretty scary in comparison to what you'd find on the West Coast or in many small cities and towns, but not atypical for the Midwest or the East Coast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Great post Abner, and your last post is the primary reason why I started this thread. Even though Chicago has the reputation as one of the best biking cities in the U.S. I think it could be much improved. I think to really be considered a great biking city there has to be more dedicatd bike lanes then there is now as opposed to the car lanes that make small concessions to bike riders now. Bike lanes on the shoulders of road that are only inches away from speeding cars, driveways, and at continous risk of car door openings don't cut it. In many of these lanes if a biker has an accident, fall, or collision they could very possiably be left on the losing end of such a scenario.

In one of the Indiesanopolis threads I saw a project that dedicated what looked like a 1/3 to 1/2 a street to new bike lanes. It alsmost as if a true ROW for bikes is being developed. What if there were three or four roads leading into downtown that where half the streets were dedicated to bicycles sepeareted by planters to indicate a true seperation and space for bikers and motorist? I am not sure which roads would best be suited but a few smaller residential streets with low traffic volume could work I suppose. Of course neighborhood gruops who would complain about lost parking spaces and or new one way directioanl streets would complain and they would make it a pie in the sky endevour.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Found the Indy project. It would be nice to have a north-west-south streets akin to these from four to five miles out leading into downtown

The Indianapolis cultural trail...before and after....

http://www.indyculturaltrail.info/before-and-after.html

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Before: Looking east on Washington Street from Capitol Avenue


After: Looking east on Washington Street from Capitol Avenue


2.
Before: Looking north on Alabama Street from New York Street


After: Looking north on Alabama Street from New York Street


3.
Before: Looking north on College Avenue, south of St. Clair Street


After: Looking north on College Avenue, south of St. Clair Street


4.
Before: Looking north on Massachusetts Avenue, north of St. Clair Street


After: Looking north on Massachusetts Avenue, north of St. Clair Street
 

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Wow. That's a pretty impressive project, although I wonder why they're paving it in that brick--unless there's a smoother way of doing it that I'm not aware of, bricks are always awful to ride on, even new ones. Makes it seem like they're trying to slow the bikes down.

Which reminds me: some Chicago suburbs are starting to repave streets in brick or simply remove the asphalt on top of the existing brick. They like it because the bricks are supposed to last longer, slow traffic, and increase property values. But it also makes those streets virtually unbikeable, especially in a few years when those bricks start to separate and come up.

Does anybody think we might get some of these someday?
 

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Those Indy plans would be fine if the biking area wasn't brick, maybe concrete or something. It also seems like a nice way to beautify the street.
 

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cr00sh's reference is to short-term automated bike rental, often with the first half-hour free. You put in a credit card and an automated kiosk releases a bike; you can return it to any other station in the city. It's already commonplace in Vienna and other cities, but the New York Times and its readers can be counted on to discover it once it opens in Paris.

At any rate, Mayor Daley loved the idea and already has CDOT staff working on bringing the concept to Chicago.
 

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its along elston and diversey side as well. regarding about the diversey bike lane, they should just make it another part of the road, that street gets really pack and traffic
 
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