T-shirt design contest!

 Do you dig biking and graphic design? Got an idea for an MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive T-shirt? If so, here’s your chance to show off your stellar graphic design skills and get your design on thousands of T-shirts this summer and win a $250 MB Financial Bank gift card.

We’re launching our second annual T-shirt design contest for MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive—the classic Chicago biking event on the Sunday before Memorial Day that closes Lake Shore Drive to cars and opens it to thousands of people on bikes.

Active Trans is looking for original illustrations that celebrate this special day of biking bliss. Up to five finalists will receive two free registrations for the event, and the final winner will have her or his T-shirt design worn by many thousands of participants during the event and afterwards.

T-shirt design submissions are due February 11 by 11:59 p.m. Active Trans will choose up to five of the best designs, and then open the final decision to an online vote February 24 through March 7 11:59 p.m.

The winner will be announced right here on our blog later in March. Learn more about how to enter the contest at www.bikethedrive.org/tshirtcontest.

Last year’s winner Oscar Aguilar was surprised as anyone to win and this year, it could be you!

PS: Registration for MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive opens online at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22. You can save $7 by registering at www.bikethedrive.org by February 2 or a total of $9 with a discount code available at MB banking centers.

Celebrate winter bike commuting and get ready for the biking event of the summer

Please join us to celebrate Winter Bike to Work Day at Daley Plaza in Chicago’s Loop on Jan. 21 for our annual celebration of cyclists who don’t let low temperatures or snow stop them from pedaling to work. Warm up with free Dark Matter coffee and slices of Eli’s Cheesecake from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Daley Plaza, located at Washington and Dearborn Streets. Hot chocolate and tea will also be available.

And new this year, please join us after work at Monk’s Pub 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. 205 W. Lake Street with Revolution Brewing. Winter bicycle commuters can enjoy a $1.50 special on sliders (order in any multiples of two) by showing your helmet or bike key. Delicious Rev Brew beer will also be on special.

Morning rally attendees will receive a raffle ticket for several great prizes, including a $100 MB Financial bank gift card, a WXRT-FM Studio X voucher good for access to one Studio X show in 2014, a $100 REI gift card, a case of CLIF Bars and a VIP MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive registration. We’ll pull raffle winners after work at Monk’s Pub.

Plus, you can get a jump on your summer biking when online registration opens at 6:30 a.m., also on January 21, for this year’s MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive to be held on Sunday, May 25, 2014.

Save $7 registering online at www.bikethedrive.org through Sunday, Feb 2. Get an additional $2 off and a free CamelBak™ water bottle when you stop by an MB Banking Center for an online promotion code good through Feb 2 (http://www.mbfinancial.com/branch-locator/index/branch-listing.aspx).

Active Trans is proud to organize Winter Bike to Work Day commemorating the coldest day in Chicago history—Jan. 20, 1985—when the official temperature at O’Hare International Airport was 27 degrees below zero.

MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive allows cyclists to enjoy the city skyline and stellar views of Lake Michigan on the only day of the year when Lake Shore Drive is open to cyclists and closed to car traffic.

Put on your warmest winter biking gear and join us!

Shoveling makes it easier for everyone to walk

Last year, I was about 8 months pregnant during the dead of winter.

Don't let your sidewalk look like this. Photo courtesy of Anne Alt. 

Thankfully, I am only a two block walk away from my CTA train station. I was encouraged to buy extreme snow boots that had special soles that gripped the ice and snow better. They are monstrous and borderline embarrassing. I will probably have them for the next 20 years.

One day I walked by the big corner house at the end of my block. You know the one -- it has the largest sidewalk surface area and for some reason the owner doesn’t shovel. I happened to see the owner walking into his house. I decided to have a chat.

The abbreviated/paraphrased conversation is below:

Me: Hey there! Are you the owner of this building?

Neighbor: Yes

Me: Awesome. I just wanted to introduce myself – I’m your neighbor, I live just down the street. My name’s Rebecca and as you can see I’m super pregnant right now. Anyways, I just wanted to ask that you do a better job of shoveling and salting this year because I really don’t want to fall in front of your house.

Neighbor: I always shovel.

(I look at the icy unshoveled sidewalk and then at his clean, salted steps).

Me: Well...I don’t know about that. I’ve walked by your house for over three years and it’s always a struggle if there's snow on the ground.

Neighbor: I use more salt than anyone.

Me: That’s fine. If you think you are doing a good job, then all I ask is that you continue to do a good job clearing your sidewalk. And every time it snows, please just think of me walking in front of your sidewalk super pregnant. Thanks so much!

His sidewalk has been the first one cleared and salted on the street ever since.

I have sent him a thank you note and the next time I see him, I plan on thanking him in person. 

