Bikeways News

Walking assessment in Chicago Heights

Walking assessment in Chicago Heights

Recently, a group of people in the south suburban community of Chicago Heights did a walkability assessment of Dixie Highway as it runs through the town.

The group, comprised of the town’s Active Transportation Plan Steering Committee, included people from community’s public works department, the park district, as well as local schools Bloom High School, Prairie State College and the U of I Extension.

Dixie Hwy.’s walking and biking facilities will be looked at closely as part of Active Trans’ Family Friendly Bikeways Campaign. This is because the road is an important route for all types of transportation in the South Suburbs, and will soon connect to the Thorn Creek Trail, which is a portion of the Grand Illinois Trail.

Armed with a walkability checklist, the committee members observed people driving, walking and biking during Bloom High School’s dismissal.

After noticing the short amount of time available for students to cross Dixie Hwy., the representative from the public works department made a phone call to have the signal timing changed for a longer pedestrian crossing signal.

Many students were observed crossing against the walk signals. In response, the representative from Bloom High School arranged for the police officers to visit the high school regularly and hand out educational materials and provide warnings to students who do not follow the signal.

Larger infrastructure fixes were identified, too. In one spot, snow covered a portion of the street that made the crossing distance very long. By making this location part of the sidewalk, attendees agreed it will give people walking a shorter amount of time to be in the street.

Nice work, Chicago Heights in working to create a safer environment for people walking.

 

Share your thoughts on Elk Grove Village Bike Plan

Share your thoughts on Elk Grove Village Bike Plan

People biking in Elk Grove Village have long enjoyed riding in Busse Woods through meadows and woodland. Getting to Busse Woods by bike -- as well to other destinations in the village -- however, has been challenging.

To make cycling safer and easier, Elk Grove formed a Bike Plan Task Force. The plan, drafted by members of the task force, has been drawn up and is now open for your comments at the village website through February 15. Please share your thoughts if you live or ride a bike in Elk Grove Village. 

The draft plan includes a bike route system, signage for cycling destinations, and spot improvements that will make cycling safer in the Village.

The Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove Village have long advocated for a bike plan and are members of the Task Force. The group wanted to ensure that the plan focused on encouraging casual riders to feel comfortable riding to shops, schools and workplaces -- an excellent way to make cycling more family friendly!

Access to the large Busse Woods Forest Preserve is key for all -- including students at the high school across busy Arlington Heights Road.

Friends Treasurer Lee Skinner says that his group is “quite satisfied with results from five months’ work by people who were all new at the task.”

“We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the respect and openness the village showed us,” said Skinner. “We really could not have expected more.”

The plan is a great way to make cycling in Elk Grove more comfortable for riders of all ages!

Want to help improve bicycling in your suburban community? Find out more about Active Trans’ Family Friendly Bikeways campaign.

Evanston leaders: Please forge ahead with Bike Plan Update

Evanston leaders: Please forge ahead with Bike Plan Update

Evanston has one of the highest rates of biking in the entire country and is second only to Madison, WI, on the list of midwestern bike hubs.

In response to the rapid growth in the number of people using bikes to get around town, Evanston recently adopted an exciting update to the city's bike plan.

But even in a bike-friendly place like Evanston, we need to speak up to ensure the bold vision included in the bike plan update becomes a reality.

That's why we're asking Evanston residents to add their name to the letter below we're sending to Mayor Tisdahl and the members of the Evanston City Council.

Read the letter and use the form below to add your name. And don't forget to share with your friends and family! The deadline for signatures is Monday, Sept. 29 at 9 a.m.

Dear Mayor Tisdahl and Evanston City Council:

We applaud you for adopting the Evanston Bike Plan Update and moving forward with planned developments recommended in the initial Evanston Bike plan. We urge you to continue implementing these planned improvements and move forward with implementation of projects in the plan update.

The plan and the update were developed with considerable input from residents, city staff and professional experts. They include proven strategies for achieving goals we deeply value: making Evanston’s streets safe, complete and livable.

The goal of making safe streets for all is especially urgent in Evanston. Our city is home to four of the top ten suburban intersections for bike and pedestrian crashes in Illinois from 2008 to 2012. When these unsafe conditions are combined with the fact that Evanston has one of the highest levels of bicycle ridership in the country, it’s clear we must take action.

