While Google this week was announcing progress toward a driverless car, Evanstonians were talking about more prosaic forms of transportation — bikes and buses.
At the Transportation and Parking Committee meeting Wednesday night, Natalie Watson, a member of Citizen’s Greener Evanston, criticized city staff’s decision to include options for banning bike traffic from more major city streets in a bicycle survey.
“The whole bike community is in an uproar about the proposed bike bans,” Watson said, adding that “it would be a backward step for us as we’re beginning to make some strides” in encouraging bicycle use.
And another resident, Dan Joseph, said if bikes are banned on streets, riders will use sidewalks instead “and that would be a bigger problem.”
Dave Galloway shows off a book with planning ideas he likes as Paul Giddings watches.
Committee member Dave Galloway, who’s also on the Plan Commission, said the commission subcommittee working to update the city’s comprehensive plan has been focusing a lot on ways to encourage modes of transportation other than the automobile.
He said two books he’s found very useful recently both argue that there are tremendous benefits in slowing down the pace of traffic in urban areas — including encouraging shopping at local businesses.
“If a pedestrian is walking down the street, he can see the shop windows and decide to go into a store because he likes what’s in the window,” Galloway said. “When you’re in a vehicle, that’s not possible.”
“A lot of cities,” he said, “are looking at putting streets on a diet.”
He said Fort Myers, Fla., has substantially reduced the width of its streets and used concrete pavers on them. The noise from the pavers, he said, is more tolerable to drivers when they go slowly, so that helps cut driving speeds.
He said Fort Myers has increased the width of its sidewalks by two to three times, which makes it great for sidewalk cafes and provides more parking options for bicycles.
“The whole nation has erred on the side of cars for far too long,” Galloway argued, and “the two demographics we want to appeal to to live here — millenials and empty-nesters — have the least demand for cars.”
Ylda Capriccioso, the city’s intergovernmental coordinator, said the city is planning a survey, to be conducted this summer, focused on bus transit options for getting to place to place within Evanston.
Capriccioso says much of the bus service in town has “a commuter or regional focus” — to get people to shopping malls or downtown Chicago.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she’d like to see the city work to better coordinate bus service for residents with Northwestern University’s bus service for students and employees.
She complained that the NU buses often have very few students on them, but are so large that they have a hard time getting around corners.
She also objected to the CTA’s decision to move a bus route from Sherman Avenue to Sheridan Road, saying that left elderly residents living near Sherman with no convenient bus service.
“We should be working together,” Fiske said. “Having empty buses running down the street doesn’t make any sense.
Capriccioso said the university’s contract with its bus service provider is coming up for renewal this fall and that city staff have started to discuss options for better bus service coordination with the university.