Crash victim calls for separating cyclists and pedestrians on Lakefront Trail

Megan Williams, 27, was jogging on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail while training for her first Chicago Marathon earlier this fall when she was suddenly struck by a bicyclist.

The next thing she remembers is waking up in a hospital bed with her hands restrained, a breathing tube down her throat, a fractured skull and bleeding in her brain.

Thankfully, Megan is feeling better today. And as a result of this terrible experience, she's determined to be part of improving safety on the trail for all users.

“If they could divide the path into separate paths, one for bikes and one for everyone else, that would help,” Megan told the Sun-Times last month.

She said she isn’t sure who to blame – if blame should even be assigned. She just wants to help make sure these crashes don’t keep happening.

This week Megan told her story in an online forum set up by the Chicago Park District, which manages the Lakefront Trail, to solicit feedback from the public on next year’s budget.

The idea is already one of the most popular ideas on the site in less than 24 hours.

You can support her idea by rating and commenting on it in the online forum. Users are required to create a free account and can explore ideas and critical questions about the future of Chicago’s parks.

Active Trans has identified separating bicyclists and pedestrians on the trail as one its advocacy priorities for next year.

In our 2013 People on the Trail Report, published in partnership with Friends of the Parks and the Chicago Area Running Association, it was the number one priority for trail users.

Megan Williams one week after her crash on the Lakefront Trail. 

It's also the top public priority in the ongoing planning process for the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive, according to feedback collected at public meetings and online.

We continue to work with all types of trail users to highlight ways to improve the most popular trail in the country. If you’re interested in getting involved in our lakefront trail advocacy efforts, contact Campaign Director Kyle Whitehead at

Rate and comment on Megan’s idea by creating a free account on the Park District’s online forum.

2014 Illinois Safe Routes to School awards announced

Great news arrived yesterday for thousands of school children and families in Illinois. On November 17, 2014, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced the 2014 funding awards for the Illinois Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.

A total of 58 infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects were approved for funding totaling $5.9 million dollars. The projects will enable and encourage more students to safely walk and bike to school. Funding was divided roughly equally between the Chicago metro region and the rest of the state's communities.

A sample of funded projects include:

  • LOTS of new or upgraded sidewalks;
  • Off-street trails
  • Curb cuts and sidewalk ramps for people with disabilities 
  • Pedestrian crossing improvements like countdown signals, refuge islands and flashing beacons
  • School zone and speed feedback signs and trailers
  • Creation of parent patrols and Walking School Buses

A full list of funded projects is here and also posted on IDOT's SRTS web page. Congratulations to all the awarded communities!

Public pushing for bike/walk/transit improvements in Cook County transportation plan

For decades transportation planning in Cook County has focused largely on moving cars as quickly as possible through our streets, but it looks like that approach may be changing at last.

The county is currently in the second year of a three-year process to develop a Long Range Transportation Plan. This plan will guide the design and implementation of transportation projects in the region.

During Phase I of the planning process earlier this year, more than 1,600 county residents responded to a public survey and highlighted the need to invest in alternative transportation options.

According to a county summary of responses, respondents indicated they “want to move beyond planning primarily for the automobile and explore opportunities to reduce congestion and enhance public transportation and cycling.”

The county recently released its Phase II survey, which allows us another opportunity to make the case for sustainable transportation.

Please fill out the online survey to provide feedback on county priorities and support improvements to CTA rail and bus service, bikeway facilities, Metra commuter rail service, and Pace bus service in the suburbs.

The county is also hosting four open houses in December where you can weigh in on the plan. Here are the details:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 2, 4-7 p.m. – Franklin Park Police Station Community Room (9451 W. Belmont, Franklin Park, IL 60131)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 3, 4-7 p.m. – Northbrook Village Hall Board Room (1225 Cedar Lane, Northbrook, IL 60062)
  • Thursday, Dec. 4, 4-7 p.m. – Chaddick Institute, DePaul University (14 E. Jackson, Dublin Room, 16th Floor, Chicago, IL 60604)
  • Tuesday, Dec. 9, 4-7 p.m. – Orland Park Civic Center (14750 Ravinia Avenue, Orland Park, IL 60462)

The planning process concludes next year, with a final report expected by the end of September.

