Street Smart Chicago

Checkerboard City: Rickshaw Republic

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Wrigleyville No Comments »
Darren Hilton outside Wrigley Field. Photo: Peter Mueller

Darren Hilton outside Wrigley Field/Photo: Peter Mueller

By John Greenfield

“Some people think pedicabbers are nuisance, but we’re really only here to help people,” says Darren Hilton, forty-two. A former bicycle messenger, he’s been in the bike taxi business for five years. “As pedicab operators, our job is to give visitors red-carpet service and keep them coming back to Chicago.”

Hilton says Chicago’s pedicab ordinance, which passed City Council about a year ago, is too restrictive, and has led to some of his colleagues being slapped with thousands of dollars in fines. He has received a few $500 tickets himself.

The purpose of the local ordinance was to regulate what some officials saw as a somewhat anarchic industry. The law was introduced by 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, whose district includes Wrigley Field. Downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly pushed to include geographic restrictions: pedicabbers are now banned from State and Michigan, between Congress and Oak, at all times. They’re also prohibited from working in the Loop during rush hours. Read the rest of this entry »

The Parking Game: There’s Lots of Competition in Wrigleyville. Lots and Lots.

City Life, Sports, Wrigleyville 2 Comments »
Photo: John Moss

Photo: John Moss

By John Moss

To check the pulse of the Chicago Cubs during any given season, you can take in a game at Wrigley Field or follow the team on television, through the box scores, or in the standings. You can glance up at the flag flying above the center field scoreboard as you pass by on the train, white for a victory that day, blue for a loss. Or, a less obvious yet still effective method, you can simply go by what the lots around the stadium, most of which are owned independently of the team, are charging for a place to park during a game.

Unlike at U.S. Cellular Field, the United Center and Toyota Park, where Chicago’s other professional sports teams play, no great sea of parking space exists outside Wrigley Field; instead, it is more like a cluster of small ponds. One-hundred years old last April, Wrigley is famously situated in the middle of a residential neighborhood. One moment you are walking north on tree-lined Sheffield Avenue past a row of three-flats, then all of a sudden there it is—an overwhelming burst of concrete and steel dwarfing you and everything in its shadow: a 40,000-plus-capacity baseball stadium.

At the time Wrigley was built, its location, a few steps from the El and within bustling turn-of-the-century Lakeview, made it ideal, Margaret Gripshover notes  in her essay, “Lake View, Baseball, and Wrigleyville: The History of a Chicago Neighborhood.” Most fans back then would have traveled to the game on foot or by train.

Wrigley Field is so old that only after automobiles became prevalent did its location become problematic. To say nothing of today, back in the early fifties the ward’s alderman cited parking and congestion as the main problems in the area, with the area around Wrigley, later to be known as Wrigleyville, being the worst. Any chunk of space could help ease the parking burden. A convent that once stood on the 1100 block of West Grace, a few blocks north of the stadium, allowed Cubs fans to park there on game days for a donation (though the operation later came under investigation, the Sisters having since contracted out to a private firm, for parking without a license). Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: A Walk on the Wild Side

Bicycling, Bucktown, Checkerboard City, Green, Transit No Comments »
Rebecca Geissler and Tim Garibay. Photo: Katharine Rovinsky

Rebecca Geissler and Tim Garibay/Photo: Katharine Rovinsky

By John Greenfield

As someone who’s pedaled three sides of the Continental United States, I can tell you that traveling cross-country by human power is an amazing way to see this great land of ours. You experience the geography and the people in a totally different manner than you would rushing by at eighty miles per hour.

Two young Chicago urban planners will soon be traveling coast-to-coast in an even more intimate way than I did. This April, Rebecca Geissler and Tim Garibay, both twenty-seven, will embark on an epic walking trip from the Golden Gate Bridge to Coney Island. They expect that, hiking about thirty miles a day, they’ll complete the roughly 3,300-mile pilgrimage in four or five months.

“I’ve secretly always wanted to run away from home,” she explains. “Not in a negative sense, but I think it’s going to be very liberating to drop everything and go out and see what happens.” Read the rest of this entry »

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 tinyurl.com/BikeEquity.

