Street Smart Chicago

Checkerboard City: Better Bike Resources for the South and West Sides?

Back of the Yards, Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green, Humboldt Park, Little Village No Comments »

Robert Calvin rides on the “enhanced sharrows” on Lake Street in Austin. Photo: John Greenfield


By John Greenfield

Last month, African-American cyclists Oboi Reed, Peter Taylor and Shawn Conley released an open letter asking the city, state, and local advocacy groups for a more equitable distribution of bike resources to Chicago’s black communities. Read the letter at

They noted that there’s generally a higher density of bike lanes, with better connectivity, downtown and on the North Side. “Stuff on the South Side and the West Side has really been hit-or-miss, putting in a bike lane that goes from nowhere to nowhere, not really connecting destinations,” Taylor told me.

That’s the case with a couple of the recently striped bikeways I checked out on the West and South Sides last week. The city installed segments of buffered bike lanes–with additional space striped on one or both sides–on Pershing between Western and Ashland, and on 63rd between Central Park and Western, as part of successful road diets. However the new BBLs are “orphans,” because they don’t link up with any other bikeways. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Like CLOCC Work

Brighton Park, Checkerboard City, Green, Humboldt Park, Pilsen No Comments »

Grant Vitale leads a walkability assessment in Pilsen. Photo courtesy of CLOCC.

“The built environment plays a huge role when it comes to people being able to be physically active, ” says Grant Vitale, community programs manager for the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC). The group, based out of the Lurie Children’s Hospital, is an association of many local, statewide and national organizations working to help kids maintain healthy weight levels by encouraging better nutrition, as well as walking, biking and active play.

The rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled over the last three decades, and in 2008 Chicago’s obesity rate for young kids entering school was 22 percent, more than twice the national average. In some neighborhoods, mostly low-income African-American and Latino communities, over half of all children are overweight or obese. These areas tend to have less green space and higher pedestrian crash rates than wealthier neighborhoods, which discourages active transportation and recreation.

Over the last two years, CLOCC has partnered with the Chicago Department of Public Health on a $5.8 million, federally funded anti-obesity campaign called Healthy Places. The program has focused on creating safe streets and parks, as well as creating healthier schools, eliminating food deserts and promoting breast feeding. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Life in the Bus Lane

Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Humboldt Park, Loop, News etc., Politics, Transit 3 Comments »

Proposed BRT configuration/Image courtesy of CTA

By John Greenfield

“It comes down to: how do Chicagoans want their streets?” said Chris Ziemann, the city’s bus-rapid-transit project manager, as we drank coffee downstairs from the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) downtown headquarters last week. “Do they want them to be congested every day at rush hour with gridlocked vehicles? Or do they want fast, reliable bus service and nice, comfortable conditions for walking?”

As car-dominated transportation systems become increasingly dysfunctional, more U.S. cities are looking to bus rapid transit (BRT) as a solution. BRT delivers subway-like speed and efficiency at relatively low costs through upgrades to existing streets rather than new rail lines. These improvements can include dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding at stations in the road median, bus-priority stoplights and more. BRT is already common in Latin America, Europe and Asia, and it’s currently being piloted in dozens of American cities. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: 5K for Earth Day (April 21, 2012)

Humboldt Park, Running 1 Comment »

Designating the starting line of its third annual race with an extensive pre-existing crack in the bridge on Sacramento Avenue that sits roughly in the center of Humboldt Park, the 5K for Earth Day makes its intended “community event” vibe more than clear. Standing on a small platform, with a microphone hooked up via several extension cords, race director Roberto Chavez exudes excitement, announcing the race’s sponsors, bringing up a participant to sing the anthem, warning of speed bumps on the course and then leading the roughly 400 runners through a series of increasingly intense pre-race exercises, concluding with ten “burpees.” Warm-up indeed. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Bike and Proud

Bronzeville, Checkerboard City, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Pilsen 1 Comment »

Eboni Senai Hawkins/Photo: Richard Pack

By John Greenfield

All Chicagoans should have a chance to reap the benefits of urban cycling: cheap, convenient transportation, improved physical and mental health and good times with friends and family. The proliferation of nonprofit bicycle shops and youth education programs, along with the rising popularity of fixies among inner-city teens, is starting to broaden the demographics of cycling here. But the local bike scene still doesn’t reflect our city’s ethnic and economic diversity. Eboni Senai Hawkins wants to change that. The thirty-four year old recently launched the Chicago chapter of Red Bike and Green, a nationwide group that promotes bicycling in the black community. Read the rest of this entry »

Women on Wheels: West Town Bikes’ Female-Friendly Classes Take the Machismo out of Mechanics

Bicycling, Humboldt Park No Comments »

Photo: Dottie Brackett

By John Greenfield

Chicago is blessed with five nonprofit bicycle education centers where locals can learn to ride safely or turn a wrench, spread across the city from Lakeside Velo Works in the South Chicago neighborhood to the Recyclery in Rogers Park. These community bike shops strive to be inclusive, but when most of the other participants are guys, a female who’s new to cycling or mechanics might feel out of her element. Fortunately, West Town Bikes in Humboldt Park offers a couple of cool programs just for the ladies.