Cyclists and motorists: Let's roll together, with a wave

If motorists and bicyclists are going to be safe on the roads they need to share space instead of fighting for it. 

This summer, the Active Transportation Alliance teamed up with national bike advocacy group PeopleforBikes and AAA, the nation’s largest motor organization, on a campaign to encourage bicyclists and motorists to respectfully share the road.

Now an Austin, Texas-based campaign is advocating for that same camaraderie by asking motorists and bicyclists to "roll nice" and share a wave

The idea was born on a daily bike commute to the Austin-based branding firm The Butler Bros, which created the project. 

“If WAVE sounds overly simple, that’s the point,” project co-creator Adam Butler said in a news release. “Ninety percent of cyclists are also motorists. We’re all people trying to get somewhere. The infrastructure improvements needed to ease tension between cars and bikes can’t happen overnight, but you can wave at someone today.”

Watch the WAVE introductory video here: 

It's a simple but effective reminder that we all share the road and that we're all just people, not bikes or cars. Acknowledging each other's presence shows we respect one another, and aren't simply jockeying for position. Learn more about the WAVE project.

When you see an anti-bike rant, set the record straight

Whenever you encounter anti-bike sentiment in opinion columns, a level-headed response is necessary to help set the record straight.

That’s what we saw recently in suburban Niles after The Bugle newspaper guest columnist Morgan Dubiel claimed that infrastructure improvements like bike lanes are, among other things, dangerous and discouraging for motorists.

The column came on the heels of the forward-thinking Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan put forth by the Village of Niles, which shows a commitment to active transportation.

This plan speaks volumes to debunk the many false claims made in the column, but sometimes the best response to a resident comes from another resident.

Active Trans member and Niles resident Brian Lee wrote a response to the column and The Bugle published it. We've shared his letter below. And here's a link to the PDF, which reveals that Lee was not the only person who thought the column needed a quick and thoughtful response. 

When you hear someone making inaccurate claims about cycling, set the record straight with a sober response like Lee’s. And if you're looking for fact-based fodder for your response, People for Bikes offers a lot of great resources.

Here’s Lee’s response to the newspaper column:

Morgan Dubiel’s guest column in the Oct. 23 issue about bike safety is short-sighted, predicated on the premise: “If the goal is simply bicycle safety...” The goal is much broader than simply bicycle safety.

The Village of Niles has been visionary and judicious to “make no little plans” toward making Niles a great place to live or open a business. The Village’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan and Environmental Action Plan correctly identify that improving bicycle and pedestrian mobility within the Village will impact the sustainability of the Village, the economic health of its commercial corridors, the physical health of residents, and will increase the attractiveness of Niles as a place for young families to raise children.

I wholeheartedly agree with Morgan’s sentiment that “mobility allows you to live as you wish.” There is a significant percentage of folks in our community who don’t drive however: Where is their mobility? Where is their freedom? Wouldn’t it be better to enable senior citizens to age in place and delay (or avoid) having to move into assisted living by building a more walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly community?

Bike lanes are considered mainstream in many parts of our country, and close to home. The Village of Niles is 100 percent in step with peer communities like Schaumburg (a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community), Mt. Prospect, Evanston, Wheeling and dozens of others in embracing bicycling as a clean, healthy, equitable form of transportation for its residents.

Recent research has shown that the Millennial generation is driving less, buying/owning fewer cars, and include walkability/bikeability/transit access among their top considerations when deciding where to live. The Village of Niles is to be applauded, not criticized, for understanding that, in order to remain competitive and attractive to the next generation, bikeability and walkability are crucial elements.

Photo of Bike Niles event courtesy of Tom Robb and the Niles Journal.

Slow Roll Chicago celebrates community, history by way of bike

It’s been a fast ride for Slow Roll Chicago, one of the newest bicycling groups in the city. After a few successful events, the group's final ride in 2014 is planned for this weekend. 

