Governor Rauner puts Illiana Tollway on hold, now it’s time to kill it for good

In an encouraging sign, recently inaugurated Governor Bruce Rauner has issued an executive order putting the ill-conceived Illiana Tollway and other major infrastructure projects on hold pending a “careful review of costs and benefits.”

Sign and share our petition to Governor Rauner to kill the project for good.

There’s no timetable for the review, but mulling the costs and benefits of the proposed South Suburban highway shouldn’t take long. The evidence clearly shows the sprawl-inducing project would not be an efficient use of limited taxpayer dollars.

The proposed highway would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65, serving only 8,000 vehicles per day at a cost of over $1 billion. The state is proposing to build the project as a public-private partnership with the state guaranteeing a private operator's costs, but there are lots of questions and skepticism about the politically motivated project’s actual financial viability.

Prior to him issuing the executive order, there were signs Rauner may be rethinking the project that former Gov. Quinn championed.

Rauner’s appointee to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Randy Blankenhorn, is currently the head of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), which issued a damning report on the project last year.

The analysis found that the highway’s traffic and toll projections would fall way short, leaving taxpayers responsible for filling a gap ranging from $440 million to $1.1 billion.

In addition, a report from Rauner’s transition team indicated he planned to “pause and review major infrastructure projects” in his first 100 days. It also calls for prioritizing investments based on performance goals and “rigorous economic, environmental and equity criteria” -- areas where the Illiana rates very poorly.

Active Trans is part of a diverse group of advocacy organizations -- including Openlands, Sierra Club, Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) -- in opposing to the project. We believe taxpayer dollars could be better spent on infrastructure priorities that carry far greater benefits, like upgrading rapid transit and commuter rail lines, and critical projects like CTA’s planned Red Line South Extension.

Sign and share our petition to Governor Rauner today.

The Roll the Cold Bike Challenge starts soon!

Have you registered for the Roll the Cold Bike Challenge yet?

If not, you can do so here. Biking one way to or from your destination on one day between January 17-23 counts as participating in the challenge.

The person who rides (and logs) the most miles during the challenge will be honored as the King/Queen of the 2015 Roll the Cold Bike Challenge.

This means being featured on our social media and highlighted in communications for our 2015 (Summer) Bike Commuter Challenge.

You can win prizes for raising money too. Check it out: 

  • $25 gets you…Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks
  • $50 gets you…Portland Design Works Bird Cage Water Bottle Holder
  • $100 gets you…Click Bike Light Combo Set
  • $250 gets you… Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks + Pearl Izumi Windproof Biking Gloves
  • $500 gets you… Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks + Portland Design Works Bird Cage Water Bottle Holder + Peal Izumi Windproof Biking Gloves

And get this: The participant that raises the most money will be awarded the Grand Prize – a SE F@E Fat Tire Bike that sells retail for $899. (To win the bike, you must raise at least $500. In the event of a tie, we will do a lottery.)

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for the challenge today. And don’t worry, we’ve got all the info you need to be a winter bike commuting pro!

In lieu of biking during the challenge, you can also participate by donating to the Active Transportation Alliance.

Your financial support will help the Active Transportation Alliance’s efforts in making biking in Chicagoland safer and easier.

Spring/summer biking more your thing? You’re in luck. Early (and discounted!) registration for 2015 Bike the Drive opens at Winter Bike to Work Day on Friday, January 23.

Stop by to register for Chicago’s premier biking event and warm up with some free Dark Matter coffee and a side of Eli’s cheesecake. Oh, and we’ll be there too. Come chat with us and other winter cyclists.

“Need for speed” drives disrespect for traffic laws and red light cameras

You may know that the Chicago Tribune has led the charge against red light cameras, and their assertions -- similar to misleading claims they have made about speed cameras -- have been flawed at times. The Trib also failed to mention that experts like the Federal Highway Administration found that red light cameras reduce crashes.

So I was pleased that the Tribune recently published letters in support of red light cameras, including this one that argues people should follow the law:

Jan. 6, 2015
Red light camera program has positives
I don’t understand the furor over the city’s red light camera program, which the Tribune seems to be stoking. If a driver passes a red light, endangering the lives of others, what’s the problem with issuing a ticket? And why would it matter if the ticket were issued by a camera or a police officer?

The data seem to have many mixed messages, but it appears that the more severe T-bone crashes are being reduced. Further it would seem that driver behavior, over time, would also be altered, so that the driver portrayed in one of the articles as blaming the cameras for his own reckless behavior (being the second car to enter after the yellow and rear-ending the first) will realize he needs to drive more responsibly.