Making travel safer is the shared responsibility of all road users. Research shows that the type of bike facilities and policies recommended in the plans make streets safer by creating more order, which reduces conflicts and crashes.

With this in mind, please support increased public safety by developing off-street bike paths, protected bike lanes, greenways and other comfortable corridors.

Consistent with the Complete Streets Resolution the city council adopted in May, the plans support Complete Streets that accommodate transportation options that enhance personal mobility rather than favoring motor vehicle traffic above all others.

The plans also support livable streets. Bike facilities are traffic-calming infrastructure that gives streets a human-scale feel that is comfortable and welcoming to local residents and visitors alike.

The development and adoption of these exciting documents are important milestones that reflect Evanston’s leadership as a bike-friendly city and its commitment to health, sustainability and local economic development.

Now is the time for Evanston to take the next step. We urge the city of Evanston to take concrete action to pursue the recommendations of the bike plans and look forward to supporting these efforts however we can.

Show your for Support Safer & Better Biking in Evanston

Complete the form below to add your name to our petition.

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Attend public meetings and call for action on Evanston Bike Plan Update

Attend public meetings and call for action on Evanston Bike Plan Update

The Evanston City Council recently adopted a Bike Plan Update that has the potential to establish Evanston as one of the most bike-friendly cities in America. If fully realized, the plan will provide a model for communities across our region looking to create family-friendly bikeways.

But this outcome cannot be taken for granted and strong advocacy is needed right now to ensure this exciting vision moves from plan to reality.

The City of Evanston is hosting a series of public meetings to hear from residents and collect feedback on the Plan Update.

Several local ward meetings will lead up to a special city council hearing on September 29 to discuss the Plan Update, as well as a protected bike lane project on Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue.

If you live in Evanston, please plan on attending one of the meetings and speak up in support of safe and livable streets, like those envisioned in the Plan Update.

Unfortunately, resistance has emerged from residents on various aspects of the adopted Plan Update. We know that some of the individuals who share these concerns will turn out to the public meetings and speak out against the plan.

That’s why it’s so important for supporters to take the time show up and participate in the conversation. We need to make sure decision makers hear from a balanced cross-section of residents and that any potential tradeoffs are discussed openly and transparently.

Here’s how you can help:

1) If you’re an Evanston resident, attend an upcoming public meeting and speak out in support of family friendly bikeways for safe and livable streets. 

2) Watch our blog for a sign-on letter later this week to document support for the Evanston Bike Plan Update. 

3) Join our Family-Friendly Bikeways Campaign to learn about how you can help bring better biking to Chicago’s suburbs. 

Tell us where you need secure bike parking

Tell us where you need secure bike parking

With the peak biking season in high gear, you may be looking for a secure place to lock your bike, particularly while at work.

Are you asking for secure parking? Are the building managers providing it? Please complete our brief survey. We'll use the results to advocate for more secure bike parking options!

Background
With accomplished bike thieves on the prowl, it's especially important to have secure parking for your commute (and a great lock or locks) when your bike is unattended for 8 hours or more.

Active Trans has had discussions with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the city of Chicago, and others about providing covered, secure bike parking at large office and residential buildings, particularly downtown, where the sheer number of people and bikes results in parking shortages.

BOMA is inclined to let the market determine whether buildings provide bike parking, and while more buildings are providing secure parking at the behest of current and prospective tenants, many are not.

Cities like San Francisco and New York adopted ordinances requiring certain office buildings to provide secure bike parking; the requirement there is waived if the building allows tenants to bring bikes into their offices.

Chicago Secure Bike Parking Survey

 

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Question - Not Required - What types of secure bike parking would you consider using? Check all the apply.

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10. Want to help make Chicago more bike-friendly? Share your contact information to get connected to our advocacy campaigns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Show your support for North Branch Trail extension at Aug. 21 public meeting

Show your support for North Branch Trail extension at Aug. 21 public meeting

We invite you to attend an upcoming public meeting on Thursday, August 21 to show your support for the Cook County Forest Preserve’s North Branch Trail extension project. 

