The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Paved with good intentions

The City of Chicago added bike lanes to a busy section of Clark Street in the Edgewater community area, but so far, it doesn't have a lot of fans:

The lane, on Clark Street between Hollywood Avenue and Devon Street, was created over the summer as a “paint-and-post installation” that uses plastic dividers or parked cars to separate bicyclists from drivers.

But the lane’s protective infrastructure was largely superficial, with riders still facing constant obstructions — like drivers parking in the lane — that force them out of the safe lane and into traffic, some bicyclists said.

By the end of December, more posts will be added, cutting a 40-foot gap between posts in half, Vasquez said. The intent is to make it harder for drivers to enter the bike lane. 

Concrete curbs that separate bicyclists from drivers will also get installed in 2022, and “there is also talk of installing Bus Stop Bulbs at some intersections,” Vasquez said in a statement.

So they're implementing the lane in stages, I guess? We're still a long, long way from Europe.

The Empire State Trail

The kids today don't know how good they have it. When I lived in New York more than 20 years ago, I would have gotten on a bike and ridden this trail:

Last December, the Empire State Trail — a sprawling, 750-mile cyclist and pedestrian route that connects Buffalo to Albany and New York City to the Canadian border, forming what looks like a sideways T — opened to the public. Considering the pandemic bike boom, the timing was perfect.

About 400 miles of greenways, repurposed rail lines and bike paths already existed in New York. So, when the $200 million project was announced in 2017, the state rushed to fill in the gaps between them.

Where new bike trails were not possible, blue-and-yellow signs were installed on roads signaling the way, and some guardrails were added to protect cyclists from vehicular traffic.

The result — a combination of protected paths, city streets, highway shoulders and country roads that pass by small towns and cities — offers views of wetlands, waterways, grasslands and mountain ranges. It is a showcase for New York State’s history and natural beauty.

Of course, before my knees told me I had to stop biking, I also planned to ride RAGBRAI, so maybe this wouldn't have happened. Still: the kids today have opportunities my generation never had.

And they should get off my lawn.

Flyover territory

The four-year, $40m Navy Pier flyover finally opened this week after 7 years and $64m:

The $64 million flyover, started in 2014, was originally planned for a ribbon-cutting in 2018 but it was repeatedly delayed. The 1,750-foot-long, 16-foot-wide steel and concrete flyover goes from Ohio Street Beach to the south side of the Chicago River.

City officials have blamed prior delays both on issues with the Lake Shore Drive bridge and a delay in getting funding from the state during the budget crisis under former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

With the substantial completion of the Flyover, built to keep pedestrians and bicyclists from being in conflict with auto traffic, the Lakefront Trail now runs, uninterrupted, from Hollywood Avenue to 71st Street, according to the city.

Block Club Chicago has photos.

The biggest budget increase came when engineers discovered that the original plan to tunnel through the southeast Lake Shore Drive bridge tower would have cut a load-bearing column. But like so much in Chicago, the biggest delay came from our incompetent and ideologically-blinkered former governor refusing to fund the state government for two years.

But hey, it's open now, so bikes and runners no longer take their lives into their hands crossing the off-ramp from Lake Shore Drive to Grand Avenue.

Newest national park is closest to Chicago

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, just 50 km from downtown Chicago, became Indiana Dunes National Park in February:

Supporters of the switch, who have watched the proposal ebb and flow like Lake Michigan along the shoreline over the past few years, said they are excited by the change and hope the already popular attraction draws even more people, particularly those who make it a point to visit designated national parks.

Operations at the park, other than a change in signs, won’t be any different, said Paul Labovitz, park superintendent.

“There’s no real budget implications but perceptually, the change will probably result in more attention and more investment outside the park,” he said, adding the National Park Service also may invest more in the park’s infrastructure over time.

Also upping its marketing will be the South Shore Line, which is working on plans to encourage more people from Chicago, Michigan and Indiana to come check out the park using commuter rail, Nicole Barker, director of capital investment and implementation, said in an email.

“Thanks to the South Shore Line’s Bikes on Trains program, which allows bicycles on select off-peak trains, it is easier than ever to come visit the dunes by bike,” Barker said.

Trains from Chicago's Millennium Station to the Dune Park station take about 80 minutes and cost $9 each way.

Like RAGBRAI, but 8 times farther

The Great American Rail-Trail is nearing completion:

On Wednesday, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy gave the grand reveal for an entirely car-free way to get across the country—the Great American Rail-Trail—that would connect Washington, D.C., to Seattle. The path runs through 12 states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.

The launch event kicked off at Capitol Hill in D.C., near where the Capital Crescent Trail begins the cross-country route, as part of a live-streamed broadcast of events at stops along the way, including Columbus, Ohio; Three Forks, Montana; and South Cle Elu, Washington.

The vision for a complete cross-country route was one of the founding dreams for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an organization hatched in 1986 to help convert former rail corridors into public trails for bikers, strollers, and other active transportation types. Founders David Burwell and Peter Harnik were railroad history buffs, and a coast-to-coast backbone was always part their vision. Not coincidentally, this week marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.

The group believes that they can finish the project in about 20 years.