— Peter Fahrenwald, Chicago

John Corona from Niles put it even more succinctly in his Jan. 5 letter to the Tribune: “A violation is a violation, crash or no crash; when did that change?”

Active Trans has always said that enforcement cameras should go where they will do the most good for traffic safety, with no regard for revenue generation. Some red light cameras around the region don’t meet this criterion, and that undermines credibility in the system. Red light cameras can also be more effective by adjusting the yellow light timing in some locations to be more appropriate for the type of intersection and vehicle speeds.

Unfortunately, some critics want red light cameras gone all together, and they’re trying to sell their message to candidates in Chicago as a populist, righteous cause.

But when you peel back the layers of their arguments, you find the main reason that many are red in the face: They don’t think breaking this law warrants a ticket, and their need to get somewhere a little bit faster is more important than driving safer and following the law.

I think it’s fair to say that many of us (and that includes me at times) get impatient and frenzied when we’re driving, biking and walking. We’re usually polite and responsible Midwesterners, but something about traveling on a street can bring out recklessness, confrontation and a sense that my need to get somewhere fast is more important than my fellow travelers' needs and more important than following traffic laws.

The norm on our streets, unfortunately, is overly reckless behavior, and that will only change with more enforcement of traffic laws for all modes of travel.

I am reminded of the serious injuries that Chicago Alderman Deborah Graham and Alderman Howard Brookins suffered because of motorists who ran red lights, and their stories are, sadly, all-too-common. They understand the importance of enforcing red lights -- do the candidates in your local elections? Keep watch on our election efforts to learn more. 

Help Streetsblog Chicago resume its important work

During the past couple of years, Streetsblog Chicago has been an important voice in making Chicagoland a better place for biking, walking and transit. The web-based publication has been a great partner to Active Trans and others in the region who are working toward creating streets that welcome everyone.

Unfortunately, due to a funding shortfall, Streetsblog Chicago has suspended publication.

If you would like to see Streetsblog Chicago return to daily reporting on sustainable transportation and livable streets issues, please consider making a contribution to the Streetsblog Chicago Resurrection Fund.

Donations are not tax-deductible at this point, but all donors will receive an email stating that their money will be returned if daily publication of original articles has not resumed by April 8, three months from the start of the hiatus.

Contact John Greenfield at greenfieldjohn[at]hotmail.com or 312-560-3966 for more info about how your donation will be used.

Stay tuned for updates on the fundraising effort via the Streetsblog Chicago Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Active Trans sends questionnaire to candidates for mayor and alderman in Chicago

With the 2015 municipal elections in Chicago approaching, we have asked candidates running for mayor and alderman in all 50 of the city’s wards to respond to a candidate questionnaire on bike/walk/transit issues.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Active Trans does not endorse candidates for public office. The purpose of the candidate questionnaire is purely informational.

View the questions we asked candidates for mayor.

View the questions we asked candidates for alderman
.

We will publish all responses we receive on our blog in advance of the Chicago elections on February 24, 2015. If no candidate receives an absolute majority in a particular race, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held for that seat on April 7, 2015. The deadline to register to vote is January 27, 2015.

In the 43rd Ward, we've partnered with Bike Walk Lincoln Park (BWLP) on a ward-specific attachment to our questionnaire for all four aldermanic candidates. Co-BWLP leaders Michelle Stenzel and Michael Reynolds are working with other neighborhood advocates to raise the profile of active transportation issues in the local election.

For questions about our Chicago election outreach and to learn about how to get involved in your local race, contact Campaign Director Kyle Whitehead at kyle@activetrans.org.

Make your neighborhood a walkable winter wonderland

One of the pillars of the Active Trans' mission is making it safer and easier for anyone to walk in a community. Now that snow has returned to Chicagoland, it's time for a reminder about the easiest way to support that mission: Shovel!

It’s the right thing to do and in some places—including Chicago—it’s the law. If your Chicago business or organization does an excellent job of keeping the sidewalks clear of snow and ice, the City of Chicago and the Mayor's Pedestrian Advisory Council (MPAC) want to recognize you. 

Businesses and organizations may apply for recognition, and supporters may also nominate candidates by calling the Winter Wonder Nomination line at 312.744.5819 or completing the 2014-2015 online nomination form through March 15, 2015.

Winners will be listed on the CDOT website and will receive an award signed by the MPAC co-chairmen.

Top nominees will be awarded based on number of nominations, photos and social media mentions. Businesses and organizations can promote their participation by displaying this Winter Wonder Participation Poster.

Support Active Trans' mission

Clear sidewalks are important for everyone who uses sidewalks, but they are especially important for seniors, people with disabilities and children. Snow or ice-covered sidewalks force people to travel in the street—a thoroughly dangerous enterprise.

