What can Chicago do to eliminate pedestrian crash fatalities?

Three thousand pedestrians are hit by motor vehicles in Chicago annually, resulting in about 30 deaths a year. Seven to eight Chicago pedestrians suffer a traffic-related injury every day. 

How can these deaths and injuries be prevented?

A growing movement called Vision Zero aims to eliminate all traffic crash fatalities, and Chicago subscribes to the movement with its "Zero in Ten" campaign to bring the number of pedestrian fatalities to zero within 10 years.

Vision Zero was the topic of a recent symposium in New York hosted by Transportation Alternatives, and representatives from Active Trans and CDOT were in attendance.

Some of the most interesting takeaways are evident in this fantastic CityLab Q&A with Matts-Åke Belin, a traffic safety strategist for the Sweden Transportation Administration and one of the designers of the original Vision Zero plan.

Coming out of the symposium, we joined more than 300 urban leaders, policy makers, advocates, traffic enforcement authorities, and transportation and public health experts at the conference in signing on to a collectively affirmed statement of principles to guide Vision Zero implementation in cities around the world.

Vision Zero already has a great record in its home country. CityLab notes that Sweden has fewer than three traffic fatalities for every 100,000 people, compared to 11.6 per 100,000 in the U.S.

So what can be done in the U.S. and here in Chicago? One thing Belin stresses in the interview is that no matter how much education and enforcement is done, people are going to be people and make mistakes. Looking at the larger issue and smarter ways to engineer streets to reduce the impact of those mistakes is key. 

CDOT's Zero in Ten Campaign

When the city released its 2012 Pedestrian Plan, it included the ambitious Zero in Ten campaign with the main goal being to eliminate all traffic crash fatalities within 10 years.

Active Trans wrote at the time that we were excited to see Chicago make a commitment to improving the safety of all road users, whether they be walking, riding a bike, using transit or driving. We've also helped CDOT develop materials for the campaign (see campaign image above). 

Improving intersection safety will be a critical step towards achieving Vision Zero in Chicago. Eighty percent of fatal and serious pedestrian crashes occur within 125 feet of an intersection. 

We launched our pedestrian-focused Safe Crossings campaign to tackle the issue in October, and the response and support from Chicagoland has been tremendous.

Join more than 800 supporters in signing our petition that asks local leaders to make crossing the street safer for all users.

Every life lost is one too many; it's not collateral for the transportation system we have. We know the system can be better, and Zero in Ten is a big step forward. Read more about the Zero in Ten plan from CityLab

PoCampo founder Maria Boustead on bikes and bags

Since its launch in 2009, Po Campo has been a friend and partner of Active Trans.

We’ve worked together at MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive and on other events. Plus, Active Trans members have the exclusive perk of 15 percent off all Po Campo merchandise.

Most recently, a PoCampo bag was a part of the silent auction at the Active Trans 2014 Awards Reception.

Founded by Maria Bousted (pictured) when she couldn’t find an attachable bag she could take from her bike right to the office, Po Campo has become a source for stylish and functional bike panniers and accessories.

We sat down with Boustead to talk about the successes and challenges of being a bike-friendly business and what inspires her work. 

Your website lists “Getting more people on bikes” as one of your goals. You’re an avid cyclist, but as a business owner, why is that important?

I find biking in Chicago to be so fun, liberating, relaxing, and just a great way to experience the city.

Obviously, not every ride is wonderful, but overall it's a real joy that I'd like more people to experience. I'm proud of Po Campo for designing products that crossover between being on a bike and your life off the bike, because that versatility helps people see how easy it is to integrate biking into their lifestyle.

For example, several customers have told me that they didn't know how they'd manage biking to work before they got their Po Campo bag, and sentiments like that make it feel like we're on the right track and accomplishing our goal of getting more people on bikes.

What current trend do you see influencing biking in the city?

I see a general trend towards creating products for a more active lifestyle, such as apparel designed with technical fabrics that allow for more movement as you move through your day.

While this trend isn't specifically bike-friendly, it does make it easier to integrate biking into your life because it reduces the number of times you say "I can't bike today because I want to wear this."

How would Chicago benefit from a significant increase in cycling? What’s the biggest challenge that keeps us from getting there?

