Within a month of moving to Chicago in 2007, the MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive was the first event I participated in my new city. Seven years later I was behind the scenes as the Active Trans volunteer coordinator, organizing hundreds of volunteers that make this event possible.
If we are doing our jobs right, many of the jobs volunteers do go un-noticed by participants. Hundreds of volunteers help set up the event, hauling 60 water coolers, thousands of t-shirts, dozens of mega-phones and eight very tippy cases of mini-muffins.
The morning of the event, volunteers arrive at 4 a.m. to start setting up tables of bananas. During the event, volunteers reunite lost children with their families and rescue people whose bikes break down along the course.
At the end of the event, we had tireless volunteers who helped load three trucks headed back to the office or to an agency that accepted our donations of left-over food.
IndependentSector.org estimates the worth of volunteer time in each state. According to my back-of-a-napkin estimate for 550 volunteers working about 6 hours each (although some do a lot more), our volunteers donated the equivalent of $76,000 dollars of work to Active Trans. Remarkable, isn’t it?
In addition to enlisting volunteer help from individuals, we also rely on support from more than a dozen volunteer groups from nonprofits around the city. These groups — many of them very small, community-based nonprofits — do an outstanding job. Many return year after year. We are fortunate to have these groups as friends and supporters.
I have a long list of all-star volunteer groups and individual volunteers given to me from my fellow staff. Unfortunately, I was only able to meet a small fraction of the volunteers during the event, but I am looking forward to meeting more as the year progresses and our other events bring together more of you — our supporters and volunteers.
Huge thanks to everyone who volunteered for MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive.
And if you’re interested in volunteering at a future Active Trans event, please email Becca@activetrans.org for more information.
Pictured are just of few of the hundreds of volunteers that help with MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive every year.
With summer approaching and warm weather finally here, I'm thrilled to see more people walking and riding bikes on my daily commute to work.
We can no doubt expect the number of cyclists to continue to climb given the success of Chicago's bike week and Active Tran's Bike Commuter Challenge. And don't forget that Chicago's newest bike lane was just unveiled on the city's busiest bikeway, Milwaukee Ave., and there's Divvy, Chicago's bike sharing program, which is bringing 3,000 "Chicago blue" sharable bikes to Chicago by the end of the summer.
For the increasing number of Chicagoans on bike and foot, I want to take a moment to highlight some of the significant new benefits and protections that they will enjoy under Chicago law thanks to Mayor Emanuel's 2013 Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Ordinance, which the Chicago City Council Council adopted last week.
Active Trans provided much input on the ordinance as it was being drafted. Although earlier news coverage of it was all over the map, all-told, the ordinance includes a number of very significant provisions that will improve the way people riding bikes, people walking and people driving cars share the road.
It will ensure that people biking and walking have the same rights in Chicago as they do under state law and help reduce the nearly 4,500 reported bike and pedestrian injury-crashes every year in our city. Here are some of the improvements the ordinance will bring when it becomes law on July 6:
Combatting doorings: Perhaps most importantly, the ordinance is part of a two-pronged strategy to combat "doorings"--instances when car drivers or passangers open car doors into the path of people biking--which cause fully one-fifth of Chicago's bicycle crashes. The ordinance doubles of the fine for someone who causes a dooring crash to $1,000 and complements a new Chicago initiative to place "Look!" warning stickers on taxi windows--to alert passengers to check for people biking before opening their car doors.
“Taking the lane" when necessary: People biking frequently encounter conditions that make it unsafe for them to ride outside of car traffic on the right side of the road. Potholes or ice on the road's right edge, roads too narrow for a bike and car to travel safely side by side, and preparing to turn left all are cases when a person biking may need to "take the lane." In these cases, the safest thing for someone on a bike to do is to signal to drivers and occupy the full traffic lane. The ordinance clarifies that people biking may "take the lane" when necessary for safety.
Riding two abreast in a single traffic lane: People and families riding bikes together for fun sometimes want to ride side by side to talk. As long as they're not slowing traffic, people biking are no longer required to ride single file.
Passing on the right: The ordinance clarifies that people on bikes may pass slower moving cars and other bicycles on the right side of the road. This common practice is accepted and expected by people driving and cycling alike. But ambiguities in both state and Chicago laws have meant that people biking weren't always assured of this right. The ordinance makes cyclists' right to pass on the right crystal clear in Chicago law. An Active Trans-backed bill, which the state legislature adopted in May, is doing the same thing statewide.
Riding on the sidewalk to access bike facilities: People biking are now allowed to ride on the sidewalk for short distances to access the nearest roadway, bike path, intersection or bike share station.
Signaling turns and stops with either hand: The ordinance provides that people biking may signal turns, slowing, and stopping with either their right or left hand.
People walking have the right of way: People driving cars must yield to people walking at any crosswalk, not just marked crosswalks. Most intersections have "crosswalks" whether marked on the pavement or not. They exist anywhere a sidewalk leads up to the roadway--imagine a virtual extension of the sidewalk across the road.