Uncleared sidewalks may even discourage people from walking at all. When people can't walk easily to a destination, they might opt for making an unnecessary car trip or, in some cases, residents may be prevented from making a needed trip to the doctor's office or the grocery store.

We want you to thank people for shoveling their sidewalks, or to remind them to do so. Active Trans designed fliers you can distribute in your community to do just that. Download the fliers here

City of Chicago resources

If you live in Chicago and see a snowy sidewalk, you can report it to 311, Chicago's city services hotline, or report it online. If calling outside of the city, dial 312.744.5000.

The city also has a website dedicated to winter resources, including a snow plow tracker and volunteer resources to help shovel sidewalks for those who can't. 

Stay on top of this and other topics that matter to you by subscribing to the Active Trans e-newsletter. Sign up on the Active Trans homepage. 

Registration for the inaugural Roll the Cold Bike Challenge is now open!

Join both newbies and seasoned winter riders across Chicagoland for the Roll the Cold Bike Challenge, January 17-23, 2015. Simply sign up and set up your page to start tracking your trips. The person who rides (and logs) the most miles during the Challenge gets the honor of being named the King/Queen of the 2015 Roll the Cold Bike Challenge. In addition to some serious bragging rights, this person will be featured on our social media and highlighted in communications when we launch our 2016 (Summer) Bike Commuter Challenge.

Got a short commute? You can still win prizes for raising money. Check it out:

  • $25 gets you…Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks
  • $50 gets you…Portland Design Works Bird Cage Water Bottle Holder
  • $100 gets you…Blackburn Central Combo Bike Light Set
  • $250 gets you… Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks + Pearl Izumi Windproof Biking Gloves
  • $500 gets you… Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks + Portland Design Works Bird Cage Water Bottle Holder + Peal Izumi Windproof Biking Gloves

The participant that raises the most money will be awarded the Grand Prize – a SE F@E Fat Tire Bike (Retail $899) Please view all challenge rules here.

2015 Roll the Cold Bike Challenge

You don't have to bike all the way to your destination every day -- even biking to your local bus or train stop counts. We'll give you all the tips you need to get going on two wheels, winter style! What are you waiting for? Join the challenge and prove that a little cold won’t slow your roll. Rosy cheeks look great on everyone!

Chicago’s winter too cold for you? You can still participate by donating to Active Trans. All proceeds will help the Active Transportation Alliance’s efforts in making biking in Chicagoland safer and easier.

SAVE THE DATE! Winter Bike to Work Day is Friday, January 23, 2015. Stop by our event downtown for free coffee, Eli’s cheesecake and to mingle with other winter bikers.

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements here, at www.activetrans.org/rollthecold as well as our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

2015 Chicago Active Transportation Platform calls for safer streets

Based upon input from thousands members and supporters from across the region, Active Trans has released its 2015 Action Transportation Platform for the upcoming elections for mayor and alderman in the City of Chicago.

The platform features specific action items to achieve progress on five core goals:

  1. Design streets that work for everyone whether they walk, bike, use transit or drive
  2. Commit the city to reaching and exceeding the milestones of the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020
  3. Grow education and enforcement programs that improve the behavior of all road users
  4. Improve active transportation access and movement along the lakefront
  5. Connect people to jobs and educational opportunities by expanding investment in and access to public transit

Highlights include calling on leaders to expand and maintain the city’s growing network of protected bike lanes; establish a sustainable funding source for pedestrian infrastructure improvements at the city’s most dangerous intersections; and increase investment in transit to fund improvements and expansion of the existing network.

The platform also advocates for leaders to support low-cost, near-term improvements on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, such as creating separated space for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Members and supporters provided feedback on our advocacy priorities at our 2014 Member Meeting & Advocate Summit. Following the summit, we released an online survey to collect ideas from supporters who were unable to attend the meeting.

The 2015 municipal elections in Chicago will take place on February 24, 2015 to elect the mayor and aldermen in all 50 of the city’s wards. If no candidate receives an absolute majority in a particular race, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held for that seat on April 7, 2015. The deadline to register to vote is January 27, 2015.

Active Trans will be releasing a Suburban Active Transportation Platform ahead of municipal elections in suburban communities in Spring 2015.

Easy projects to improve pedestrian safety in your city

In “21 Measures for Pedestrian Safety (in Baltimore or Anywhere),” architect Klaus Philipsen argues that although many cities around the nation have Complete Streets policies, there are still many on-the-ground improvements in pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure that need to happen.

He offers solutions for improving the pedestrian realm in the short term using “tactical urbanism” that involves temporary fixes to test out potential transportation improvements. He writes that these recommendations don’t require big money, but can build towards bigger pedestrian improvements in the future.

