Memorial road sign unveiled for Bobby Cann

Last Friday afternoon at the intersection of Larrabee Ave. and Clybourn Ave., friends, family and supporters gathered to celebrate the life of Robert “Bobby” Cann and see the unveiling of a portion of Clybourn as “Honorary Bobby Cann Way.”

Bobby Cann, a 26-year old who was passionate about cycling, was struck and killed by a driver near that intersection on May 29. The driver, Ryne Sam Hamel, has been charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI resulting in death.

The event began with supporters gathering around the roadside memorial for Cann that was constructed along Clybourn shortly after his death. People placed new flowers and photos next to those already hanging from a section of chain link fence.

Ald. Walter Burnett, Jr. of the 27th Ward said a few words, followed by Ron Burke, the executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, and Bobby Cann’s mother, Maria.

“Bobby’s tragedy reminds us that we still have a long way to go,” said Burke. “Bobby was a model of how to get around on a bike. His life was cut way too short.” Burke called for the construction of better bike lanes and barrier-protected bike lanes, along with a better focus on education and enforcement of the rules of using streets and sidewalks.

Maria Cann asked people to help spread the word about the dangers of drinking and driving. “We can challenge that culture by speaking up and taking action,” she said. She told people they could go to to learn more and get involved, adding that “just making the small positive change of living every day with energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and sense of adventure is enough to keep Bobby’s legacy alive.”

The audience applauded when Ald. Burnett announced that the Illinois Department of Transportation would finally allow a barrier-protected bike lane to be built on Clybourn. The state controls a number of streets in the city and has so far been unwilling to allow barrier-protected bike lanes to be built on any of them. “This is the first step for many other streets to come,” said Burnett.

After the honorary road sign was unveiled, supporters placed more flowers and pictures at the memorial.

Victory! Alderman Says State Will Allow Protected Bike Lane on Clybourn Ave.

After months of pressure from grassroots advocates, it’s been announced that protected bike lanes will be installed for the first time on a state-controlled roadway, Clybourn Avenue.

The announcement came from 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. during a ceremony to unveil an honorary street named for Bobby Cann, a bicycling advocate who was killed in a crash on Clybourn Ave. in May of this year.

As a state-controlled roadway, Clybourn Ave. was previously subject to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s ban on protected bike lanes. But the tragic crash that claimed Bobby’s life also inspired an upwelling of grassroots activism calling for the state to change its policy.

Today, those efforts have paid off as word came that a protected bike lane will be allowed on Clybourn Avenue.

We would like to extend big thank you to the many Active Trans members and supporters who added their voices to those calling on the state to change its policy. Your efforts are what made this change possible.

Read Active Trans’ press release on the announcement. Stay tuned to the blog for more updates as they become available.

Metra: We need a lot more money, but happy to share with the Illiana Expressway

Metra Interim Executive Director Don Orseno was remarkably contradictory in recent weeks about the transit agency’s priorities. In his own words from Metra's monthly passenger newsletter, On the Bi-Level, Oct. 2013:

“Perhaps the biggest challenge…is our need for more capital money…. Metra will need $9.7 billion over the next decade to achieve a state of good repair….and we expect to receive about a fourth of that amount.”  

On whether to vote Yes or No to authorize the Illiana Expressway and to spend at least $80 million more money on it from a limited pot of state transportation funds: “Yes.”

Indeed, it was “Yes” votes by Metra and Pace at a recent transportation agency meeting that cleared the way for the $1 billion-plus Illiana Expressway, a proposed highway bypass in southern Will County, miles from all but a few transit routes.

Making the Illiana eligible for these limited funds was opposed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning staff, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and others. The Illiana will leave even less transportation funding for transit repairs, the Red Line extension, modernization of Union Station, etc.

As a Metra rider and believer in the importance of good transit in our region, I'm truly disappointed in Metra and Pace. Read more about how Metra and Pace let transit down in our news release.

John Kass: “Big newspaper man” at it again.

Kass-ti-gate /ˈkastəˌgāt/ verb, to reprimand (someone) severely in order to sell newspapers, i.e., "He was kasstigated for being a little bike person.”

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass must have been beside himself with glee when Chicago Ald. Dowell, a real fan of cycling, got frustrated over a proposed cable TV fee and made an off-the-cuff remark about charging a $25 fee for bikes. 

Kass has championed this idea before as a way to make “little bike people” pay for all the benefits we give society by biking, and he seized upon her remarks in his column today. 

We like the alderman and support her goal to increase safety and to pay for transportation, but a bike fee doesn’t improve safety and will make little if any money once you pay to collect the fees. 

Check out our blog on this and my previous blog post in response to a similar rant from Kass. 

Licensing cyclists will discourage people from biking

Earlier today, a proposal was floated by a Chicago alderman to charge a $25 annual licensing fee for bikes in Chicago to help raise money for the city. Along with the fee, the alderman suggested that cyclists undergo an hour of bike safety training.

