We want more people riding bikes in Chicago, not fewer.
Requiring Chicagoans who ride bikes to pay an annual fee, as recently proposed by a member of the city council, would result in fewer people taking advantage of a healthy, green and cheap transportation option.
Our city faces many challenges, including a gaping hole in our budget. When it comes to saving money, though, cycling is a part of the solution, not the problem.
Cycling’s benefits include lowering road maintenance costs, reducing air pollution and traffic congestion, combatting obesity and enhancing public health, and increasing Chicago’s livability and its desirability to employers.
Furthermore, a city-wide program to require people who ride bikes to pay a registration fee would be impractical and likely cost more to administer than it would generate in revenue.
After a year of great progress in our efforts to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the U.S., now is not the time for us to turn back.
The Institute for Quality Communities recently reported on the most recent 2012 census bureau estimates for how people travel to work, and they found that the city of Chicago ranks 6th among large U.S. cities for the percentage of people either biking (1.6 percent), walking (6.9 percent) or riding transit (26.3 percent).
Chicago’s 34.8 percent total is far behind New York City (67 percent), Washington DC (54.6 percent), Boston (52.1 percent) and San Francisco (46.7 percent).
One thing is clear: with cars accounting for roughly 65 percent of work trips, Chicago is falling well short of our peer cities and of the Active Transportation Alliance’s goal of a 50 percent biking/walking/transit mode share.
Looking at Chicago plus the suburbs, our region’s over-dependence on cars is even more striking: only 15.1 percent of commuters bike (0.7 percent), walk (3.3 percent) or use transit (11.1 percent). It’s no wonder our roads are so congested!
With the percentage of trips by walking and transit roughly unchanged in recent years, the bright spot has been rapid growth in cycling. We know that bike commuting is growing rapidly, having been way below one percent not long ago, and we suspect this 2012 estimate is underreported. Certainly in parts of Chicago, the percentage is much higher.
Moreover, the census bureau doesn’t account for combination trips. For example, some days I bike to the train, come downtown, and then Divvy to the office. Other days I bike the entire way to work and back home. I am both biking and using transit, but can only choose one of those travel modes on the census survey.
Keep in mind that the census bureau only surveys work trips. We don’t have good data for non-work trips, but in general, biking and walking tend to account for a higher percentage of non-work trips vs. work trips, while transit is a lower percentage.
Though the weather is starting to change, our campaign to bring Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to Ashland Ave. is just heating up!
With critical public meetings anticipated in the next month, the time has come to kick our campaign into high gear and showcase the broad grassroots support for better transit options, like BRT.
That’s why Active Trans and dozens of grassroots leaders like YOU will be hitting the streets the week of November 4 to mobilize transit riders in support of BRT in Chicago.
Use this form to sign-up for a volunteer shift at the listed times and locations. We'll be on the ground talking to transit riders about BRT and signing them up to join our movement.
After you sign-up, we'll follow-up to confirm your shift and share specific details on your volunteer role.
Can’t make a shift but still want to help? Share this blog post on social media!
Last weekend, Active Trans held a Bike/Walk/Transit Summit to help community members become more effective advocates for active transportation issues in their community.
Congressman Mike Quigley gives the keynote address
Congressman Mike Quigley of the 5th Illinois District delivered a keynote address about the political dynamics on Capitol Hill that challenge better transportation policy. He stressed the critical role local advocates play in keeping elected officials accountable to ensure streets work for all users.
Breakout sessions at the summit offered a variety of topics intended to help advocates network, learn and share critical information. Planner Kurtis Pozsgay from the Berwyn Development Corporation led a session about Complete Streets policies making better and safer streets.
Other breakout sessions led by regional grassroots leaders focused on encouraging active transportation through community bike rides, using open data sources for advocacy, building trail networks and mobilizing residents to restore public transit service.
The summit was preceded by Active Trans’ Annual Member Meeting. During the member meeting, attendees voted to reappoint the following Active Trans board members: Corey Coscioni, Jay Goldstein, Jane Healy, Ben Helphand, Jim Kreps, Margarita Reina and Steve Schlickman.
Longtime volunteer and advocate, Anne Alt, was voted on to the Active Trans Board of Directors.
