Chicago Sun-Times

August 2010 Archives

When U-2's Bono sings about streets that have no name, what streets is he talking about?

The answer is the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Walter Brzeski of Chicago was the first with the right answer.

The reversal of the Chicago River wasn't the city's only jaw-dropping engineering project. In this month's Chicago Magazine, Lilli Carre drew a fun visual history of the raising of Chicago's streets and buildings out of the swamp in the mid-19th century. See illustration here.

Fans of the Bloomingdale Trail -- this is taking longer than you hoped.
More than a year after the city of Chicago selected ARUP North America to begin preliminary design and engineering work on the proposed 2.7 mile linear park on the Northwest Side, the contract still hasn't been awarded.
Chicago transportation department spokesman Brian Steele said that given the project's scope and complexity, the amount of time it has taken to agree on what the contract entails "is not out of the ordinary." The city had originally predicted the $3.1 million contract would go to ARUP at the end of last year.
Ben Helphand, president of the board of Friends of Bloomingdale Trail, an advocacy group for the project, isn't discouraged and believes there has been "good, steady progress."
"I wish that particular contract was moving forward, but it's a very big project, with a lot of moving parts," Helphand said.
The trail for bicyclists and pedestrians would run on an unused railroad bed along Bloomingdale Avenue from Ashland to Ridgeway. The design phase has to look at issues like the condition of 37 viaducts that hold up the trail.
Helphand said the group is "extremely happy" that plans are moving forward on one of the parks that will be an access point to the trail. The Albany-Whipple Park had already been set up as a temporary park by the Trust for Public Land. The Trust, the Friends of Bloomingdale Trail and the Chicago Park District are working on plans to develop a children's playground on the site. It's expected to open this fall, Helphand said.
Other parks that will provide access to the elevated trail are also in the works, Helphand said. The city has been discussing the trail for 11 years.

The 1930s were a bad time for the economy, but a good time for pop culture inventions, like chocolate chip cookies. What transportation-related entertainment was first introduced in June 1933?

The answer is the drive-in movie theater. Susan Flynn of Hickory Hills was the first with the right answer.

The other day I was biking home from work when I was brought up short by a guy driving his car in the bike lane, while talking on his cellphone - in other words, breaking two city laws at once and being a jerk. I had to maneuver around him, and reminded him, through his open window, that he should get out of the bike lane and off his phone (No, I didn't swear, and yes, I promise to stop lecturing people on what the law is while I'm in a smaller vehicle). He swore at me and yelled that I was on a bike because I "couldn't afford a car."

I do own a car -- a fully paid-off car. I ride a bike a couple of times a week because I need the exercise. But in reading the frequently heated comments after bike articles, I always run into this notion -- that people are on bikes because they can't afford cars, not because they like bikes. This seems to be a delusion sustained by Hollywood, according to this article by transportation writer Tom Vanderbilt. He cites all the movie losers who don't drive, like the Ben Stiller character in "Greenberg" or Steve Carell's bicycling 40-year-old virgin. He wonders if this is because screenwriters live in Los Angeles, the car-culture capital.

He also wonders if this approach to non-car transportation is changing -- the comedy "500 Days of Summer" has a California couple actually taking a train to a San Diego wedding. But I think Vanderbilt is forgetting some of the cool film depictions of bicycles from the past -- like "Breaking Away" or "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," or train movies like "North by Northwest." No one called Cary Grant a loser for riding the rails.

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