Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Culture of Respect for Pedestrians

Streetsblog national pointed me to a zoom able Mapping 10 Years of Fatal Traffic Accidents.

I looked at Edgewater, of course. It was not as bad as I was prepared for. It was certainly better than our neighbors in Rogers Park and the Devon international market corridor. Before I discuss those I want to highlight something that jumped out at me: the upscale north shore.

From Wilmette to Highland Park the only traffic fatalities are on the Edens Expressway. This is so odd to me that I wondered if there had been some deliberate data manipulation. I hope not. Because otherwise it suggests that traffic fatalities are strongly influenced by wealth. That would be good because wealth is a socially determined reality.

Now lets look at Rogers Park and Edgewater:

For me what stands out is the preponderance of pedestrian deaths in Edgewater. Granville, Broadway and Sheridan deaths in the middle of an area devoid of automobile deaths jumps out.

Rogers Park is worse. Way too many pedestrian deaths are clustered there.

We all know that Sheridan Road and Broadway constitute a corridor designed to feed Lake Shore Drive. This map makes stark the reality of that corridor's traversing a natural pedestrian environment. I think it is evident that those two streets especially are over built for cars and under built for pedestrians.

The other natural pedestrian street, the Devon international market corridor is even more tragically stark. I really hope the recent street scaping changes on that street improve its deadly history.

For further contrast lets look at Evanston.

Excluding the western panhandle of Evanston there was only one pedestrian traffic fatality there in the last 10 years.

Evanston in the last few years has been especially aggressive at asserting pedestrian rights. Sheridan road through Evanston has three or four signed crossings that appear to be stop signs until you take the time to read them. In the latest iteration of those signs they have provided red flags for pedestrians to clutch in their hands to wave down approaching cars to demand that they take notice and stop.

It's a cultural education that is working.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Edgewater Needs Way More Divvy

"A new study from the National Association of City Transportation Officials [PDF] adds credence to the theory that station density is a key factor in whether a bike-share system will flourish or flop." 

Edgewater, already slighted by the first Divvy roll-out, will be seriously under serviced with the 2015 Divvy expansion. In high density areas bike sharing experts recommend a station every quarter mile, two blocks.

Five Divvy stations on Broadway between Devon and Argyle are not enough. Three in Andersonville, Edgewater's pedestrian paradise are not enough. If they were not sticking one at the ridiculous corner of Ridge and Clark/Ashland it would be a square mile of Divvy desert.

Blue Existing, Red 2015 Expansion - Click to go to source.
And here is the corker: along the population dense highrise filled Sheridan Road in Edgewater, not one single Divvy station! Not one.

This is a problem for Alderman Harry Osterman. For many people, Harry, is turning out to be a disappointment. But there is plenty of room for blame all around in Edgewater. As a community it experienced a sea-change in the 2000s and the Bordelais, that's French for Edgewaterians, have still not gotten their footing.

The sea change is from a struggling neighborhood with empty storefronts, slum landlords and a crime strip to a gentrifying lakefront ward; from Dominicks to Whole Foods as it were. The old Edgewater had the Edgewater Community Council (ECC) that united the community and helped prevent the downward slide that Rogers Park experienced. ECC is gone. In an epic crash it went from owning its own building to nothing. To a not even existing nothing. As if the sea change washed it away.

Is an ECC needed now? Its old job was fighting slumlords. What would be its new job? Delivering a swift kick in the butt of the Alderman would be a start. Harry needs leaders to follow because he isn't one. And I get that. The fastest way out of office is to stick your neck out. No, Harry needs a community demanding things at his back. No sense blaming him.

So what would a new ECC, with a new name, have as a mission for the new gleaming Edgewater? Urbanity, that's what. Urbanity, because Edgewater is one of the densest residential neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. Thirty story buildings line Sheridan Road the entire length of Edgewater. Four-Plus-Ones and larger line both sides of the two street Kenmore-Winthrop corridor. Broadway is a mixed bag but has a lot of dense residential buildings. And then except for Lakewood-Balmoral and Edgewater Glen the rest of Edgewater is mostly six-flats and three-flats.

These are some of the best urban-densisty tracts in Chicago. With an actual over-abundance of el-stops and walkability scores in the 90's Edgewater is an epitome of city dwelling.

So what's missing? What would a new ECC fight for? What future would a new ECC be dragging and kicking a screaming Alderman Harry Osterman into?

