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Evanston's Proposed Bike Corral Project Debated at Transportation Committee Meeting

The Transportation and Parking Committee has concerns over the project's price tag.

The City of Evanston is looking into installing bike corrals in downtown Evanston in an effort to promote non-automotive transportation while keeping downtown sidewalks clear; but the project hit a snag Wednesday evening when the Transportation and Parking Committee began to question whether the pilot program’s expenses could be funded by an already-stretched city budget.

Under the proposal, bicycle corrals would be built in converted city parking spots, using one or two spaces depending on the location. The corrals would comprise six to seven racks, making parking room for 12 to 14 bikes.

The idea sprouted up in response to the 2008 Evanston Climate Action Plan and subsequent 2009 Multi-Modal Transportation Plan, both of which examined ways to reduce Evanston’s transportation-related carbon emissions. According to Evanston’s 2005 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, transportation contributes to 14 percent of Evanston’s total emissions (147,546 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent).

Additionally, city-funded studies revealed that downtown Evanston had both a surplus of car parking spaces and a scarcity of bike racks.

The city began brainstorming ways to make the city more bicycle friendly, including ideas such as bicycle sharing programs, introducing new bike routes, painting bicycle lanes a different color to improve safety, creating designated stopping spaces for bicyclists at traffic signals and facilitating “the installation of sheltered, secure bike racks downtown and at transit stations.”

Bike corrals have recently been built in San Francisco, Portland and Salt Lake City, European cities have been utilizing them for decades and Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood will soon be home to one, as well.

Evanston's proposed pilot program corral would be built outside the Evanston Athletic Club, 1723 Benson Ave., an area that is reportedly often cluttered with sidewalk-parked bikes.

City Engineer Paul Schneider, who gave a bike corral project presentation at Wednesday’s meeting, said that if built, the city would monitor the corral and surrounding area over the following year before deciding whether or not to expand the project to other downtown locations.

But several Transportation and Parking Committee members voiced opposition to reducing city revenue by removing downtown parking spaces. Though it would likely cost only $2,000 to build a corral, the city would miss out on an estimated $3,000 in annual city revenue for each parking space used, meaning the pilot program corral could cost Evanston near $6,000 per year.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st Ward) said she thought there were a handful of underused bike racks downtown, including several just west of the intersection of Clark Street and Benson Avenue, under the viaduct, less than a block from EAC.

“I’m really reluctant to take $6,000 away when there is something within half a block that is not being used,” Fiske said. “There are ways to reach out to say, ‘We have issues as a community with our budget. We’re concerned about taking these parking spaces away. There is a place that is fairly close to you. What can you do to help us? And if they can do a little outreach program to their patrons, then we’ll see how that works.”

Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th Ward) said she estimated 90 percent of the bicycles locked to trees, signs and parking meters along the 1700 block of Benson Avenue belonged to EAC patrons, that EAC had contacted the city in the past to ask for more bike racks, and, hence, that EAC should cooperate in a cost-sharing agreement with the city to build the pilot corral.

Schneider responded that his experience researching bike racks suggested that cyclists often tend to ignore inconvenient or distant bike racks in favor of locking up right outside their destination.

“What we’re finding in this experience, in placing these racks, is that people really want to park their bike to the location they’re going,” Schneider said, “and, unfortunately, our sidewalks, particularly in the mid-block, aren’t going to accommodate bike racks and still have enough room for pedestrians.”

Schneider suggested that bike corrals in a few key locations could help clear downtown sidewalks of parked bikes.

City of Evanston Environment Board member Hugh Bartling, who has been collaborating in developing the bike corral project, said that the increased visibility of the corrals as opposed to traditional bike racks, could give people the idea to start biking downtown instead of driving.

“One of the things that other cities have found,” Bartling said, “is that people see, ‘Oh, wow. There’s a bike rack on the street. Maybe next time I want to go downtown to see a movie I’ll have that in the back of my mind and I’ll ride my bike instead of drive.’ So if you can ... increase the number of bike trips downtown by 5 or 6 percent, you would do a lot to reduce congestion and improve the infrastructure.”

Still, other committee members suggested that the best way to force people to use already-built bike racks and to stop them from locking their bikes in the middle of public sidewalks would be to start enforcing a city ordinance that makes it illegal to chain a bike to a parking meter.