If you walk, jog or bike on the North Branch Trail then you have experienced moving from busy streets into quiet woods where the sounds of the city quickly fade away. You may have seen a deer or two.

Trail users can hop on at Caldwell and Devon Avenues and travel north along the north branch of the Chicago River to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

Next Spring, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County plans to make this experience even better by extending the trail south from Caldwell and Devon to Irene Hernandez Woods at Foster and Kostner Avenues. From there bicyclists can connect to the Sauganash Trail to the north, the Lakefront Trail to the east or the planned Weber Spur Trail to the northeast.

Active Trans supports the vision proposed by the forest preserve, which creates the most comfortable route for the broadest cross-section of trail users. The south trail extension will provide greater access to more people and open up more destinations for users.

Some residents, citing concerns about tree removal and public safety, have proposed an alternative route that would take the trail extension onto neighborhood streets, which would turn off many potential trail users and seriously compromise the experience of riding on the trail.

Please join us on August 21 to show your support for the existing plans for this important link in our regional trail network.

What: Cook County Forest Preserve District open house on North Branch Trail extension
When: August 21, 6-8 p.m. 
Where: 6100 N. Central Avenue, Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center

Please RSVP in order to attend. 

UPDATED: Join us at 7/24 Public Meeting on Clybourn Protected Bike Lane

UPDATED: Join us at 7/24 Public Meeting on Clybourn Protected Bike Lane

UPDATE: Check out our Clybourn Complete Street Project factsheet for background information and options for improving the street.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will hold a public meeting on the proposed Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project on Thursday July 24 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at Near North Unity Program, located at 1111 N Wells Street, First Floor.

Active Trans members and supporters will recall first hearing about this project last Fall, when Alderman Walter Burnett announced the first protected bike lane on a state-controlled roadway would be installed on Clybourn Ave. between Disivion and North. The announcement was made during an honorary street naming ceremony in memory of Bobby Cann, who was killed after being struck by a drunken driver while riding his bike on Clybourn Ave in May 2013.

The meeting marks the first opportunity for the general public to learn more about the Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project and offer input to help shape the final vision for this important street.

In addition to the potential for including the first protected bike lane on a state controlled roadway, the project is also notable because city planners have publically discussed the possibility of installing a concrete curb to separate people riding bikes from motorized traffic. While concrete curb separated bike lanes have begun to appear in other cities, Chicago has not yet seen this type of infrastructure on our streets.

Beyond improvements for people riding bikes, this is a true complete street project that also promises to enhance the street for people walking, taking transit, or driving.

All are welcome to attend the public meeting. Please don’t miss out on this opportunity to give input on a project that has the potential to set the tone for the future of walking and biking in Chicago.

Here’s the complete announcement from the City of Chicago:

Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project

CDOT and IDOT will be holding a public meeting to gather input for the Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project which extends from North Avenue to Division Street. Community members are invited to learn about and provide input regarding potential safety improvements to Clybourn Avenue and Division Street that will benefit all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and motorists). The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 6 PM at the Near North Unity Program (1111 N Wells Street, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60610). A presentation at 6:15 PM will be followed by opportunities to ask questions and provide input. The meeting is accessible to all persons and materials presented at the meeting will be made available on CDOT’s website (http://chicagocompletestreets.org) after the meeting.

 

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Clybourn Project Profile Sheet-v5.pdf987.17 KB

The next phase of Chicago’s bike lane revolution

The next phase of Chicago’s bike lane revolution

Back in 2010-11 when Active Trans asked Chicago mayoral candidates to support a 100-mile network of protected bike lanes by 2015, many scoffed. That may fly in Europe, we were told, but this is Chicago. Cars are king and cyclists are lucky to get a white stripe between themselves and cars.

But Mayor Rahm Emanuel loved the idea and so did his Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner, Gabe Klein. Within 30 days of Emanuel’s inauguration, the city’s first protected bike lane was installed on Kinzie St.

Many more projects have followed, and Chicago is leading the nation on advanced bike infrastructure:

  • Chicago has roughly 50 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes currently and expects to add another 40 miles this year.
  • Kinzie St. and the southern section of Milwaukee Ave. are among the busiest bike routes in the nation.
  • The Dearborn St. two-way protected bike lane in the Loop was recently named the nation’s best.
  • The state of Illinois recently agreed to allow protected bike lanes on some state-owned routes in Chicago, including a stretch of Clybourn Ave.

