Raffle prizes galore!

As we emerge from the long winter, we're beginning to see more people biking all over Chicagoland.

Have you gotten out for a ride? Did you check out your bike and put some air in your tires?

Get biking now and please join Active Trans for a beautiful car-free bike ride Sunday, May 25. 

Sign up now through Sunday, April 27 at 11:59 p.m. and you’ll also be entered into a raffle for cool prizes.

You could win:

  • A $250 MB Financial Bank gift card
  • A Schwinn bike from Kozy’s Cyclery
  • A Trek bike from Village Cycle Center
  • An overnight stay at the beautiful downtown Fairmont Chicago
  • Two passes to a WXRT-FM Studio X performance
  • Delicious Dark Matter Coffee
  • Revolution Brewery beer

Sign up before 11:59 p.m. on Sunday to get into the raffle! We promise you won’t regret it.

State bike plan signals new direction for IDOT

We were pleased to see the release of the first-ever Illinois Bike Transportation Plan earlier this week. We like the plan’s objectives and strategies for making Illinois communities better and safer places to bike and walk.

The plan is another sign of an improving commitment toward biking and walking at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). This is a big step given IDOT’s historically car-centric perspective that has de-prioritized biking and walking.

The plan primarily addresses how IDOT designs and manages state-administered roads, as well as the federal and state funding that IDOT distributes to local governments. This is good because state roads are often stressful to bike on or across because they

  • Frequently are wide, multi-lane roads with cars traveling at high speeds
  • Lack bike facilities
  • Tend to have intersections that are not designed to safely accommodate people on foot and bikes
  • Often have controlled crosswalks and bikeways that are spaced far apart

These same features can also make walking alongside or across state roads difficult, and the plan’s recommendations should also improve the pedestrian environment

Nowhere is the need for change more evident than metropolitan Chicago where state routes are often the least-friendly roads for biking and walking. About 9 percent or 2,775 miles of roads in the 6 county region (Cook, Lake, DuPage, Will, McHenry, Kane) are state routes.

Many state routes are crucial segments for biking and walking, serving as either the only through-road to get from point A to point B, like Randall Road in Elgin, or as a local street through Chicago or a suburb that connects neighborhoods, transit, schools and jobs like North Avenue, Golf Road and 159th Street.

With the state’s adoption of a Complete Streets policy in 2007, its plans to pilot-test protected bike lanes on state routes, and now the state bike plan, I think it’s fair to say IDOT is turning the corner, so to speak, toward a multi-modal approach that provides a range of transportation options for Illinois residents.

It’s a work in progress and we want to see these objectives put into action, but Governor Quinn and IDOT deserve credit for taking another important step in the right direction.

In metro Chicago, biking has roughly doubled in the past five years, and IDOT’s survey of Illinois residents shows that even more people would bike but for the fear of car traffic.

Bicycling will never achieve its full potential as an inexpensive, healthy, and fun way to get around unless it is comfortable and convenient to bike where people want to go. That means safer intersection designs, calmer streets and separation from cars on busy streets.

State announces $52.7 million of "transportation enhancement" projects

In the past week, the state committed to funding a variety of important biking and pedestrian projects through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP). The 71 projects are receiving support that totals $52.7 million.

Unfortunately, a new proposal to expand the Divvy bike sharing program in a couple of nearby suburbs and some Chicago neighborhoods was not included.

ITEP is federally funded and supports bike paths, walking trails, transit improvements, historic preservation and streetscape beautification projects.

Here are some of our favorite projects. Here's the complete list. 

  • Aurora: Kautz Rd. Multi-Use Path extension
  • Berwyn: East Ave. bike plan implementation, sidewalk improvements, citywide bike route signs, Berwyn Depot District beautification
  • Countryside: Brainard Ave. Multi-Use Path
  • Des Plaines: U.S. Route 12 (Rand Rd.) Sidepath
  • Du Page Co. Forest Preserves: County Farm Rd. bridge and trail improvements connecting Hawk Hollow and Mallard Lake Forest Preserves
  • Du Page Co. Forest Preserves: West Branch Regional Trail – Winfield Mounds to West DuPage Woods.
  • Evanston: Sheridan Rd./Chicago Ave. Bike Path
  • Glenview: Shermer Rd. Bike Path
  • Highland Park: Robert McClory Trail paving, Bike-Walk 2030 sharrows and signage
  • Lakemoor: Wegner-Darrell Pedestrian/Bike Path
  • Northbrook: On-street bicycle signs and pavement markings
  • Prospect Heights: Willow Rd. sidewalk improvement project
  • Rolling Meadows: Euclid Ave. Bike Path connecting to the Salt Creek Trail
  • Skokie: Howard St. Multi-Use Trail
  • University City: multi-use trail
  • Western Springs: Bemis Woods Bike Path extension to Wolf Rd. and Ogden Ave.