Cyclists may have to make that adjustment in the near future, regardless, as the city begins removing meters in favor of the new pay and display parking system.

The Transportation and Parking Committee asked Schneider to return to the group’s Aug. 24 meeting with information on the exact costs associated with installing and maintaining the corrals, confirmation of the amount of city revenue that would be lost by removing a parking space and having spoken to EAC representatives about possible cost-sharing and public outreach options.

If the pilot program were to pass through the Transportation and Parking Committee, it would go to the Administration and Public Works Committee and eventually the City Council.

Use of bike corrals would not be limited to patrons of a specific business and would be open for public use.

Richard Schulte July 28, 2011 at 09:09 PM
Sully, I am a safety engineer-please don't argue with me about safety statistics. If you don't want to believe me, take a look at the NHTSA statistics (or you can read the articles which I have written on the subject instead). Think before type.
Hugh Bartling July 28, 2011 at 09:24 PM
TomH, I am not a lawyer, but I think you are correct. At the meeting at least one committee member believed that you CAN park your bike at a parking meter. Someone from the audience interjected that the ordinance prohibits it, but I was pretty sure that the ordinance you site is the one regulating bike parking. If the way you parked your bike constituted a "hazard," you could be ticketed; but I have never seen this happen. A hazard must somehow "create or increase the possibility of loss." So you don't need to look for alternatives. You are perfectly within your rights to park your bike on a meter so long as it doesn't constitute a hazard. One quirk of the existing ordinances is 10-9-2 that says city residents have to register their bikes with the police for $0.50. You can be ticketed if you don't have your registration sticker on the bike. I encourage people to register their bikes with the police--primarily because it can help with identification and recovery if it gets stolen.
Jordan Graham July 28, 2011 at 09:25 PM
When I spoke with Mr. Bartling, one of the interesting things that he mentioned was how a city can build a critical mass of cyclists and how this can improve safety. Though I have no knowledge of the subject on my own and have not confirmed whether this actually works, I will relate what Mr. Bartling told me. It goes something like this; more visible public bike racks and corrals can lead to increased cycling in the city, which can lead to increased visibility of cyclist, which can lead to increased perception that cycling in city streets is safe, which can lead to even more people riding bicycles, which can make it much more common to see cyclists on the street, which can actually cause drivers to adjust their driving habits to more safely share the roads with cyclists and so on. The basic idea here is that cycling on city streets can be unsafe partially because it is not the norm. If it becomes more common, then it becomes less dangerous because drivers learn to adjust. However I do not know how a city crosses that barrier to reach that critical mass of cyclists. Mr. Bartling did admit that downtown Evanston's layout was less than ideal for cyclists in some ways, because many streets are one way and cyclists tend to want to choose the most direct route toward their destination. Hope this information helps. TomH: thank you for the kind words.
Jordan Graham July 28, 2011 at 09:33 PM
Mr. Bartling, the man who interjected at the meeting was the city employee in charge of regulating and managing all of Evanston's parking meters. He assured me it was illegal to park a bike on a meter, but said it is almost never enforced (for anyone worried about getting a ticket suddenly). I will contact the city to double check and will make a correction if necessary.
TomH July 28, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Sounds like wishful thinking on the meter supervisor's part. I'm sure it would be much easier to empty coins from a meter if no bikes were locked to it. But it's not against the law as far as I know.
Sully July 28, 2011 at 09:52 PM
Richard, maybe you could point me in the direction of bike/auto accident statistics for the city of Evanston. I just don't think you can say that those stats outweigh the overall benefits of bike riding.
Hugh Bartling July 28, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Thanks, Jordan. This is accurate. Although you have to keep in mind that there are all sorts of factors that go into safety like road design, geography, weather, time of day, etc... there have been quite a few studies that suggest the more pedestrians/cyclists there are in a specific location, the more safe it is for all involved. If you want to get in the nitty gritty of the analysis, here is a link to a peer reviewed article that was published a few years ago in Injury Prevention--one of the top public health/risk management journals: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1731007/pdf/v009p00205.pdf As far as Downtown Evanston goes, as Jordan says, the preponderance of one-way streets can result in more cyclists opting to either ride against traffic or ride on the sidewalk (both in violation of the law). But the whole reason we have one-way streets in the first place was to tame the car. I don't know exactly when the streets were converted to one way, but the only reason you have them that way is to try and lessen automobile congestion. From a multi-modal standpoint you could put in what they call "contraflow" bike lanes--basically it is a two way bike path on a one way street. There are many examples of these in the US and Europe. With some juggling of the car parking and bike lanes these might work Downtown.