Examples of low cost and easy-to-implement projects that Philipsen recommends include: no right turns on red in the central city or areas of heavy pedestrian traffic, highly visible mid-block crosswalks, longer pedestrian crossing signals, not allowing construction sites to completely close the sidewalk, red light and speed camera systems, maximum speed limit of 30 mph in city limits, more street furniture for pedestrians, and reducing the number of one-way streets.

At Active Trans, we think that strong policies provide a strong foundation for pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements. Sometimes change can be slow due to perceptions and budget constraints, so easier-to-implement, "low-hanging fruit" projects can make the walking experience safer in the immediate future and be a catalyst for future support that leads to more pedestrian development.

If you haven't done so already, please sign our petition in support of our campaign to improve safety around some of the most dangerous intersections in Chicago and the suburbs. 

Bikes N’ Roses grows up with youth help

In the tiny back room of the 1,100-square foot storefront in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, high schoolers cluster around two bicycle repair stands. Three bikes are clamped onto the bike stands: a black road bike with its chain hanging off, a purple Huffy and a red and silver mountain bike, each with a tag detailing needed repairs.

“We’re fixing the derailleurs on this one. It’s messed up; we had to change it three times,” one young woman, Jassmyn, says about the road bike. The atmosphere in the room is one of patient concentration as the kids talk among themselves. After all, they have a job to do – an opportunity made possible by Albany Park bike shop Bikes N’ Roses.

Bikes N’ Roses has been around in some form since 2011, when members of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council decided to teach a group of kids in the community how to fix bikes. From a small collective of bike-minded residents, the program has grown into a full-fledged enterprise, complete with a business license, 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, a storefront at 4751 N. Kedzie Ave. and 20 paid employees.

Much of Bikes N’ Roses’ success can be attributed to the work of Oscar Antonio Rivera Jr., who grew up in nearby Kelvyn Park. He left a job at Cycle Smithy in Lincoln Park when he learned Bikes N’ Roses was operating without an experienced mechanic. For his work he received the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council Award during the Bike to Work Rally at Daley Plaza this past June.

“What I hope to get out of Bikes N’ Roses is what I didn’t have access to when I was a youth,” says Riviera. “A home away from home that’s a safe haven, a place to be with my brothers and sisters of the cycling family who understand who I am and why cycling is crucial to my life.”

Now, in addition to fixing bikes and overseeing day-to-day operations at Bikes N’ Roses, Rivera also supervises the 18 youths who work at the shop during the summer months through a grant from the Illinois Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Participants in the program earn $9 an hour and qualify if they live 200 percent below the poverty line and receive some form of state-sponsored assistance.

It’s a win-win for the shop and the children. “So many youths have a passion for cycling, and with Bikes N’ Roses as a resource, they are able to expand that passion in all sorts of creative ways,” Rivera says.

Bikes N’ Roses’ summer programming begins with a two-week crash course in bicycle mechanics before the kids graduate to fixing bikes on their own, as well as helping customers in the front of the store. About half of the teens, including Jassmyn, have completed the program and serve as supervisors who mentor the new recruits.

Although many of the kids are new to fixing bikes, they seem to have a good grasp of bike repair. They deftly pluck screwdrivers and wrenches from the walls, cut chains, change tires, remove wheels and true them.

The kids mostly work on donated bikes, and with a limited inventory they often end up “Frankensteining” the bikes: replacing parts on one bike with parts from another and figuring out whether they’re compatible.

Bikes N’ Roses is not yet financially sustainable, Rivera says, but is on the way, especially now that it has a business license and can operate as a working bike shop that brings in revenue. At the moment, Bikes N’ Roses operates on money from SYEP and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, and Rivera and the children have become adept at fundraising; the kids raised $3,000, last year through just one fundraiser.

In October, Bikes ‘N Roses moved from its location at Kedzie and Lawrence Avenues to a new nearby location in Albany Park at 3460 W. Lawrence.

Albany Park is Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood and one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. It also happens to be a neighborhood of cyclists. Many of them can be seen riding bike lanes in the neighborhood. Many Albany Park residents are immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, Korea and the Middle East.

Rivera and the children do their best to give back to the local community. One Sunday, they fixed bikes for free at the nearby Global Gardens Farmers’ Market. The bikes were then donated to the workers at Global Gardens, refugees from Burma, Bhutan and Congo. “We fixed 10 bikes for them,” Rivera says. “They spoke no English, but they were in tears.”

Keep in the loop by visiting the Bikes ‘N Roses Facebook page.

This blog post was written by Sara Kupper, who served as a communications intern at Active Trans during the summer of 2014.

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