Include pedestrians with disabilities: Pedestrians with disabilities are assured the same rights under the traffic code as other pedestrians.
As part of its research for a Trail Master Plan, the Cook County Forest Preserve District is asking people to take survey about its trails.
Please take five minutes to share your thoughts about the county's trails and how to make improvements, create better connections and provide amenities.
The survey will be open the month of June. We encourage you to pass it along to your trail friends and neighbors.
As part of its master plan development process, the agency is looking for volunteers to help count and interview trail users June 20-24 on two of its major systems, the Des Plaines River Trail and the Tinley Creek Trail.
Sign up for a 4 hour shift (7-11 a.m.; 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; 3-7 p.m.) on June 20 and June 22 on the Des Plaines River Trail and on June 21 and June 23 on the Tinley Creek Trail.
Interested? Contact Kindy Kruller at Kindy.firstname.lastname@example.org or 708-771-1009.
During a sun-filled morning rush hour, city officials, advocates and media gathered along the newly enhanced Milwaukee Ave. bike lane to officially open the latest addition to the city’s growing network of next-generation bike infrastructure.
As dozens of bike commuters whizzed by on the new bike lane, Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett and Active Transportation Alliance Executive Director Ron Burke (pictured at right, left to right) told reporters how the new bike lane will make this important corridor safer and better for everyone using the street.
Extending from Kinzie St. to Elston Ave. along Milwaukee Ave., the new improvements include several types of safety features that will bring more order to Chicago’s busiest street for cycling.
The project combines traditional bike lanes with stretches of buffered bike lanes, which use street markings to create more space between cars and people riding bikes, and barrier-protected bike lanes, which physically separate motorized traffic from people riding bikes by using bollards and/or parked cars (see images).
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this milestone in our quest to make Chicago the best city for biking in the country. Here are two ways you can help mark this special occasion:
With your help, we can keep the momentum rolling and achieve our goal of building 100 miles of protected bike lanes by 2015.
I was chomping at the bit to use my new Divvy bike share membership later this week, but the city just announced it needs two more weeks to test the system and have it ready to roll.
Divvy still plans to meet its goal of 75 stations in place by the end of the month, but we’ll wait two more weeks to use the system. The city will roll out the first docking station at the bike rally on Friday at Daley Plaza, with about eight more installed each day until the system goes live June 28.
This is a major new transportation system that will be around for many years, and I would rather the city delay a couple of weeks than risk a sub-par service that could turn people away from bike sharing.
Other bike-sharing programs have had problems initially (most recently New York City), so the delay is not surprising, but it is disappointing for all of us would-be Divvy riders.
This is sort of like the grand opening for the latest, coolest coaster at the amusement park, and the line just got a little longer. But I still can’t wait to ride.
Bike Week in Chicago got off to a high-profile start Monday with a front page Chicago Tribune story that includes photos and graphics about the first 6 months of the 1.15-mile, two-way Dearborn protected bike lane through the Loop.
John Hilkevitch writes that 81 percent of cyclists are obeying the dedicated bike traffic lights compared to 31 percent compliance with regular traffic lights before the lane was added, according to Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). The new configuration on Dearborn includes left turn arrows for cars, where 91 percent of car drivers have complied.
“It’s important to have infrastructure that speaks to people who are biking," said Active Trans’ own Lee Crandell in the article. "Otherwise, they feel the roadway was not designed for them.”
As an effort to improve the Dearborn bike lane, CDOT will add green paint and signage to help drivers and pedestrians be more aware of people biking in the lane, especially the “counter-flow” south-bound cyclists.
Pedestrians are learning not to wander into the bike lane while waiting to cross the street, but that remains an issue.
Active Trans is excited to see more bike traffic and better compliance on Dearborn, and we look forward to the installation of a bike traffic light on the new Milwaukee Ave. bike lanes between Elston and Kinzie.
Speaking of stopping at red lights, photographer Steven E. Gross is documenting how we do that.
On Saturday, June 8 at midnight, the starting flag dropped on the free Bike Commuter Challenge program, the best way to participate in Chicago Bike to Work Week. Have you signed up yet?
The Challenge, held every year during Chicago Bike to Work Week, creates thousands of new bike commuters in Chicagoland by connecting people itching to ride with their seasoned bike-commuting coworkers on employer teams.
Every team member just has to log at least one bike trip during Bike to Work Week. That trip can be part of the trip to or from work, or it can be all of the way to or from work.
Teams are ranked on the percentage of their total employees who have logged at least one bike trip during Chicago Bike to Work Week, June 8-14, 2013. If you haven't created or joined a team yet, it's not too late!
Team and team member registration extends through Bike to Work Day, Friday June 14! You can pick up your team leader toolkit -- full of great goodies for recruiting coworkers to join your team, like a poster, bike map, and bike commuting guide -- at one of over 20 Chicagoland Bike Pit Stops or Bike to Metra events!