Hugh Bartling July 28, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Yes, Jordan, please follow up with them. Be sure to ask him where in the code it is listed. There is stuff in the sidewalk/public ways chapter about "vehicles" being prohibited from parking on the sidewalk, but my understanding is that bicycles are not considered "vehicles." At least this goes for the state statutes.
Richard Schulte July 29, 2011 at 11:41 AM
Try Google for the national statistics. Try the Evanston Police Department for local statistics.
Sully July 29, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Hey, Rich, thanks for the suggestion. I'll check the Evanston police for those stats. Also, how can this be?- http://triblocal.com/evanston/2011/07/20/credit-agencies-award-top-scores-for-evanston/
Clif Brown July 29, 2011 at 05:11 PM
All of what you say from Mr. Bartling is so true. The Europeans show the way. Here, we work from the assumption that car traffic is good and all other forms must comply with what cars need. Our myopia - our inability to see how far we have gone in the service of cars is astounding. Richard's comment that he would like to see bikes gone is the perfect example, as is his outrage at public money spent on bikes when we all pay without question huge amounts for not only the auto traffic infrastructure we have, but the police and fire services necessary to deal with automobiles. To think of a 3000 pound+ auto traveling at the city limit of 25mph and a 25 pound bicycle moving at the average 12mph and point the finger of blame for danger to the public at the bike shows how upside down our thinking has become. I recall an Evanston Review article from about 1910 that I happened across at the Evanston Historical Society while I researching another subject...it was discussing whether it would be a good idea to raise the automobile speed limit above the citywide limit of 12mph! Now, in our desperation to get a handle on out-of-control driving, we now have "traffic calming" devices such as speed humps and traffic circles to slow cars down even as most vehicles have engines of 150 horsepower+ and many are 250hp+. The Porsche Cayenne SUV can be ordered with a 500hp engine! Not only is the move to bikes long overdue, we know from other countries that it can be done.
TomH July 29, 2011 at 05:52 PM
As an aside, the ribbon-cutting ceremony and party for Chicago's first on-street cycle corral in Wicker park is this evening, Friday July 29, from 5 to 7:30, if you're interested in seeing what a cycle corral in operation might look like. Join the festivities here: http://www.thechainlink.org/events/bike-away-from-work-and-park
Richard Schulte July 29, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Hmmmm. . . ever notice those bicyclists wearing helmets? Do you understand why they where helmets? While some may do it to look "cool", the purpose of the helmets is to prevent head and brain injuries in the event there is an accident.
Richard Schulte July 29, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Sully, are you trying to change the subject yet again?
Richard Schulte July 29, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Yesterday afternoon as I was walking down Forest Avenue, I witnessed a near bike/car collision. The bicyclist blew a stop sign and almost became a hood ornament. Thank God that the driver of the car was paying attention. You all need to stop blaming cars for the problem. It's the bicyclists with the bad manners. Any bicyclist who does come to a full and complete stop at each and every stop sign is breaking the law. Rarely do I see a bicyclist who stops at a red light and waits for it to turn green. Sorry, but please lay off the car drivers. No driver wants to hit someone on a bicycle.
Sully July 29, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Yes, helmets are an excellent idea, just as seat belts are. And yes, i changed the subject, but I wanted your opinion. I thought Evanston was in such bad shape.
Richard Schulte July 29, 2011 at 07:30 PM
Sully, I'm leaving Evanston for greener pastures (Florida) in October. You'll have to carry on without my common sense advice.
