Street Smart Chicago

Checkerboard City: Norway or the Highway?

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Loop, Transit No Comments »
Madison Street, part of the Loop Link bus route, could be made car-free. Photo: John Greenfield

Maybe Madison Street, part of the Loop Link bus route, could be made car-free/Photo: John Greenfield

“I think we should look to countries like Denmark, and Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they’ve accomplished,” socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said recently. That statement surely gave the Republicans hives.

One area where U.S. cities like Chicago should definitely look to Scandinavia for inspiration is traffic management. Last month, the newly elected city council of Oslo, Norway, announced that it plans to make the central city free of private cars by 2019. It’s part of a plan to cut greenhouse emissions in half within five years, as compared to 1990 levels.

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Checkerboard City: The Rebel Transportation Commissioner

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green, Lit No Comments »

Gabe Klein (left) toasts the new riverwalk with Active Transportation Alliance cofounder Randy Neufeld/Photo: Steven Vance

Ex-Chicago Department of Transportation chief Gabe Klein says that when he returned to Chicago earlier this month for his first real visit since he resigned almost two years ago, it was a highly emotional experience. He was finally able to see the Bloomingdale Trail and the Chicago Riverwalk extension, projects that he spearheaded as commissioner, filled with people enjoying themselves. “It reinforced to me that there’s such a huge demand, particularly in urban spaces, just for great places to hang out.”

Klein was in town for a conference on “shared mobility” tools like bike-sharing and car-sharing. He was partly there to talk up his new book “Start-Up City: Inspiring Private & Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, & Having Fun” (Island Press), a primer on how to quickly make improvements to cities in the face of grinding bureaucracy. Disclosure: I contributed a photo for the pint-sized paperback, of the commissioner striding diagonally across Jackson and State during the ribbon cutting for the city’s first “pedestrian scramble” intersection.

Klein came to CDOT in May of 2011 as part of the Rahm Emanuel administration, following a stint as director of the Washington, D.C. transportation department. During his two-and-a-half years in Chicago he also launched the (highly controversial) speed camera program, built dozens of miles of buffered and protected bike lanes, created the Divvy bike-share system, and planned the Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor. He says he quit the job to move back to D.C. for the birth of his daughter Simone, whose name was partly inspired by noted Chicagophile Simone de Beauvoir. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Divvy for Everyone Makes Bike-Share More Accessible

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Garfield Park, Green No Comments »

Divvy employee Michael Clark (red cap) and friends take a spin in East Garfield Park./Photo: John Greenfield

Before the Divvy bike-share system launched in June of 2013, city officials promised that attracting an ethnically and economically diverse ridership was a top priority. “Since we’re using public dollars, it’s important that the folks who are using the service reflect everybody in the community,” said Scott Kubly, deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation at the time. “It’s a challenge, but we’re going to crack it.”

That hasn’t happened yet. Like most American bike-share systems, Divvy’s membership has skewed white, male, young, educated and relatively affluent.

The system currently has about 30,000 annual members. Of the hundreds who responded to a recent survey, sixty-five percent were male, and seventy-nine percent were non-Hispanic whites—a group that makes up only about thirty-two percent of the city’s population. The average age was thirty-four, the majority of respondents have middle-to-upper incomes, and ninety-three percent have a college degree or more.

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Checkerboard City: Biking in Boston – It’s More Than A Feeling

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green No Comments »
Pete Stidman with the Cambridge bike counter. Why can't we get one of these on Milwaukee? Photo: John Greenfield

Pete Stidman with the Cambridge bike counter. Why can’t we get one of these on Milwaukee Avenue? Photo: John Greenfield

When Pete Stidman, the former director of the Boston Cyclists Union, visited Chicago for a conference a couple of summers ago, I let him crash on my futon. I have since realized that the blazing temperatures in my Logan Square living room on that particular weekend made sleep nearly impossible. I visited my cousin in Beantown last month and Stidman, who’s now working as the active transportation specialist at a planning firm, returned that (dubious) favor by taking me on a bicycle tour of the area’s burgeoning bike network.

Boston, a city of 655,884 residents (4,628,910 metro) has come a long way since 1999, when Bicycling Magazine ranked it as the nation’s worst city for biking. When I meet up with Stidman at the lovely Brewer Fountain in Boston Common, the city’s biggest downtown green space, he explains that much of the blame for that title can be traced to the city’s then-large population of “vehicular cyclists.”

Vehicular cyclists are cult followers of John Forester, author of the book “Effective Cycling” and son of “The African Queen” writer C.S. Forester. John preaches that cyclists are safest when they operate like drivers, pedaling in the center of the lane. Of course, most people aren’t willing or able to bike twenty miles per hour to keep up with cars, but Boston’s Foresterites have actively lobbied against installing bike lanes, arguing that they’re unnecessary and, paradoxically, dangerous.

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Checkerboard City: Hittin’ (Up) the Bong

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green No Comments »
Photo: John Greenfield

Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

I like to think of myself as a gonzo transportation journalist, the Hunter S. Thompson of pedestrian, transit and bike writing. After all, I’m the guy who wrote the book “Bars Across America: Drinking and Biking From Coast to Coast.” But I steer clear of drunk cycling, and I’ve had little experience with illegal mind-altering substances on my car-free road trips. One bicycle journey I took from Kansas City to St. Louis along the Katy Trail did end in a psychedelic mishap, but that’s a tale for another day.