A proposal to expand the Divvy bike sharing network to the suburbs of Oak Park and Evanston, and the Chicago communities of Rogers Park, West Rogers Park, Austin and Garfield Park was not approved. Up to 66 bike share stations would have been added in these new service areas, including the first suburban locations.

Oak Park and Evanston border Chicago, which creates the opportunity for Divvy trips between Chicago and these communities. Moreover, both suburbs have high densities and ample transit stations, which are key ingredients for generating bike share trips that occur solely within each suburb, such as biking between neighborhoods and train stations or the local library.

Despite the setback, we think this expansion will eventually happen. The communities are already exploring other funding options. 

A day of volunteering: what’s the impact?

Volunteering is a fun way to be part of MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive on Sunday, May 25.

But did you know your volunteerism has a direct impact on Active Trans’ success? Each volunteer is a part of something larger.

Let’s take a look at how our volunteers fit into the bigger picture of Active Trans’ work.

Great volunteers = great events
Over 600 pre-event and day-of-event volunteers help the Active Trans staff produce MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive. Volunteers distribute registration materials, fix flat tires, pass out refreshments at the rest stops, cheer on riders and set up an amazing post-ride festival in Grant Park. Volunteer support makes it all come together into one memorable biking event.

Great events = fundraising
Over 20,000 people participate in MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive – all supported by our volunteer team. Proceeds from these registrations provide essential funding for our advocacy work.

Fundraising = great results for Chicagoland
Buoyed by volunteer support and event proceeds, Active Trans works to make Chicagoland a better place to walk, bike and take transit – in other words, a better place to live.

Here are just a few of the things we do around the region:

Help expand the region’s network of protected bike lanes    Bus Rapid Transit advocacy
Bike safety education and outreach   Trails advocacy

What’s the impact of volunteering?
All these project wins are made possible by our volunteers’ contribution of time, talent and hard work. Be part of this special group. Six hours goes a long way to make Chicago a more livable city in which to bike, walk and take transit.

Join us. Be part of the movement. Sign up to volunteer today.

How to improve the Lakefront Trail detour at Navy Pier

After years of anticipation, construction has finally begun on the Navy Pier Flyover. However, the current bike and pedestrian detour around the construction zone is leading to confusion and potentially unsafe conditions for people walking and biking.

The huge numbers of people that use the Lakefront Trail at peak times deserve a safe and easy to use detour throughout the duration of the construction.

When completed, the Flyover will carry people walking and riding bikes up and over the street-level congestion near Navy Pier, the popular tourist destination. Construction is slated to take several years, during which time Lakefront Trail users will be re-routed around the construction site.

Here’s a map of the current detour provided on the project website:

A bit confusing, wouldn't you say?

We’ve been hearing from many members and supporters with concerns about safety and ease of us for the thousands of people who walk or ride through this corridor everyday. So we went to scope out the situation first hand yesterday and then sent the following comments to CDOT on how they can improve the detour during construction of this exciting project:

Improve map: The detour map provided on www.navypierflyover.com is confusing. Separate routes should be marked for pedestrians and cyclists (ideally with different colors and patterns). This map, along with information about the Flyover, should also be prominently displayed in Jane Addams Park.

Separate modes: Currently the detour consists of pedestrian only routes and shared ped/bike routes. Given the high number of lakefront trail users, we believe separation of modes would be preferable and separate detours should be provided for people walking and riding bikes.

Provide alternate on-street route: In addition to being a popular recreation destination, the Lakefront Trail is also a key bike commuter corridor. More seasoned riders may prefer to take an alternative on-street route rather than ride through the construction zone. CDOT should develop alternative routes that enable seasoned bike commuters to bypass the construction.

Ensure detour meets trail design standards: On the north end of the construction zone, the detour leads users onto a sidewalk that is too narrow and does not meet the Lakefront Trail design standards. We are concerned the heavy volume of mixed traffic may result in an uncomfortable experience for cyclists and pedestrians, and may lead to increased incidence of crashes. Given the long term duration of the project, we recommend this segment be widened to align with existing lakefront trail design standards.

In addition, the detour instructs cyclists to use the north side of Illinois, however this route forces people riding bikes into an unsafe bottleneck at the intersection of Illinois and Streeter Dr. Currently, on part of the segment of Illinois between Lower LSD and Streeter Dr. jersey barriers are being used to create, what appears to be, a temporary on-street path over the fire lane adjacent to Lake Point Tower (LPT). However, this path stops abruptly at a LPT driveway/loading dock and was obstructed by illegally parked cars during our observations. This is not a sufficient accommodation for peak hour volume of bicycle traffic.

