‘Transit deserts’ report demonstrates need for Transit Future

At its core, public transit is intended to connect people to jobs, boosting economic activity and helping cities thrive. In Cook County, our current system fails to meet this basic need for about one out of every 10 people, according to a new report by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) that's featured in the Chicago Tribune this week.

The report is part of our ongoing Transit Future campaign with CNT that calls for increased regional investment in public transit. The campaign asks the Cook County Board of Commissioners to establish a dedicated revenue stream to help local governments leverage available federal funds to improve and expand rapid transit throughout the region.

Transit deserts are defined as areas that have a high demand for transit but that are more than a half-mile from a rail stop, or at least one quarter of a mile from some form of express bus service or bus route that offers service every 15 minutes or less.

With more than 438,000 Cook County residents living in transit deserts, far too many people lack quality access to the region’s largest job centers in the city and surrounding suburbs. These people are forced into their cars – if they can afford one – and inevitable congestion, or they face a long and challenging commute with multiple transfers and opportunities for further delays.

The Tribune’s coverage features stories like Erin McMillan’s, who takes two trains and two buses to get from his home in Hyde Park to his job in Little Village. If you live in Chicagoland long enough, you inevitably know someone with a similar story.

Sign our petition today to show your support for eliminating transit deserts and increasing investment in public transit. You can also volunteer to join the campaign and help organize transit supporters in your area to contact your local Cook County commissioner.

Big. Marsh. Park. Is. HAPPENING!

Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District announced the beginning of phase 1 work on Big Marsh Park -- a truly awesome new project to benefit Chicago's far southeast side.

The 268 acre, $30 million eco-recreation gem will be "a playground for cycling," featuring "family-friendly bike trails as well as world-class venues for mountain biking, cyclocross racing, and trail riding within minutes of southeast Chicago communities, and just 20 minutes from the Chicago Loop."

Big Marsh Park will also have a treetop adventure course (think rope courses and zip lines) and fishing and canoeing access.

Active Trans was glad to be in attendance at the event that took place on Thursday at the site where the park will be built.

The effort will be a public-private partnership, with Active Trans friend and supporter SRAM Corporation leading the private sector fundraising effort. Other project partners include Trails for Illinois, International Mountain Biking Association and Hitchcock Design Group.

You can learn more and sign on as a one of the Friends of Big Marsh here! There's also a video highlighting some features of the park here. 

 

Tell us about the unsafe crossings in your neighborhood

Look out!

Everyone who lives in the Chicago region has had the experience of trying to walk, bike or drive through a particularly dangerous intersection, dodging traffic, cyclists, pedestrians – or some combination of all three.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We’re looking to identify some of the most dangerous intersections and impossible street crossings in the city and suburbs so we can advocate for improvements, and we need your help.

Nobody knows a neighborhood better than the people who live in it, so think about the trickiest intersections on your way to work, home or the local grocery store. Don’t you think there must be a better way?

Whether it’s a spot where people are constantly crossing while confronting dangerous situations with oncoming traffic, or a street where nobody even tries to cross because it’s too intimidating, we want to hear about it.

Fill out the form below to tell us about the most unsafe crossings in your area.

Then sign up to receive updates and stay tuned to the Active Tran blog to learn more about our work to improve safety at crossings throughout the Chicago region.

Know an unsafe crossing in your neighborhood? Tell us about it!

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Here's a sneak peek at our latest newsletter

Active Transportation Alliance members recently received the latest issue of our quarterly printed newsletter in the mail.

If you haven’t yet taken a look at the newsletter – or if you’re considering a membership and wondering about the content of our newsletters– here’s a sneak peek at some of the articles from the summer 2014 edition.

CDOT commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld: Our cover story is a Q&A with the Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld.

Scheinfeld talked with Active Trans about pedestrian safety in Chicago, next-generation cycling infrastructure, her hopes for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Divvy and the upcoming CDOT projects she’s most excited about.

Family-Friendly Bikeways: Active Trans’ latest initiative seeks to create a network of accessible, low-stress biking facilities in suburban communities.

The goal is to build cycling infrastructure for the 90 percent of cyclists who feel anxious when they must bike on roads without much protection from cars. This article introduces readers to the program and describes the types of suburban biking routes we hope to construct.

Bike-Friendly Business Districts: Residents of the Lakeview and West Town neighborhoods in Chicago have even more incentive to shop locally thanks to the creation of bike-friendly business districts in both communities.