Actually again Harry is not a bad wizard of Oz. The pedestrian street scape on Argyle is likely to be amazing. The bike lanes down Broadway south of Foster are great. But I'm not sure those were Harry initiatives. I think he was a follower, yes loyal, on those. Broadway, Sheridan and Ridge is the bull whose horns need grabbing. Harry is not up to it. The Edgewater community is not up to it at the moment. But there are many many small things that can be pursued that will prepare the ground for the big horn grabbing.

And we are back to Divvy. Considering Edgewater's density not nearly enough are to be installed. Yes there could be more in the works. So lets discuss why Divvy is so important to Edgewater's future and where the missing stations should be located. Broadway as a commercial district has always struggled. The reason is simple, way too many way too fast cars. It's hard to cross and hard to sit next to. And there is too much off-street parking. Too much off-street parking means that there are too few available store fronts for a vibrant Andersonville style business district. Also the too-wide Broadway means that it's hard for an across the street synergy to develop between businesses.

To repeat:

Five Divvy stations on Broadway between Devon and Argyle are not enough. Three in Andersonville, Edgewater's pedestrian paradise are not enough. If they were not sticking one at the ridiculous corner of Ridge and Clark/Ashland it would be a square mile of Divvy desert.

And again the corker: along the population dense highrise filled Sheridan Road in Edgewater, not one single Divvy station! Not one.

What Divvy can do is bring closer the distances between Clark, Broadway and Sheridan Road businesses with their respective residents. The Millennials that are attracted to the car-free potential of Sheridan Road and the Corridor with the el nearby are missing only the easy access of Broadway up and down and then over to Andersonville. Divvy is made for Edgewater. Walking out of your apartment, on your way finding a Divvy and speeding your trip to one or several stores along Broadway and over to Andersonville would be the bee's knees for the car-free crowd. And it's not a chicken/egg thing either. The further bike lane improvements can come later. The ease of east-west travel is already there and the corridor's easy north-south as well as Glenwood's north-south are ready made for bikes.

I've covered a lot more than Divvy here. And I've still left stuff out. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is occurring and will continue to occur, for instance. All these areas of urban design and planning need to be addressed by a new ECC. A new ECC ready to lead a ready to follow Alderman Harry Osterman.


A new study from the National Association of City Transportation Officials [PDF] adds credence to the theory that station density is a key factor in whether a bike-share system will flourish or flop.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Red-Line Aggression Redux

OK another Red-line story. This time with a happy ending.

Got on train at Granville headed downtown. Middle car as it is not rush hour and that car will be closest to the exit at Grand. A few minutes in and loud music erupts. A standing tattooed Hispanicy dude (let the stereotyping begin) is talking to a couple of sitting whitish dudes. I can't tell if he is telling them that loud music is not allowed or not, but it sort-of looks like it. Except I can't believe he would be the type. He leaves them and swaggers to the other end of the car. It's his music. He may be drunk. He sits briefly and as we travel he is back up and wandering the car. He makes no attempt to steer clear of women in the car. He is not exactly aggressive but he clearly is into getting too close. Not touching mind you, just getting closer than he needs to get.

This continues until Belmont. Near Belmont he lights up a small cigar/cigarette thing. Several people, myself included move to the other end of the car to get away from the smoke. He swaggers back to our end. Now our end empties as people move to the other end. I start staring at him. He ignores me. No way do I want to start something with this guy who is way younger and tougher than me. But I feel it's important to begin to call out his behavior. If he asks why I may be staring at him I plan to back down. But back down as passively aggressively as I can get away with. He begans a slow saunter back to the other end of the car.

"You need to put that thing out or get off of the car." A young black woman takes the lead. Every insurrection needs a leader. But every leader needs people at their back. "I'm with her," I say. Now it's two against one and we have a chance. Still tough odds, and old (but fit) white guy and a young woman of color. We are at Fullerton. The doors are open but he is not making a move to exit.

Next to me I hear a beep and then a young white woman is at the call button to the train operator. "A guy is smoking on the car."

"No smoking is allowed on the train," comes the authoritative reply from loud speaker.

The guy is floored. He can't believe that he has been successfully called out. He leaves the car. He's become out-numbered three to one and things will clearly become worse if he dares move against a woman and/or an old guy.

