The Chainlink

I was thinking it might be interesting to try and do this somewhere in Chicago. I think it'd be a lot easier to team up with a few others. Would anyone be interested in doing this, or have any ideas for a street (or streets) to place the cups?

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I respect that you don't want to get into the whole protected bike lanes thing because it's not a simple issue, but yet here we are. Below are my thoughts on the topic:  

I love shared streets. They look like this:

These streets can be found in many European cities and areas where people prioritize walking and biking over driving. These designs are appropriate for low-volume residential streets and put cyclists and pedestrians first, and cars last.  If we're talking about redesigning many of Chicago's streets to be this style of low-volume residential streets where cars rarely exceed 10-15mph, I totally agree and we should be building these everywhere we can. The reality is that most people see this as unrealistic and want some streets that can accommodate higher volumes of vehicles at faster speeds. 

These higher volume streets historically have been designed to prioritize motor vehicles, and are generally not comfortable places to ride a bike or walk. While some cyclists may be comfortable riding on these streets and demanding that motorists share the lane, many others (particularly kids) are not. Motorists also kill pedestrians and cyclists at alarming rates, so even those that agree and want to share lanes with cyclists are often incapable of doing so safely.

The result is that higher volume streets that lack dedicated space for cyclists become barriers to biking. Many cities have attempted to address this by adding painted bike lanes, which is a cheap and quick fix. The "red cup project" aims to highlight why paint is ineffective and two responses in this thread have very succinctly illustrated why:

  1. Paint is "WILDLY below the line of sight for a driver" 
  2. Paint does nothing to prevent "drivers using the bike line for the extra road"

Addressing both of these is why protected bike infrastructure is recommended for higher-volume streets:

This design provides space for higher volumes of vehicles moving at faster speeds, but also provides dedicated spaces for bikes and pedestrians that are more visible to motorists, and less tempting for them to drive and park in.

Protected bike lane infrastructure removes barriers to biking and makes cycling a more viable mode of transportation for all users in areas that have historically prioritized motor vehicles.  Without proper bike infrastructure, most people will continue to prioritize motor vehicles as a means of transportation and therefore will continue demanding wider/higher volume roads and fewer low-volume shared streets.

clp, is that you? what have you done to ketoguychicago ?

I started writing about this over the weekend because it was a success in proving a point in the U.S. as well as a few international cities. It was picked up by the press because it proves out a very important point - you can paint a white stripe on the road for cyclists but if you don't enforce it, if the drivers cross over it / park in it / use it as a loading zone it is essentially useless. 

DC lacks bike lanes but more importantly is fighting for protected bike lanes. I realize this isn't necessarily what is popular opinion in Chicago but DC is a different city. After riding around Chicago streets for years, DC scared me because drivers are less predictable, speed more often than not, pull a U-turn without looking first (u-turns are mostly legal), and streets aren't safe for cyclists with or without bike lanes/sharrows.

As you know, an important advocate was lost a little over a week ago so DC organized the #redcupproject as a protest to illustrate the issues with DC street safety. A lot of cities got involved, having similar problems. I noticed Chicago cyclists did not participate and many complained about the use of red cups. *sigh*

To answer the questions about "why red cups???":

1. They are a good height and color for visibility

2. It is a powerful message when you place them on the bike lane lines and 10 minutes later they are crushed (that's the point, that's why cans weren't used)

3. The people placing the cups stuck around to capture this in video and/or pics

4. It was a very important part of the process to pick up the cups after (not leaving them there, not littering)

In general, DC people are very concerned with plastic straws (most have disappeared, many people decline them) and generally, the cyclists I know fall into the same plastic waste concerns I do (I've eliminated a lot of waste by bringing my own lunch in reusable containers, no straws, no plastic bags - I bring my own backpack). I am typical.

So before calling us entitled and wasteful, understand this was not meant to be an ongoing, everyday occurrence - it was meant in honor of Dave and to make a very effective and strong point. A small amount of waste that would be immediately picked up. It worked - people participated around the country and outside of the US. It bonded cyclists over our concerns about safe streets, and it was picked up by a lot of news agencies.

That same day, we lay down on Pennsylvania Ave in front of the Mayor's office to protest the dangerous streets of DC for cyclists and pedestrians (we also lost a pedestrian walking on the sidewalk 2 days after Dave was killed). If you lived in DC, you'd understand what heartbreak we are all feeling. He was an incredibly nice guy, very helpful and very committed to biking and walking safely in DC. It's a huge loss. 

128 people have been lost to traffic crashes in DC since Mayor Bowser took office. I quickly fell in love with this city, this area. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Chicago. The bike community is a big part of why it was so easy for me to assimilate. There is a lot of love with people who ride. Come out to DC, ride with us, and I will buy you a gelato and show you my new city. 

Great post. Thanks.

Thanks Phillip :-)

The idea that a solo cup is a good height for visibility in a demonstration that is supposed to translate to cyclists is... silly at best.

You haven’t disagreed with me before so I’m going to consider this a win. :-) I’m ok if you don’t get the point I made or care to accept the context. 

Well said, Yasmeen.

Thanks Anne :-)

Arent these always getting run over?

I'm trying to get some installed on median islands - slightly better visibility AND much lower chance of them getting run over.

Indeed they are, and so are plastic bollards on the edge of bike lanes on roads like Randolph, between Michigan Ave. and the lake, for example. The fact that drivers cannot seem to avoid smashing these clearly visible road obstacles just goes to show how utterly terrible people are at judging the position of their vehicles on the roadway, and at driving in general.


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