Improve signage and markings: In order to clarify the recommended trail routing for through trail traffic as well as people walking or biking to Navy Pier, detour signs should say "Lakefront Trail Detour" in addition to "Bike/Ped Detour." Perhaps spray paint or temporary spray chalk stencils could also complement signage to direct users to the proper route for their specific mode and destination.

In addition to routing signs, at the entry points of detours signs should explain in text or visually the routes for bikes/peds (i.e. Lower LSD closed to bike traffic between Grand and Illinois. Use Streeter Dr. to access southbound trail at Illinois.) Detour warning signs placed in advance of the detour could help alert trail users to the approaching detour and encourage them to be cautious through the construction zone.

If you have identified other issues or have other ideas on how to improve the detour, leave us a note in the comments or shoot me an email at jim@activetrans.org. We’ll be sure your comments and concerns make it to the good people at CDOT working on this exciting project.

Clarifying our position on proposed e-bike ordinance

Active Trans made a mistake the other day. We stated our support in the news media for a recently proposed Chicago e-bike ordinance, when in fact the ordinance contains a provision that we’re opposed to.

The ordinance includes several stipulations about e-bikes that we support:

  • Speeds can’t exceed 20 mph.
  • No one can operate them under the age of 16.
  • They can be used in the existing bike lanes in Chicago.

The problem we have with the proposed ordinance is that it also applies to bikes that are gas-powered.

This past November, 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack proposed a similar ordinance that did not apply to gas-powered bikes. Active Trans made the mistake of assuming that the new ordinance proposed by Waguespack and 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno was the same as Waguespack’s earlier e-bike ordinance.

Gas-powered bikes do not belong in bike lanes because they can be noisy, they emit noxious fumes and they tend to be more powerful.

We like e-bikes because they are a cleaner alternative while providing assistance to individuals — like older people and people who are disabled — who need extra help getting around on a bicycle. In fact, we have been contacted by people with health problems who tell us that e-bikes have allowed them to continue to get around on bikes — an option they would otherwise not have.

Active Trans supports allowing people to ride e-bikes in bike lanes as long as the speeds they travel are close to the speeds of people using conventional bikes.

We have contacted Ald. Waguespack to voice our opposition to the provision for gas-powered bikes in the ordinance. Stay tuned. 

Photo courtesy of Wanderbikes. 

Choosing the best routes for biking

Ever taken a wrong turn on your bike and ended up making your trip twice as long? If this has happened to you, you know the advantages of planning your bike route in advance.

For people new to cycling, the first point to know about route planning is that the best bike route may not be the most direct route. While your trip may end up a little longer, the additional time and distance is a worthwhile tradeoff for a safer, more enjoyable ride.

So here are some tips that may help you plan a good route the next time you hop on a bike.

  • Start with the most direct route and then make adjustments to avoid the busiest roads; look for parallel side streets with less traffic.
  • Look for streets with bike lanes and enough room to ride outside of the “door zone” when riding alongside parallel parked cars.
  • Look for routes that allow you to cross busy streets at traffic lights.
  • If you’re forced to use a road with heavy traffic, make it brief and stay on the shoulder.
  • If you can, consider riding on residential streets when starting out, even if they take you a bit out of the way.

In the suburbs, finding direct and safe routes may require more creativity and flexibility. When confronted with high speed limits on suburban roads or when you encounter subdivision streets that wind around to a dead end, you need a detailed route plan and perhaps a backup plan.

Bike lanes are spreading to more suburbs, but these vary in quality and connectedness in between communities. Often, suburban bike paths are a great option during good weather. If the path is covered in water or snow, you may want to have another option available.

Finding your way
Whether you’re cycling in the city, suburbs or in rural areas, a good map is an invaluable resource.

Connect with others: Chicagoland bicyclists are fortunate to have unique resources for bicycling information.

More resources:

  • Google.com/maps offers bike directions option.
  • Goroo.com: A multimodal trip planner from RTA, which allows for preferences for train, bus, driving to transit, bicycling and walking.
  • Chicago Bike Guide app: Allows you to design your own route, get a suggested route or discover new roads or trails to get there.
  • Ride the City: Bike map app that includes Divvy stations bike paths, and bike shops.

This blog post was written by Maggie Daly, a former marketing and communications intern at Active Trans.

 

Sign on to show your support for a better transit future

Have you ever imagined how much better Chicagoland’s public transit system could be?