When debating about the need to shovel, whether you rent or own, whether you think someone else should do it or not, just think about a super pregnant person walking (or waddling) in front of your building.

Think about that person on crutches or that senior who is nervous about falling. Think about how much nicer it is when you walk on a clear sidewalk versus an icy, snow-covered one. And be a good neighbor.

Active Trans offers some downloadable fliers that encourage good shoveling habits and congratulate people for keeping their sidewalks clear. 

If you live in Chicago and see a snow-covered sidewalk, you can report it to 311, Chicago's city services hotline.

Also, if you need someone to help you shoveling snow, the city of Chicago has a program that will match you with a volunteer. 

Dark Matter Coffee and Active Transportation Alliance team up to fuel advocacy and events

Do you love coffee? We do too! Much of our work and office is powered by delicious coffee and we know that lots of people who walk, bike or take transit are also fans of hot or iced coffee.

So, we’re pleased to announce a new year-round partnership with Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee. These premier artisan coffee roasters are now a sponsor at our 2014 fundraising special events and outreach campaigns!

This is how cool the Dark Matter people are:

“Dark Matter is committed to powering people who utilize active transportation like biking, walking and transit. We’re also proud to help power the advocacy efforts of Active Trans,” said Kyle Hodges, Minister of Propaganda, Dark Matter Coffee. “Our double-strength iced coffee will be the perfect kick for bike commuters this summer.”

As the Preferred Coffee of the Active Transportation Alliance, Dark Matter Coffee will be available for bike commuters on Winter Bike to Work Day Tuesday, January 21 (hot, of course) and during Bike Commuter Challenge Pit Stops June 13 through 20 this summer.

As a sponsor, Dark Matter Coffee will also donate coffee for Active Trans’ outreach campaigns and sell coffee at MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive May 25 and Four-Star Bike Tour Sept. 7. Dark Matter Coffee samples will also be available at the start of the new Bike to Brew ride Saturday, July 26.

We hope you’ll be able to try some Dark Matter coffee with us in 2014!

Bike swaps 2014

For the past three years we’ve hosted the Chicago Bike Swap in partnership with our friends at Bike Winter. And we really enjoyed hosting the swaps, but unfortunately we’re not able to produce the swap for 2014. We’re bummed about this because we feel it’s a great event and opportunity to connect with the local bike community.

The good news: we’re planning a new large-scale bike ride for the summer (official announcement coming soon!). We wanted to make sure we could focus our event team on making that successful.

We may bring our swap back it in 2015, but thankfully Bike Winter is working with some other folks to host a Winter Bike Swap at Jak’s Tap on Feb. 15 (the same place we worked with Bike Winter and other partners to host a pilot bike swap four years ago).

And in a couple of weeks, there’s also the 7th annual Chicago Winter Bike Swap on Jan. 18 at Harper College in Palatine.

Both swaps look to be great opportunities for local cyclists to get together and check out cool deals.

So if you want to get your bike swap on, thankfully there are some Chicagoland options!

New commish named for Chicago DOT

Mayor Emanuel has selected CTA Senior Vice President Rebekah Scheinfeld to be the next Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner.

Scheinfeld led the planning work at CTA, including major projects like the Red Line reconstruction and new Bus Rapid Transit lines planned for the Loop and Ashland Avenue. She also has law and MBA degrees.

Scheinfeld's transit experience should help bridge gaps that sometimes exist between CDOT and transit agencies, and she will be well-positioned to help complete a new rapid transit line on Ashland -- a top priority for Active Trans.

Her credentials are very solid for this job, and her professionalism and smarts tell me she can move up the biking and walking learning curves fairly quickly.

Scheinfeld is replacing Gabe Klein, who oversaw many exciting developments for transportation in Chicago. It's unfortunate that Scott Kubly, a key deputy to Gabe Klein, also left CDOT. He and Klein were change agents who deployed savviness, persuasiveness, determination and thick skin to reboot the city's perspective on transportation. Fortunately, Deputy LuAnn Hamilton is still on board, and she brings a strong appreciation for all transport modes, and she knows the ins and outs of CDOT better than anyone.

The biggest challenge for Scheinfeld is sustaining the arc of change at CDOT. There is broad support for mayoral goals like 100 miles of protected bike lanes, expanding rapid transit and calming streets to make them safer.

But will she stand firm when the vocal minority tries to stop progress, as we've seen recently with the Ashland rapid transit line? I'm optimistic she will, and Active Trans will help her solidify a new normal with Compete Streets that are safer and move people efficiently across all modes.

Photo of Scheinfeld courtesy of Ryan Griffin-Stegink, MPC

Active Trans staffer honored with award

Melody Geraci, the deputy director for programs here at Active Trans, was recently honored for her work in encouraging better health among local children from the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC).