According to data collected from the Green Lanes Project, since 2011 Chicago has built nearly twice as many miles of barrier-protected bike lanes than any American city including New York, Portland and San Francisco.

But 100 miles by 2015? Well, that’s proven to be a very ambitious goal the city won’t meet. The city is counting protected and buffered bike lanes towards meeting a 100 mile goal for “advanced” bike lanes, which will be a huge accomplishment and way ahead of other cities.

We love buffered lanes, too, but remain committed to at least 100 miles of protected lanes as part of a comprehensive network.

Support from the mayor and aldermen has been crucial for these projects and is directly linked to strong grassroots support across the city. Through our on-the-ground mobilizing efforts, 12,000 Active Trans members and supporters signed petitions, turned out to public meetings, and made their voices heard in local media.

Of course, those of us who ride bikes know that coasting on your momentum will only take you so far. So with one year to go before the next round of municipal elections, now is a good time to take stock of where we are and where we want to go:

Design and maintenance of barrier protected lanes.
These lanes are the safest and most popular design for average Chicagoans who are not yet “confident” cyclists. It’s our favorite design on streets where it works. Sweeping, snow removal and standing water are areas for improvement (while keeping in mind that this past winter has been one of worst recorded winters for snow and ice accumulation).

“Hardscaping” on protected lanes.
In order to make quick progress and demonstrate “proof of concept,” all on a shoestring budget, Chicago has used basic plastic bollards, parked cars and white lines for its protected bike lanes. The next generation of lanes can use permanent and more attractive ways to separate traffic wherever possible, like curbs, landscaped medians or raised bike lanes.

Buffered vs. protected bike lanes.
More than half of the city’s first 100 miles of advanced bike lanes are currently expected to be buffered bike lanes. With enough community support, some of these can be built as barrier-protected instead. In addition, buffered lanes can be enhanced with “bots dots,” reflectors or some other raised delineator in the left-side buffer zone that still allows cars and bikes to pass.

Closing gaps to create a connected network of low-stress routes.
Bike lanes are only useful if they connect people to where they want to go. Luckily, Chicago’s Streets for Cycling 2020 plan lays out a robust 645 mile network generated directly from community input. Filling in gaps and key links in our network will be essential to making biking an easy way for people to complete everyday trips.

Adding more Neighborhood Greenways on less-busy side streets.
In 2013, Chicago saw its first Neighborhood Greenway installed on Berteau Ave. with a second slated for Leland Ave. in Uptown this year. Neighborhood Greenways take advantage of Chicago’s strong street grid system by optimizing low-traffic residential side streets for people riding bikes. Expanding these types of facilities will help create a more comfortable riding experience and make cycling a more attractive alternative for more people.

As we have already witnessed, these improvements will be challenged by some local elected officials and community members who are unwilling to make some of the tradeoffs required, like rearranging street parking or reconfiguring lanes on a street.

It’s our job to respond to this challenge. Now is not the time to back down. We must redouble our efforts and continue to find new and creative ways to build support among our neighbors and leaders. And we can’t do it alone. Join the movement to create an even better bike network in Chicago by signing up for updates and alerts.

Milwaukee Ave. Complete Streets project: There’s nothing to fear about narrower roads

Milwaukee Ave. Complete Streets project: There’s nothing to fear about narrower roads

On Wednesday July 2, 45th Ward Ald. John Arena and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will host an open house to discuss alternative visions for a Complete Streets project on Milwaukee Ave. between Lawrence and Elston. 


Does this street look complete?  Milwaukee Ave. near Central Ave.
(Photo: Google Maps Streetview)

At an initial public meeting in January, the alderman and city said they were seeking to make improvements for people driving, walking, using transit and riding bikes.

With over 900 reported crashes between 2008 and 2012, including a single car crash that claimed two lives just days after the initial meeting, the project is first and foremost about making the street safer for everyone and avoiding preventable injuries and fatalities.

Of the serious injuries that resulted from these crashes, 40 percent were among people walking or riding bikes — the most vulnerable users of the road.

