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Engagement needed to create better biking in communities of color

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A recent article highlighting Bread of Life Church’s bike club on Chicago’s South Side argues for thoughtful community engagement in planning new and innovative bike projects in communities of color. 

Controversy over new bike lanes in some African-American communities has sparked discussion about the perceived gentrifying effects of bike infrastructure and what is necessary to broaden support for biking in all communities.

The article cites a Portland bike lane project that required extensive community engagement in order to gain traction in a community that had historically experienced city-imposed change and underinvestment. A new plan with added community support includes the bike infrastructure as well as public art projects honoring the neighborhood’s history as Portland’s African American hub.


Written by maggiedaly

November 15th, 2013 at 10:35 pm

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CMAP Weekly Update, 11-15-13

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Written by Hillary Green

November 15th, 2013 at 9:06 pm

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Threat to Low-Income Renters Will Get Worse, Unless Congress Acts

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Budget Cuts Threaten Rental Assistance to Families Across the Country Congress has set a deadline of Dec. 13 to negotiate a final budget deal for fiscal year 2014. For low-income families and communities in need of affordable housing, the stakes in these negotiations couldn’t be higher.  If policymakers fail to reach a deal that cancels or reduces the indiscriminate budget cuts known as sequestration, as many as 185,000 fewer low-income families will be using Housing Choice Vouchers by the end of 2014.  Our new report describes this threat, including state-by-state estimates of the potential impact.  

Written by Rooflines

November 15th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

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San Francisco provides a path to a city’s waterfront revitalization

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As Chicago begins a long process to reconstruct North Lake Shore Drive, one of our city’s most iconic streets, the Active Transportation Alliance and a coalition of 15 civic organizations in the city of Chicago are calling for a bold vision to better meet the needs of everyone who uses the lakefront. 

Next week Active Trans will partner with the Chicago Architecture Foundation to give a lunchtime lecture about our vision to improve transit along the lakefront, build a people-friendly roadway, and provide better access to our parks.

Leading up to that event, we’re working with guest blogger Ian Adams to share a series of stories of how other cities are rethinking their waterfronts. Please enjoy these examples from other cities, which we hope offer inspiration for how Chicago could better tap our lakefront’s full potential and transform our waterfront into a more people-friendly place.

San Francisco provides a path to a city's waterfront revitalization

The Embarcadero Freeway in 1978
The Embarcadero, after the removal of the freeway
The Embarcadero, after the removal of the freeway

Last year, while visiting the Bay area for work, I went for a jog in downtown San Francisco. My natural aversion to climbing steep hills led me to the Embarcadero area along the waterfront. As I took in the view of the Bay Bridge, little did I know that an elevated freeway once ran directly over where I stood.

Since the Embarcadero freeway was torn down in 1991, the surrounding area has improved dramatically. The transformation of the Embarcadero area has created a space that is more vibrant and people friendly. It's incorporated other forms of transportation and increased property values.

As Chicago begins the difficult process to reconstruct North Lake Shore Drive, San Francisco offers some interesting food for thought about how a city can re-examine waterfront freeways to create a more people-friendly and connected city. Could something like this be an option for Chicago?

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck the Bay area and badly damaged the Embarcadero freeway. This urban freeway had long been unpopular with residents: In 1959, before construction was even complete, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to oppose the construction of other similar freeways.

The high cost of rebuilding the elevated highway after its partial collapse only added to this opposition. As a result, San Francisco removed this section of freeway and redeveloped the street underneath, connecting it to the street grid.

Some residents were concerned about what this freeway removal would do to traffic congestion, and predicted gridlock and chaos. These dire predictions never materialized. Following the earthquake, the freeway was closed due to damage. Traffic patterns adjusted.

Today, multiple lanes of vehicle traffic flow in both directions in addition to trolley lines, bike lanes and large pedestrian-friendly areas. When I visited the area on a weekday morning, traffic flowed freely down the Embarcadero. Palm trees now line the wide pedestrian promenades that flank the street.

Revitalization plans have also led to dramatic changes and stimulated mixed-use development.

