A spotlight shines on the great work performed by Active Trans volunteers

Last week, Active Trans hosted our annual Volunteer Appreciation Party at Ancien Cycles in West Town. 

The event was an opportunity to celebrate the great work performed our army of amazing volunteers (more than 2,000 in 2014!) who help move our mission forward.

As part of the event, we recognized five outstanding volunteers who have made tremendous contributions to our organization in 2014.

Here are the five award-winners:

Under the Radar Award -- Andrew Nicolaou

This award recognizes the excellence and dedication of an unsung hero in bicycling advocacy. Andrew’s dedication to his work with the Crash Support Hotline and his presence in court hearings related to crash fatalities that occurred last year made him the clear choice for this award.  

Emerging Leader Award – Carmen Aiken

This honor is bestowed to aspiring leaders who don’t just ride the beaten path, but blaze a trail for others to follow. Carmen not only volunteers her time directly at our events serving as a Course Marshal Manager, she also helps to plan them as an active member of our Route Committee. Last year she helped test and mark more than 73 miles of routes to ensure our Four Star riders saw the city and enjoyed a safe ride.

2014 Event Volunteer Award – Darrel Wood

This award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of an individual volunteer to our fundraising events. For many years, Darrel has donated his time and know-how to Active Transportation Alliance as a Route Committee member and crucial supporter of our events. Darrel’s involvement with Active Transportation Alliance is a testament of dedication and passion for our mission goals.

Advocate of the Year Award – Barton Crouch

This award recognizes the volunteer who works to expand our reach, sharing our bicycling, pedestrian and transit commitment to a broader audience and thereby moving our mission forward. Barton has been one of our most enthusiastic volunteers while serving in a variety of roles with advocacy programs, including our Go Pilsen campaign, activities in the 25th Ward and Ciclovamos.

Important Cog Award – Ruth Rosas

This award celebrates the volunteer who makes the most significant overall contribution to the success of our organization. Ruth (pictured top, left) is a longtime volunteer who has performed excellent work in a slew of different roles: assisting with packet pickup for our events, phone banking, volunteer nights in the office, and providing support at MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive.

We are proud of our award recipients and all of our volunteers who share their time and talents with Active Trans.

We thank our board members in celebrating our volunteers and we send a special shout out to Scott McIntosh at Ancien Cycles for hosting this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Party. It was a great party and we look forward to next year. 

If you are considering volunteering or would like to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, contact Ray Arroyo, Volunteer Coordinator at ray@activetrans.org or call 312-216-0487. MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive is just a few weeks away and we have many volunteer opportunities waiting to be filled. 

What would you like to see more of on Chicago's streets?

Imagine, if you will, a city that features wide (and safe) sidewalks, an abundance of bike racks, bike workstations on street corners, and public gathering spaces with trees, landscaping and places to sit. What if that city was Chicago?

After gathering preliminary feedback, the Chicago Department of Transportation has launched a citywide text and online survey to seek input from Chicagoans regarding future improvements to Chicago’s public spaces.

Click here to take the online survey.

To participate via text message, read the following question and text your answer to (312) 800-1729. To take the survey in Spanish, text your response to (312) 757-6675:

“I’d like to see more _____ on Chicago’s streets.”
A: Trees & Landscaping
B: Seating
C: Public Gathering Spaces
D: Bike Amenities
E: Wider Sidewalks

You’ll receive a series of follow-up questions and a final “Thanks!” text — I received 10 texts in all — which will take about six minutes to complete.

Both the online and text message version of the survey close on March 9, 2015.

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.


Take action: Say NO to Governor Rauner’s proposed transit cuts

On Wednesday Gov. Rauner unveiled a budget proposal that would further damage the Chicago region’s already underfunded transit system, while bolstering the road fund statewide.

Now you have a chance to fight back and show your support for public transit.

The proposed budget would slash nearly one-third of state funding for the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) -- almost $130 million -- while adding $120 million to the road fund. These proposed cuts directly affect the budgets of CTA, Metra and Pace, and likely would lead to service cuts and fare increases.

Rauner's proposal to eliminate the state funding for paratransit and the RTA's reduced-fare program would make things even worse. Seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families rely on transit even more than others to access jobs and get around. Moreover, state spending on these efficient programs is small and would do little to solve the state's financial crisis while punishing our most vulnerable residents.

Stand up for transit-dependent residents by taking action today.

Now is not the time to cut transit funding; we should be looking to increase funding with a capital program and new revenue.

Transit improvements and expansion are long overdue during a time when more Illinoisans of all ages are choosing to ride transit, walk and ride bikes, rather than driving inefficient private vehicles.