Active Trans supports the goals of raising revenue for transportation and educating people how to bike safely, but licensing bikes doesn’t improve safety, and the costs to implement a licensing program are likely to exceed the money it raises. 

Moreover, we should encourage cycling, not discourage it with a bike fee. Cycling frees up parking spaces and reduces congestion for people who drive. More people cycling means less wear and tear on roads, less air pollution and healthier residents.

Some say a fee is justified because cyclists don’t pay for roads, but that’s not true. Cyclists pay gas taxes (yes, many own cars, too!) along with sales and property taxes that pay for roads, and nationally gas taxes only cover 51 percent of road costs.

Moreover, cycling takes place mostly on local roads, which rely relatively little on gas taxes. If the city charges residents for cycling, should we charge pedestrians a fee, too, to pay for sidewalks?

Without enforcement of a licensing program, few people are likely to do it and the city won’t generate much money. But to do enforcement – to find all the bikes in Chicago and make sure the fee is paid annually – the city would have to create a new program that is likely to consume most or all of the new revenues.

And what about people who don’t live in Chicago but cycle in the city like suburban commuters and tourists? Do they need a license, too? How do the police know if a bike parked on the street without a license sticker belongs to a Chicagoan or not?

Logistically, it would be very difficult to give millions of Chicagoans bike education in a stand-alone class, but we have long advocated for folding bike and pedestrian education into state drivers tests, drivers education classes or school physical education classes.

Another simple and effective way to improve safety is for police to step-up issuance of tickets under the existing legal authorities. We do like the idea of mandatory safety education for people who get certain traffic tickets, and that could apply to cyclists as well.


This blog post was revised on Oct. 24, 2013.



You're invited to the Hon. Bobby Cann Way dedication ceremony

On October 25, 2013 at 1 p.m., the city of Chicago will hold a public ceremony dedicating a portion of North Clybourn Avenue to Robert “Bobby” Cann, a cyclist who was struck and killed by a motorist on the street earlier this year.

The ceremony will be led by Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. of the 27th Ward, and is scheduled to take place near the intersection of Clybourn Avenue and Larabee Street, where the crash occurred. The roadway will be named the “Honorary Bobby Cann Way.”

Since the crash, the driver, Ryne Sam Hamel, has been charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI resulting in death.

The public is invited to attend the roadway dedication event. Speakers will include Ald. Burnett, a representative of Cann’s family and a representative of the Active Transportation Alliance.

By all accounts, Bobby was an outgoing, warm and friendly person who was always concerned about the safety and wellbeing of others. He was passionate advocate for safe cycling.

Please join us in honoring Bobby’s life, memorializing his passing and raising awareness around the necessary and ongoing work that continues to be done to increase the safety of all road users in Chicago.

Photo of Bobby Cann memorial event courtesy of Steven Vance and Streetsblog Chicago.

The many faces of Chicago’s bus rapid transit advocates

Over 2,000 people have joined Active Trans' campaign to bring a world-class bus rapid transit system to Chicago. Despite this impressive number, a handful of BRT naysayers have gotten more than their fair share of media coverage.


So we decided to throw a little party to showcase just how many people are excited about BRT on Ashland Ave. and throughout the city. We learned, however, that there’s no such thing as a small gathering of Ashland BRT supporters – you folks turned out in droves.

Almost 100 people came to the Cobra Lounge last Tuesday to show their support for BRT and smile for the camera in our snazzy photo booth. Dozens of attendees signed up to volunteer with the campaign and just about everyone in attendance pledged to come out to upcoming public meetings the CTA will be hosting to review the plan with residents and transit users.

Here are a few of our favorite snapshots of supporters from last week’s event (and a few from Open Streets back in September). You can join these fine folks in supporting BRT on Ashland Ave. by signing on to our petition.

Batavia and Elmhurst join ranks of bike-friendly communities

The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) just unveiled its newest list of Bike Friendly Communities (BFCs) and Illinois has a lot to celebrate. We now have EIGHT communities on the list: six that have continued to earn a spot and two newcomers!

The returning communities are: Chicago (Silver), Evanston (Silver), Champaign (Bronze), Naperville (Bronze), Schaumburg (Bronze), and Urbana (Bronze). The two newbies are: Batavia (Bronze) and Elmhurst (Bronze).

Active Trans offers a hearty congratulations to them all.

Active Trans is especially pleased to see Elmhurst and Batavia join the six other BFCs in the Prairie State, as we had a bit of a hand in helping them get there (as did the League of Illinois Bicyclists and Trails for Illinois).

Elmhurst initiatives supported by Active Trans have led to the community creating a bike task force, adopting a bike-parking ordinance and ‘Share the Road’ signage, and participating in a number of bicycle-centered events. Elmhurst continues to serve as a great example of how suburban communities in Chicagoland can become more bike friendly.