Thanks to everyone who attended. We hope to host another Bike/Walk/Transit Summit next year!
If you haven't yet heard of Climate Ride, chances are you will hear about it soon -- especially since the organization will likely expand to the Midwest during the coming year.
The idea behind the organization is simple: Over the course of four or five days, participants push themselves to the limit all in the name of a good cause and a sense of community.Get ready to sweat just reading about it.
Climate Ride was started in 2008 by Geraldine Carter and Caeli Quinn. The two founders combined their expertise in leading high-end bike trips with a passion for environmental causes. They quickly discovered they had something special on their hands.
Since its founding, Climate Ride has given over $1.5 million to 60-plus beneficiaries (including—ahem—your beloved Active Trans). All organizations that receive donations share Climate Ride’s desire to foster an engaged, athletic and green populace.
In 2014 they’re unveiling a five-day hike through the beautiful Glacier National Park in Montana, and hoping to bring a ride right here to the Midwest in the coming year as well. The Midwest ride is tentatively planned as a four-day trip from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Chicago.
Tim Frick, owner of Mightybytes, a web-design and digital media company in Chicago, has been involved with Climate Ride since 2010. He started as a rider but things changed when a sudden (but not severe) illness gave him a behind-the-scenes peek from the SAG wagon.
Climate Ride performs "incredible, inspiring work across a variety of channels that all lead to a prosperous, healthy sustainable future for people and planet," said Frick. "It's the kind of stuff that gives you goosebumps when you think about it.”
Frick wanted to do more with the organization, and when offered the chance to become a board member, he didn’t hesitate.
In addition to being on the board, Frick continues to ride—he’s completed five so far—and also serves as one of the speakers who provides evening entertainment for the riders. He and the rest of the staff have big plans for the organization, which continues to grow each year. They want to do more rides, more hikes and draw more people to their mission.
“The cause is what inspires me, the challenge is what drives me and the experience and people are what keep me coming back over and over,” Frick said.
The call is still open for riders and hikers for 2014, though if you’re not quite feeling up to a ride or hike you can also just donate. You can also create your own independent Climate Ride event centered around all sorts of physical activities.
Last Friday afternoon at the intersection of Larrabee Ave. and Clybourn Ave., friends, family and supporters gathered to celebrate the life of Robert “Bobby” Cann and see the unveiling of a portion of Clybourn as “Honorary Bobby Cann Way.”
Bobby Cann, a 26-year old who was passionate about cycling, was struck and killed by a driver near that intersection on May 29. The driver, Ryne Sam Hamel, has been charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI resulting in death.
The event began with supporters gathering around the roadside memorial for Cann that was constructed along Clybourn shortly after his death. People placed new flowers and photos next to those already hanging from a section of chain link fence.
Ald. Walter Burnett, Jr. of the 27th Ward said a few words, followed by Ron Burke, the executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, and Bobby Cann’s mother, Maria.
“Bobby’s tragedy reminds us that we still have a long way to go,” said Burke. “Bobby was a model of how to get around on a bike. His life was cut way too short.” Burke called for the construction of better bike lanes and barrier-protected bike lanes, along with a better focus on education and enforcement of the rules of using streets and sidewalks.
Maria Cann asked people to help spread the word about the dangers of drinking and driving. “We can challenge that culture by speaking up and taking action,” she said. She told people they could go to rideonbobby.com to learn more and get involved, adding that “just making the small positive change of living every day with energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and sense of adventure is enough to keep Bobby’s legacy alive.”
The audience applauded when Ald. Burnett announced that the Illinois Department of Transportation would finally allow a barrier-protected bike lane to be built on Clybourn. The state controls a number of streets in the city and has so far been unwilling to allow barrier-protected bike lanes to be built on any of them. “This is the first step for many other streets to come,” said Burnett.
After the honorary road sign was unveiled, supporters placed more flowers and pictures at the memorial.
After months of pressure from grassroots advocates, it’s been announced that protected bike lanes will be installed for the first time on a state-controlled roadway, Clybourn Avenue.
The announcement came from 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. during a ceremony to unveil an honorary street named for Bobby Cann, a bicycling advocate who was killed in a crash on Clybourn Ave. in May of this year.