There's the snowball effect with bicycling, in that more people biking encourages more people to bike. The increase in people cycling makes car drivers more aware of their presence, so people do a better job of sharing the road.

The city becomes healthier because there is less pollution and more people are getting exercise. Also, streets full of bikes are a lot more pleasant than streets full of cars. What's not to love?

I moved to Chicago in 2001 and biking on the city streets in 2014 feels completely different. There are so many more people biking and more types of people biking (not just the spandex and bike messenger types), there are protected bike lanes, and Divvy…it's pretty amazing!

I congratulate Active Trans and CDOT for doing a great job in making Chicago such a great city for biking.

That said, I guess I'd say the top challenge is overcoming the common sentiment that bike infrastructure is a waste of public dollars and only benefitting the few.

With Chicago’s recent bike infrastructure improvements, have you noticed more women riding bikes?

Absolutely, and I think that we'll continue to see more and more women biking.

The oft-quoted Susan B. Anthony quote is kind of a grandiose statement yet really rings true: "[Bicycling] has done more emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance."

After going global with a Divvy-ready bag that fits bike-share systems in over a dozen cities worldwide, what’s next for PoCampo?

My background is industrial design, so coming up with new products is not a problem for me!

We've got a bunch of new things coming down the pike, some simple line extensions, and some brand new products.

Right now, I'm most excited about exploring ideas in the wearable tech space and thinking about how our products could help people actively navigate their cities and become comfortable and confident in their surroundings.

Po Campo is just one of 50 plus businesses who offer perks and discounts to our members. Join today or renew to enjoy these and other benefits.

This blog post was written by Vitaliy Vladimirov, who recently served as an Active Trans membership intern. 

What's your big idea for the 2015 Active Transportation Platform?

With local municipal elections slated for the city and suburbs in 2015, active transportation advocates need to be prepared to speak with a unified voice on the issues we care about.

That's why Active Trans wants to hear from you about your biking, walking, and transit priorities.

We’ve been busy connecting with people across our movement to build a shared vision for the future of our advocacy. A few weeks ago, over a hundred Active Trans members and supporters came together at our Member Meeting & Advocate Summit to discuss the most pressing biking, walking, and transit challenges facing their communities and how we can work together to overcome them.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in!

Do you want safer and better bike lanes? Improved crosswalks? More frequent transit service? Here's your chance to be heard.

Please use the form below to share your thoughts on the biggest opportunities and challenges facing you in your community. We’ll compile your responses along with the input from our recent Advocate Summit to inform our 2015 Active Transportation Platform for the city and suburbs.

Please share your big ideas below. And don’t forget to pass this form along to your own network! The deadline for responses is Tuesday, December 9.

2015 Active Transportation Platform Input Survey

With local municipal elections slated for the city and suburbs in 2015, Active Trans wants to hear what your priority biking, walking, and transit issues are.

Please use the form below to share your thoughts on the biggest opportunities and challenges facing you in your community. Responses will be compiled and used to inform our 2015 Active Transportation Platforms for the city and suburbs. All are welcome to share their ideas below.

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5. Please share your contact information so we can update you on the 2015 Active Transportation Platform.

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Congratulations 2014 Illinois Bike Friendly Communities

The League of American Bicyclists recently announced its Fall 2014 list of Bike Friendly Communities (BFC), with Elgin and Urbana netting new honors.

Elgin received an Honorable Mention and Urbana leapt from Bonze to Gold level. (Elgin also received an Active Trans award this year for the outstanding renovation of its Riverside Drive Promenade and bike path.)  

The Bicycle Friendly Community program provides a roadmap to improve accommodations for bicycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation.

Communities receive designations from Platinum to Bronze based on meeting criteria of the Five E’s: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation.

Nine Illinois communities have received BFC designations and six earned Honorable Mentions. A full list of Bike Friendly Communities is here.

Elgin is already planning next steps. According to the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, “Achieving BFC recognition will fulfill one of the recommendations of the Elgin Bikeway Master Plan. Continuing to improve that status will make Elgin a more vibrant destination for residents and visitors -- a place where people don't just work and live, but thrive.”

Congratulations Elgin, Urbana and all Illinois Bike Friendly Communities!

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 kyle@activetrans.org.

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.

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