A little further west in Batavia, the wheels started turning around 2009 when local resident John Gamble reached out to Active Trans for assistance. He and other engaged community members were looking to make Batavia a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly place.

The city already saw itself as a cycling destination since it’s home to the Fox River Trail (pictured above) and a spur of the Illinois Prairie Path.

Active Trans staff met with the core group of passionate cyclists, and in very short order they managed to create the Batavia Bicycle Commission. Gamble, who became the chair, credits Active Trans with helping it get organized, and adds that the fledgling commission was lucky to have a city council that was actively enthusiastic about the group's goals.

The city had drafted a bicycle plan in 2007 with the help of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, but it was after the foundation of the commission that things really got moving.

Since dedicating itself to the bike-friendly mission, Batavia has improved its network of bike-paths and trails, implemented two Safe Route to School programs, created a number of bike-focused events for residents and much more.

Early last year, the Batavia Bicycle Commission considered pursuing official BFC status for the community, but the group never thought it would happen so quickly. “Honestly, I thought we’d just get an honorable mention,” said Gamble. 

“We are very excited over the recognition of Batavia’s efforts to promote safe bicycle use in our community,” reads a statement from Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke on the city’s website. “We can’t wait to reach platinum status.”

Though they’re waiting to get feedback from LAB on what they can do to take the next step up in its bike-friendly status, Gamble and the Batavia Bicycle Commission already have plans for the future.

They want to continue connecting routes and paths, improve the already robust bicycle education program in the city by enlisting certified instructors, and ramp up the enforcement of rules and regulations for all road users to increase street safety.

We can’t wait to see what’s coming next for all of our Illinois BFCs!

Learn what it takes to become a recognized BFC and see the list of bike-friendly communities around the country for 2013.

Another reason it pays to be a member of Active Trans

Did you know that joining Active Trans gives you access to discounts from over 100 Chicago area businesses? Most of the businesses are located in Chicago, but many are in the suburbs, too.

The deals cover a wide range of services and products. As you’d guess, a number of bike shops offer discounts ranging from 5 percent off new bikes to 10 percent off parts and repairs, varying by store.

If bikes aren’t really your thing, there are plenty of other perks to membership. You can save money on food and beer at places like Goose Island Brewpub or Mother Hubbard’s Sport Pub, get free books from Lake Claremont Press, even find yourself paying less to get your living space upgraded with a fresh coat of paint from Harmony Haus Painting.

All that and we haven’t even mentioned deals on spa and massage treatment (you did indeed read that correctly), coffee, movie tickets, and many other awesome offers.

One Chicago business offering a discount on its products to Active Trans members (15 percent off all merchandise) is Po Campo, a local bike bag and accessory retailer. Maria Boustead, owner of Po Campo, thought participating in the rewards program was an easy choice.

“At Po Campo,” said Boustead, “we all love biking on Chicago's city streets and enthusiastically support Active Trans' efforts to make that experience as enjoyable for as many people as possible.”

She sees being involved with the program as a great way to promote her business while being involved in a fun and meaningful cause.

If you’re already an Active Trans member, all this will serve as a good reminder of the many great opportunities awaiting you, and perhaps a gentle nudge as to why you’d want to consider renewing.

And if you aren’t a member, the only remaining question seems to be: why wouldn’t you join?

Urgent action needed today to stop Illiana Expressway

We were extremely disappointed ALL FOUR of Chicagoland’s transit agencies—Metra, CTA, RTA and Pace—voted against their own riders’ interests by not opposing an expressway project in the deep suburbs.

If approved, the Illiana will directly compete against transit for a billion dollars of transportation funding—while moving fewer people than the buses on Ashland Avenue in Chicago.

The good news is the transit agencies get a second chance to do the right thing tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said the CTA will oppose the Illiana in that vote.

Please take action and tell Metra, Pace and the RTA to also vote against the Illiana tomorrow

Building the Illiana Expressway could be a train wreck for public transportation in our region.

With precious few funds for transportation projects in Chicagoland, the Illiana jeopardizes a long list of planned improvements to Metra and CTA train lines, and dims the prospect that the crucial Red Line south extension to 135th Street will ever be built.

By not opposing the Illiana, transit agencies voted against their own interests, against transit riders’ interests and against Chicago’s adopted regional plan, which prioritizes multimodal transportation and investment in existing infrastructure in areas where people live.

Why would transit agencies vote against rider’s interests? It appears they were worried that a No vote could jeopardize their state funding, because the state is strongly pushing the Illiana. But remember the recent scandals at Metra and the RTA? The public trust in Chicago’s transit leadership has already been shaken. This is not the time for them to again bow to political pressure.

Help us urge Metra, Pace, and RTA to resist political pressure and support transit

With the vote tomorrow, this is urgent. We need all the help we can get.

Help us show the transit agencies that their riders want them to stand for transit.

Image courtesty at Metropolitan Planning Council

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