My polling place in Lakeview is in one of the worst places to walk in the neighborhood, so I was very interested to overhear two regular poll workers this morning discussing how the location impacts the turnout. I vote on a hospital campus where the street grid is interrupted, so you can't walk where you'd expect you could walk, and until this year parts of the street had no sidewalks. It's just not a pleasant walk -- it's out of the way, hard to find, and it's essentially on a utility street for the hospital. But several years back, our polling place was in a hotel right next to the train station, on an very pedestrian-friendly street with lots of foot-traffic. So, this morning one of the poll workers was saying she wondered if it would get busy today. And the other one replied, "Do you remember the last time it was really busy?" I was expecting him to say November 2008, but instead he continued, "It was when we were in the hotel by the train station!" He even said it with passion. "There was a line around the block. It was such a convenient location. People could stop in while walking on their way to the train station."
I would attribute that great voter turnout at the hotel to "transit-oriented development," which means concentrating activity around transit stops in an environment that encourages walking, since transit riders are usually pedestrians while on their way to and from the train. But the poll workers' conversation this morning was one of those little reminders that you don't have to be a transportation advocate or know the jargon to understand the benefits of walkable places with great transit connections. It's just a simple matter of every-day convenience that's apparently powerful enough even to impact our elections.
As I walked to my local Chicago Park District fieldhouse to vote today, I noticed that for the first time this winter, the park had shoveled all the sidewalks surrounding the park and in the park. My vote does count, it seems.
As I left with my "thank you for voting" card, I stopped by the park office and handed them a "thank you for shoveling" card. I also left a "please shovel" card and mentioned it would be great for them to shovel anytime it snows, not just on election days.
Help spread the word, print-your-own Active Trans "thank you for shoveling" and "please shovel" cards.
Also, in Chicago, you can nominate businesses that do a good job of clearing snow, thanks to the Dept. of Transportation's Pedestrian program efforts.
DuPage County Division of Transportation will begin construction on a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge in Wayne in February. The 330-foot bridge will replace a steep embankment and steps that lead over a crossing of the EJ&E/Canadian National railroad. It will be a major safety improvement for the pedestrians, bicyclists and equestrians which are prevalent along this section of trail.
Between February and May, the path will be closed. Bicyclists who wish to continue along the path will have to utilize the local street network for connections.
This $1.2 million project is coordinated and funded by DuPage County with a majority of construction funding provided under a $960,000 federal High Priority Project grant sponsored by former Congressman Hastert.
I spend a lot of time at our state capital in Springfield advocating for safer roads for everyone. In support of Active Transportation Alliance's mission, I commute by Amtrak. It really is better than driving 200 miles through soy-bean fields.
Today, President Obama gave me a nice gift. He awarded $1.1 billion to the State of Illinois to raise the speed of trains from Chicago to St. Louis (via Springfield) from an average 79 mph to 110 mph in many areas outside Chicago. He also announced smaller grants for service improvements on the Chicago-Milwaukee (WI) and Chicago-Detroit-Pontiac (MI) lines. See the full list of projects here.
Thank you President Obama.
Hoosiers - this is your game winning shot from the corner to make Indiana streets safer, your towns healthier, and living more fun. Take it - follow this Hoosier (Goshen/Shipshewana area) and join the Indiana Complete Streets Campaign.
I spend a lot of my time advocating for policies that restrict drivers from doing dangerous things.
But sometimes it is us, active transportation users, who need to look at our own actions. I have a confession to make. I cannot walk and talk on the cell phone at the same time (but can walk and chew gum). I walk to and from work every day. And I love my smartphone. The temptation is there to always pull out the phone and check the latest game score, text message a friend or check my calendar. But I know it is dangerous to walk and text at the same time. Trust me - I've walked into a lamppost while texting (luckily no injuries).
The New York Times recently published an article documenting that more than 1,000 pedestrians went to an emergency room in 2008 for injuries incurred while walking and texting. Please stop walking and texting.
To find out more about how Active Transportation Alliance is making the roads safer for everyone, visit www.ActiveTrans.org.
Today, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood continued his campaign against distracted driving. He announced new rules that will prohibit commercial vehicle drivers from text messaging or using hand-held cell phones while driving.
On Jan 1, 2010 two new laws went into effect in Illinois. All Illinois drivers were prohibited from text messaging while driving, and drivers were also prohibited from using hand-held cell phones while driving in highway construction or school zones.
Secretary LaHood's action will take our campaign that passed the IL laws to the next level. With the new federal rules, commercial vehicle drivers in Illinois must also refrain from using hand-held cell phones outside of highway construction or school zones.
More than 1,000 crashes occur each year on Illinois roads because of distracted driving. Please support Active Transportation Alliance's efforts to end distracted driving and reduce crashes by 50% within twenty years. We will announce our 2010 legislative agenda soon and will need your support.