The Embarcadero freeway removal was a great improvement for this area of the city and helped pave the way to a friendly, more attractive waterfront. San Francisco created a people-friendly place while still providing a major thoroughfare for car traffic. Chicago would be well served by looking at San Francisco’s path as it considers the transition of Lake Shore Drive from a highway to a friendlier, more accommodating boulevard.

This is a guest blog by Ian Adams. Ian is a volunteer with the Active Transportation Alliance.

Written by volunteer contributor

November 14th, 2013 at 11:33 pm

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New Report Provides More Complete Picture of Trade Activity

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Written by Justine Reisinger

November 14th, 2013 at 10:33 pm

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For Stronger City, Begin Planning in Neighborhoods

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The most valuable insight among many in the Chicago Tribune’sNew Plan of Chicago” series was in the October 6 kickoff editorial, when the Trib noted that Chicago’s challenges are “intertwined” and cannot be remedied one at a time.

They cannot be solved without a bold plan that ties the strands together.

At neighborhood planning meetings, residents identify locations of interest and projects that would address local needs.

Eric Young Smith

So here’s a bold plan. Let’s get our neighborhoods to plan for themselves, and then work with leaders – who cut across those neighborhoods – to see how these local plans can reinforce each other and help advance the robust set of new plans the City has already developed for the arts, economic development, housing and tech.

Let’s ask our private-sector partners – corporations and philanthropists old and new – to invest in this coordinated planning process; in the organizational infrastructure that will move the plans into action; and in the data systems necessary to inform the work, so that we can move from aspirational ideas to achievable, lasting results.

We’ll need a 21st century understanding of what makes a city and its neighborhoods work. That means building robust local networks of people and institutions that can connect face-to-face and through digital platforms to respond to opportunities and threats, so that our neighborhoods are stronger, healthier, more resilient. In this “hyper-local” era, citizens don’t want government planning for them. They want to plan for themselves and organize into networks and communities on issues that matter to them.

21st Century planning

Starting in 2003, neighborhood partners in LISC’s New Communities Program (NCP) engaged thousands of residents in the creation of 14 neighborhood quality-of-life plans. Those plans created local visions and buy-in, jump-started new thinking on community development, leveraged more than $500 million in new investment, and created real impact around the city, advancing urban farms in Englewood, new housing and retail development in Grand Boulevard, and a model violence prevention collaborative in Little Village.

But that was a decade ago. Finding comprehensive solutions to today’s social and economic problems will require 21st century quality-of-life planning.

Neighbors create strategy lists and then discuss how best to implement them.

Here’s how we could do it. First, you need strong neighborhood institutions to lead the engagement and planning process in each community. LISC has worked with a diverse set of local partners, from community organizing groups to a conservatory alliance to decades-old community development corporations. Depending on the neighborhood, it could also be a local museum, branch library or any other trusted institution that can engage residents and other stakeholders (online and offline), bringing new partners and new technology to the table to tackle the issues that will be put on that table.

Second, you need a “data partner.” LISC has worked well with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, DePaul’s Institute for Housing Studies and others to tap into Chicago’s vast data universe. It’s essential to help community leaders understand the issues and opportunities, to inform the strategies, and to create systems that will track progress against the plan.

Third, you need technical support – innovative planners who think about the physical and social dimensions of a neighborhood, great writers (we use journalists and call them “scribes”), and cross-community advisors to help build a mindset and skill set that helps multiple partners integrate their efforts.

Lastly, you need cash. What’s a plan, after all, without some seed dollars to start implementation?

Top down, bottom up

The City of Chicago will have to play a leadership role. True neighborhood representation will be essential. And yes, citywide partners like LISC will be necessary to help coordinate the local knowledge and neighborhood plans with big data and citywide plans.

Top down and bottom up. That’s the only way to plan in the 21st century city.

Engaging youth is essential to addressing long-term challenges like education and safety.

Patrick Barry

The Tribune is right that a new Plan of Chicago is needed. But in a city with a thriving central area flanked by so many lower-income communities, the kind of planning that will produce the most benefits – on the scale of the Burnham Plan – is a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach, stitched together in a cohesive citywide framework.

We as a city know how to do this. What we need is new civic commitment, mechanisms to get local planning underway, and the will to invest in all corners of the city to help Chicago enter yet another great era of prosperity.