As a state-controlled roadway, Clybourn Ave. was previously subject to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s ban on protected bike lanes. But the tragic crash that claimed Bobby’s life also inspired an upwelling of grassroots activism calling for the state to change its policy.
Today, those efforts have paid off as word came that a protected bike lane will be allowed on Clybourn Avenue.
We would like to extend big thank you to the many Active Trans members and supporters who added their voices to those calling on the state to change its policy. Your efforts are what made this change possible.
Read Active Trans’ press release on the announcement. Stay tuned to the blog for more updates as they become available.
Metra Interim Executive Director Don Orseno was remarkably contradictory in recent weeks about the transit agency’s priorities. In his own words from Metra's monthly passenger newsletter, On the Bi-Level, Oct. 2013:
“Perhaps the biggest challenge…is our need for more capital money…. Metra will need $9.7 billion over the next decade to achieve a state of good repair….and we expect to receive about a fourth of that amount.”
On whether to vote Yes or No to authorize the Illiana Expressway and to spend at least $80 million more money on it from a limited pot of state transportation funds: “Yes.”
Indeed, it was “Yes” votes by Metra and Pace at a recent transportation agency meeting that cleared the way for the $1 billion-plus Illiana Expressway, a proposed highway bypass in southern Will County, miles from all but a few transit routes.
Making the Illiana eligible for these limited funds was opposed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning staff, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and others. The Illiana will leave even less transportation funding for transit repairs, the Red Line extension, modernization of Union Station, etc.
As a Metra rider and believer in the importance of good transit in our region, I'm truly disappointed in Metra and Pace. Read more about how Metra and Pace let transit down in our news release.
Kass-ti-gate /ˈkastəˌgāt/ verb, to reprimand (someone) severely in order to sell newspapers, i.e., "He was kasstigated for being a little bike person.”
Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass must have been beside himself with glee when Chicago Ald. Dowell, a real fan of cycling, got frustrated over a proposed cable TV fee and made an off-the-cuff remark about charging a $25 fee for bikes.
Kass has championed this idea before as a way to make “little bike people” pay for all the benefits we give society by biking, and he seized upon her remarks in his column today.
We like the alderman and support her goal to increase safety and to pay for transportation, but a bike fee doesn’t improve safety and will make little if any money once you pay to collect the fees.
Earlier today, a proposal was floated by a Chicago alderman to charge a $25 annual licensing fee for bikes in Chicago to help raise money for the city. Along with the fee, the alderman suggested that cyclists undergo an hour of bike safety training.
Active Trans supports the goals of raising revenue for transportation and educating people how to bike safely, but licensing bikes doesn’t improve safety, and the costs to implement a licensing program are likely to exceed the money it raises.
Moreover, we should encourage cycling, not discourage it with a bike fee. Cycling frees up parking spaces and reduces congestion for people who drive. More people cycling means less wear and tear on roads, less air pollution and healthier residents.
Some say a fee is justified because cyclists don’t pay for roads, but that’s not true. Cyclists pay gas taxes (yes, many own cars, too!) along with sales and property taxes that pay for roads, and nationally gas taxes only cover 51 percent of road costs.
Moreover, cycling takes place mostly on local roads, which rely relatively little on gas taxes. If the city charges residents for cycling, should we charge pedestrians a fee, too, to pay for sidewalks?
Without enforcement of a licensing program, few people are likely to do it and the city won’t generate much money. But to do enforcement – to find all the bikes in Chicago and make sure the fee is paid annually – the city would have to create a new program that is likely to consume most or all of the new revenues.
And what about people who don’t live in Chicago but cycle in the city like suburban commuters and tourists? Do they need a license, too? How do the police know if a bike parked on the street without a license sticker belongs to a Chicagoan or not?
Logistically, it would be very difficult to give millions of Chicagoans bike education in a stand-alone class, but we have long advocated for folding bike and pedestrian education into state drivers tests, drivers education classes or school physical education classes.
Another simple and effective way to improve safety is for police to step-up issuance of tickets under the existing legal authorities. We do like the idea of mandatory safety education for people who get certain traffic tickets, and that could apply to cyclists as well.
This blog post was revised on Oct. 24, 2013.