West Town is located between the giant flag arches on Division Street’s Paseo Boricua (Puerto Rican Way). Since 2004 the nonprofit has run bike safety and mechanics programs for thousands of underserved young people, mostly taught off-site at schools and community centers, plus maintenance and repair classes for adults. Ciclo Urbano (Urban Bike), a full-service shop at the front of the space, helps fund these endeavors through sales of refurbished rides and repair work. Read the rest of this entry »

Cycle of Regeneration: A bicycle store dies, a bike shop café is born

Bicycling, Food & Drink, Humboldt Park, Lakeview, Transit, Wicker Park No Comments »

Michael Salvatore outside soon-to-open Heritage Bicycles/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Chicago just lost one of its coolest bike shops, but we’re gaining one that may be even cooler. Last week Dutch Bike Co. abruptly closed its Chicago location, only three months after relocating from Lincoln Park to Wicker Park. Founded in Seattle, the company opened its only satellite store three years ago at 651 West Armitage in a gallery-like storefront. They offered beautiful, practical European-style city bikes by brands like WorkCycles and Linus, most costing over $1,000.

This summer the shop moved to 2010 West Pierce, around the corner from Penny’s Noodles, in search of lower rent and higher foot traffic, says owner Dave Schmidt, speaking from Seattle. But even in bike-crazy Wicker Park, sales were not what he’d hoped for. It probably didn’t help matters that Wicker Park mainstay Rapid Transit Cycleshop, 1900 West North, and Copenhagen Cyclery, another Euro-style store at 1375 North Milwaukee, were only a stone’s throw away. Read the rest of this entry »

Ride On: Tour de Fat comes to Palmer Square

Bicycling, City Life, Events, Green, Humboldt Park No Comments »

tourdefatWigs, hats and antennae; wings, fake mustaches and long socks; pirates, cheerleaders and ringmasters—it’s all part of the spectacle Saturday at the Tour de Fat in Palmer Square.

The event, part of an eleven-city tour, highlights biking, beer, creativity and sustainability. New Belgium Brewing Company, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, started the annual tour ten years ago to increase awareness and participation in bike transportation. The day seems all about being as creative and green as possible—on a bike. Read the rest of this entry »

Winter Brake: Biking in the Chicago Cold

Bicycling, Humboldt Park, Little Village, Loop No Comments »

By Stephanie Ratanas

Snow dust whips and swirls near the ground across Daley Plaza, catching on the chains and wheels of dozens of bikes scattered around. The clusters of bikes are reminiscent of a little league practice scene, only these bikes are larger, it’s winter and instead of grass and gravel beneath the bikes, only frigid cement. At 7:30am, with the temperature ten degrees Fahrenheit, thirty to forty people stand clutching steaming cups of coffee and hot chocolate that quickly lose heat. Today, the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation commemorates the coldest day in Chicago history, January 20, 1985, when temperatures reached twenty-seven degrees below zero, with “Winter Bike to Work Day.” A tent is set up on the plaza offering commuters hot drinks and cheesecake as they pedal their way to their respective nine-to-fives. The “bike to work day” event has been held around this celebratory date for the past several years, and for even longer in the summertime. Melody Geraci, one of the organizers, speaks energetically, the cold seeming to have little effect on her. “We get a pretty reliable number of folks every year,” she says. Roughly 150 to 175 bikers are expected to pass through the event on their way to work. “Lots of regular bicycle commuters, but the event also encourages people to try biking in the winter, and see that it’s not as scary as it seems.”
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Bohemian Rhapsody: University of Chicago profs study the migration of hipsters and other urban phenomena

Andersonville, Bridgeport, Bucktown, City Life, Edgewater, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Irving Park, Kenwood, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Little Village, Logan Square, News etc., North Center, Pilsen, Roscoe Village, South Shore, Ukrainian Village, Uptown, Washington Park, Wicker Park, Wrigleyville No Comments »

By Sean Redmond

Entering Wicker Park by the Blue Line, you emerge into the intersection of Damen, North and Milwaukee to a long-familiar sight. There’s the Double Door across the street, Flash Taco and, until just recently, the façade of Filter, Wicker Park’s former hipster coffeehouse extraordinaire. These staples, like many along these primary roadways, fade into the background with repeated visits; yes, you know you can find Reckless Records and American Apparel and the venues and art galleries in the surrounding area, but getting where you want to go requires little thought once you’re situated enough to put your eyes to the sidewalk and your feet into autopilot. But then one day, you get off the train and, surprise, the boarded-up shell of Filter is replaced with an expansive Bank of America, and your mind jolts back into motion. Suddenly, a wave of thoughts bursts forth: “Man, there are a lot of banks in the area,”or “Wicker Park really is getting commercialized,” or  “Maybe I need to start spending more time in Logan Square.”
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