Clif Brown July 29, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Richard, there is nothing that says cars are the way people must travel and all others must accommodate them. It's only because cars are so prevalent that we know of no other way to live and use them even to go absurdly short distances.Our lives are built around them to the point that most people can't even conceive of riding a bike as an adult regardless of any safety consideration. Our problem is we can't think outside the large, heavy, expensive, polluting mobile metal box. You have said rightly that walking is to be preferred, but bikes are far more efficient than walking. As to the danger to bicyclists, do you think that those who get in accidents with cars are out to do so? Everyone makes errors in judgment regardless of their mode of travel - pedestrians included. At one time, before cars when people were free, one could cross anywhere and everywhere at any time of one's choosing using normal caution. Look at old pictures of Evanston. If we had only cyclists and pedestrians with no cars we would find, as have those in European cities, that one can move about with almost no restriction and without the risk of being severely injured or killed that cars present. Traffic signals and safety infrastructure all came with the car. The horse is a heavy animal, but even so, when horses ruled the day, people mingled freely with them, though certainly accidents happened. It is we, not cars, that are in charge. But blinded by the so-called "love affair", we suffer.
Richard Schulte July 29, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Clif Brown wrote: "But blinded by the so-called "love affair", we suffer." Don't mean to be argumentative, but how are we suffering because of cars? The prosperity that we enjoy as a nation is due to the automobile. Cars allow us to travel whenever and wherever we feel like it. I believe it's referred to as freedom. The reason that the United States is (or was) the #1 economy in the world is because of the automobile. These days, the wealth of a nation is measured by the number of automobiles in the nation. The internal combustion engine permits American farmers to feed the world. The internal combustion engine permit trucks and trains to move goods across the nation. All of those things that most American take for granted. I admit to being clueless as to the type of world that some would like to live in. No things were not better before the invention of the internal combustion engine and the automobile. Bicycles are not a year-round mode of transportation in this climate. While there are brave souls who ride bicycles in January and February, doing so can be extremely dangerous in this climate. As you may have read, after living 28 years in Evanston, I'm planning on relocating to Florida. Lately, things have gotten a little too strange for me here in Evanston. Perhaps there is a reverse migration from California back to the Midwest.
Clif Brown July 30, 2011 at 04:19 AM
Richard, I am not calling for an end to cars. They have a purpose, but consider the terrible burden they are. Imagine having to put dollar bills into a slot in the dashboard in order to pay as you go. People would rebel, but instead the costs are distributed. People get excited over gas cost because they are at the pump with money taken from them yet that's not even half of the cost of car ownership. You are right to question expenditures, it's money out of our pockets, but the annual cost of owning a car is far beyond the yearly tax burden of most people. Insurance, depreciation, gas, parking. We must rebuild every street over and over forever. A good proportion of all urban areas are pavement and parking lots or garages. The maintenance cost on all this is huge and everyone is paying it whether they own a car or not. I won't even start on air/water costs to the environment at large. For transportation around town, a car is a huge waste and we see this every day. Observe the absurd bumper to bumper parking in Chicago on residential streets, and cars spend the great majority of their lives...parked! Cars are usually occupied by one person sitting in a cavernous space carrying...nothing! A human body that could be on a 25 pound bike is in a 2 ton block of iron burning gasoline and that is considered "normal" and we wring our hands over energy consumption. This is the freedom of which you speak? No, it is slavery. Cars dictate the way we live.
David July 30, 2011 at 01:11 PM
Just wanted to point out that last week I drove downtown, could not find parking, so drove back home and rode my bike...to the gym. Makes more sense doesn't it? AND when I got there (LA Fitness) had to chain it to the garbage receptacle because there is only 1 bike tie up for that gym and related first-floor businesses, which was Full with 2 bikes! A gym with 2-bike tie-up capacity? At the New Optima Building? What kind of planning is that? Last night I rode my bike to the movie theater and had to tie up to a tree because all bike tie-ups were full, as were most of the trees..... City planning for bikers is very poor. I think the recent biking master plan lets us down. Back to the drawing board, folks. Aging biker who would like to ride more and use my own fossil fuel.
Richard Schulte July 30, 2011 at 02:15 PM
