Momentum is building for bringing world-class transit to Ashland Avenue and other parts of Chicago, but your help is needed to keep it going.
You may have heard that CTA recently announced exciting plans to implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Ashland Avenue between 95th Street and Irving Park Road.
Imagine taking transit on Ashland meant service that’s faster, more reliable and more like taking the train. The first phase of this project will run from 31st Street to Cortland Street.
The plans for BRT will create a more welcoming environment for people who are walking and prioritize transit on the street by converting the center lanes on Ashland to bus-only lanes and adding full-service transit stations and high-tech traffic signals.
It’s a smarter way to move people and better balance the needs of everyone who uses our streets. BRT will improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods, provide better access to jobs and services, reduce traffic congestion and make our streets safer.
The plan put forward by the city puts us on the right path. Now our city officials need to hear that we support this new vision.
Active Trans member Karin Evans has been biking to work in Chicago's Western Suburbs for nearly five years. She loves using Metra and riding the Illinois Prairie Path as part of her commute. As we approach Bike to Work Week (June 8-14), we wanted to share some of Evans' advice for would-be commuters.
What’s your commute like?
I live in Oak Park and teach at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. I can get to my office in an hour. I take a train from Oak Park to Glen Ellyn, and then ride a few miles to campus. In the afternoon, usually I ride 12 miles to Berkeley and catch the train there.
What’s your favorite part?
I love the Prairie Path through Villa Park. It’s a greenway with tall trees, and runs between small streets of sweet little houses.
Is boarding Metra difficult with a bike? Any special tips you might have for others thinking bringing a bike on Metra?
It was hard at first. I started with a heavy hybrid bike, and I am short. I had to get the hang of lifting my bike into the train vestibule.
Now I have a lighter touring bike with smaller wheels, and it’s much easier. I have never fallen or dropped the bike. If you can load your bike on an automobile and get it up and down stairs, you’ll be fine.
After entering the train car to the left, the main bike area is right inside, where the seats fold up. If people are seated there, smile and explain that’s where you are required to stow your bike. If that area is already full of bikes, there is a smaller area ahead on the left where the seats fold up the same way.
Bring a bungee cord. Set your bike against the folded seats and look for the bar underneath. Hook one end of your bungee around the bar and the other around your frame. If bikes are there already, carefully lay your bike against them and secure with your bungee. Keep pedals away from spokes.
I like to sit near my bike. Other riders may need to slide your bike out of their way, attach their bungee cord to your frame, etc. Be ready to lend a hand. Often riders compare notes on who’s getting off first and layer the bikes accordingly.
How do you get yourself motivated to commute on days you might feel less enthusiastic about it?
By getting ready the night before. If my pannier is packed and ready to go, and my bike clothes are laid out, my lame excuses are overwhelmed.
Does rain deter you? Any special tips for keeping dry and comfortable?
If it’s messy in the morning, that’s a deterrent because I don’t have anywhere to shower. It doesn’t matter if I get wet on the way home. I carry raingear with me all the time, and I don’t mind riding in the rain, but I do try to avoid riding in big storms, especially with high winds.
What do you look for in a good bike commuting route?
Keeping away from traffic. People looking down at their phones are the scariest drivers. I like the Prairie Path between Bellwood and Glen Ellyn. The drivers in those towns are accustomed to cyclists crossing their streets. I also like Madison Street between Harlem and 25th Avenue — it’s wide, recently paved and drivers are considerate.
What’s the most important piece of advice you would like to pass along to a would-be bike commuter?
Bike commuting is a whole mindset. Plan everything you can; be prepared ahead of time. Always pump up your tires the night before.
Sign up your workplace for the Bike Commuter Challenge during Bike to Work Week, June 8-14.
Join Active Transportation Alliance and Spin Doctor Cyclewerks on June 23 for a day of biking, sightseeing and socializing along the Fox River Bicycle Trail.