CLOCC is a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program that collaborates across sectors to promote healthy lifestyles for Chicago’s kids.

Some of CLOCC’s work includes the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! public education campaign, the Healthy Places campaign and the Healthy Teacher Network.

CLOCC’s Katherine Kaufer Christoffel Founder’s Award honors seasoned leaders in Chicago who reach beyond their defined arena to work on childhood obesity prevention issues. Past winners included Colleen Lammel-Harmon of the Chicago Park District (2011) and Lucy Gomez Feliciano of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (2012).

Since the 2002 founding of CLOCC, Active Trans and CLOCC have worked together to emphasize the link between health and transportation. As a founding member of CLOCC’s executive committee, Active Trans has partnered with the organization to promote walkability and bikability as core strategies for keeping people active and reducing the risk of obesity.

Geraci (pictured right) and Active Trans are excited to be honored with the Founder’s Award and look forward to our continued work with CLOCC.

Thanks for your support of Ashland BRT! Last chance to give comments is Dec. 20

Photo courtesy of Streetsblog Chicago's John Greenfield.

Thanks to all of you who joined Active Trans last Tuesday at Punch House for a BRT rally before the Ashland BRT public meeting. More than 30 people braved the single digit temperatures to show their support for this project that will provide better public transit for the 31,000 people currently taking the bus on Ashland Ave.

The crowd was encouraged by a few words from Dennis ONeill, director of the Near West community organization Connecting4Communities; Steve Schlickman, director of the Urban Transportation Center at UIC; and Michael Whalen, a Pilsen resident and one of our BRT volunteer leaders -- all of whom join us in supporting a fast and reliable transit option for Ashland Avenue.

Our march to from the Punch House to the public meeting at Benito Juarez High School showed that BRT supporters are not just many, but hearty!

For those of you who couldn’t join us at one of this week’s meetings, there’s still time to show your support. You can see all of the material that was presented at the public meeting online at www.transitchicago.com/aslandbrt and make comments by December 20 via email to AshlandBRT@transitchicago.com.

We need your help to make sure this project moves forward. Our strong turnout on Tuesday was still matched with many skeptics of BRT who attended Wednesday’s meeting. We know that thousands of Chicagoans are ready for better transit, and we need CTA to know it too!

Send a comment in support of BRT today! Remember, the last day for your comments to be included in the Environmental Assessment is December 20!

Ringing in the holidays with active transportation

Parents and children from Shields Middle School, located in the Brighton Park neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side, recently took a fun-filled trip on the CTA Holiday Train. In addition to taking photos with Santa and meeting some elves, the event allowed an opportunity to shine a spotlight on school’s efforts to get more kids to be active on their way to and from school.

Since the school is one of the 25 participating schools in the Healthy CPS Safe Routes to School project, Active Trans is working with Shields to develop Safe Routes Action Plans, which will contain strategies to encourage walking and biking to the school.

Healthy CPS — which is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and led by the Office of Student Health and Wellness at CPS — works toward promoting health and wellness throughout the school day.

The Shields event was organized by the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, which has set up Parent Patrols in six elementary schools in the neighborhood. While Parent Patrol groups have been mostly focused on general student safety, the groups are beginning to address walking and biking encouragement strategies like walking school buses and traffic safety.

On the half-mile walk to the Orange Line station, members of the Shield’s Parent Patrol put their reflective safety vests to work to ensure the group safely crossed Western Avenue.

Many families from the Shields group were unaware of the holiday train’s existence, and some children were riding a CTA train for the first time in their lives.

It’s not too late to hop aboard CTA’s Holiday Train! Visit the CTA website for the detailed train and "Photos with Santa" schedule.


Calling all web developers!

Are you a Ruby on Rails wizard? A PHP guru? A Python master? Then Active Trans needs your help! We are seeking the pro bono assistance of a qualified developer or development team to assist in building a web-based platform for our annual Bike Commuter Challenge. This platform will be used by over seven thousand bike commuters during the week of June 13-20, 2014.

The system should allow users to:

  • Easily register and manage their accounts and join teams
  • Track and save their bike trips to win various prizes and compete against other teams
  • Share their bike trips via social media
  • Purchase Bike Commuter Challenge t-shirts, register for other Active Trans events, and purchase Active Trans memberships

The system should also have comprehensive reporting capabilities that shows trip data, miles per user, total calories burned, CO2 reduced and other metrics.

Currently we do not have a useable platform for the Bike Commuter Challenge, so we are open to any development framework or language.

If you are interested in helping out, we would love to hear from you. Click here for the RFP and full scope of the project. For any questions, please contact us at technology@activetrans.org.

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