Not every asshole on the el can be thwarted. But it is important to assess one's fellow passengers. Some of us are prepared to come together when the conditions allow it. It is asking too much to expect most of us to step up and be the hero leader. But we especially need to be ready to stand with the hero leader when they do step up.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Social Work Cops Instead of Gun Cops

Police work is actually pretty safe, especially compared to a lot of ordinary well paid trades work. Mining and farming are, of course, more dangerous, as is taxi driving. The police do have though a well organized and effective public relations media machine. And that machine ensures that every police death is well publicized.

That machine has been especially needed these last twenty years as police work has become safer and police deaths have declined and indeed their reason for being, crime, itself has declined. While sometimes police forces may have been allowed to stagnate, the idea of actual reductions based on lessening needs has absolutely not been allowed to circulate.

Most people are not aware of the decline of crime in the U.S. Back when there was a lot of crime, much of it was not reported. Dog bites man stuff. But as crime and killing declined the reality shifted. Now its increasing rarity made each instance more newsworthy. So even as crime declined its media reportage stayed the same. So much so that one of Chuy Garcia's campaign suggestions was to increase police "man"-power.

At a time when in communities of color police were recognized as the problem and not a solution, the "progressive" candidate, Chuy Garcia showed a serious lack of sophistication.

When he said that I thought, "what we need are not more police but more social workers." Think that's nuts. Well talk to a gang-unit police commander and you will find that a lot of their work is done on the internet on social media.

Hiring police social workers also holds to potential to fix the racist over-reliance on violent force as a policing tool. Since cop culture requires adoption of a common cynical racist mind-set that punishes whistle-blowing and tattle-telling it would be necessary to start out social work cops in their own segregated units. In their own cars and without guns a brand new culture would become ingrained. When strong enough to stand on their own, these social work cops would then begin spending time cruising the neighborhood with gun-cops. Eventually the gun-cops would work with the social work cops, but without guns. After a shooting a gun-cop would not be put behind a desk, rather they would be sent out sans-gun with a social work cop.

It's a pretty simple thing to do. It costs no more. It's just not the way things are done.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Congressional Ukraine Arms Vote

348 to 48 as a loss looks bad. Could be worse, could be raining as Young Frankenstein says. There were also 36 non-voting on the "Lets make more war in the Ukraine" bill. Folks, you need to get the message. Russia is capitalist now. It has billionaires of its own. So get over the U.S.A. is #1 crap and start treating other countries as equals.

As you can see the only intelligent representative in Illinois is good ole Jan Schakowsky. Even Wisconsin does better.

Here's the vote: (Bold is "Democrat" but not necessarily much else.)

WI1Ryan (WI)Y

IL2Kelly (IL)Y





IL7Davis, DannyNV






IL13Davis, RodneyY

IN5Brooks (IN)Y


IL16Kinzinger (IL)Y
IN7Carson (IN)Y


IN9Young (IN)Y

Monday, March 02, 2015

Red-Line Aggression

Mary Mitchell recounts in the Chicago Sun-Times an experience on the Brown Line of aggressive behavior towards her and her having to resort to using the Red Call Button to summon the operator.  (

I agree with Mary Mitchell. It is extremely important that CTA users stand up for each other. When a wolf enters your train car you can act like a sheep or you can act like a cat. But the last thing you want to act like is a mouse.

One should immediately take notice of loud aggressive behavior. I'm not suggesting that you jump up and become a hero, but you need to be ready to back up any hero that does emerge. Mary was a hero here and did exactly the right thing. Hitting the call button can take courage. No one wants to be the cause of everyone else being delayed. But aggressive disturbance needs to be nipped in the bud or like graffiti it grows like cancer.

I'm a 68 yo man. At ten pm one night two weeks ago on the red line between Fullerton and my exit at Granville I had the opportunity to face three aggressive young women. They had hounded an older man and forced him to seek respite by going to the next car through the connecting doors. He was too incapable to succeed. So he found himself cowered across from me as they hounded him.

When I suggested that the young women back off they screamed at me to mind my own business. I told them that whenever someone on a train was making others uncomfortable that it became everyone's business. They screamed at me to shut up. They called me names. Very intense and unpleasant.

But this was not a dangerous situation. They were young women, tough yes, and with gang-like (I hesitate to use that proto-racist phrase) association amongst them. But they were not physically assaulting the old-man and their aggression toward me was only verbal. The fact that it did go on so long was an indication of its lack of real danger.

