Different routes for different bikers

Footprints coach Gina Kenny wrote this; I'm just the very-very-proud-of-Footprints messenger:

Even though it hasn’t been ages since I started commuting, I still forget how intimidating some things can seem when you first start. A Footprints participant wanted a route from her home in Homewood to the Old Plank Trail.

I planned a route taking 175th Street to Kedzie Avenue; taking Kedzie south; continuing going southwest as it becomes Olympian Way; going briefly west on 212th Place to Main Street and then taking Main Street south to the trail.

I’ve commuted on 175th Street a few times and thought it was not a bad street to commute on. Ashley made it part of the way but turned back – “Call me a chicken, if you will” she had wrote to me in an email. I thought about when I first started commuting – how I would tense up every single time that I heard a car coming up behind me. How I would take a route with residential streets, even if it added two miles to my route. And, I realized how scary riding on a four-lane street can seem if you have not been commuting for awhile.

So, I offered to ride with her and I planned her a new route with mostly residential streets and only one real scary section. Early on, our route was on 183rd Street for a block until Western Avenue. She rode it like a pro both there and back.
Then we continued on Western south, riding through residential areas and largely following the Electric Metra line until we hit Kedzie.

After about a block on Kedzie, the street turns into Olympian Way with a bike lane! Bike lanes are extremely rare in the south suburbs and I think I shocked Ashley with how excited I was to ride on a bike lane. We discussed whether to cross the street when the bike path switches sides of the street at a bridge or to continue on the road and then we were in another residential area before hopping on the trail.

Was the first route I gave her “wrong?” No, but, the second route was definitely “right.” What good is a route if the person does not feel comfortable riding it? Being able to revise a route to suit a particular riders needs and riding a route with a rider are just two of the great benefits of signing up for Footprints. Visit http://www.activetrans.org/footprints for more info and to sign up.

Chicagoland Car-Free Day...take the pledge!

We are excited to announce the inaugural Chicagoland Car-Free Day campaign!

Chicagoland Car-Free Day is a regional campaign encouraging people to leave their cars at home on Sept. 22 and explore getting around by biking, walking and transit.

Take the pledge at www.chicagolandcarfree.org and get a $1 off a large drink coupon from Caribou Coffee.

The campaign is hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance and our regional transit agencies, RTA, Pace, Metra and CTA.

Businesses, organizations and municipalities can also get involved by hosting Chicagoland Car-Free Day events and activities which will be listed on the website.

Please take the pledge, spread the word and get your activity listed here: www.chicagolandcarfree.org


What was your favorite Open Streets moment?

From our advocacy director, Adolfo Hernandez:

Open Streets proved to be an amazing day of exploring beautiful communities on Chicago's West Side. We saw people of all ages and abilities riding bicycles, running, jogging, skateboarding, dancing, creating art, knitting, playing or just sitting and chatting with neighbors. The one thing they all had in common were their smiling faces. It's amazing what can happen when you open streets to people.

For me, the most memorable moment was the amount of people form the community who were out enjoying their streets and their neighborhoods in a new way. The most common question I heard was,"When can we do this again?" or "Are you doing this next week?" Chicago's West side often gets left out in terms of major events; most of those things usually happen closer to the lake or further North. Community residents and our community partners were excited about bringing a world class event and experience to these great communities of Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, North Lawndale, and Little Village.

We saw that there is a demand for more places to play, be physically active in a safe way and to meet with friends and family. Active Trans and our community partners are committed to bringing more Open Streets to Chicago. Tell us about your favorite moment and where you would like to see Open Streets.

Volunteer for BLT Sept. 13!

Come volunteer and have fun helping The Active Transportation Alliance make the 21st annual Boulevard Lakefront Tour a success on September 13, 2009!

All day-of-event volunteers receive an event T-shirt, free picnic lunch and an invitation to the Active Trans annual volunteer party. Eligible groups of 10 people or more can also qualify for monetary donations. Pre-event volunteers receive an event entry in exchange for 6 hours of volunteer time.