David, I walk to LAFitness (from Lincoln School). I never have any problems with finding a parking space or finding a location to secure my bike. Walking is the best exercise-it's easy on the knees and you can do it at practically any age. I walk about 1,000 miles a year. I've been doing that for the last 30 years. The only equipment you need is a good pair of walking shoes. The shoes are the trick to keeping your knees in good shape. Walking is a lot safer than biking (if you always yield to cars) and you get to admire the beautiful scenery in Evanston. Another advantage is that you get to meet and greet lots of dogs. Bruce the bulldog, Teddy the cockapoo, Meggie the retriever and Lucy the beagle are just some of my dog friends. Every time I meet Meggie, she tries to retrieve me. If you live in this neighborhood, you will also get to know Pat, the professional dog walker. Give it a try.
Patricia July 30, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Re walking versus biking: It depends on the distance. Usually, anything within a 15-20 min walk is not worth biking to, unless one is under a time crunch. A 20 min walk is equivalent to about 7 min on the bike, without rushing. The revenues from parking don't cover the social costs of encouraging the use of cars (pollution!). Besides, by the EAC, there is something fundamentally wrong with encouraging cars to go the gym... Perhaps the lost revenue could be recovered from enforcing traffic regulations: cars routinely stop on the Church Ave bike lane, drivers talking on cell phones (and texting), not stopping on pedestrian crossings when pedestrians are present, not bothering to signal turns... cyclists running red lights or riding on the sidewalk. I am sure in two weeks you will get the revenue of a year's worth of parking for one spot.
Patricia July 30, 2011 at 04:18 PM
I have to see a car driver in Evanston actually coming to a full stop on a stop sign.Drivers blow off rules on a regular basis,: no signaling, yapping on cell phones, using lanes reserved for buses, stopping on bike lanes... And, if you are on a bike, I have seen drivers cut me off and blow stop signs completely. I am also a driver and a pedestrian, by the way. I am appalled by the lack of driving civility in the Chicago area, in general.
Patricia July 30, 2011 at 04:23 PM
I don't believe there is a regulation against that. In some cities, the parking meters actually offer hardware to facilitate locking bikes to them. Here's a link to a picture from Oak Park, for example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakparkcycleclub/2836916774/ Generally, bikes do not interfere with access to the meter. The issue for cyclists is safety: being able to lock your bike to something that does not move.
Patricia July 30, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Richard: One can tell you despise bikes. Yes, most cyclists wear helmets. And by now all cars have seat belts, air bags, anti lock breaks... ratings on collision safety. Saying that because you wear a helmet the actvity is more dangerous than driving is ridiculous. I do despise cyclists riding riding against traffic and ignoring all traffic rules. The city can make it easier on those who obey by having traffic lights that can be activated by cyclists (e.g., I ride north on Asbury to Isabella, and the traffic light to cross Central Ave does not change to green unless a car arrives at the intersection). I am in favor of traffic rules enforcement on drivers and cyclists.
Patricia July 30, 2011 at 05:02 PM
I agree. The biking infrastructure is poor. It has improved somewhat since I moved to Evanston 10 years ago, but it is far from ideal. My first 5 years in the city, I lived car free, just walking and biking, so it is possible.
Clif Brown July 30, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Biking needs to become a practical habit (not just an exercise routine, though that's a good use for a bike too) and that only happens if people give it a try. The fact that there can never be enough car parking places near the train stations provides the opportunity for people to bike to the train - not a long distance and it breaks the ice. I know that at the Central St METRA station the bike racks are overloaded and people are locking bikes to every available fixed object, even across Green Bay Road by Chase Bank (where they finally replaced their rusted out racks). What's the situation at the Davis Street and Howard El stations? My suggestion would be to experiment with bike parking where it would be immediately used to capacity (not that EAC doesn't fit the bill). If there is talk of replacing a car parking space or two with bike rack capacity for many bikes, it should be tried at one of the train stations where parking for one (car) could be replaced by parking for, what? at least five bikes? When I was in Washington DC I was astounded by the bike parking for the Metro - including lockable stalls where bikes can be placed inside beyond the reach of the weather.
William August 01, 2011 at 11:56 AM
"Additionally, city-funded studies revealed that downtown Evanston had both a surplus of car parking spaces..." Seriously ??!! Where are these secret parking spaces? I'd love to know. (Maybe you mean the 3/4's unused lot on top of Whole Foods, which I've used illegally a NUMBER of times).
Richard Schulte August 01, 2011 at 11:57 AM
William, the unused parking spaces are in the parking garages the City of Evanston mandated be built.

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