Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mayor Daley's Bike to Work Rally Address

[At Friday's Bike to Work Rally, seated from left: Mayor Richard M. Daley; Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France; Andy Clarke, Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists; unidentified; Alex Wilson, Director of West Town Bikes, who received an Individual Achievement Award from the mayor.

Last Friday, June 13, Mayor Richard M. Daley addressed a crowd of hundreds of bicyclists at Chicago’s annual Bike To Work Rally in the mayor's eponymous plaza. Notably, Daley memorialized cyclist Clinton Miceli, 22, who was killed that Monday when an SUV driver opened a door Miceli’s path, throwing him into traffic. The following is the mayor's speech, edited a bit for clarity.

Good morning. Thank you very much Ginger, Rob, from Channel 5 for those kind remarks. Thank you for MC-ing. Let’s give them a round of applause. Greg LaMonde, a hero for all of us, world-champion cyclist, three-time Tour de France winner. Let’s give him a round of applause. Welcome to Chicago.

I want to thank all those who are participating in the Bike to Work Rally, all of those that made a difference here over many, many years in making this city a bike-friendly city. All the advocacy groups, all the cyclists, all the bike shops, all over the city that have really made the city what it is today.

Like any thing else, riding a bike is dangerous. At this time I’d like to have a moment of silence in memory of a young man, Clinton Miceli, who unfortunately was killed this week in a collision with a car. Let’s just have a moment of silence for Clinton. [Five seconds of complete silence.] Amen.

With Clinton in mind I ask everyone operating a motor vehicle or bicycle, please obey all safety laws – share the road. Use common sense when you open the door of a car. This has become a more bike-friendly city. So I ask anyone in a car: when you park your car please use common sense in opening the door because you’re going to save someone’s life from serious injury.

This is a great rally because we’re really embracing what we’ve done for many, many years in this city: alternatives to vehicles. You’ve been environmentalist, those who’ve biked to and from work and on weekends. Bicycle riders were doing this long before gas prices started going up. Every day you help save the environment.

I want to thank all those who have participated in this wonderful rally, all the sponsors, all the government agencies: Department of Transportation, CTA, the Park District and those who have participated with us in regards to this bike rally.

What we’re trying to tell people is get informed going to and from work, working with parking plots, developers and making it bike-friendly going to and from work. We hope to build more bike stations here in the city of Chicago, not only in the downtown area but all over the city.

I also want to thank the CTA for their great response in regards to a bike-friendly CTA system. Public transportation, walking and biking, it all goes together. I just want to congratulate everyone being here, those who ride their bikes to work every day, those who enjoy it, this is a wonderful family occasion.

One of the things that we’ve been talking about and that we have now coming to the city of Chicago is a criterium that is coming July 27 on a Sunday. Some of the world’s greatest cyclists will take part for the first time in Grant Park. I hope that there will be many of these in the future.

[I’d like to see] more bike trails, especially longer ones in the downtown. I hope to get 50 miles, using the railroad tracks, that’s my dream some day, so all of us don’t have to go out to other states to do the 50-mile or 100-mile bike rides that many of us want on the weekends. I just want to thank all of those who participated and worked with us to make this bike rally so friendly. Have a wonderful day - go biking. Thank you.


Public transit and bicycling can be routes to romance

By John Greenfield

[This piece also runs this week in New City magazine, www.newcity.com.]

It might seem like living car-free would make dating difficult. But as Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay’s steamy El-train scene in“Risky Business” shows, alternative transportation can actually rev up your love life. Here’s testimony from Chicagoans who really “get around.”

Aurora Butterfly, a poet and co-organizer of the World Naked Bike Ride, says she’s had her share of make-out sessions on deserted Metra cars. But the CTA’s #66 Chicago Ave. bus was where she first flirted with relatively well-heeled suitors. “One was a voice-over artist who was deliciously beautiful, and the other was a successful animator and e-entrepreneur who looked like Batman,” she reports.

“Since it was the morning commute, they were too tired to lay it on thick,” she says. “It was more of a hunt-and-peck, secret glance style of courting, peeking over the marketing textbook.” Dating professionals was a nice change from her usual starving-artist types, says Butterfly. “They were thoughtful enough about the environment not to drive downtown even though they owned cars,” she says.

“Pete,” a musician, was entering the Damen Blue Line station soon after 9/11 when he saw an older lady standing on the stairs, wailing. After a young woman helped him get assistance for the senior, the two of them talked on the platform about how after the Trade Center attacks it seemed important to look out for other people.

On board they chatted and complimented each other’s eyeglasses as other passengers looked on. She gave him her business card as she got off the train, saying she’d love to go out some time. “I swear one guy in the train gave me a thumbs-up,” says “Pete.” Three weeks later he finally got the nerve up to call her, she invited him over to her apartment, and one thing led to another.

“Hannah” and “Dan” first met while building chopper bicycles at sessions organized by the Rat Patrol bike gang. She’s Jewish; he rolled with the Scallywags, punk-rock Christians whose members ride double-tall bikes and are sworn to celibacy before marriage.

The two mechanics got to know each other better on the Perimeter Ride, an all-day, all night, 100-mile bike tour around the city, ending with skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan. Needless to say, “Dan” gave up his vows. Nowadays the couple lives together at the Hub, a housing co-op owned by riders from Critical Mass. Vive le velo love!

Bike, ped and transit facilities in Cleveland, OH

By John Greenfield

There’s only one major bike lane in Cleveland, but it’s a really good one.

