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.

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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Another “silly” Law

    First of all I'm a biker and bike everywhere.

    The city already does not enforce the bike laws it has.  I say "silly" because people know the existing laws are not enforced and so new ones will be just as easily un-enforced.

    The map EvanstonNow showed of police tickets/warnings seemed to be mostly on Sherman.   But very few on Clark or Orriginton where bikers stream along the walks. 

    The police want people to report crime [I'm not saying this is "a crime"] but when people tell the police and Council about all the bike riding on Clark and Orrington, you would think they would take the hint and put some police out there—I think this is what could be called a "honey pot"—they could just sit there and pick the bikers off.  With the city finances, it could use the funds from fines, but the main benefit would be the safety of the residents.   Why they don't is a mystery to many of us.  I suspect NU students would pass the word along to their friends that there is a law and fines.



    1. Choose your battles

      Getting upset about cyclists occasionally using Evanston's downtown sidewalks and for other infractions is a futile endeavor.

      I used to get upset until I realized that more than a few of them are NU students who simply use their bikes to just to get somewhere–more than viewing bike use as a lifestyle. Some may be persuaded not to ride on the sidewalks–or to stop at traffic lights and signs, or ride the wrong direction on one-way streets. The problem is that every September, NU introduces a brand new crop of these students into our community, so we essentially start all over again on an annual basis. 

      Other offenders are seniors or parents (sans helmets) biking with young kids (wearing helmets). Still others are weekend riders who, when confronted or ticketed for riding on the sidewalks, complain that police have more important things to do than harass them for such a minor mistake.

      The only answer to the ongoing problem is creating a strict and policed "bike state," a notion that is reprehensible to Evanston's many socially, politically liberal, wealthy, entitled, well-educated residents who, as an added bonus, have no problem questioning authority. 

      Good luck with that.

  2. Crowded buses

    "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."

    Except when they are totally packed during bad weather.  NU needs to work on adjusting capacity to be larger at the right times too.

  3. Make sidewalks wider and eliminate bike lanes in streets.

    I like the idea of working with NU bus service for Evanston. Seems like it would be an easy thing for everyone to agree on. The new bike lanes seem to be less for biking commuters (simply going from point A to point B) than biker enthusiasts (fast biking for exercise). Perhaps something like Indianapolis would be a good idea with very wide sidewalks which incorporate bike and handicapped lanes. Here is one image for reference.

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