Susana Vasquez is executive director of LISC Chicago.

Written by LISC Chicago

November 14th, 2013 at 6:00 pm

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Explore Post-Crisis Rebuilding Beyond the Linear Narrative

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When I first came to New Orleans with my video camera in the months after Hurricane Katrina, it was already apparent that, just as the days after the storm laid bare deep and painful truths about race, class, and citizenship in the United States, the story of rebuilding New Orleans would have significance far beyond that time and place. Over seven years, my team and I amassed an unprecedented archive of hundreds of hours of footage shot in and around New Orleans, encompassing a multitude of stories and perspectives, from homeless encampments to the halls of power. It was our goal early on to use our media to support the work of groups on the ground who were fighting for just and equitable rebuilding. This required assembling and disseminating these stories in ways that extended beyond a linear feature-length film, including online viral videos, a web series, and even art exhibits. Luisa Dantas and Micheal Boedigheimer By the time our feature documentary, Land of Opportunity, came out in 2011 (Kalima Rose reviewed it for Shelterforce), the lessons and experiences from post-Katrina New Orleans were increasingly relevant. The Great Recession had begun, as had the BP oil disaster. A year later, Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard. From Detroit to Gulfport; from New York City to northern Colorado, our communities are increasingly becoming contested sites of post-crisis rebuilding. How we (re)build our communities just might be the defining challenge of the 21st century.

Written by Rooflines

November 14th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

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Shop for Good: Your gifts count twice

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Buy your holiday gifts at participating Shop for Good businesses in Wicker Park & Bucktown and they will donate 10% of your purchases to the local school or nonprofit of your choice.

Shop for Good runs Dec. 6-8. Shop at participating business in Wicker Park Bucktown and generate donations for for the Polish Triangle Coalition, a group that includes the East Village Association.

  • Shop at participating Shop for Good businesses, find great gifts to purchase and generate a donation to your favorite local school or non-profit.
  • Request a duplicate receipt and write "Polish Triangle Coalition" on it. Request that duplicate receipt so your dollars count and Polish Triangle Coalition gets the 10% donation.
  • Place the duplicate receipt in the Shop for Good receipt box next to the register.
  • All instructions are on the Shop for Good receipt box, so it’s easy to Shop for Good.

Written by Webmaster

November 14th, 2013 at 2:35 am

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Get ready for the Bicycle Film Festival in Chicago!

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Starting next Thursday, all Chicagoland residents are invited to participate in the eighth annual Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) in Chicago. Attendees will get a chance to enjoy a slate of bicycle-focused films that will be screened throughout the weekend at the Logan Theater.

There will also be rides, events and parties to make the festival even more of a celebration. The event runs from Thursday, Nov. 21 until Sunday, Nov. 24.

The films featured are mostly shorts and encompass all genres — romantic comedy to documentary and everything in between — made by filmmakers from all over the world. On Friday, they’ll be running two different short programs, while on Saturday they’re screening a feature length film followed by two screenings of a third short program.

The feature length presentation is the Mexican film “Ciclo,” which follows two brothers as they travel from their hometown in central Mexico to Toronto.

For those of you who’d like to do some bike riding along with your film-viewing, rides to the films will be hosted by Heritage Bike Shop and the Chainlink.

The BFF began after Brendt Barbur, the Founding Festival Director, was hit by a bus riding his bike in New York City. He was determined to turn his crash into something positive and came up with the idea of the festival to bring together and motivate the cycling community.

Now the BFF spans over 20 cities and serves as a platform to celebrate the bicycle through art, music and film. The festival organizers feel that the urban bike movement is one of the most powerful and culturally relevant developments of the last decade, and they want to keep the momentum going through the BFF.

Other notable events at the upcoming BFF Chicago are the annual Cranksgiving ride (scheduled for Saturday) that raises money to provide meals for homeless people on Thanksgiving. On Sunday there will be a BMX event at the Logan Boulevard Skate Park. Learn more. 

Written by JordanBray

November 13th, 2013 at 8:53 pm

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National decline in driving

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Written by Hillary Green

November 13th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

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