However it is clear that several other people were paying attention. Everyone else stayed out of it, yes. But I suspect that my stepping into it would have garnered me some back-up if it had escalated.
But here's where it actually gets more interesting. A young women sitting near me with her head buried in her headphones turned out to actually be paying attention. At some point she removed her head phones and asked if I had ever been groped.
See, the reason they were hounding the old man was because they were accusing him of improper sexually motivated behavior.

Truth presented in an Instant court-room drama is impossible to discern. But I am willing to hope that the hounding punishment meted out by the young women was commensurate with the severity of his alleged groping.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fiction - It's Just a Comfortable Bar for Women.

A buddy invited me out drinking at this bar he'd talked of before.

"Look," he said, "if we are polite and mind our manners we just might get lucky." Luck had never been something I had associated with bars, but I really didn't need any luck at the moment anyway. For the record I will not be mentioning the name of this bar nor will I confirm or deny it's location. Sure it could be in Andersonville or Avondale or even by the Zoo. You'll just have to find it on your own.

When I had asked last time what sort of bar it was I had gotten a vague answer. "It's women friendly," he'd said", "but it's not lesbian. I mean lesbians are welcome and you will see them there. It's kinda feminist but guys are welcome too. It's just a comfortable bar for women."

"SO why are we going again," I asked?

"It's 'gentlemen's night.' Beer is cheap for us," is all he would say.

We entered the bar. It was inviting. More of a cafe feel than a bar feel. Yes there was an actual bar with bar stools but there were also tables scattered around and a few couches etc. I almost didn't notice the absence of a big sports tv with a game on. It was a comfortable bar. Also missing were loud booming male voices. In fact the men that I saw seemed more quiet than the women.

My host began in, "Now listen don't stare and don't draw anyone's attention." It was an odd thing to say, I thought to myself. I looked around. There were plenty of well dressed and not un-attractive women there. Some even sitting alone.

"What did I just say," he whisper hissed at me? "You gotta pay attention to me. Don't go eying the women."

The more insistent he got the more curious I became. I was here to hang with him and I was not in the market for a fling or even a chat-up. But the more he said the more I wanted to check the place out.

A server came over to us. "Good evening gentlemen. Have you been here before? Do you have any questions?"

I was beginning to have questions but I held my tongue. I would be following my buddy for now.

"No thanks. I've been here before," he said. "I'll fill him in as needed."

"Fine. Are you ready to order?"

He turned to me. "You like wine? They have a really good Bordeaux Blanc."

I had thought we were coming for beer. He was clearly a bit nervous. I figured the best thing to do was just to keep humoring him. I simply nodded. I was becoming talk shy. Afraid of making some faux pas.

After she had left I ventured that I was expecting beer. "I changed my mind. I think wine would look better."

I was becoming increasingly puzzled. To my mind there were two major considerations when choosing a drink: the taste and the alcohol content. Looks, to my mind, while interesting were not a consideration by themselves.

It was then that I noticed a table of guys. In fact, now that I thought about it the table had become noticeable in a stand out sort of manner. A server approached and tapped a man on the shoulder.

"No. No. I didn't do anything. What did I do? No."

"Ugh oh," my buddy said. "Now he's just digging himself in deeper."

"What," I asked?

"He should have quietly apologized immediately and meekly gotten up to leave."

"What? What did he do?"

"I don't know, and it doesn't matter."

Just then the server came over with two drinks. "Compliments of the lady over there," she nodded in the direction of the bar.

I looked and then looked back at my buddy. He said, "just nod thanks and return to talking to me. For gods' sake don't stare and don't get up."

In my quick glance and nod she seemed nice. What had gotten into my buddy?

"Look," he continued, "if she's interested in us she'll come over to our table. Whatever you do don't call attention to yourself now."

At that point I had had it.

"OK," I said,"what's going on here. You've been acting so strange. I'm starting to get worried about you. Tell me what's happening or I am out of here. What is this place anyway?"

"I thought I told you? I didn't? This is like a feminist bar. They have a very strict code of conduct for us guys. Number one is no hitting on the women. Don't even look like you're hitting on one. Never do anything that could even be construed as the 'first move.' That guy that got ejected, well he coulda been sent packing for just staring too long at some woman. And it wasn't even necessarily the woman he was staring at that got him ejected. Any woman at any time can ask that any guy be kicked out. She doesn't even need a reason. She just has to ask and they do it. And you never know who or why. Because there might not have been a reason."

