Chicago’s Riverwalk extension is underway, and the city is looking for contractors to help plan and operate concessions along what promises to be a major downtown attraction. Applicants have until April 7 to reply to the city’s request for qualifications. The project got a major infusion of federal cash last year, but now Chicago is looking for private entities to help arrange for concessions—think bike rentals, kiosks, cafes, retail—along the riverside promenade, which will expand the Riverwalk six blocks. Federal transportation loans to be paid back over 35 years won’t be enough to fully finance the project, so the city is still considering sponsorship and advertising. Last year the city’s then-transportation chief Gabe Klein promised "Any additional advertising would be very tasteful and very limited.” Conceptual plans establish identities for each of the Riverwalk extension’s six blocks from State Street west to Lake Street: The Marina (from State to Dearborn); The Cove (Dearborn to Clark); The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle); The Swimming Hole (LaSalle to Wells); The Jetty (Wells to Franklin); and The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake). Chicago’s plan to reengage its “second shoreline” follows similar efforts that have had success in Indianapolis, San Antonio and London, among others.
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We hope you’ve stretched your hamstrings—there have been a lot of developments in U.S. bike sharing programs lately, and we’re taking another whirl through them now. Although not without hang-ups, New York’s Citi Bike has at least not killed anyone yet. People love to joke about clueless tourists riding on the sidewalk, or on heavy-traffic avenues, or “salmoning” the wrong way down one-way streets — that’s true in Chicago as well as New York — but the fact that no bikeshare has so far produced little to no traffic carnage should come as no surprise, writes Charles Komanoff for Streetsblog. Crunching the numbers, Komanoff points out “for each day in 2012, all NYC cyclists racked up 16 times as many miles as have Citi Bikers on each day to date.” So while Citi Bike ridership has exceeded expectations, it’s still only a small bump in the city’s total bike ridership. The bikes themselves could be a contributing factor, too — they aren’t racing bikes, and crowds of bikers further leaden their slow pace. The naturally lower car speeds in popular Citi Bike areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn may also play a role. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a proposed bikeshare system was stymied by existing restrictions on street furniture advertising. Smaller systems may move forward in some of L.A.’s municipal fiefdoms — Long Beach and Fullerton are apparently moving ahead, while West Hollywood and Santa Monica are conducting reviews. For now, though, what was once proposed as the nation's second biggest bike sharing program seems to have hit the brakes. Instead Chicago’s Divvy bike share is poised to become the largest such program in North America after announcing the addition of another 75 stations. Divvy already has 300 stations, with plans to add 100 more in 2014 (the additional 75 brings it to a total of 475). Federal funding enabled the $3 million expansion. CDOT also announced that it has applied for $3 million in state money to fund another 75 stations, which would bring the grand total to 550 stations. “As Divvy expands into more neighborhoods, and we build a 650-mile bikeway network throughout our communities, Chicago is quickly becoming the best biking city in North America,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein in a press release. It will be one of Klein’s last as Chicago’s transportation commissioner — he announced his resignation effective at the end of the month. Klein oversaw Divvy’s development and implementation, and was known for riding his bike to work. Sustainable transportation advocates told Streetsblog Klein’s successor will have big shoes to fill.
Get on your bikes and ride — Chicago’s long-delayed Divvy bike share program launched Friday, kicking on 65 solar-powered docking stations and unleashing 700 “Chicago” (read: powder) blue bikes. But some West and South Side residents may have to wait for the program's full benefits, if they get them at all. Optimized for short trips in high-density areas, the Divvy system requires a credit or debit card and few of the initial stations serve the far West and South sides. The Department of Transportation plans to rollout a total of 400 stations and about 4,000 three-speed bicycles in all. Chicago’s Department of Transportation unveiled its bike share plans in April, tapping Portland, OR–based Alta Bicycle Share, which also runs DC’s bike-share program. The rollout follows a similar program, Citibike, which launched in New York in late May. If you’re riding Divvy today, watch out for stragglers from the Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade.
