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Chicago’s Inspiration

Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to stay for 3 nights in downtown Chicago. A Chicago trip always trips my urbanist triggers, and this time was no different. Comparing Indianapolis and Chicago is a futile pursuit, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do this while I’m there. Fortunately, I’ve come away with some inspiration that can apply to our city.

  • Each Bus Stop has the map of its route posted. This would be a nice way to give people an idea of where the buses travel without needing to find a guide or the internet. Still, we probably should re-design our routes first before enshrining them on bus stops.
  • Green Roofs. I actually saw 2 different green roofs from the vantage point of our hotel room. This was a nice, unexpected surprise, and gives the visitor a positive impression on the direction of the city.
  • A dirt cheap solution for bicycles. One particular street had a painted outline of a cyclist on the street, and a sign warning that drivers are to yield to them. That’s all there was. No painted bike lane. I’m not sure if I’m endorsing this or not, but if we’re looking to cut costs, we could look in to this.
  • Our main Library trumps Chicago’s in both functionality and attractiveness, especially on the interior. I attempted to spend some time in Chicago’s Library and felt somewhat oppressed. We need to find a way to promote our Library as a special place where a person can learn and feel inspired.
  • Trees on the street can make a huge difference. In my neighborhood walks in Chicago, the streets with street canopies were almost invariably more pleasant. Keeping Indianapolis Beautiful’s recent tree plantings will hopefully pay dividends in the future.

I’m sure that there are more somewhat simple ideas out there that we can apply to our city. This is just a small sample.

7 Responses to “ “Chicago’s Inspiration”

  1. The Urbanophile says:

    Kevin, the simple “share the road” bike logo is used when there is insufficient ROW for a full bike lane. IIRC, you need five feet of dedicated space for a bike lane. I believe Indy’s DPW has adopted the Chicago bike lane standards, so look for that in Naptown as well.

    The Harold Washington Library in Chicago is simply awful from a user perspective. Indy’s Central Library blows it away.

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the info. I did notice that the street was rather narrow (this was North Damen in Wicker Park).

    And that library…geez. I think I’ve had a better time at the BMV.

  3. rachel says:

    I agree completely about 1- redesigning the routes and 2 – adding maps for the routes.

  4. John M says:

    I was going to e-mail you about this, but because the thread went that way, I’ll slightly hijack: have you seen this month’s Urban Times? There is an article about the bike lanes.

    http://www.brookspublications.com/files/BIKELANES_may09.pdf

    The good news is that the odd little gap north of the Atheneum is going to be reworked with back-in angled parking. The part of the story that seemed strange was the information from the ImPD officer:

    “The most frequent early question, from motorists, is this: How do I turn right, legally, when a bicycle lane is between my driving lane and the right turn lane? And, if the curbside lane is now a full-time parking lane (as evidenced by that new, solid white line), can I use it for travel if there are no parked cars in the block?The answer to the first question is
    easy…

    The answer to the second question, regarding the parking lane: Yes, motorists can use that lane, said Officer Tony Brown, community policing officer for the Downtown District of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Dept. In fact, Brown said, motorists turning left or right should use the curbside lane (when no cars are parked here) because the law requires them to move into the farthest possible lane when turning.”

    That can’t be right, can it? I thought the only reason that they could add the bike lanes to most stretches of Michigan and New York was because a dedicated parking lane need not be as wide as a travel lane. While the officer isn’t quoted directly, the reporter’s characterization of his comments suggests that a driver is free to use that lane as long as there are no parked cars–i.e., even if there are bicycles using the bike lane. Also, if the officer is correct, then what is the point of the few feet of “dotted line” immediately before each cross street? Both the Indiana Code and Indianapolis Municipal Code indicate that turns should be made from “as close as practicable…to the curb or edge of the roadway.” Still, if the officer’s (paraphrased) comments are taken literally, it’s perfectly legal to blow by bicyle traffic on the right, in a lane that is technically too narrow for through traffic.

  5. david says:

    after reading your blog, so I understand What to write articles so that your visitors interested to read

  6. Kevin says:

    That question is out of my league John. Perhaps Indy Cog could answer it better.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I need to make contact with you. I am planning an urban tour and the urbanophile suggested I contact you to join the group. For details hbk207@yahoo.com Bruce

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