Find the event closest to you with this complete guide to Chicago Bike to Work Week events! The City of Chicago is hosting a variety of bike celebrations and Active Trans is holding Bike Pit Stops all over the region.
Last week, Active Trans and the Bike Commuter Challenge were featured on both Chicago Public Radio's (WBEZ, 91.5) Worldview with Jerome McDonnell and CBS Chicago Morning News, with Vince Gerasole.
Click on the links below to listen to the radio show and see the television interviews (riding into the loop from Andersonville live)!
With more people biking every day and the city investing more in safer bike lanes, it’s important for people who bike to demonstrate good behavior on our streets and to follow the rules of the road.
We know there are already a lot of people biking who show excellent behavior out there, and we’ve teamed up with photographer Steven E. Gross to take a look at how Chicagoans are waiting at red lights on Dearborn Street.
We love the new bike traffic signals on Dearborn. Literally lit up with a bicycle symbol, they’re like a welcome sign for biking in the Loop, recognizing and legitimizing bike traffic.
They’re also an important safety feature to reduce conflicts been people biking and driving. (We can’t wait to see the new bike signal installed at Milwaukee and Elston soon to improve safety at that intersection!) As a piece of infrastructure, bike traffic signals are significant in that they unmistakably speak directly to people biking.
We’ve noticed that designing a street to acknowledge the presence of people using the roadway is a good way to increase compliance with the rules of the road.
We enjoy seeing how everyone has a different way of waiting for red lights. Here's a snapshot. How do you wait for red lights?
Some people rest one foot on the pedal and one foot on the ground. You can do this while staying on your saddle or getting off your saddle...
Waiting at a red light can be an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a stranger...
Some people wait with their hands in their pockets...
And some with their hands on the handlebars...
You can wait with a foot on the curb...
Or both feet on the ground...
You can even do it in dress pants and boots with heels and a shopping bag...
Tell us how you wait for red lights! Share a comment below or hit us up on social media: @activetrans on Twitter or https://www.facebook.com/activetrans.
In Chicago there are on average 12 people killed each year while biking. There are almost 40 people killed each year while walking, 86 percent of them while in crosswalks.
Photo of Bobby Cann courtesy of Groupon
Those numbers go up around the region in suburban communities where people are killed on high-speed, high-traffic arterials.
There are more people bicycling now than ever before. And as more people bike, it should continue to be safer and safer to do so.
But in my eight years working with Active Trans, I have experienced too much death. I believe that fatal crashes and injuries are preventable in almost all cases as the result of choices we make to keep other people safe while we are getting around.
I vividly remember biking to 87th and Racine years ago to visit a grieving family, who had lost their four-year-old “Lil Man” to a speeding driver. They were people, just like me and you, who wouldn’t be able to see their little boy grow up.
There are news reports almost daily of people around the region who are killed or severely injured while they are walking or biking. A man in Bronzeville, a woman in Naperville, a child here, a child there, the list goes on and on.
When will it stop? When will our culture shift to respecting and protecting the most vulnerable — those people who legally and rightfully deserve it the most? The elderly, our children, people with disabilities, people who are walking or biking.
I didn’t know Bobby Cann, the 26-year-old man who was killed last week while biking. But I probably would have liked him a lot based on how his family and friends talk about his life.
Over the years, I’ve had thousands of conversations or salutations with strangers on bikes as we were stopped at lights or giving each other “the nod” as we pass each other in the middle of winter. I bet Bobby experienced that too and relished those moments of human interaction as much as I do.
We can only hope that Bobby’s family and friends celebrate his wonderful life and impact on their lives. We can hope that some good comes from a tragedy like Bobby’s death.
“For Bobby – A Friend & Cyclist” is the headline on the Groupon (where Bobby worked) that is beautifully written by his girlfriend — also a Groupon employee. The deal is a $10 donation to Active Trans’ Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign that mobilizes people around Chicago to push for more protected bike lanes that make it safer for people who are biking, and also walking and driving.
Bobby’s family is honoring him with a memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at the Rooftop Terrace in Millennium Park. Anyone from the bicycling community is welcome to attend. Afterward, there will be a gathering for Bobby’s family and friends.
Let’s celebrate Bobby’s life and extend the good light he brought to the world. Bobby, my next ride is for you.
Riding a larger bike at a slower speed, I was getting passed by many people on bikes. Some gave me lots of room. Many did not. Not enough of them alerted me to their presence.
As the weather warms, there will be more people biking on Chicago streets. Courteous biking behaviour needs to be a priority for everyone – newbies and seasoned riders alike.
I encourage my fellow bike riders to ride politely. If you are faster than someone, that’s great! Just let them know you are there.
More and more people are commuting by bike. Let’s show them what a great community we are and lead by example.
See you on the bike lane.