Businesses that participate will offer perks to cyclists such as discounts on merchandise or food and drink. We talked to the Lakeview and West Town Chambers of Commerce about the program, as well as one enthusiastic business owner.

Other articles from our summer newsletter include:

  • An examination of a study we commissioned, which found that on average Chicagoans take nearly 125,000 bike trips a day
  • An overview of our new share the road campaign launched with AAA, “Two Wheels, Four Wheels”
  • Our thoughts on Illinois’ first-ever Bike Transportation Plan
  • Information on the Transit Future Campaign
  • Our mobile bike fleet cycling education program in elementary schools
  • A Q&A with a crusader for pedestrian safety
  • A Complete Streets success story in Blue Island, Ill.

Every issue of our quarterly newsletter is jam-packed with important news about biking, walking and transit in the region.

Past newsletters have included articles on Divvy behind the scenes, building Chicago’s bike lanes, BRT, bike commuting essentials, tips for winter biking, how to avoid doorings, the Illinois Prairie Path and dozens of other topics.

Only members of the Active Transportation Alliance receive our newsletter. If you’re not a member, you're missing out. Please join today!

Evanston bike plan hits the brakes

Evanston City Council members unfortunately delayed voting on a new bike plan at a recent council meeting.

Most residents spoke in support of the plan, but several objected to the proposed extension of the Davis Street bike lane through their neighborhood.

Residents raised concerns about the lane increasing traffic congestion and impacting the historic character of the area. They also offered alternative streets for the route.

The new bike plan, updating an earlier version, focuses on “corridors of comfort.” The corridors include off-street paths and dedicated bike lanes intended encourage people of all ages to ride.

Evanston has received national recognition for installing a protected bike lane, the first suburb to do so in Illinois. The Church Street lane allows two-way travel outside of downtown and then becomes one-way downtown, as does Church Street.

Riders can head west on the Davis Street lane through downtown. Earlier this year, Evanston approved a resolution for a Complete and Green Network Approach, requiring the Department of Public Works to consider environmental sustainability and ease of public access in transportation projects.

Catherine Hurley, the city’s Sustainable Programs Coordinator, explains that this “incorporates really any project within the city right-of-way, on a park or on an off-street trail, not just the roadway.”

The city is addressing concerns about the bike plan and will bring it to council for a vote at a later date. Active Trans hopes to see the Evanston bike plan and Davis St. bike lane move ahead, and provide better transportation options for Evanston residents.

Working for safe crossings on North Ave.

North Ave., between Oak Park and Ridgeland Avenues on the border of Chicago and Oak Park, presents many challenges for pedestrians.

This road has pedestrian crossing signals that currently don’t work, faded crosswalks, no tactile or wheelchair ramps at the corner and pedestrians must walk a half a mile just to cross North Ave. at Elmwood Ave.

These are all serious problems, especially considering that there’s a children’s museum on this stretch of road that hosted 61,000 visitors last year.

The museum, called Wonder Works, is located just inside Oak Park at its border with the city of Chicago.North Avenue and Euclid Avenue, facing east

Fortunately, efforts have been underway to make this stretch of North Ave. a better place for people walking and biking.

Thanks to the North Avenue Zoning and Development Advisory Committee (NAZDAC), a “walkability assessment” was conducted to identify existing problems. Among other recommendations, the assessment called for a north-south crosswalk near the Wonder Works Museum and the completion of a streetscape plan that includes a pedestrian island near the museum. 

North Ave. improvement efforts have been in the works since December 2013, when 29th Ward Alderman Deborah Graham announced to the public that she would like to put together a sustainability plan for her entire ward.

This led to the formation of a Transportation Advisory Committee, which serves as a voice of the community on active transportation issues. The North Avenue Zoning and Development Advisory Committee has been pushing the work of the transportation committee for seven months.

As preparation for work on North Ave., NAZDAC met with a group of people who worked on a similar project on Roosevelt Road between Austin Blvd. and Harlem Ave. in Oak Park.

The group included the past president of Oak Park, as well as members of the South East Oak Park Community Organization and the Roosevelt Road Business Association.

NAZDAC considers the Roosevelt Road Redevelopment Project a model for what the North Ave. project will accomplish. The Roosevelt project installed pedestrian-friendly bump outs and ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps.

If you would like to get involved with this work, please contact Tom Drebenstedt at chilstedt@sbcglobal.net

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

Engagement leads to school biking and walking success

This blog post is part of a series chronicling our work with Healthy CPS. Read more about the project here.