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 »

The Quarrywomen: How a Group of South Shore “Divas” Are Defying the Odds

City Life, Holidays, South Shore 3 Comments »
Veronica Kyle/Photo: Natalie Perkins

Veronica Kyle/Photo: Natalie Perkins

By Krisann Rehbein

I’m proud to say that the paper snowflakes were my idea. When my cab pulled up in front of The Quarry at the intersection of 75th and Phillips, my heart sank a little. Excited for the opportunity to write about an arts and artisan holiday pop-up market in South Shore, I was expecting things to look a little more festive. My cab driver was confused. There were bars on the windows and a combination of butcher paper and foam sheets slipped between the glass and the security bars.

A team of volunteer market decorators were assembled inside, staring at the bars. There was a general sense of anxiety. The owner of the space, Suzanne Armstrong, said the paper and foam could be removed as long as something went up that prevented people from looking inside. While worried a bit about crime, she was more concerned that curious passersby would walk in all day. The Quarry isn’t yet ready to operate outside of scheduled rental events.

My mind was spinning with this unfortunate design problem. I know! Paper snowflakes! I grabbed a pair of scissors and some scrap paper, whipped out a paper snowflake and stuck it on the foam outside of the bars. Somehow, it looked like snow. We could do this. Everyone started making snowflakes like crazy. In about an hour, it actually looked festive.

This is a story about women who are trying to make positive change in their community, against some unexpected odds. The holiday market was created by Veronica Kyle and Natalie Perkins with input and support from countless others. Collectively, they believe that artists can change communities for the better. Veronica got the idea while working with friends Mary Steenson and Sharon Louis Harris on an effort called the South Shore Sustainability Collaborative. That was four years ago. In the interim, they created a community garden, took over an adjacent vacant lot and constructed a community “hospitality table” and developed architectural tours with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (which I ran while I was on staff). No one had time to execute the pop-up vision. When Veronica met Natalie in August, the idea reemerged. “I don’t think people ever have time to execute the vision. Ultimately, you just step out and start doing the damn thing. I am just as busy now as I was four years ago. The thing is, I’ve learned a lot about the neighborhood in that time.” Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: A New Hope for the Chicago Velo Campus?

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green, Southeast Side 1 Comment »
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Taking a spin on the outdoor track/Photo: Chicago Velo Campus

By John Greenfield

Sadly, it looks like bike racer Emanuele Bianchi’s dream of building the $45 million Chicago Velo Campus indoor sports complex has come to the end of the road. Even the small outdoor velodrome he and his partners installed on the Southeast Side as a temporary facility is slated to be dismantled. However, there’s a glimmer of hope that that bike track—the only one in the city—can be saved, thanks to Chicago bike-scene mainstay Marcus Moore.

“Our goal isn’t just to build the best velodrome in the Midwest or in the country but in the world,” said Bianchi with a gleam in his eye back in 2010, when I interviewed him for a Newcity cover story. He and fellow racing enthusiasts had recently formed the Chicago Velo Campus corporation and announced an audacious scheme to build a stadium almost as big as the United Center by 2013.

Bianchi and company planned to build the facility on the former site of U.S. Steel’s South Works, a bulge in the shoreline between 79th and 92nd Streets. They promoted it as the future centerpiece of Lakeside, an upscale, 500-acre community proposed for the site by developer McCaffery Interests.

As the velo campus’ president, Bianchi said the indoor facility would include the 250-meter velodrome, plus a dazzling array of other amenities. There’d be an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a 400-meter running track, a fitness center, restaurants, a cycling museum and even a wind tunnel.

Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Gifts for Transportation Geeks

Checkerboard City, Green, Holidays, Lakeview, Rogers Park 2 Comments »
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The Recyclery’s t-shirts feature a cool intermeshed chainring design.

By John Greenfield

My holiday wish for 47th Ward CTA riders? The return of the full #11 Lincoln Avenue bus route.