The Fox River Trail is a gem in the Chicagoland region. Streaching for more than 32 miles along the scenic Fox River, the trail features a paved, smooth surface, as well as quaint towns, historic mills, trees, parks and wildlife.
This ride is highly recommended for those who have never experienced riding the Fox River Trail and for those who love riding in groups.
Meet at 10 a.m. in downtown Geneva for free coffee and treats from Nosh. A UP-W Metra train arrives downtown Geneva at 9:47 a.m. The ride departs at 10:30 for Carpentersville.
While the ride is free (not including lunch), it does require advance registration. A detailed ride guide will be emailed to all registrants. Sign up here!
For more information, email Kevin Dekkinga.
The Earth Policy Institute has just released a new report on bike share programs in the U.S. With the expansions of current bike share programs and new openings in large markets like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the nationwide fleet of shared bikes is poised to quadruple in the next couple of years, from nearly 9,000 to more than 36,000.
Who is excited about Chicago's new Divvy bike share system?
The full report is available on the EPI website.
On Wednesday, May 8, many hundreds of schools across the country celebrated National Bike to School Day. This included a significant number of schools across Chicagoland and the state of Illinois.
From Chicago to Elmhurst, Palatine to Countryside, schools celebrated the day with activities like on-bike education programs, bike trains to school and bike safety presentations. (Read about some of the Illinois schools and their activities on the Bike to School Day website.)
Active Transportation Alliance was on hand at Northside College Prep in Chicago, where students who biked to school were treated to Clif Bars and given an off-campus lunch pass (a great perk for any high school student) and entered into a raffle to win bike lights and other prizes.
Students from the school's Chicago Studies class promoted the day with posters around school.
An estimated 10 percent of students biked to the school on Wednesday, causing the bike racks to overflow (see photo!).
Donte and Paul, a couple of Northside College Prep students, said they had never biked to school before and would definitely be doing it again.
A student named Sara said it was her second time riding. She said likes it because it’s faster than other modes of transportation for her, and allows her to catch a bit more sleep in the morning.
A student named Summer also touted the speed of biking, saying “I need to do this more often.”
Events like Bike to School Day provide a great opportunity for students, staff and parents to try out the bike as a fun, feasible and fast way to get where they need to go.
Out of school and working? Well then, you'll need to sign up for the Bike Commuter Challenge, happening in early June.
What will make you want to participate in Bike to Work Week, June 8-14?
Maybe it will be this new Active Trans video?
Or it could be this free t-shirt you get by becoming a Team Leader in the Bike Commuter Challenge?
Or maybe it's this fun spoke card you'll receive at one of our Team Leader meetups, beginning 5/21.
Whatever ends up motivating you to ride during Chicago's Bike to Work Week (June 8-14), don't stop when it's over! Help grow the movement by riding happily and safely all year long!
MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive is coming up fast! If you haven't registered yet or you're not able to register until after today, a great way to avoid the long packet pick-up lines on the day of the event is to go to one of the packet pick-up parties!
On Friday May 17 and Saturday 18, you can get your packet at a new location in the Chicago suburbs: MB Financial Park in Rosemont near O'Hare Airport.
Located near the junction of I-294 and I-90, it's easily accessible by car from many directions. And if you're coming from the city, the Rosemont Blue Line stop deposits you a short walk away.
Local businesses at the park have come up with some enticing offers for event participants:
We can't wait to see you there!
The Chicago Tribune presents two very different versions of the city’s proposed bike safety ordinance. John Kass’s column today is titled “Beware, cyclists, the other shoe has just dropped,” where he dreams about the city sticking it to cyclists.
On the other hand, reporter Hal Dardick wrote “Mayor Emanuel would give bikes more leeway on city streets.” Hmmm, John “Little Bike People in Spandex” Kass or reporter Hal Dardick?
We all know Kass is a goof whose job is to stir the pot, facts be damned. If you read the ordinance, you’ll see it does a lot for cyclists, as explained in Dardick’s story, like doubling fines for motorists that cause dooring crashes, clarifying that people on bikes can pass cars on the right, and making it legal to take the lane and ride two abreast at times.