"That seems unfair," I replied.

"Maybe it is but it's the owner's bar and the owner's rules. With alcohol they have a lot of leeway with the liquor commission in the conduct they can permit in their bar. And here it's one strike and you are out. Here they have zero tolerance for whatever they choose to call 'sexist behavior.' Their goal is to make it a very comfortable bar for women."

Just then the woman who had bought us drinks came over with a friend. "Hey hard butt studlies mind if we join you?"

Like he had told me, sometimes you get lucky. Just don't push your luck. Don't even tap it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Aldermanic Politics: So Joe and Harry, Can You be Progressive and Neo-Liberal?

I am thinking about Joe Moore and Harry Osterman here. I always think about Harry but I was sparked to think about Joe because of the recent Reader article (Alderman Joe Moore explains his choice of beer and support for Rahm). He is a self-proclaimed Rahm supporter. He is a so-called progressive. Rahm in the meantime is what's called neo-liberal.

Progressive is understood these days as being the left-wing of the Democratic big tent. Neo-liberal is not really much of popular label at all. It's more of an insider label. Indeed there may be many so-called progressives who might be hard pressed to pin down a definition, even for themselves.

I use the term to refer to those Democrats who favor moving as much of the public infrastructure as possible into the private sector. Especially into the corporate private sector. Think charter schools. Think privatized water. Think privatized jails. You get the picture? Just remember that there is no need to stop pretty much anywhere. Think of hiring private mercenary corporations instead of the U.S. Army.

In Chicago, the first two, water and schools are the current and likely next battle grounds between the so-called progressives and the neo-liberals. Why do I keep saying so-called progressives? Well now we are back to Joe Moore. In the interview with Joe in the Reader, Mike Dumke seemed not to ask about either question, charter schools or water. So I am left wondering.

Where does Joe stand on charter schools and privatized water? Does he stand with Rahm on those? Even if not publicly?

Where does Harry stand for that matter? Harry recently took a stand against a charter school and another for Senn Public High School. But with Harry you never know whether such stands are tactical or philosophical. He holds all of his cards close to the vest. He is nothing if not a very practical politician.

So for Harry we might better ask where does the 48th ward community stand? There are two ways to find out. Conduct a poll or for Harry to make a move against the community and face some wrath. The ultimate wrath being successful opposition at the ballot box.

That's Joe's situation as we speak. The guy he barely beat in 2007, Don Gordon is back. But I don't see Don calling Joe out on either issue as that would be running at Joe from the left. And Joe substantially shored up his left flank with Participatory Budgeting. So Don is likely to run at Joe from the right, safety. Specifically so-called gang violence and crime in general. I myself don't see it working. I'm not sure that Rogers Park is really ready for gentrification. Gentrifiers care about crime. Crime keeps property values down and therefore taxes down. So I bet a lot of Rogers Parkers aren't ready for Lincoln Park style gentrification. Hell they aren't ready for Edgewater style gentrification. They still think their kids will be able to afford to live there when they grow up.

But Joe really is vulnerable to an opposition from the left. Problem is it would take a Paul Wellstone caliber campaigner to pull it off.

And so, by the way, is Harry vulnerable from the left. Harry has worked hard and successfully to shore up his right wing by being lauding his crime fighting cred. But lets face it, gay gentrification is different than straight gentrification. It can be fickle. Gay gentrifiers might actually care about participatory government more than Harry does.

But then again they may not. Conservative myths pushed by main stream media (MSM) run stronger these days and democratic ideals weaker. Take the myth that the private sector is more efficient than the public one. That's a myth belied by facts like that the social security bureaucracy is way more efficient than any private insurance bureaucracy. The problem for private bureaucracy is that the money saved ends up going into the owners pockets and is called profits. They way neo-liberalism supposedly saves money is by busting unions. But that just takes money out of a local economy and sends it to global profit centers. But if you want to run your government on the cheap, well sure, go for it. But it becomes less and less your government when you do.

Ultimately the neo-liberal privateers just want to reduce taxes, just like conservatives, on the rich and the corporate. And that's giant myth number two. Reducing taxes is good for everybody. The biggest problem is that somehow the taxes on the rich always get reduced more, even proportionately. Recycling tax dollars into the local economy directly tends to export more dollars out of our local economy and faster than recycling tax dollars via public wages first.

So can an alderman be progressive and neo-liberal. Well not in my book. But then I'm not a bookie.