Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bicycling, transit and parks highlights of 2010

Chicago Cross Cup (photo by Luke Seemann,

by John Greenfield

[These listings are from New City magazine's Top 5 and Best of Chicago issues,]

Top 5 Local Bike Stories

Emanuele Bianchi proposes Chicago Velo Campus velodrome complex at former U.S. Steel site

Drunk drivers who intentionally strike cyclists in Brookfield get a slap on the wrist

Rising popularity of the zany Chicago Cross Cup cyclocross racing series

Active Transportation Alliance launches Crash Support Hotline

Daley’s impending retirement has cyclists hoping for a bike-friendly new mayor

Top 5 Chicago Park District Stories

Lush, twenty-seven-acre Palmisano (aka Stearns Quarry) Park dedicated in Bridgeport

View from the hill in Palmisano Park

Legendary commissioner Margaret Burroughs, founder of DuSable Museum, dies at 95

Park District and “starchitect” Jeanne Gang unveil the Northerly Island Framework Plan

Pristine new 41st Street Beach opens with breathtaking views of the Loop

City Council approves $41 million in TIF money for 2011 Park District capital projects

Top 5 Chicago Transit Authority Stories

CTA uses Homeland Security funds to install 3,000 new security cameras system-wide

A civilian dons a driver’s uniform and steals a bus from the 103rd Street garage

New 5000-series prototype rail cars with NYC-style aisle-facing seats debut

CTA pilots the long-awaited Train Tracker system

Study shows that five percent of Free Rides for Seniors passes now in use belong to dead people

Best news for Chicago bicycling in 2010

In this economy it can be tough to find money for green transportation projects. But in October Governor Quinn announced roughly $49 million in federal funds will go to state bicycling initiatives, largely in Chicagoland, via the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program. $2.8 million will go towards the Calumet-Sag Trail, a 26-mile path paralleling the city’s southern border. The grant will also bankroll an expansion of the Burham Greenway, the short-but-sweet multiuse path on the Southeast Side. And the CDOT will use ITEP funding to pilot a mile-long Dutch-style “cycle track,” separating bike traffic from cars, on South Stony Island Avenue.

Burnham Greenway (photo by Jennifer from General Carlessness,

Best thing to name after Richard M. Daley

A bike racing track on Northerly Island

As “Cyclist-in-chief,” Mayor Daley’s legacy is a mixed bag. He gets credit for all the federally-funded lanes, paths and racks that materialized during his tenure, the good work of his eponymous Bicycling Ambassadors, and more. But under Daley, City Hall was reluctant to put cycling in the city budget, resulting in the fizzled Open Streets ciclovia; the anemic B-cycle bike share network; the bike parking famine that resulted after 30,000 meters were uprooted; and other disappointments. Still, a bike shop owner acquaintance tells me the mayor actually rides a bike here, early in the morning on the Lakefront Trail, and it seems like the his heart was in the right place when it came to supporting cycling. So why not remember him with a velodrome on Chicago’s peninsula park. At least it will justify his bulldozing Meigs Field.

Northerly Island (Photo by David Kee,

Best public beach

Montrose Beach

All Chicago beaches have their pros and cons but Montrose Beach has a nearly perfect storm of cool attributes. It’s far enough away from Lake Shore Drive that you can’t hear traffic. The vibe is blue-collar and family-friendly, free of the douchebaggery that plagues North Avenue and Oak Street beaches. You can buy tasty Mexican food from the snack bar, elote carts and strolling peddlers on the sand. The water is pristine and kayaks are available for rent. A stroll down the pier provides an awesome skyline view, while the adjacent Magic Hedge nature sanctuary offers bird-watching and gay cruising opportunities. There’s something for everyone.

The lakefront between Montrose and Lawrence

Best new public park

Adams-Sangamon Park

Many Chicago parks are merely utilitarian: flat rectangles of grass broken up by a few baseball diamonds and basketball courts. So it’s exciting when the Park District thinks outside the box and creates a unique green space. Opened last summer in the shadow of the Sear Tower, Adams-Sangamon Park features a huge, groovy playground with drawbridges and climbing nets, a dog run and man-made hills covered with native grasses. Boulders and seating cubes are strewn about in pleasingly random patterns. The coolest element? Huge, silver gateways shaped like crooked picture frames, spraying refreshing mist in hot weather.

Adams and Sangamon