The median of a downtown stretch of State Street is now home to the latest of Chicago’s People Spots, a series of parklets sprinkled throughout the city as part of its “Make Way for People” program. Dubbed "The Gateway," the portion of State Street between Lake Street and Wacker Drive features shaded tables and chairs in what the city is calling its first “People Plaza.” Flowerboxes, banners, and bright red and blue colors lighten up the otherwise utilitarian median. While the spot’s central location is probably its greatest asset in attracting visitors, satisfying views of downtown’s architectural gems impart some elegance to the straightforward design. Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, and Chicago Loop Alliance Executive Director Michael Edward were on hand Friday to dedicate the space, touting business opportunities for nearby restaurants and bars. The goal of the program is to activate public space for placemaking's sake, with economic development expected for nearby retail corridors. A cleaning team will service The Gateway from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. each day through the end of September, according to a press release from the Chicago Loop Alliance. On Saturday, the city is hosting a bicycle tour of the People Spots in Andersonville and Bronzeville.
Chicago’s bike-for-rent made its test premiere during the annual “Bike the Drive” event on the Windy City’s Lake Shore thoroughfare Sunday, and Wednesday opened the new service for membership sign-ups. Chicago’s Department of Transportation unveiled its bike share plans in April, tapping Portland, OR–based Alta Bicycle Share, which also runs New York and DC’s bike-share programs, to roll out 400 stations and about 4,000 three-speed “Chicago Blue” bicycles across the city. “Divvy,” as the Chicago program is called, recently released a map of planned stations, 75 of which the city said will be online by the end of June. But Chicago's four-wheeled share service also saw big news this week, when car rental giant Enterprise bought local nonprofit I-GO, a car-share program launched 10 years ago by the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Meanwhile Memorial Day marked the official debut of New York City’s bike-share, with more than 6,000 trips logged in a matter of hours.
Are you a @citibikenyc Annual Member? Check out the video on how it works: vimeo.com/67075897 #bikenyc — NYC DOT (@NYC_DOT) May 28, 2013This video from StreetFilms captured the media frenzy, as well as testimonials from the likes of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (who mounted but did not ride a bike) and musician David Byrne:
Chicago’s bike share program will kick off in June when the city debuts hundreds of light blue, three-speed bicycles that can be rented for an hourly fee or with a yearly $75 membership. Managed by Portland, OR–based Alta Bicycle Share, which also runs New York and DC’s bike share, Chicago’s program goes by the name “Divvy.” Alta was supposed to launch the $22 million program last summer, and has since become the subject of controversy. Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein was formerly a consultant for the company, and competitors have alleged foul play, which Alta and the city have flatly denied. The first of Divvy’s 75 solar-powered docking stations will be downtown and in River North. Within a year the city’s plan is to roll out 400 stations and about 4,000 bicycles across the city.
In a city where bicyclists may share a lane with Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, last year’s promise by Mayor Rahm Emanuel of 100 miles of protected bike paths was cause for celebration. Chicago's latest project, announced Sunday, will be a protected lane along Dearborn Street in the Loop that will run in both directions from Polk to Kinzie. The new route connects the near north side with the south loop and is designed to appeal to young, tech-savvy commuters who work downtown. “It will help us recruit the type of people that have been leaving for the coast,” Emanuel said. “They will now come to the city of Chicago.” The Active Transportation Alliance circulated a petition to hold the Mayor’s administration to its word. Others, like the Sun-Times’ Mark Konkol, have called protected lanes a waste of money and decried a faulty “cyclist culture” that makes streets more dangerous for pedestrians and bikers alike. Chicago will add 22 miles of protected bike lanes by the end of the year, bringing the city's total to 33 miles.
Progressive transportation commissioners have become heroes in planning circles. There's a lot of excitement surrounding Chicago Mayor Emanuel's appointment of Gabe Klein as DOT commissioner. Poached from Washington D.C., where Emanuel saw his work first-hand, Klein has extensive experience instituting new transportation ideas, including the nation's largest bike sharing program and a new streetcar system. The Chicago Tribune has a good roundup of Klein's thoughts so far, which include focusing on improving the CTA rather than building a new High Speed Rail Line to O'Hare, increasing traffic calming measures and pedestrian upgrades, expanding bike lanes and bus rapid transit. Overall he wants to dramatically increase biking, walking, and transit use and diminish the presence of cars, especially in the central city. Before transitioning into government, Klein worked in the transportation field as an executive at a bicycle company and at Zipcar. More broadly, the appointment signals an openness on the part of the Emanuel Administration to bringing in new people and new ideas into Chicago's government agencies, a welcome shift from the patronage system of the Daley regime. Janette Sadik-Khan in New York and Jan Gehl of Denmark may have a new rival for the title of progressive transportation star.