I recently spent a long weekend in this city of about 500,000 (roughly three million metro) located on the south shore of Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. It’s a highly underrated town. With its lakeshore to the north, rather than the east, it’s basically a miniature Chicago flipped 90 degrees to the left. But Cleveland also boasts some pleasantly rolling terrain; lush green spaces; really cool old architecture and super-friendly people.

I was also pleasantly surprised to hear about some exciting transportation developments in the Forest City, as it’s called. I got the skinny from Ryan McKenzie, who used to work on walking, bicycling and transit projects for the nonprofit EcoCity Cleveland and now runs the local car sharing service CityWheels.

Ryan and his wife started the car service with their own money and no help from government funds or charitable donations. “It’s pretty idealistic and na├»ve and we’ve suffered for it,” he says. “But I think we’ll persevere and get our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

Currently, City Wheels has 200 members and only four cars: two at University Circle near Case Western Reserve University and two at nearby Oberlin College. But six more cars will be placed in downtown Cleveland, Shaker Square and Cedar Fairmount in June. Ryan is also hoping a federal grant for $500,000 will come through this summer, allowing him to add 30 more vehicles to the fleet, which should allow them to break even.

Well, how is bringing a bunch of cars into the city going to help with congestion and air quality problems?

“In a mid-size, conservative, Midwestern city like Cleveland car sharing helps people have the courage to own fewer cars,” Ryan explains. “It’s like the patch for smoking. It helps you quit the addiction but still have some access to the nicotine.”

Ryan says that by eliminating the need to own a second or even first automobile, car sharing helps members embrace walking, biking and public transit and reduce their miles driven by over 50%. Some clients have sold their vehicle or avoided a planned purchase, and when they do drive it’s a hybrid or other “greener” car rather than a noisy, polluting beater, he says.

I originally met Ryan a few years ago when he came to town with City of Cleveland staff to study our bike facilities. “Seeing and riding on bike lanes in Chicago has helped a lot,” he says, adding that the visits also inspired Cleveland to install 500 Chicago-style inverted U bicycle racks over the past two years. Indoor bike parking was created at the local city hall and there’s a budget to build a bike station near the Cavaliers’ basketball arena.

Short stretches of bike lane were recently striped as part of improvements to the 2/3 mile-long Detroit-Superior bridge downtown. The rehab also included converting six travel lanes to four to make room for a wide sidewalk with sheltered benches and public art pieces that doubles as weather vanes and sun dials.

But the big transportation news in Cleveland is the construction of a bus rapid transit line along the east side’s Euclid Ave. Corridor. The system features dedicated bus lanes and futuristic-looking shelters on raised medians in the center of the street. Customers will be required to pay at the kiosks in advance, speeding boarding times.

Due to this forward-thinking plan, as well as quality existing bus and light rail service, last year the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was rated North America’s best public transit system by the American Public Transportation Association. As a bonus, the new bus line is paralleled for several miles by that first-rate bike lane I mentioned.

But there seems to be a disconnect here: why is Cleveland getting a space-age rapid transit system when it has only a smidgen of bike lanes?

“The City is underfunded, understaffed and demoralized,” Ryan explains. “They barely have the resources to fill a pothole or stripe a street line.” Since the City is responsible for maintaining the roads and has trouble keeping up with routine maintenance, it’s hard to get support for new bike lanes, he says.

On the other hand, construction projects like the Euclid Corridor that are largely bankrolled by federal money are easier to push through, Ryan says. “But it was a tremendous struggle to get the bike racks, the bridge and the bus rapid transit,” he says. “The process took years and quarts of blood were spilled.”

Ryan says community activists have to be very vigilant in Cleveland and not declare victory when a project is planned but when it’s installed. “There’s not the commitment from government here for alternative transportation projects,” he says. “It’s not like Mayor Daley who says, ‘I’m a cyclist and I’m all for it.’”

I asked Ryan for a list of local bike landmarks to check out. That Sunday morning after a breakfast of frittata and espresso at Presti’s Bakery in Little Italy I took a spin downtown on Euclid. Parts of the avenue were still heavily under construction as all aspects of the streetscape are being improved: sidewalks, roadway, street trees, benches and lighting. But several of the Jetson-esque bus kiosks were already in use and for the most part the bike lane was a smooth ride.

I crossed over the Detroit-Superior Bridge into the Ohio City neighborhood and headed to Fridrich Bicycle, 3800 Lorraine Ave., a family-owned shop that’s been in business since 1883. It’s a big, utilitarian space that feels like a hardware store, in a good way. There’s lots of interesting old-fashioned accessories like wire and wicker baskets and large rubber mud flaps to screw onto your fenders.

I rolled on and crossed the Columbus Ave. Bridge to an industrial area within an oxbow of the Cuyahoga to check out the Ohio City Bike Co-op. Similar to Chicago’s West Town Bikes and Blackstone Bike Works, the co-op offers an earn-a-bike program for kids, bike safety and repair classes and more.

I didn’t have time to check out the city’s nine-mile lakefront trail or the Towpath Trail which winds more than 100 miles through the Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation. But downtown I got to speak with a couple of cyclists who were on their way home from cheering a friend in the Cleveland Marathon.

Jack Lavelle, an elementary school student told me he’s usually comfortable biking on local streets but always wears a helmet. David Postel actually goes to college at Loyola in Chicago but he grew up in Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland. He says that while less people bike there, Cleveland is actually a very easy place to get around.

“Drivers are courteous to bikes and transit is really good,” David says. “There are free trolleys downtown. The transit workers are friendly and the buses are clean and they all have bike racks. And our train system has as many stops as Chicago’s El, but most people in Cleveland don’t know that.”