Numbers like these are simply unacceptable.

So what can be done?

Some of the possible elements to mitigate the problems and enhance the street for everyone include: improved crosswalks and pedestrian refuges, consolidated travel lanes to reduce speeding and weaving, improved bus service and shelters and new protected bike lanes.

All of these could be accomplished while still maintaining sufficient capacity to move the same amount of traffic Milwaukee Ave. sees on the average day.

Seems like an easy call, doesn’t it? We have the technology, we can rebuild it. Just fix the road.

But not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of narrowing the street and adding more accommodations for people walking, riding bikes and taking public transit.

One local group has been vocally opposed to some of the proposed elements of the Milwaukee Ave. Complete Street Project, particularly consolidating travel lanes and adding curb-side protected bike lanes.

The group claims it has gathered over 5,000 signatures on a petition by telling folks the project will cause congestion, create a negative climate for local businesses and block the road for emergency vehicles.

However, thousands of projects that involve narrowing or consolidating lanes have been installed throughout the country, including many right here in Chicago, all without leading to the nightmare scenarios envisioned by opponents of this project (see CDOT photo to right of before/after recent project on Wabash in the South Loop.)

So let's set aside hypothetical negatives and focus on the facts.

AARP (yes, that AARP) developed a great factsheet recently that dispels many of the most commonly believed myths about "rightsizing" roads. (AARP and others often use the term "road diet" to describe these types of projects, but no one likes going on a diet, so we prefer using other ways of describing these projects.)

Let’s take a look at a few of the big myths AARP includes in its list:

  • Narrowing the street will cause congestion and divert traffic. According to the Federal Highway Administration, properly designed lane consolidations don’t divert traffic. In fact, there are many examples of traffic increasing after construction. By maintaining a center turn lane, space remains for turning or other stopped vehicles to get out of the way of through traffic, thus avoiding back-ups.
     
  • Local business will suffer if we consolidate lanes. By reducing traffic speeds, businesses are more likely to be seen. By encouraging more walking and biking, these projects also attract customers that tend to spend more per month than drivers.
     
  • Emergency vehicles will be impeded if there is only one lane in each direction. A good design can ensure emergency vehicles and first responders are able to quickly respond to any incident. Center turn lanes provide space for ambulances, fire trucks or police to safely pass any traffic that may be on the street.

Besides not creating problems, consolidating and narrowing lanes can solve quite a few. By reducing traffic speeds and dangerous behavior like weaving, fewer lanes can boost safety while maintaining a more consistent and smooth traffic flow.

Chicago sees a lot of "hurry up and wait" driving, where people put the pedal to the metal at a green light, only to arrive at the next red light to wait longer.

By slowing down between lights, the same average speed can be maintained while reducing the hazard speeding brings to everyone on the street.

As a bonus, the additional space created by consolidating lanes can be re-purposed for things like protected or buffered bike lanes. Everybody wins!

Be sure to join us and other supporters of safer and better streets at the July 2 Milwaukee Ave. Complete Street Project open house. You can download and read the AARP factsheet on road diets here.

On Wed., July 2, a chance to make Milwaukee Ave. safer on NW Side

On Wed., July 2, a chance to make Milwaukee Ave. safer on NW Side

This is where we make change happen on our streets.

You may recall earlier this year 45th Ward Ald. John Arena and the Chicago Department of Transportation shared plans for potential safety improvements and other enhancements to Milwaukee Ave. between Lawrence and Elston, a corridor that has seen more than 900 crashes in recent years, including several fatalities.

Now, after gathering community input for several months, CDOT and Ald. Arena are hosting a public open house meeting to share several alternative visions for the corridor and collect your feedback.

The first round of public meetings received a lot of attention for how contentious they were, with local groups organizing both in support of and against some of the proposals. This is an opportunity for us to show decision makers that we care about safe, livable streets.

If you live, work, visit or travel on this part of Milwaukee Ave. and care about safer and better streets for walking, biking and driving, you deserve a say in the future of this project.

Now is the time to come out and show your support! I hope to see you there.

What: Milwaukee Ave. Complete Street Project Open House
When: Wednesday, July 2 from 5 pm – 8 pm
Where: Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. 

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