Revenue for these investments could be raised in a variety of ways, such a modest increase in the gas tax and indexing it to inflation, or increasing transportation user fees.

We can't afford to attempt to balance our state's budget by decimating our transit systems.

Tell Gov. Rauner and your state legislators you support improving and expanding public transit.

More than 12,000 residents tell Gov. Rauner to kill the Illiana Expressway

On the day Gov. Rauner delivered his first budget address, more than 12,000 Illinoisans highlighted a way he can save taxpayers money and support efficient regional development: end the Illiana Expressway boondoggle.

Active Trans joined a diverse coalition of advocates and Will County residents in delivering 12,865 petition signatures against the Illiana to the Governor on Wednesday. Our partners included No Illiana 4 US, Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), Sierra Club, Openlands and Illinois PIRG.

You can still join the effort by sending a message to the Governor’s office today.

After taking office in January, Gov. Rauner put the ill-conceived tollway on hold pending a “careful review of costs and benefits.”

Our members and supporters have spoken out against the project for months, making the case for why the sprawl-inducing project would not be an efficient use of limited taxpayer dollars.

The proposed highway would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65, serving only 8,000 vehicles per day at a cost of over $1 billion.

The state is proposing to build the project as a public-private partnership with the state guaranteeing a private operator's costs, but there are lots of questions and skepticism about the politically motivated project’s actual financial viability.

We believe taxpayer dollars could be better spent on infrastructure priorities that carry far greater benefits, like upgrading rapid transit and commuter rail lines, and critical projects like CTA’s planned Red Line South Extension.

Sign our petition to the governor in support of efficient regional development and against the Illiana.

Excited about better rapid transit in the Loop? Get involved!

Most commuters, visitors and residents in Chicago’s Loop can quickly identify the biggest transportation challenge: moving east-west across downtown.

Whether you’re walking, biking or riding transit, getting across the Loop is often frustratingly slow and unpredictable, particularly during peak rush hour times.

That’s why the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is installing a new rapid transit corridor this year with dedicated bus lanes on Washington (image below) and Madison, and connections to Ogilvie and Union Stations in the West Loop.

Fill out this brief survey if you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved.

In addition to transit riders, the project also will benefit people walking and riding bikes. Existing bus shelters will be relocated from the sidewalk and replaced with new stations on the corridor, opening up sidewalk space for people walking. People riding bikes will be able to take advantage of new protected bike lanes on Randolph and Washington.

The data shows the vast majority of people are riding transit, walking or biking to get around the Loop. Buses carry nearly half of all travelers in vehicles on Washington and Madison, yet travel as slow as 3mph during rush hour, or walking speed.

With construction beginning this spring and service scheduled to launch later in 2015, we’re stepping up our advocacy efforts to help ensure the project is implemented efficiently with the benefits promised to people riding transit, walking and biking.

We are looking for Loop commuters and residents who use the corridor regularly and can provide feedback on their experience. Activities may include sharing their stories with our members and supporters, speaking with a reporter about transportation in the Loop or signing on to a letter of support.

Complete this brief survey to learn how you can help.

Images courtesy of the CTA. 

Lakemoor named to 'best-of' list for Complete Streets!

Congratulations to Lakemoor, Illinois for adopting the nation's third-best Complete Streets Policy in 2014!

The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2014, released by Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition, examines and scores each of the 74 Complete Streets policy enacted in 2014.

The report outlines ten ideal elements of a Complete Streets policy and scores individual policies based on these ideals. Lakemoor's policy scored an impressive 88.8 points out of 100!

Lakemoor, a village of  nearly 6,000 residents that straddles Lake and McHenry counties in Chicago's North Suburbs, was inspired to adopt Complete Streets through its participation in We Choose Health, an initiative of the Illinois Department of Public Health and McHenry County Health Department and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Active Trans was delighted to provide technical assistance on the project by identifying model policies, helping define a process for policy development, and helping identify tactics for adoption and implementation.

Lakemoor joins an increasing number of Illinois municipalities and counties that are embracing Complete Streets principals as a key component of improving community health and wellness. Congrats to Lakemoor for the win!

Evanston walks the walk on shoveling sidewalks

That walking and biking takes a back seat to driving in most cities is never more apparent than after a good snowfall. Even in downtown Chicago, where people moving on foot vastly outnumber those in cars, the streets generally get cleared before the sidewalks. 

Making matters worse is the accumulation of snow removed from streets that blocks sidewalks and bike lanes.

Like streets, sidewalks in front of homes and businesses are public spaces.  Unlike streets, however, most cities rely on private citizens to clear sidewalks. 

