For the close of bike-to-work week Friday, the city of Chicago held a transportation forum on bicycling at the Cultural Center. The panelists included musician and bike enthusiast David Byrne (interviewed here), who also turned out to be the evening's A.V. guy.
He helped both Chicago Department of Transportation deputy commissioner Luann Hamilton and Center for Neighborhood Technology vice president of policy Jacky Grimshaw start their computer slideshow presentations. When Grimshaw ran into a little technical trouble toward the end of her talk, she called out plaintively "David!" and he sprinted over to get her to the right slide.
The panelists, who also included SRAM Cycling Fund Director Randy Neufeld, all discussed options for expanding bicycling.
Byrne showed slides of the "dead" areas created in cities by facilities for cars, including massive parking lots and expressway cloverleafs. He noted that sometimes when he's on a U.S. tour, his view from a hotel room is just acres of parking.
"It's really depressing. There's no life there whatsoever," said Byrne. "It turned a city, which is a place... where people interact and meet one another and do all sorts of things ... into a place where no one is near one another."
Byrne said he thinks this car-centric approach seems to be changing, as cities like New York turn some streets into places that are more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, with protected bike lanes and bike parking.
Hamilton's presentation included the surprising statistic that more than 20 percent of the traffic on Milwaukee Avenue is bicycles, in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area where there's a bike lane. "Biking has become a competitive form of transportation and is not just a recreational pastime anymore," Hamilton said.