Who polka dotted West Lakeview? The area around the Lincoln/Wellington/Southport intersection on Chicago's North Side looks like a giant game of Twister, as Streetsblog's John Greenfield points out, thanks to a whimsical, low-tech placemaking initiative that is part of a larger $175,000 streetscape project along Lincoln Avenue. The blue and green dots visually tie together sidewalks and neckdowns at the busy six-corner intersection, setting aside space for pedestrians and discouraging risky passing maneuvers by cars during times of heavy traffic. Plastic bollards, makeshift furniture and large planters provide some protection for pedestrians using the intersection's crosswalks, or just enjoying the expanded (polka-dotted) public space. The painted dots are supposed to endure Chicago weather for three years, at which point the city has planned a more permanent streetscape improvement. In recent years Chicago has gradually reclaimed small portions of neighborhood streets for pedestrian activity, through initiatives like its "Make Way for People" program and others.
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Work is underway on Detroit's first protected bike lanes, which will shelter cyclists with buffer zones and bollards along Jefferson Avenue in the historic Jefferson-Chalmers business district. According to Streetsblog the project will start with only seven blocks, but a second phase will extend it three miles to Grand Boulevard. Parked cars will block bike riders from traffic along the busy street, which is the target of a road diet funded with public money and led by Jefferson East, a neighborhood-based community development corporation. The city gathered money from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Community Foundation for SE Michigan, the Kresge Foundation, and the DTE Energy Foundation. The project is part of broader plans to update to Detroit's transportation infrastructure, which include buffered bike lanes in Midtown and millions of dollars in non-car “enhancements” funded by Michigan's Department of Transportation. The Motor City added 50 miles of bike lanes in 2013.
Detroiters have heard before that the Motor City could see better mass transit as soon as 2015. Local and state leaders came together in 2012 to form the area’s first regional transit agency (RTA), but Streetsblog reported locals are losing patience with Michigan’s newest RTA. While waiting times for buses drag on, frustration grows. The RTA recommended holding off on a ballot measure for another two years, prompting a protest march from transit advocates. They marched from the Rosa Parks Transit Center to the board’s meeting place at 1001 Woodward, one of many Rock Ventures developments in the region (Read a Q&A with Rock Ventures real estate chief Jim Ketai here). We Are Mode Shift reported even members of the RTA are losing faith:
Larry Dilworth, a member of the board’s Community’s Advisory Committee and the disabilities advocacy group Warriors on Wheels, told board members he had considered stepping down from his position with the CAC due to doubts about the RTA’s short-term effectiveness.RTA’s chief executive John Hertel resigned in January in part because of concerns about funding stability—a problem that still plagues transit efforts in a region with a long history of sprawl, segregation, and steep financial challenges. Detroit’s light rail project, the Woodward Light Rail Line, got a boost last year from former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in the form of $25 million in federal TIGER funding. The 3-mile long light rail system along Woodward Avenue would include 11 stops running from the city’s downtown to New Center.
Steven Vance, editor of StreetsBlog Chicago and frequent contributor to AN, dug through Walk Score's breakdown of the most bikeable neighborhoods in Chicago. The rankings are based on several factors, including the prevalence of bike lanes, connectivity, commuting mode share and hills. It also considers the number of neighborhood destinations and, as Vance points out, may consider a shared lane marking as a bike lane. That led to the Illinois Medical District’s surprising fourth place ranking, tailing East Ukrainian Village, Ukrainian Village and Wicker Park. See the national list of WalkScore.com’s most bikeable neighborhoods here, and read StreetsBlog’s post here.