Ideally, cities would treat walking and driving with equal respect by plowing sidewalks like they do streets. Forest Park, Winnetka and some other towns do this. 

For cities hard-pressed to pay for sidewalk plowing, another option is to select priority "sidewalk snow routes," similar to "street snow routes," that the city will plow. 

These would be high foot-traffic routes to schools, transit stops, grocery stores, etc.  Cities can also do less street plowing on low-traffic streets and use the savings to pay for plowing sidewalks.

But for now, shoveling sidewalks is usually a civic duty for property owners, and it’s a law in most Chicagoland cities that is rarely enforced. 

We are glad to see that Evanston, according to the Chicago Tribune, is doing something Active Trans has been recommending: ticketing owners who don’t shovel, and making them pay the tab for city contractors to do the shoveling.  

The Tribune reports that Evanston began ticketing last Thursday, four days after the nineteen inch blizzard ended. 

That’s plenty of time for property owners to do it themselves or, if they are physically unable, to find a neighbor, entrepreneurial teenager or landscape company.  

Cities should use discretion and sensitivity when dealing with homeowners who perhaps struggle to even find someone else to shovel their sidewalk, and Evanston is doing this by lining up volunteers to help shovel.  

The one red flag we see with Evanston’s approach is the bill for a contractor to shovel: $190 per property on average, according to the Tribune. 

That seems awfully high, and with that price tag Evanston can skip the ticket and just send the shoveling bill! 

Image courtesy of www.pedbikeimages.org / Dan Burden.

Calling 311 can save lives

I write this blog post with an extremely heavy heart, and a plea to Chicagoland residents: please call 311 (in Chicago) or your local municipal public works department (suburbs) if you observe dangerous roadway conditions.

I failed to do so just a few days ago, and if I had, someone may be alive today.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a man was fatally struck and killed while walking on East 79th Street -- about one-half mile from my home -- early morning by an unmarked Chicago Police vehicle.

While many of the circumstances of the crash are not currently clear (was the man walking in the street due to unshoveled sidewalks? was the police vehicle responding to a call?), one fact has been established: an entire bank of streetlights was out.

I know because I was in that same location just one day earlier, on Monday night Feb. 2. The street was pitch black, and there were many folks walking in the street, which is, as we all know, a necessary evil following heavy snowfalls when sidewalks go unshoveled.

Again, there are likely several factors that may have contributed to this crash. Unshoveled sidewalks? Very likely. Amount of care exercised by the person behind the wheel? Maybe. But the darkness? I'm almost certain.

That stretch of 79th Street is not otherwise well-illuminated by businesses or other ambient light. Having that entire bank of streetlights out was indeed extremely treacherous.

I am pointing the finger of accountability squarely at myself on this one. The Chicago Department of Transportation and Streets and Sanitation cannot be everywhere at all times, and cannot possibly know when its facilities go on the blink.

They in many instances rely on us -- residents -- to alert them to dangerous conditions. Is their response time always perfect? Of course not.

The Trib reports that, according to the 311 log, these lights have been out since at least January 29. But as most Chicago residents know, the more calls to 311 that are placed about an issue, the more that issue rises to the top of the priority list.

So the next time I see a pedestrian signal that is out, or a curb ramp that is torn up, or a crosswalk that's badly faded -- or a bank of streetlights that have failed -- I am going to stop, take 30 seconds to call 311, and hopefully contribute to a quicker solution to a potentially dangerous situation.

I can afford the time. And it might just save a life.

Image courtesy of www.pedbikeimages.org / Dan Burden. 

Where do Chicago candidates stand on active transportation? Check out our 2015 voter guide

With election day three weeks away, we’ve released our 2015 Active Transportation Voter Guide so Chicago voters can learn about the views of candidates in their ward on walking, biking and public transit issues.

The voter guide is composed of responses from mayoral and aldermanic candidates to a questionnaire we sent to all candidates.

In the linked spreadsheets, click on a candidate’s name to view their complete response, including any additional comments they provided to each question.

As a non-partisan 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, Active Trans does not endorse candidates.

This voter guide is an educational resource to inform the general public and candidates for local office about current priorities for improving biking, walking and public transit, as identified by our members, supporters and staff.

We used publicly available contact information and multiple rounds of phone and email outreach to attempt to reach the campaigns of all candidates that will appear on the ballot. Candidates that have yet to respond can still contact us with their responses and we'll update our voter guide.

You can learn more about the city elections taking place on February 24 and how you can vote from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Early voting starts Monday February 9.

If you live in the Chicago suburbs, stay tuned to the Active Trans blog for resources that will help you know where candidates stand on active transportation issues in the coming spring election. 

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