Chicago’s streets feel less mean when you’re on a Divvy bike

IMG_0170I have been out of town since Seattle’s bike share system launched, so to deal with my intense Pronto jealousy I had to check out some Divvy bikes while in Chicago.

I grew up in St. Louis and went to college in Illinois, so I have been to Chicago a fair number of times. But I have never had this much fun getting around town, and I have definitely never had this clear of a picture of the city’s geography. For the first time, I actually think I know where I am most the time, and it’s all thanks to bike share.

Biking around also had a very unexpected side-effect: The city feels a lot less mean. At first I was a bit intimidated by the idea of biking in this sprawling car-filled metropolis, but once I got on the bike the city softened. Quality bike lanes like the ones on Dearborn through the heart of the Loop and the fantastic Lakefront trail definitely helped, but somehow I feel even more comfortable biking around Chicago than I do trying to navigate on foot and transit (and way more comfortable than driving a car here, which is terrifying).

Unlike in Seattle, Chicago does not have helmets available at bike share stations. Like most of you, I am so accustomed to wearing a helmet when I bike that I feel a little naked if I don’t have one. In fact, I drive so rarely that I have even started to feel a bit naked when I get in a car without a helmet.

But for the most part, it did not feel dangerous to ride a Divvy without a helmet, especially in the city center and on streets with good or decent bike lanes. The bikes are so upright, heavy and slow that I just didn’t feel threatened. And people who drive (except for one jerk) sure give Divvy riders a lot of space, something I was not expecting in a city where people drive so aggressively it can feel like you’re playing chicken every time you try to merge onto the freeway. Continue reading

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So, Pronto is a few days old. How’s it going?

From Oliver O'Brien's bike share visualizer. Screenshot taken at 10:35 a.m.

From Oliver O’Brien’s bike share visualizer. Screenshot taken at 10:35 a.m.

So, I’m still out of town (in Chicago now), so I still have not ridden a Pronto bike. And to think I call myself a bike blogger!

Now that you’ve had a few days to get used to the system, how are things going?

Looking at bike distribution data, it does not appear that there are any critical unbalancing issues yet. For example, there are fewer bikes at Capitol Hill stations fewer empty docks downtown as of late morning on a work day, which is exactly what you’d expect. But so far, no stations are completely full and no Capitol Hill stations are completely empty (the only empty station is on the edge of the service area near Key Arena).

Oliver O’Brien’s bike share tracking website is a great tool to visualize bike distribution, as is the official Pronto station map. The Spotcycle mobile app is a great way to make sure your dock has a bike for you when you’re on the run. If you want to use Pronto data in your app or project, here the link to the feed (at I think so, I don’t know what any of it means).

One size never fits all

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City moves dangerous Ballard Bridge sign + Peddler Brewing tells KIRO 7 why a change is needed

Photo from Seattle Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang

Photo of fixed sign placement from Seattle Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang

Biking over the Ballard Bridge can be a stressful and squished experience. The sidewalks are far too skinny to squeeze by others as it is. So when road crews installed a sign warning drivers of changes dues to the W Emerson Overpass Repair Project in such a way that it blocked part of the already-too-skinny sidewalk, several of you emailed me and the city to voice your frustration.

Auden Kaehler put it this way:

As one of many cyclists who depend on the Ballard Bridge to commute to/from work I, and my fellow cyclists, were shocked yesterday morning to see city workers installing traffic detour posts on the West side approach sidewalk, which is already unacceptably narrow.

The city listened to Kaehler and moved the sign to get it out of the way of the sidewalk. City Traffic Engineer then sent the photo above to Kaehler and Seattle Bike Blog. Road workers placing signs in bike lanes and sidewalks is a pervasive issue, but it’s great to see the city respond so quickly.

Haley from Peddler Brewing talks Ballard Bridge with KIRO 7

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Bike News Roundup: How to build a bike lane on a bridge

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Set your browser to time theft mode.

First up, I did not include this video in the last Bike News Roundup, and there was almost a popular uprising against me. So here it is. Please end the sit-in at my house.

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Pronto Cycle Share launches: What you need to know + Updates

Image from Pronto

Image from Pronto

Today is the big day. Pronto Cycle Share is scheduled to unlock its docks at 1 p.m., thus introducing an entirely new public transportation system to the streets of Seattle.

Seattle will be the first major Pacific Northwest city to launch a modern public bike share system, which allows people 16 and up to check out a bike for short, one-way bike trips around the city center and the University District.

While Portland and Vancouver, B.C., balked at launching their systems, Mayor Ed Murray put his full support behind the system to get it launched in 2014. It was an ambitious goal that required pulling together a whole lot of pieces, including bringing on Alaska Airlines as the major system sponsor and forging a new supply chain for the bikes and kiosks themselves after Alta Bicycle Share’s old supplier Bixi went bankrupt.

Crews have been working hard in recent weeks to install the 50 stations and build up the 500 hill-climbing and rain-ready bikes that make up the system. Meanwhile, annual membership numbers have continued to grow, and Pronto expects about 1,000 members by launch time.

The system will kick off with a media event in Occidental Park at 11 a.m. Then members who signed up will get the chance to be the first to ride the bikes, moving them from distribution sites to docks around the city at noon.

Many bikes have already been distributed to station docks around town, but the stations will remain locked until 1 p.m. Annual members receive key fobs in the mail that they use to check out a bike, giving them unlimited 30-minute rides. After 30 minutes, you’ll be charged $2. After an hour, you’ll be charged $7. You can always dock, then wait three minutes and undock the bike to get another free 30-minutes if you need more time.

You do not need to be a member to use the system. Anyone with a credit card can also simply swipe their card at any station to buy an $8 day pass or $16 3-day pass. At least for the first couple months, clean helmets will be available at each station to check out for free.

Early registers need to accept new terms

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Bike News Notes: Fund set up for kid hit on MLK + Seattle hiring Active Transportation Manager + Bike Expo is dead

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 3.34.21 PMA crowd-funding campaign has been set up for the child struck while crossing MLK near Genesee in late September. By the time of this posting, just under $22,000 had been raised.

You can contribute to the fund here.

SDOT searching for an Active Transportation Program Manager

Here’s a pretty awesome job listing from the City of Seattle. They’re looking for someone to help increase the number of people biking, walking and taking transit. Sounds like a good goal to me. Details: Continue reading

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After 2 collisions at same 2nd Ave parking garage, city makes changes

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 12.39.33 PMAfter the second person in just one week was injured by a person turning across the 2nd Ave protected bike lane into a parking garage between Pike and Union, the city has made changes to improve visibility.

Most early efforts to improve the bike lane focused on the signalized intersections, which makes sense because that is how Sher Kung died just days before the new bike lane was installed.

But the garage entrances have been a different issue because they are mid-block and there are no signals. Instead, the city has used green paint and symbols of people biking to tell people they should look for people on bikes before driving across the bike lanes. But not everyone follows those rules, and obscured visibility does not make it easier.

That could have been the issue Wednesday morning, when someone driving turned into the path of a woman headed south in the bike lane. She collided with the car and had to be hauled away in an ambulance. The Seattle Times reports that she “suffered hip pain but not serious injuries.” But it could have been a lot worse.

The city responded before the end of the day by pushing parking further back from the garage entrance to give people turning a better chance to see someone headed down the bike lane. They will also be adding signage to make it more clear to people turning into the garage that they need to look for and yield to people in the bike lane. Continue reading

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