There’s a lot of hand wringing in cycling circles over the ordinance’s increased fines for cyclists, and bike-haters like Kass are happy to fuel that fear. And it’s worth mentioning that the new, increased fine range for cyclists’ traffic violations ($50 - $200) is still lower than the one motorists face ($90 - $500, unless otherwise defined in the municipal code).
Active Trans believes that if you’re traveling recklessly and putting people at risk, a ticket is warranted whether you’re biking, walking or driving (especially when you’re driving.)
At the same time, we don’t endorse ticketing cyclists for minor violations that put no one at risk. Let the police focus on more important matters.
That’s been the police department’s approach, too, because they only issue on average less than four tickets per day citywide to people biking. That number is likely to go up, not so much because the fines are higher but because there are more people cycling and, with those growing numbers, a greater need to rein in the small percentage of cyclists who ride rudely.
We expect – and demand – that the police remain even-handed and only ticket cyclists who are truly putting others at risk.
Active Trans will continue to keep an eye out for any unwarranted ticketing of cyclists. We also want and expect more traffic tickets for reckless, aggressive driving that is so commonplace it’s become “normal.”
Check out Active Trans' latest bike maintenance and safety animation!
Use the handy tips illustrated in this short animated video to check and identify potential problems on your bike before taking to the streets!
Air: Do your tires have enough?
Brakes: Are they functional?
Chain: Is it lubricated?
QUICK Releases: Are they closed correctly and are they tight enough?
CHECK the Bike: Is everything looking and feeling safe?
Remember to use the ABC Quick Check to make sure that you're bike is always ready to roll!
The back-story behind Chicago’s announcement that anti-dooring stickers will go onto taxi windows (and if all goes well, parking pay boxes) is both tragic and inspiring.
Last fall, Neil Townsend was killed on his bike when he swerved to avoid an opening car door. Colleagues from his employer Minimal Design, and others from the local bicycle community via Chainlink.org, formed the Look! Chicago group to encourage anti-dooring strategies.
Their efforts inspired us to take the message to the commissioner for Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), Rosemary Krimbel. BACP regulates taxi cabs and is responsible for the training of taxi drivers on how to share the road with cyclists and pedestrians.
We asked Commissioner Krimbel to put dooring warning stickers on taxi windows. After coordinating with Chicago Department of Transportation, she agreed, and also expressed an interest in adding anti-dooring PSAs to the rolling video content for cabs with video screens. That is still being explored.
Minimal designed the sticker that will go into cabs (pictured). Active Trans modified this slightly for the stickers that will hopefully go onto parking pay boxes, assuming an arrangement can be reached with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC.
Unfortunately, the contractor that manages their pay boxes wants the city to pay them to install, maintain and eventually take down worn stickers. Active Trans has asked them to waive the charge and donate the service.
The city also announced a proposed fine increase for motorists who cause doorings, going from the current $500 fine to $1,000. Active Trans is glad to see these anti-dooring initiatives because, with more and more people riding bikes in Chicago, it is imperative that motorists look for oncoming cyclists before opening car doors. This needs to become habitual for drivers.
The ordinance that would increase motorist fines also increases fines for rogue cyclists, from the current $25 fine to a range of $50 to $200. Too often we see people on foot, on bikes and driving cars traveling recklessly; Active Trans supports increased traffic fines as an important way to improve safety (along with better education and infrastructure).
Like motorists and even pedestrians who use roads recklessly, people who ride bikes recklessly should also be ticketed. We don’t endorse ticketing cyclists and drivers for minor violations that put no one at risk. Let the police focus on more important matters. But if you’re putting people at risk, a ticket is warranted whether you’re biking, walking or driving.
There is some other “clean up” language in the ordinance, like clarifying that cyclists don’t have to stay in bike lanes on streets that have them. The ordinance also officially sanctions what many of us already do, “taking the lane.”
Please note: an incorrect version of the sticker was posted initially. The correct version is shown above.