The ride, called "Mending Broken Fences," is in partnership with the Chicago Police Department's 11th District office, and its aim fits Slow Roll's goal of improving communities and reducing violence by way of riding bikes. 

"We ride to utilize the activity of bicycling as a tool to strengthen neighborhoods, connect neighbors and transform communities," the Slow Roll newsletter stated. "This bicycle ride is an important step towards improving the relationship between the Chicago Police Department and the community. It will be a tremendous effort in creating a relationship between the community and CPD that is built on trust and familiarity, where there is an active collaborative effort focused on making our neighborhoods safer and more liveable."

The ride will begin at noon this Saturday, Nov. 15 at the 11th District CAPS Office, 3151 W. Harrison St., in Chicago. A meet-and-greet with refreshments will precede the ride at 11 a.m., and there will be a pizza party and youth recognition event following the ride.

The route will take riders from the West Side to the Museum Campus and Northerly Island, then back to the 11th District office. 

Slow Roll Chicago is a community-based organization uses bicycling to connect a diverse group of people and improve communities through local bike rides and related programs.

Group members say the goals of the ride are to celebrate history and community and to encourage people to be active and explore their communities. 

Slow Roll continues to grow, and Chicago chapter co-founders Olatunji Oboi Reed and Jamal Julien recently spoke with Streetsblog about their mission. Read the full Q&A here. In a recent DNA Info interview with Reed, he said, "We want to use bicycles as a mechanism to improve our communities."

To get involved, go to the Slow Roll Chicago website. For updates and event information, you can also follow the group on Facebook and Twitter.

'Ghost Bike' play coming to Whitney Young High School

In the cycling community, a ghost bike is a roadside memorial for people who were hit and killed while riding bikes.

Serving as a somber reminder of the bicyclists we've lost, the ghost bike movement has gained lots of traction and helped raise awareness. Now, it's the namesake of a play that will be performed at Whitney Young Magnet High School this month.

Written by Chicago playwright Laura Jacqmin, "Ghost Bike" follows the story of two young people in love, and what happens after one is hit by a car and killed while riding his bike, according to Jacqmin's website: 

Ora and Eddie fell in love with Chicago on their bikes. But when Eddie is hit by a car and killed, Ora refuses to let him go. Instead, she rides beneath our city to bring him back, facing off against underworld gods and ghosts – some interested in helping her, some determined to get in her way. The more difficult her journey becomes, the more Ora must question what it is she’s journeying towards. Chicago culture skitches off of Greek, African, and Chinese mythology, sparking a spirited mash-up of underworld and after-life as seen from the seats of fixies, BMX’s and ten-speeds.

"Ghost Bike" has been produced only a few times, with its professional world premiere at Buzz22 in Chicago earlier this year. The Young Company, Whitney Young's extracurricular drama program, is excited to be sharing this story with the community. 

Tickets are $8 for all ages and available at the doors of The Young Company, 1431 W. Jackson Blvd. in Chicago. Performances are at 7 p.m. Nov. 14-15 and Nov. 21-22, and at 5 p.m. Nov. 20. 

Photo courtesy of Laura Jacqmin features an earlier production of the play. 

Show your support for fun, safe and convenient trails at FPDCC budget hearing

Calling all trail riders!

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) is holding its 2015 budget hearing on November 18, and we need enthusiastic trail users to make the case for more safe, convenient and accessible trails.

FPDCC is gearing up for the North Branch Trail Southern Extension, which will extend the popular trail from Devon & Caldwell to Foster & Kostner. While support for this project is high, there has been some criticism from local residents who are pushing for a less safe on-street route.

This meeting is a chance for the cycling community to further demonstrate our support for the project and explain why the project is essential for the neighborhood and the greater region.

Here are some important facts to keep in mind about bike trails:

  • Off-street paths encourage more people to ride bikes, which results in cleaner air and an overall healthier environment.
  • In areas where trails have been built, crime has decreased or remained the same, according the Rails to Trails Conservancy 
  • Cycling is a healthy and fun activity. It improves levels of well-being, self-confidence, and tolerance to stress.
  • Lastly, investment in trails can lead to higher property values. For example, a house located within a one-half mile of the Monon Bike Trail in Indianapolis is worth on average 11 percent more than an identical house farther from the trail, according to People for Bikes and the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

These future trail improvements are necessary in keeping Chicagoland one of the most bike friendly places in the country. Come out and show your support for safe trails!

