Street Smart Chicago

Checkerboard City: Travel Options in the Black Metropolis

Bicycling, Bronzeville, Checkerboard City, Green No Comments »
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Young Bronzeville residents at the Cargo Bike Roll Call/Photo: Steven Vance

By John Greenfield

In the early twentieth century, Chicago’s Bronzeville community, aka the Black Metropolis, was home to African-American innovators and barrier breakers in business, music, art, literature and other fields. Now the neighborhood is ground zero for another first, the Go Bronzeville travel demand management program. This campaign, launched in September by the Chicago Department of Transportation, offers free resources, events and support for residents who want to make more trips via walking, biking, transit and car-sharing, instead of driving alone.

TDM programs in other U.S. cities have helped lower the number of single-occupancy car trips, saving participants time and money while improving their health, as well as fighting traffic jams and lowering emissions. CDOT is using federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds to conduct campaigns in five different Chicago communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Rudolph Ramble (December 15, 2013)

Lincoln Park, News etc., Running No Comments »
The titular rambler/Photo by Zach Freeman

The titular rambler/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown:

Early on in this packed race it became readily apparent why it’s called a “ramble” and not a “dash” (though the Donner Dash is the kid’s race that’s tied in with the Rudolph Ramble). With 1,600 participants, the running paths chosen for the course would have a tough time accommodating everyone on a good day—and Sunday was not a good day. With temperatures in the low teens and mounds of snow left over from Saturday, this course became a bit of a cold slog right from the start, with lengthy backups and crowded conditions throughout. In areas where the trail doubled back on itself, dividing the already narrow trail in half, running became even more difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Jingle Bell Run/Walk (December 14, 2013)

Lincoln Park, News etc., Running No Comments »
Santa and Mrs. Claus mingle with runners before the race

Santa and Mrs. Claus mingle with runners before the race

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown:
Who says you have to go to the suburbs for a challenging trail run? After this morning’s snow-filled Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis, Chicago can boast a race to compete with the best of them —and it takes place right in the heart of Lincoln Park! Starting and finishing in front of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (where most of the brave participants took shelter up until a few minutes before the race kicked off) this large but generally low key charity run morphed under a thick layer of fresh (and constantly falling) snow into a winter wonderland of trail running delight.

But while the snow certainly added a level of difficulty to the proceedings, the temperature (hovering just around 30 degrees) kept it from being a true slog. 10K runners took off on a mostly unplowed course through Lincoln Park at 9am with 5K runners following shortly thereafter. Smiling volunteers lined the course at various intervals, giving out encouragement and high fives. And the picturesque views throughout made any complaints about the course seem frivolous. As runners, when we approach a course like this, we are generally saying (though not in so many words): “My life is cushy enough that I feel the need to introduce arbitrary obstacles into it so that I may overcome them.” This morning the Jingle Bell Run/Walk provided just such an obstacle. And it was a blast to overcome it.

As an added bonus, Santa and Mrs. Claus were waiting inside after the race where runners could get a photo with them. Read the rest of this entry »

Boze Narodzenie: A Brighton Park Memoir

Brighton Park No Comments »
Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf at a White House credentialing ceremony with President Barack Obama, January 14, 2013. Photo: U.S. Dept. of State.

Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf at a White House credentialing ceremony with President Barack Obama, January 14, 2013. Photo: U.S. Dept. of State.

By Martin Northway

“In Poland, government is a crime,” emphasized my friend Ryszard, whom I had met that fall here at the Daily Grind coffeehouse, just off the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington. Ryszard was a visiting professor in history from Warsaw University. Poland was just out from under martial law, but Ryszard remained a clandestine member of Solidarity, the rising national movement to restore democracy.

Among other things, we talked about the “Black Book of Polish Censorship” restricting journalists. In such a state, it was a part-time job for citizens to gather accurate information that affected their loves. “You are so fortunate in this country to have a free press,” despite its flaws, he insisted.

Ryszard spoke in accented but good, very precise English. Besides an interest in history, we shared another bond—while my father’s family goes back to the beginning of this nation, my maternal grandparents came here from Poland around the turn of the twentieth century. When he and I met, I was writing for the company magazine of the diesel engine manufacturer Cummins Engine Co., three years out of my gig as as managing editor of the weekly Brown County Democrat and two years into my divorce. Read the rest of this entry »

When the Aspidistra Was Flying: Home, Among the Bookshelves, For the Holiday

Holidays, Lakeview No Comments »

By Vincent Francone

Thanksgiving, 1996. The Aspidistra Bookshop was open 364 days a year. If it wasn’t Christmas, the store wasn’t going to close. My family refused to believe this. Who would stay open on Thanksgiving?

I explained to my mother that I would not be coming home that year, that even though the trip was short—just an hour or so from Lakeview to the southwest suburbs—I had to open and close the store.

“Who’s going to buy books on Thanksgiving?”

Not a bad question. I didn’t expect many people to wander in, though few surely would, mostly the oddballs who fit right in among the dusty books and empty beer bottles that littered the shop. They haunted Clark Street drinking endless cups of coffee at McDonald’s and trading conspiracy theories before coming to our store to make my day a bit more surreal. They asked me questions like: “Do you know who really discovered  Halley’s Comet?” But they never bought anything. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Don’t Walk

Avondale, Checkerboard City, Green, Transit No Comments »
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Crossing an offramp at Addison/Photo: John Greenfield

The Illinois Department of Transportation isn’t all bad, but it sure seems that way sometimes. Earlier this year, my blogging partner Steven Vance broke the story that IDOT has been blocking the Chicago Department of Transportation from installing protected bike lanes on state-jurisdiction roads. The motives behind the ban aren’t clear yet, but documents the Active Transportation Alliance obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request suggest that, contrary to the state’s explanation, concern for safety isn’t one of them.