For everyone else, here are some groovy gift ideas for transit, walking and bike enthusiasts. Most of these Chicago-centric goods and services are homegrown, so you’ll be supporting local businesses and organizations, while minimizing the amount of gasoline burned in transporting schwag to stores.

Up in Rogers Park, the Recyclery offers bike safety and mechanics instruction for kids, plus open shop sessions and maintenance classes for adults. They also donate refurbished bikes to refugees, people experiencing homelessness, and low-income families. You can help fund their good work by purchasing gifts from their online store. Gift cards are available for bike upgrades at an open shop session ($30), a two-part tune-up class ($75), a six-week overhaul class ($180), or a used bike, helmet and lock ($300). They also sell Recyclery t-shirts, featuring a beautiful intermeshed gears design ($25), and limited-edition posters by local artist Jay Ryan, with a fanciful image of the shop overrun by cats and bears ($25). The Recyclery, 7628 North Paulina, TheRecyclery.org.

Another organization that deserves your support is the Active Transportation Alliance, which advocates for better conditions for walking, biking and transit across the region. You can buy gift memberships online for as low as $35. In addition to bankrolling the group’s work, an Active Trans membership includes discounts at more than 100 bike shops and small businesses, a copy of the regional bike map, and a discount on an annual membership for Divvy bike-share. ActiveTrans.org/membership.

Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Pumpkins in the Park 5K (October 25, 2014)

Lincoln Park, Running No Comments »
Runners nearing the finish line at the Pumpkins in the Park 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman

Runners nearing the finish line at the Pumpkins in the Park 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown:  If ever a race was designed for family-friendliness, the Pumpkins in the Park 5K—with its early afternoon timing, costume contest, trick-or-treating and various distances for young runners—is it. Kicking off at the southwest end of Lincoln Park at 4pm on Saturday, roughly 1,400 runners made their way around the South Field House and the various softball fields before heading north on the west side of the Rowing Lagoon. I’ve been in costume-themed races before but Saturday’s race was awash in them: Batmans (Batmen?), bananas, Gumbys and many more made up a surprising percentage of the participants. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: 95 Problems

Beverly, Checkerboard City, Green, Southeast Side, Transit 1 Comment »
Memorials to the people who died in the Oak Lawn car crash. Photo: John Greenfield

Memorials to the people who died in the Oak Lawn car crash/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

“I avoid 95th Street as much as possible for my safety and sanity,” Beverly resident and transportation advocate Anne Alt told me, in the wake of a horrific multi-car crash on the massive road earlier this month. This senseless disaster in west-suburban Oak Lawn injured almost a dozen people and killed three, including two nuns.

On Sunday, October 5, at around 4:30pm, a man noticed retired contractor Edward Carthans, eighty-one, slumped over the steering wheel of his pickup, police said. Carthans refused help and instead sped west on 95th, colliding with three cars at Keeler. He kept driving, blew a red light at Cicero, and then veered into the eastbound lanes, causing an eleven-car pile-up. After his truck became airborne, he was killed, along with Sister Jean Stickney, eighty-six, and Sister Kab Kyoung Kim, forty-eight, who were driving home from a shopping trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Is There Really a Blue Menace?

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green, Loop 1 Comment »
Detroit native Junior Bashi rides a Divvy on a A Michigan Avenue sidewalk. Photo: John Greenfield

Detroit native Junior Bashi rides on a Michigan Avenue sidewalk/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Chicago’s master bike-baiter, Tribune columnist John Kass, was one of the first local pundits to warn the public about the dangers of Divvy. “I can’t stand those Divvy bike people,” he griped in an online video in August 2013, a couple months after the system launched. “Go outside on Michigan Avenue… Reporters going in and out of this building almost get killed. ‘Cause you’ve got some little old lady from Denmark… and she’s on the sidewalk, and she’s almost smashing into the Polish pedi-bike guys.”

However, more than one year and 2.6 million trips later, the bike-share system has a solid safety record. To date, there have been zero reports of Divvy riders being involved in crashes resulting in serious injuries. What’s more, last August Reuters reported that there have been no bike-share-related deaths in the U.S. since modern bike-share debuted in this country seven years ago. Read the rest of this entry »