Divvy income falls as rides and service area increase

Chicago's take of Divvy bike-share income was 31% lower in 2016 than in 2014 and 2015 as the city expanded the program into the South and West sides:

Divvy income fell from $2.86 million in 2014 and $2.84 million in 2015 to $1.97 million in 2016, a 31 percent drop, according to the city Department of Transportation figures. The city said it is improving its outreach to get more people to try Divvy and expects its income for the program to be about as high this year as in 2015.

Transportation officials said the expansion to black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West sides was an attempt to increase diversity in a program that was launched four years ago in mainly white, affluent neighborhoods. But the South and West sides pose challenges to Divvy because they tend to be less affluent and have more impediments to biking, such as fewer bike lanes, cycling advocates say.

The city makes the bulk of its Divvy income from station advertising and Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s sponsorship. In three of the past four years, it lost money on bike rental operations. After a small profit of $45,859 on 2015 operations, it lost $752,011 on operations in 2016 — its share of a total operational loss of $1,756,420 shared with Motivate and the biggest loss in the program’s history.

The differences between neighborhoods are stark. In the low-income West Side neighborhood of Austin, for example, there are 14 Divvy stations that saw a total of 1,339 trips from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. Affluent lake-bordering Lincoln Park, by contrast, has 36 stations that saw 452,727 trips during that time period.

The DePaul study said high unemployment rates reduce ridership because the system’s main function is to serve work commuters. It also noted that areas with more kids and seniors also see less Divvy ridership. Divvy is not for children under age 16.

The program remains exceptionally popular near me. One of my friends, who lives near Wrigley field, has taken almost 365 Divvy rides this year. But as the you get farther from the Loop, the bike share looks less attractive. (Ever try to ride one of those behemoths 15 kilometers in less than 30 minutes?)

I'm glad the city and Federal government are subsidizing the program as a mass-transit program. Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously said that "Divvy is a bigger threat to cabs than Uber," and he's probably not wrong (depending on how you measure things).

Links to read on the plane

I'm about to fly to San Antonio for another round of researching how the military tracks recruits from the time they get to the processing center to the time they leave for boot camp (officially "Military Basic Training" or MBT).

I have some stuff to read on the plane:

OK, off to K20. Or K18. Or wherever my plane has got to.

 

Millions of blue bikes

Software developer Todd Schneider has analyzed 22 million CitiBikes trips (the New York equivalent of Chicago's Divvy). He's even got some cool animations:

If you stare at the animation for a bit, you start to see some trends. My personal favorite spots to watch are the bridges that connect Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. In the morning, beginning around 8 AM, you see a steady volume of bikes crossing from Brooklyn into Manhattan over the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges. In the middle of the day, the bridges are generally less busy, then starting around 5:30 PM, we see the blue dots streaming from Manhattan back into Brooklyn, as riders leave their Manhattan offices to head back to their Brooklyn homes.

Sure enough, in the mornings there are more rides from Brooklyn to Manhattan than vice versa, while in the evenings there are more people riding from Manhattan to Brooklyn. For what it’s worth, most Citi Bike trips start and end in Manhattan. The overall breakdown since the program’s expansion in August 2015:

  • 88% of trips start and end in Manhattan
  • 8% of trips start and end in an outer borough
  • 4% of trips travel between Manhattan and an outer borough

There are other distinct commuting patterns in the animation: the stretch of 1st Avenue heading north from 59th Street has very little Citi Bike traffic in the morning, but starting around 5 PM the volume picks up as people presumably head home from their Midtown offices to the Upper East Side.

Schneider previously analyzed 1.1 billion New York taxi trips.

Divvy is faster than the El, usually

Now that Chicago's bike share has hundreds of stations, its efficiencies are becoming clearer:

But what about convenience? Recently Divvy held its second annual data visualization challenge, and one of the winners, by Shaun Jacobsen at Transitized, compares the speed of Divvy with the speed of the CTA. And Divvy wins by a nose.

Jacobsen’s “Who’s Faster” project starts with a look at the 1,000 top “station pairs"—i.e. the places that people most often go from point A to point B using Divvy. Then, those are compared to the same route on the CTA at noon on a Monday.

And a couple patterns emerge. One is that the bulk of station-to-station trips are faster, centering on five minutes’ savings. It might not sound like much, but it adds up; Jacobsen calculates 32,023 hours saved over 571,634 trips. The other is that the most heavily-used station pairs tend to save more time than less frequently-used ones, as if people are starting to figure out how it works.

Cool stuff.

Bloomingdale Trail opening June 6th

After almost two years, the trail opens June 6th:

Built on a long-defunct railroad line, the trail runs through Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.  Work on the $95 million project began in fall 2013.  Take a look at the path under construction.

When the trail opens, four of the access points will be through ground-level parks: Walsh Park, 1722 N. Ashland Ave.; Churchill Park, 1825 N. Damen Ave.; Julia de Burgos Park, 1805 N. Albany Ave.; and Park 567, 1805 N. Milwaukee Ave.

When completed, the 606 it will include six parks, an event plaza, an observatory, art installations, educational programming and other amenities, Emanuel said in a news release.

Parker and I will take a hike on it as soon as practical—possibly June 7th.