Also this year, IDOT rammed the Circle Interchange Expansion through the regional planning process. The project will make room for more cars in the West Loop’s “spaghetti bowl” junction of the Ryan, the Ike and the Kennedy. While this $475 million boondoggle promises to do little to relieve congestion, it will discourage transit use, and its three flyover ramps will degrade the pedestrian environment and lower property values. Read the rest of this entry »

Greaser Girls: Fixing a New Biker Identity

City Life, Ukrainian Village No Comments »
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Crystal Kimmey and Kamaca Reavis

By Charlie Puckett

Tucked away in a Ukrainian Village alley off of Bishop Street, there are two women in a garage full of horsepower attracting askance glances and stares of jealousy alike. If you are a Ukrainian Villager, chances are you’ve never seen the garage or met Kamaca Reavis and Crystal Kimmey, but you’ve probably heard the engines of their vintage vehicles splitting apart a quiet afternoon, or you’ve heard a friend say, “I saw the craziest thing today walking down Chicago Avenue.” The spectacle your friend’s talking about could have been Reavis and Kimmey and their eight-year-old son idling in one of their vintage BMW sidecar motorcycles at a stoplight.

If your friend was staring, and Kimmey saw it, she may have said this to her son: “Seamus, sweetie, ask that nice man if he doesn’t like the color of my dress or if he’s constipated.” When that eight-year-old kid in a Star Wars X-Wing helmet leaned over in the sidecar to ask the question, that’s the moment your friend probably had his constipation relieved and whispered desperate supplications for the light to turn green. That’s just the kind of neutral response Kimmey is used to throwing out there before she shifts into first and rips away. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital RBC Race for the Kids 5K Run (October 6, 2013)

-Neighborhood/Suburb, Hyde Park, News etc., Running No Comments »

RECOMMENDED RACE

Comer5KBreakdown:

While there are a large number of races taking place in Chicago throughout the year in various northern sections of the city (Lincoln Park, Montrose Harbor and Grant Park come to mind) aside from the two popular halfs (Chicago Half Marathon and the Chicago 13.1 Marathon), there aren’t a lot of racing opportunities south of Museum Campus. The rather lengthily titled University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital RBC Race for the Kids 5K Run, starting and finishing on the University of Chicago campus, provides just such an opportunity. And though it might be a hike for non-South Siders to get to, it’s worth the trip.

With a reported 1,701 participants registered this year (and around half opting for chip-timing), the University of Chicago quad (at 58th Street between University and Ellis) was packed with runners before the race. Setting up base camp in the midst of the impressively historic academic buildings in this location provided an air of illustriousness to the proceedings and a clear boundary for the vendor tents. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Hauling Ashland

Back of the Yards, Checkerboard City, Green, Lakeview, Pilsen, Transit 1 Comment »
A southbound #9 Ashland bus / Photo: John Greenfield

A southbound #9 Ashland bus/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

“It doesn’t matter what you do to the bus! I will never take a bus! I will drive until the state won’t give me a license anymore.” So said an otherwise nice-seeming lady from the anti-bus rapid transit group the Ashland-Western Coalition at a community meeting this summer.

The CTA plans to build a BRT line on Ashland from 95th to Irving Park, providing an El-train-like experience on wheels instead of rails. Think of it as the Gray or Indigo Line. The buses will run in car-free lanes in the middle of the street, with stops located every half mile.

These traits, along with several other timesaving features, will bring speeds up to an estimated 15.9 mph, including stops, during rush hours. That’s almost twice as fast as the current #9 Ashland bus, which the CTA says averages only 8.7 mph, and it’s comparable to car speeds. That’s what’s needed if we want to make transit an attractive alternative to driving. Read the rest of this entry »

The Chicago Manual: Today is the First Day of the Life of Your Mind

Essays & Commentary, Hyde Park No Comments »

chicago-manual-cover3Near the beginning of my third year in the College, I quit the football team and, days or weeks later, wandered for the first time into the Smart Museum. Though I did not notice it at the time, my life changed profoundly, and on the spot. I’d never been inside an art museum; as the son of a physicist teaching in the suburbs, our family visits to Chicago had always been bound for the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum or, most likely, Gino’s East Pizzeria. On display at the Smart that day were the watercolors of Wassily Kandinsky. I can’t explain what, but something fundamentally connected for me in viewing that exhibition. Before long, this econ-major-cum-MBA student was squeezing in as many classes as he could in art history, even convincing Professor Joel Snyder to spend a quarter conducting an independent study course in photography with me before I left for Wall Street. My wife Jan (AB ’85) and I started spending much of our free time in galleries and museums. An interest in all the other arts you’ll see covered in the pages of Newcity soon followed, and a year into my to-be-short-lived Goldman Sachs career, Jan, my brother Brent (AB ’88) and I started this publication. My life’s work connects in a direct line to that afternoon in the Smart Museum back in 1981. Read the rest of this entry »