The Chainlink

How do you feel about Bike Ambassadors / CPD safety outreach efforts?

For a Streetsblog Chicago post, on Thursday I interviewed staff from the city's Bike Ambassadors and the Chicago Police Department while they were doing an outreach event at Armitage/Milwaukee. The ambassadors were handing flyers to motorists and bicyclists reminding them not to use cell phones while driving and to obey traffic signals while biking. The police were flagging down adult cyclists who were riding on the sidewalk or who ran a red light and giving them (seemingly polite) warnings that what they did is illegal. For the Streetsblog post, what are your thoughts about these kind of outreach events? Do you think they're helpful in encouraging safe behavior by drivers and cyclists?

Thanks,

John Greenfield

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Yes and No.   They are very good at following the party line and thus, for example, are insistent that things such as the Lawrence Avenue bike lanes are a "good idea" and they are unwilling to consider the alternatives.   I am reminded a good deal of the Edsel and U.S. passenger train system in which critical thinking does not apply and the net result is the creation of too many layers of regulation obscuring the real purposes,  (The "Accela" Train on the Northeast Corridor was called La Couchon (the Pig) by the builders.   U.S. Trains are designed with the theory that they are going to crash and thus have heavy infrastructure to survive the crash.   European trains are designed with the theory that a lighter train is far less likely to crash and that "crushability" will reduce injuries.    The Pig was build with a European Design that was then "strengthened" to meet the US requirements.   The net result was a heavy train that needs more energy to run the same distance, does not ride as well, and is harder on the rails.  And the brake systems began to fail because they were not designed for the weight. )

And ultimately, that's the kind of system advocated by the Bicycle Ambassadors.

David, thanks for the feedback. Why are you opposed to the Lawrence bike lanes, and what alternatives are you interested in?

 Do you think they're helpful in encouraging safe behavior by drivers and cyclists?

NO.

Read my comments on the Kinzie bike lane encounter a few years back. 

 Again if you run a red light on a cycle you're risking your own life, if the intersection is clear it's not a safety issue.

 

As currently constituted, the Lawrence Avenue bike lanes only put bicyclists at greater risk.

1.   They are badly painted and appear and disappear at random.

2.   They place bicycles in a part of the street which has tire-trapping grids (grids with openings wide enough to catch a tire running parallel to the direction of travel.

3.   The "bad" drivers (and the CTA buses) use the bike lanes as "express travel" lanes since the Police do not enforce the bike lanes.   This puts the bicycles and the worst drivers together and often puts the "fast" drivers in the Right Lane.

4.  Lawrence has many left turns.    Cars pass cars turning left by simply pulling through the bike lane without looking.

5.  Lawrence has lots of parked cars.  This means dooring and cars pulling into parking places without looking.

6.   The pavement in the "bike lanes" is in bad shape. 

7.  Cars turning left from the opposing direction, turn right through the bike lanes without looking.

The solution is pretty easy.  Move the bike lanes off of the major arterials.  For example, Ainslie is a one way East Bound which runs parallel to Lawrence for a large portion of its length.   Get rid of parking on one side, auto cul de sac it at a few places (Bike can get through, Car cannot), convert the stop signs to yield signs on Ainslie, keep the lights at the major intersections, and run a bike lane down it.  Find another street running west and do the same thing.   

David, thanks for the info.

As you may know, Lawrence is slated for a road diet this summer between Ashland and Western that will remove car travel lanes to make room for left-turn lanes, wider sidewalks and bike lanes. That should help calm traffic: http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130501/lincoln-square/lawrence-ave...

Also, Leland, two block south of Ainslie, is slated to get a "neighborhood greenway," similar to what you described, between Clark and Clarendon next year: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/04/04/46th-ward-residents-can-vote-...

I can understand the good intentions behind such events, but ultimately think they're a waste of time and resources.  Those resources could be put to better use giving those polite warnings to the drivers of vehicles that are much more numerous and far more likely to cause injury or death.

As it is, they're just picking on easy targets. Stand at the intersection during one of those events and count the number of motorists talking on cell phones, or rolling through stop signs, or speeding up for yellow/red lights, or failing to signal properly (you're going to need some help to do this).  If the police pulled over every car doing these things at an intersection, they'd cause a massive traffic jam trying to find spaces to pull over all the offenders.  Its much easier to target a bike.

Educational efforts are always beneficial, in my opinion. However, there can and should be more effort on placing signage around bike lanes and educating drivers (maybe via "sting operations"?) about bike lanes to reduce (mis)use, in addition to the efforts you describe. Efforts to educate cyclists about traffic laws, including pedestrians' right of way, is not misplaced based on my observation and experience.

Does me no good.  I use it West of Western all the way to Austin.  (I should say the City says I should use it.... I have my own alternate routes that are better....)

John Greenfield said:

David, thanks for the info.

As you may know, Lawrence is slated for a road diet this summer between Ashland and Western that will remove car travel lanes to make room for left-turn lanes, wider sidewalks and bike lanes. That should help calm traffic: http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130501/lincoln-square/lawrence-ave...

Also, Leland, two block south of Ainslie, is slated to get a "neighborhood greenway," similar to what you described, between Clark and Clarendon next year: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/04/04/46th-ward-residents-can-vote-...

Actually I used to think that, but I have been exploring.   Ainslie eastbound from Elston runs all the way to the North Branch.    All major streets have lights, all minor streets have stop signs, few speed bumps, new pavement.   Ainslie's also good just past Cicero all the way to Milwaukee.   It leaves only a few blocks on Lawrence....

Wilson is great as far as it goes (and you can get past Pulaski and with a couple of little jogs, all the way to the East side of the Edens before you have to get to Lawrence...)  At Pulaski, turn left, take next right (Wilson) ride it to the angle street, take it up to the end.  Turn left, cross Elston, ride straight up the street to the street paralleling the East Side of the Edens, turn right, ride to Lawrence (at the Bridge) take Lawrence across the bridge and under the train tracks, turn right on Lamon, take to Ainslie, turn left of Ainslie..  that gets you all the way to Milwaukee/Higgins

Cameron 7.5 mi said:

Lawrence is an absolutely terrible place to ride, smack in the middle of several bike friendly neighborhoods. It's probably the worst east/west street between Irving Park and Foster to ride on. Any map encouraging people to ride on Lawrence are doing them a huge disservice. Lawrence somewhat randomly alternates between two lanes with a bike lane and four lanes with sharrows with leads to aggressive drivers trying to pass on the right squeezing out cyclists. Traffic is heavy and times fast. The pavement conditions are terrible. Between Pulaski and the Lake, Wilson is a much better option. West of there, there really aren't any good options until west of the expressways.

Cameron, like I said, the 4-to-3 conversion and repaving on Lawrence this summer between Ashland and Western will mitigate some of these issues.

woo-hoo!!!!  Can't wait for Lawrence Ave road diet! 


John Greenfield said:

Cameron, like I said, the 4-to-3 conversion and repaving on Lawrence this summer between Ashland and Western will mitigate some of these issues.

I think telling cyclists that running red lights is illegal is about as ineffective as you can be. We all know it's illegal yet most of us do it anyway when we feel conditions are safe enough.  And that's the point.  If someone doesn't think what they're doing is wrong even if illegal then you won't change behavior.  Giving a driver a speeding ticket for going 37 in a 35 will not change that driver's behavior because they probably don't think they're doing anything wrong. 

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