If you would like more information about volunteering or the positions available please visit our volunteer recruitment page for the Boulevard Lakefront Tour at www.boulevardtour.org/volunteer.html or email me at CynthiaS@activetrans.org


Volunteers are essential to the success of our events!



Cynthia Spreadbury,
BLT Volunteer Coordinator


A New Green Economy Event on September 14th

From 8-10 a.m. on Sept. 14, seven prominent Chicago area civic groups including the Active Transportation Alliance will hold a roundtable at the Downtown Omni Hotel to discuss tax savings through transit benefits. Attendees will learn about how you can provide your employees a greener way to commute through a federal tax law that saves payroll taxes.

Beyond learning about how these programs work, roundtable participants will also hear what other cities are doing to work with employers and how businesses can save while offering a real benefit to employees. The roundtable will feature other top executives from the Chicagoland area, local elected leaders, Members of Congress, and other national leaders.

This event will feature:

  • The Honorable Manuel Flores, Alderman, 1st Ward, City of Chicago
  • The Honorable Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
  • Stephen A. Schlickman, Executive Director of the Regional Transportation Authority
  • Congressman Daniel Davis (D.-- IL) * invited
  • Congressman Daniel K. Lipinski (D—IL) *invited.

If you are interested in attending the roundtable, RSVP via email to jdrew@cnt.org or click here.

Sponsors include: The Regional Transportation Authority, The Center for Neighborhood Technology / I-GO, Chicago Metropolis 2020, The Active Transportation Alliance, the Metropolitan Planning Council, The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Accor Services, and the office of Alderman Manuel Flores, 1st Ward.

Crosswalk enforcements start tonight

Chicago will start more crosswalk enforcements tonight. This is so exciting and we congratulate the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Police Department for enforcing the laws that protect pedestrians. Just to clarify: drivers and bicyclists must yield (yes, sometimes that means completely stopping) to any person in any crosswalks (and yes, even those ones in the middle of the block that don't have a stop sign).

Way to go CDOT and CPD!

"The undercover police stings aimed at catching drivers who endanger pedestrians in crosswalks are back again -- but this time at night.

The first enforcement operation will be conducted at 8 p.m. today in the Lakeview neighborhood at Belmont Avenue and Orchard Street, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Police Department.

The goal of the well-publicized stings, which started during daylight hours last year, is reducing crashes involving pedestrians that occur after dark, officials said.

Four areas with a history of many vehicle-pedestrian crashes are targeted: River North, Austin, Wrigleyville and 79th Street from about Ashland to the Dan Ryan Expressway, officials said.

Several enforcement strategies will be deployed, including using undercover off-duty police officers posing as pedestrians walking in crosswalks, officials said.

If on-coming drivers don't yield to the pedestrians, as required by law, the vehicle will be pulled over by uniformed police officers farther down the street.

Motorists can be fined $50 to $500 for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk."

Elgin working against"Fattest City" title

From our Elgin Bicycling Ambassador Marjorie Gohl:

Recently the Chicago Tribune wrote an article detailing the lack of interest of Elgin residents to apply for grants to increase wellness in Elgin, but few people might not understand why Elgin residents are being prompted to increase their health. Before the article was written, few Elginites even knew that Elgin has gained the title of “Fattest city in Illinois”. Even now there is only a select number of Elginites that know we hold this title and before I became an Elgin Bicycle Ambassadors, I didn’t know that Elgin was considered the fattest city in Illinois either. Along with Tom Armstrong, I travel around Elgin on my bicycle and educate the residents on the importance of using a bicycle to commute, shop and exercise.