What: FPDCC 2015 Budget Hearing
Where: County Board Room (118 N. Clark, Room 567)
When: 1 p.m. on Tuesday, November 18

Register Here. See you there!

This blog post was written by Sydney Prusak, Active Trans' advocacy intern. 

Register now for Active Trans Member Meeting & Advocate Summit


Register now for the 2014 Active Trans Member Meeting & Advocate Summit to be held Thursday November 13, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Red Frog Events, 320 W. Ohio St., Chicago. 

All are welcome to attend this free event. We'll be discussing and formulating our strategies for putting biking, walking and public transit on the map in the 2015 municipal elections.

Whether you live in the city or suburbs, this is your opportunity to take action in support of healthier, more livable communities.

As people across Illinois go to the polls today to pick federal, state and county officials, we're already gearing up for the next round of elections in 2015 when local communities will vote for their municipal leaders.

Local elected officials in the city and suburbs exercise a great deal of power over the issues we care about. That's why this year's Member Meeting & Advocate Summit will focus on our advocacy priorities during the upcoming election.

Please join us in critical dialogue and grassroots action planning as we collectively push to take our movement to the next level.

Metra’s ten-year plan for fare increases: A gutsy decision

In its proposed Fiscal Year 2015 Program and Budget, Metra announced it's prepared, if necessary, to implement a ten-year plan for regular fare increases to fund not only its day-to-day operations, but also to begin the long slog to finally address their $8.6 billion backlog of and on-going annual infrastructure needs.

This is a gutsy move on Metra’s part given that fare increases used to fund operations are a touchy subject. The past reticence of Metra to adequately fund operations have led to below-industry wages, archaic business management systems and little in the way of operating innovations.

By assiduously avoiding fare increases over the last 25 years, Metra’s fare revenue growth has been below the Consumer Price Index and well below the growth of U.S. industry peers like Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

Metra is now faced with reversing that trend. They know that it was only six years ago that Illinois increased the region’s annual transit operating funds by approximately $400 million. Metra can’t expect a state that has its own dire financial difficulties to run to the rescue with more funding just so Metra and its sister agencies, Pace and CTA, can avoid regular fare increases for operations.

The long-time assessment that the region has been under investing in its transit infrastructure was confirmed in 2009 by the RTA in a comprehensive capital assessment analysis. It showed a ten-year capital need of $24.6 billion between 2010 and 2019 to bring the entire northeastern Illinois transit system to a state of good repair.

Based on capital funding trends, the region was short $17 billion to achieve this goal. Since 2009, the shortfall has grown to $26 billion, despite a five-year boost of $2.7 billion in infrastructure capital funding from the now expiring Illinois Jobs Now capital program.

The federal transit capital program has also been of little help. After three years of delay in reauthorizing the federal highway and transit programs, Congress kicked-the-can down the road with a no growth two-year funding bill in 2012.

This year facing a depleted Highway Trust Fund (which funds both the highway and transit programs), Congress granted an eight-month extension of the Fund with an infusion of general revenue rather than finding a long-term solution. This trend indicates that Congress is unlikely to do anything in the foreseeable future to even modestly increase transit capital funding.

So it is not surprising that Metra’s anticipates less than one percent annual federal funding growth over the next five years.

Metra’s budget is also doubtful on the prospects of a new multi-year state capital program. To confirm Metra’s skepticism, one only has to look at the past 25 years of practice where the state initiates a new five-year capital program every ten years. In other words, five years on and then five years off.

So it was inevitable and responsible for Metra to assume that its future financial destiny lies with what it controls through cost containment and regular, but modest, fare increases. This is prudent transit management.

This guest blog post was authored by Steve Schlickman, executive director of the UIC Urban Transportation Center and member of the Active Trans Board of Directors. 

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