Tuesday, May 30, 2006

goonings are back

You may remember the gooning incidents that happened last year in Rogers Park, when innocent people were attacked and beaten on the street. Community and police response resulted in arrests and safer streets. Now it's happening again. There will be a community walk this Friday, June 2. The community can fight back and win again. For more info, click here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

walking the walk

This is not just about walking. The ability of pedestrians to get around safely and easily can affect the health of a community, whether it is the Loop or a local business district.

Pedestrian quality of life in the Loop is getting worse. Traffic aides give away increasing portions of stoplight cycles to motor vehicle traffic, at the expense of pedestrians. The recently added right turn arrow at Washington and State reduces pedestrian walk time by half at a critical intersection. Walk signals at some intersections are now so short that an average adult walking at a moderate pace (3 – 3.5 mph) can barely cross in the allotted time.

Large areas of the Loop are blanketed by scaffolding that renders a 1/3 -1/2 of the sidewalk area on many blocks unusable for months or years at a time, leaving a walkable area only 2 or 3 people wide. Flowers and greenery in our giant sidewalk planters are a very welcome addition, but the planters are much too wide, occupying up 1/2 of some very wide sidewalks. Loop streets keep getting repaved, but sidewalks on some blocks have been hazardous and cratered for years.

In the last month, installation of JC Decaux's large ad boards started, presumably part of the street furniture contract. They are perpendicular (not parallel) to the curb on Loop sidewalks, blocking half the sidewalk width in many places. Walking conditions would be much better if the boards were rotated 90 degrees (parallel to the curb) or placed next to existing obstructions so the ad boards do not create additional obstructions.

If the city is to be greener and healthier, there should be a significant effort to improve walking conditions for pedestrians downtown. For many downtown workers who live in dangerous neighborhoods or get home late at night, the Loop is their best
opportunity to walk and get regular aerobic exercise, more so in winter, when icy neighborhood sidewalks make walking near home a hazardous proposition.

Making Loop sidewalks more pedestrian friendly encourages workers and visitors to walk more, improving the odds that they will spend more in downtown shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, instead of in the suburbs or outlying neighborhoods. It allows pedestrians to make the most of nearby attractions without creating additional traffic congestion.

It's time to consider a Loop pedestrian action plan. An effectively used plan could be a key element in the future health of our city.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

farmers markets

The farmers market season has started. Yeah! It will only get better in the next few weeks, when berries start coming in.

Find your local market:
downtown (weekly)
your neighborhood (weekly)
other markets

and see what's in season.

Monday, May 22, 2006

lost world?

I was just reading an interesting item in last week's New York Press about a documentary in the making about Jack Kerouac and On the Road. Jim Knipfel makes a point that had me thinking: have we lost the kind of freedom that Kerouac describes in On the Road? Your $0.02, please.

a man and his bike

A tip of the hat to Jon Hilkevitch for his fine piece on a man and his bike in today's Chicago Tribune Getting Around column.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


...the hosta-bilities

the wheel thing

I spent most of the day out riding my bike - my first really good spring riding day. At several points along the way, I inhaled the intoxicating scent of lilacs. Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

warm fuzzy

Giselle enjoying the warmth of laundry fresh from the dryer...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

taking the next step

A few good articles (1, 2, 3) about how zoning changes can affect our future.

peace and quiet

An article in today's Sun-Times spells out some details of a new nighttime anti-noise ordinance that may give police more leverage to keep the peace. On the surface, it looks mostly good. However, unless there is some clause exempting businesses that existed long before nearby residential development (in areas such as Fulton Market), some of those businesses could be big losers under this law. It could end up costing a lot in terms of job loss in gentrifying areas. I'll be curious to see more details on this.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

spring training

No, not baseball. Just a visual pun...

Friday, May 12, 2006

CTA construction

It's official. Construction on the Howard El station will be starting sometime soon. I noted earlier that I'd been seeing surveyors at work in and around the station. Today a CTA employee was handing out flyers to everyone going through the fare gates announcing the start of construction. There is signage to the same effect in the station. Construction trailers have appeared in the parking lot to the east of the station.

Things will undoubtedly get ugly for a while. I hope that it will turn out well - by 2009. This station should have been fully accessible years ago. Better late than never.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

mini vacation

I wish the weather could be this beautiful today. Visiting the Art Institute gardens at lunchtime is like a mini vacation.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

spring on State

Yes, I'm enjoying spring.

Monday, May 08, 2006


A view of Uptown Square from the El...

Friday, May 05, 2006

graceland squared

I was taking pictures in Graceland last weekend, enjoying all the spring greenery, and Paul Simon's Graceland came on the radio. How cool is that!

Sullivan revealed

After a few years behind scaffolding, the beautiful Louis Sullivan facade of Carson Pirie Scott is finally revealed on State Street. Lovely to see it again!

light bounce

I love the magical way that light bounces between buildings, creating ephemeral patterns of light and shadow. Even better when there are multiple light sources creating multiple shadows of the same object or person. It's best downtown, but I see some cool stuff in backyards, too.

bee madness - more

Does anyone else understand the current fascination with spelling bees as a subject for movies and musicals? Please enlighten me. I don't get it.


Mary Schmich had a funny piece in today's Trib on the subject.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

sidewalk blockers

Have you noticed the new sidewalk blockers downtown?

These are advertising boards, about the same size and shape as the end panel on one of the new bus shelters (done by the same company). Why can't they rotate these so that they sit parallel to the curb or put them next to the big sidewalk planters (where half the sidewalk is already blocked)?

that's better

I noticed on Wednesday that they fixed the sign. Thank you!

concrete thoughts

Good to see the new scaffolding here on Howard Street so no one gets beaned by the crumbling viaduct. Thank you!

To paraphrase an old song, concrete's not fallin' on my head...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


A thought provoking article from yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times, in the wake of Monday's May Day immigration rights rallies.

surveying the situation

I've seen surveyors working at Howard station every day this week. Could this mean that construction is starting soon?