  • What if a train could get you to the airport in less than half an hour?
  • What if your bus was swift, dependable and immune to traffic jams?
  • What if you could shop in the suburbs — by Blue Line?
  • What if a new "Lime Line" could connect all of the CTA’s radial train lines on Chicago’s west side?

Help us make this vision a reality.

Over the years, our region has planned dozens of game-changing transit lines.

But under the status quo, they’ve remained unlikely to ever be built. Chicagoland’s decades of underinvestment has left us with an aging, gap-ridden transit system that fails to connect people and jobs and leaves driving the only option for too many people.

Thanks to strong leadership from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Preckwinkle, that began to change last night. They stood with Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and us to endorse a bold plan that could literally remake transportation in our city over the next decade.

The Transit Future campaign calls on the Cook County Board of Commissioners to adopt a robust revenue stream to fund the improvement and expansion of Chicago and Cook County’s transit system.

By winning a steady stream of public investment for Cook County public transit, the plan would unlock billions of dollars in federal funding to build up to ten new train lines, blanket our county with dependable rapid transit and eliminate underserved areas.

Transit Future offers a bold vision of what an expanded transit system in Cook County and the Chicago region could look like. Please sign our petition to help make this transit future a reality.

Photos of President Preckwinkle (top) and Mayor Emanuel courtesy of CNT.  

Transit task force report: Chicagoland worst among peers due to years of underfunding and transit-unfriendly development

Juicy political scandals make for good reading, which is why media coverage of the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force Report has obsessed about its recommendations to cleanup and consolidate the four transit agencies.

But as bad as the governance scandals and inefficiencies are – and they are! – the task force report demonstrates that our problems are much more about a lack of funding, lack of transit expansion and transit-unfriendly growth patterns.

Like the bird that has always lived at the end of the runway, many Chicagoland residents don’t realize how bad our transit system is. But the task force report, and a recent analysis by the Metropolitan Planning Council, lays it out.

Among the six largest metro areas with “legacy” (older) transit systems – Boston, Chicago, New York, Philly, DC, and San Francisco, plus Los Angeles – the Chicago region is:

♦ Last in ridership growth
♦ Last in system expansion
♦ Last in transit-friendly development
♦ Next-to-last to LA for per capita transit spending (this will change as LA recently began to expand its system)

In addition:
♦ The region allocates 25 percent less money on transit capital than 20 years ago, even though the population has increased 20 percent.
♦ Only 23 percent of the region’s residents (12 percent in the suburbs) can use transit to reach a typical job in under 90 minutes.
♦ Less than 7 percent of all trips in the Chicago region are on transit. Walking and biking account for more trips at 11 percent, while cars dominate at 80 percent.
♦ While transit use has increased in recent years, ridership is down about 60 percent compared to 50 years ago. 

Despite very real transit governance problems, the task force report found that the region’s transit system is actually the MOST efficient among the 6 peer regions at costs per revenue hour, per mile and in some cases per trip. This further drives home the point that we shouldn’t count on transit governance reform to fix our problems.

Moreover, we should not wait for Springfield to pass reform legislation (something they did in 2008, mind you) to start the long process of fixing a badly damaged regional transit system – starting with new funding to shore up the existing system and expand it to serve today’s development patterns.

Active Transportation Alliance announces plans to launch Skivvy bike sharing system

The Active Transportation Alliance today announced plans to launch a new summer-only bike share system called Skivvy. Drawing inspiration from the Divvy bike sharing system and the popular World Naked Bike Ride Chicago, the new Skivvy bike share system will be marketed to people who prefer to ride in their undies.

“The popularity of the annual naked bike ride demonstrates an untapped market for nudists and clothing-light aficionados, and we think a lot of other people would rather ride without a business suit or even Lycra bike shorts on a hot summer day,” said Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke. “Some people aren’t sure what to wear when biking, but you don’t need to worry about that with Skivvy.”

“Many people choose to ride bikes because of the sense of freedom it provides,” said Burke. “With our new Skivvy bike sharing system, riders will experience a whole new level of freedom -- no matter if they’re wearing boxers, briefs, bikinis, G-strings, lingerie or long johns.”

Skivvy docking stations will be equipped with dispensing systems for soft, washable seat covers that riders put on the bikes when they ride and toss into a receptacle when they reach their destination. Skivvy will wash and reuse the seat covers.

“Our research shows people love to share bikes, but not butt sweat,” said Burke.

Active Trans said it is in negotiations for locations to place its Skivvy docking stations, but is hopeful they will be in place before the first sweltering summer day.

Photo from the World Naked Bike Ride St. Louis courtesy of Fox channel 2. 

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