However, I had a smokin’ good time in late August on a train-and-bike excursion to Richard Bong State Recreation Area in southeast Wisconsin. It was the latest of several fun excursions I’ve done this summer, taking advantage of Chicago’s status as the nation’s railroad hub, with great Amtrak access, plus convenient commuter rail service via Metra and the South Shore Line.

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Checkerboard City: Dense Thinking

Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Lakeview, Logan Square No Comments »

The 1611 West Division building has 99 units but zero parking for residents./Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Believe it or not, back in the early nineties, ex-mayor Richard M. Daley was planning to tear out an entire branch of the El system. “The Lake Street branch of what’s now the Green Line had terrible slow zones and you could almost walk to Oak Park faster,” recalls Jacky Grimshaw, the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s vice president for policy. “The mayor and the CTA president wanted to take it down.”

Grimshaw says this moment of crisis was the birth of Chicago’s transit-oriented development (TOD) movement, a push to create dense, parking-light housing and retail near rapid-transit stations in order to reduce car dependency. CNT and the West Side community organization Bethel New Life teamed up to present the CTA with a plan for TOD near the Lake/Pulaski stop, but it fell on deaf ears. Read the rest of this entry »

Lollapalooza’s Green Street: The Official Guide to the Festival’s Face of Social Responsibility 2015

Events, Green No Comments »

For Newcity’s coverage of the music of Lollapalooza, click here.

Photo courtesy of Lollapalooza

Photo courtesy of Lollapalooza

Excitement is in the air. Lollapalooza returns to Grant Park this year from July 31 to August 2 featuring a lineup highlighted by Metallica, Paul McCartney and more.

The festival hosts 142 musical acts on eight stages and 100,000 fans and promises to be a weekend for everyone to remember.

Smackdab in the heart of the festivities, Green Street holds true to all of the Festival’s core values of social responsibility and environmental stewardship. It is home to a curated art market, activations by non-profit organizations, farm-to-festival fare, and environmental efforts.

Mosey on by in-between sets to shop the Greet Street Art Market where you’ll find treasures ranging from music inspired paintings to upcycled accessories and ethically traded international artwork.  

Swing by the Lolla Farmers Market to enjoy small-batch, homegrown Chicago flavors and hob-knob with the locally sourced vendors while satisfying your conscious cravings! Read the rest of this entry »

Waste Not: How Lollapalooza Handles Its Trash

Events, Green No Comments »
Rock & Recycle/Photo: Lollapalooza

Rock & Recycle/Photo: Lollapalooza

Part of the Official Guide to Lollapalooza’s Green Street

By Brian Hieggelke

Like every major event in Grant Park, Lollapalooza patrons generate tons of waste. We’ve always been impressed, though, by how earnestly Lollapalooza works to mitigate its impact on the park, and the environment in general, by on-site initiatives as well as the larger emphasis on social causes that the Lolla Cares section of Green Street promotes. We corresponded by email with Alysha N. Hernández, who oversees environmental initiatives for the festival, about this topic.

With so many festival goers spending three days in Grant Park, eating and drinking as well as listening to music, Lollapalooza must generate tons of garbage. 
The Festival has many diversion efforts in place to keep waste out of the landfill. Grant Park is cherished by Lollapalooza and its festival producers, C3 Presents. In 2014, for example, our waste diversion efforts at the festival resulted in 131 tons of recycled or composted material thanks to fans and staff. Lollapalooza works hard to keep Grant Park and the planet healthy and enjoyable for generations to come. We also work to engage the patrons to join in the act, so it’s a two-pronged waste diversion approach… .the festival producers and the patrons. The success of the recycling and composting programs requires participation from everyone! Read the rest of this entry »

What Makes Lollapalooza Green 2015

Events, Green No Comments »


Waste Diversion
Waste diversion is aggressively practiced both backstage and front-of-house with an incentive program for fans called Rock & Recycle. Hundreds of recycling bins, composting stations in the picnic areas, and a team of hired professionals and dedicated Love Hope Strength Foundation Ambassadors support the effort to divert waste in a huge way. Please help divert waste from the landfill by selecting the correct bin before tossing your waste. You can also reduce your waste by refilling your water container at one of the five CamelBak Filling Stations. Over the past five years, Lollapalooza fans poured enough water to fill over 1.4 million water bottles!

Rock & Recycle Program
Rock out, recycle, and get rewarded with a free collectible Lollapalooza 2015 t-shirt! You can also earn a chance to win a new bike for some eco-friendly transportation around town or 2016 Festival tickets! Feel free to mail a card by Recycled Paper Greetings to a special someone you are missing at the show.

Visit one of the four Rock & Recycle centers throughout the park for more details! Read the rest of this entry »

Lollapalooza Green Street 2015: Art Market

Events, Green No Comments »
Photo: Lollapalooza

Photo: Lollapalooza

Part of the Official Guide to Lollapalooza’s Green Street 

The Art Market vendors, located in Green Street North and South, sell repurposed or ethically sourced goods. Read the rest of this entry »