Tom Armstrong is a retired city planner for Elgin and I am a science teacher in Elgin and we are both avid bicyclists. So, when Active Transportation Alliance, which is based out of Chicago, posted the job opening for two bicycling ambassadors in Elgin, Tom and I both knew this would be the perfect summer job for us. Elgin received a grant though Illinois Department of Transportation Safety Division and recruited Active Transportation Alliance to run the program. Tom and I travel around Elgin on bicycles, appearing at park parties, festivals, concerts, Thursday’s Harvest Market, service groups, kids camps and adult bicycle clubs. Depending on the event we attend, we teach people how to properly wear a helmet, check their bicycle for safeness (ABC quick check), vehicular bicycling and tips on riding defensively. You may have even seen us at various events handing out material on safe bicycling, commuting, rules of the road and Kane Country trail maps.

Even though our season is almost over, you will still see Tom and I riding our bicycle around Elgin all year round. We’re employed until the end of September and will be participating in the Elgin by Bike program in September. We’ll also be riding in the progressive dinner by bicycle “Bike and Dine” and we encourage all Elginites to sign up for the event as well. Riding bicycles in Elgin takes just as much time as driving a car and is good for our air and traffic congestion. Also, bicycling Elgin is fun and great exercise. If more people start riding their bicycles around Elgin, we will be able to rid ourselves of the title “fattest city in Illinois”


-Marjorie Gohl

Elgin Bicycle Ambassador

Lakefront Trail safety issue

I have been made aware of two attacks on the Lakefront Trail last week around 31st Street at or after 10:30 p.m.

I am investigating these reports further but, as always, please be aware of your surroundings anytime you are riding your bicycle, including on the Lakefront Trail. It is always safer not to travel alone at night. Always wear a helmet and watch for suspicious activity and have an "escape" plan always in mind.

I will report any additional information that I uncover on this blog.

We support CTA's ban on cell phones

We applaud the Chicago Transit Authority’s new no-tolerance policy for bus and train operators who use cell phones or other electronic devices while operating a vehicle. We encourage all Chicago-area transit boards to adopt similar policies.

Distracted driving, including dialing on cell phones and text messaging, is one of the leading causes for crashes injuring bicyclists and pedestrians. Bicyclists and pedestrians are disproportionately injured and killed in crashes because they do not have the protection of seatbelts, airbags or a steel frame.

Recent reports from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reveal that text messaging increases the risk of crash as much as 23.2 times as high as non-distracted driving. The same analysis showed that drivers of heavy vehicles involved in distracted driving crashes on average had their eyes off the roadway for four of the last six seconds before the crash. On a major arterial road, a vehicle can travel more than 100 yards in that amount of time. Distracted driving has been the cause of several high-profile crashes involving public trans in Southern California and Boston.

The Illinois General Assembly also recognizes the need to curb this behavior. This year it passed two laws that restrict texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. This legislation, however, does not affect public transit rail operators. And although it is critical to ensuring bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ safety, it is not enough to protect the employees and customers of Illinois’ public transportation.

The non-profit Active Transportation Alliance improves walking, bicycling and transit by building a movement, increasing traffic safety, encouraging physical activity and designing a world-class transportation network. We are working to create a region with a 50 percent reduction in all crashes and where 50 percent of the population walks, bikes and takes mass transit. We sit on the Secretary of State Jesse White’s Distracted Driving Task Force and we value our partnerships with Pace, Metra and CTA.

You can make transit safer by banning the use of cell phones and other electronic devices by your employees while operating buses and trains. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.



Rob Sadowsky
Executive Director

Child Miles Travelled

Child Miles Travelled - the total distance we drive in a year chauffeuring our kids hither and thither - are growing faster than miles driven for work.

Another reason to ground them!

I use the term "lifestyle miles" all the time - the other trips outside your work life. I drive all the freakin' time for work and I'm a BICYCLE ADVOCATE [Crain's caught me]. But I couldn't get to Kentucky using my lifestyle miles travelled in a year. Focus on lifestyle miles [which is actually FUN to do instead of stressful] and you'll do the most good for yourself and your town.

Figure out how to reduce your lifestyle miles with a south suburban Footprints coach. Ask 'em at footprints@activetrans.org.

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