The Circuit

This video captures the story of a summer project at West Town Bikes, where a group of interns learned about urban planning in order to design a bike friendly neighborhood that is more accessible to young people.  Free Spirit Media put a lot of work into the video.  Their skills and guidence in production, recording and editing made The Circuit look great.  Free Spirit Media provides education, access, and opportunity in media production to over 500 underserved urban youth every year and we greatly appreciate their partnership.

Back in July and August 2015, West Town Bikes launched Safe Passages: Amplifying the Voices and Stories of Teen Skaters and Bikers, a youth-led project to teach urban planning skills to a select group of high school students so they could devise an innovative way to route young people between three neighborhood youth attractions in Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and Avondale.

  • Bloomingdale Trail
  • Logan Square Skate Park
  • The Garden

Our interns interviewed cyclists, planners, and community leaders on the purpose, constituency, and accessibility of these venues. They used this information to help identify what prevents youth from cycling and ways to overcome these obstacles. With the Free Spirit Media crew, they filmed people on the Bloomingdale Trail as well as the Logan Square Skate Park and The Garden.  They interviewed Alderman Deb Mell, skaters at Clemente High School, Garden trail builder Matt Van Acker, 606 Program Director Jamie Simone and West Town Bikes Executive Director Alex Wilson. They asked teens and people on the street about their bike commute, whether they feel safe, if there are any obstacles in their commute and how they would feel about establishing a new route that connects these locations.

Ultimately, The Circuit design will include many sections that require a contraflow bike lane. It will have the longest distance of contraflow bike lanes of any in Chicago. Contraflow lanes are necessary because most neighborhood streets traveling along Western Ave and the 90/94 Highway are a one-way, and often change direction. In order to encourage cyclists to avoid Western Avenue and direct them to side streets, it’s imperative that we maintain consistency on the route. The contraflow lanes simplify route directions, adds new infrastructure on fewer streets, and consolidates cyclist travel.

Contraflow bike lanes are still new to many Chicagoans, some of whom feel that legalizing contraflow cycling on one-way streets will exacerbate the behavior where some motorists may feel confused and antagonized on one-way streets. We believe that building more contraflow bike lanes is necessary to deal with the inefficient profusion of one-way streets and encourage people to come and cycle on The Circuit instead of riding the wrong way on nearby streets that don't have the contraflow accommodation.

The Circuit will provide a connected and comfortable route for young people to commute from Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Avondale. In order to achieve this, we will encourage the community to become involved in the maintenance and further planning of the project, engage local artists to make the route majestic, and alter the infrastructure of the roads. This route will not only benefit existing cyclists and park users, but will expand the cycling community to include more families and young bikers.

People are looking for reliable and affordable alternatives to driving, and our city needs to keep up with this growing demand. By building a route like The Circuit, they are helping cultivate a new generation of active transportation commuters. It is important to include the voices of youth and minorities in urban planning in order to realize a more accurate and fair representation of a community’s exigencies.