An important part of the Healthy CPS Safe Routes to School project is developing school-specific recommendations to increase the number of kids walking and biking to school.

Since parents are among the best people to identify obstacles to walking and biking to school, parent engagement was essential to making this project successful.

Involving students and parents in creating healthier schools is an important part of supporting the CPS Local School Wellness Policy.

At nearly every school, our team held community workshops to gather parent feedback for the school’s Safe Routes Action Plan.

The workshops (pictured above and below) also provided an opportunity to empower parents and community groups with the knowledge, tools and resources to enhance the livability of their neighborhoods.

Over the course of our Healthy CPS project, we engaged more than 200 parents.

Workshops opened with a presentation (in English and/or Spanish) on the various aspects of a Safe Routes to School program. It allowed participants to share what they felt would be the most beneficial strategies to use in the community.

Workshops also included a mapping activity in which participants met in small groups to identify barriers to walking and biking in their neighborhood. All project schools are neighborhood schools, with attendance boundaries no more than two miles of the school, making it possible for students to more easily bike or walk to school.

Our community workshops were often the first time participants had heard of Safe Routes to School. Parents at Cameron Elementary, for example, used the presentation as a chance to brainstorm how encouragement activities could address some of the safety concerns in their neighborhood.

At Monroe School, Active Trans staff met with their LSNA Parent Mentor program, a group that is excited about the possibility of reestablishing a Walking School Bus program that existed in their neighborhood more than a decade ago.

We truly value all the feedback we received during our engagement opportunities and hope they were starting points for continued work with each of our schools.

Announcing the 2014 Bike Commuter Challenge winners!

For the last 23 years, the Active Transportation Alliance has created thousands of new bike commuters each year through the Bike Commuter Challenge. The Challenge promotes bike commuting as an activity that is easy, fun and environmentally-friendly.

Throughout the Challenge’s long history, it has been under the enthusiastic guidance of the Team Leader – our bike commuting evangelists – to create and recruit teams that have set new records for participation nearly every year.

Tuesday night Active Trans honored this year’s team leaders and winning teams as part of the 2014 Bike Commuter Challenge Awards Party at DIRTT Environmental Solutions. Jerome McDonnell, host of WBEZ’s Worldview, emceed the event and entertained attendees with his Bike Commuter Challenge dioramas and sharp wit. Attendees shared their Challenge stories over Revolution Brewing beer and Chipotle.

A big thank you to all the more than 6,000 Bike Commuter Challenge participants that made this the best Challenge yet. We rank winners in the Bike Commuter Challenge based on the percentage of employees who biked to work during the Challenge, the new website also tracked other valuable data:

• Total teams: 946 (more than twice last year’s number!)
• Total participants: 6,190 (5,277 last year)
• Total female participants: 42% (43% last year)
• Total new participants: 936 (15% of total)
• Total number of bike commutes: 151,895 (20,000 last year)
• Total miles biked: 151,960 (110,000 last year)
• Total pounds of C02 saved: 148,920
• Total calories burned: 7,446,042
• Most miles biked by a single commuter: 347 – Fred Stanton @ Allstate Insurance Northbrook Campus (329 last year)
• Biggest team: 300 - Groupon (204 last year)
• Most team commutes: 906 – Northwestern University (1,223 last year)
• Most team miles: 9,794 – Northwestern University (5,500 last year)

Everyone who participated in the Challenge is a winner, but here is the official list of this year’s winning teams. Congratulations to the 2014 Bike Commuter Challenge winners!

Bike Related Business
<5 employees: Warren Cycling & Scott Padiak & Associates
5-24 employees: REI – Northbrook
25-99 employees: REI – Lincoln Park
100-499 employees: SRAM

Education
<5 employees: Northwestern Medicine – Hospital Campus & Hive Chicago Learning Network
5-24 employees: University of Chicago Flow Lab
25-99 employees eSpark Learning
100-499 employees: Old Town School of Folk Music
500+ employees: The Museum and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

For Profit
<5 employees: Nancy Veloo Photography, Wargaski Violins, Tzer0, Data Everywhere, Nolan Collaborative, GrandBox & Pines of Edgewater
5-24 employees: moss::, Sam Schwartz Engineering & Cyclone Energy Group
25-99 employees: Studio Gang Architects
100-499 employees: Upshot Marketing
500+ employees: Orbitz

Non Profit/NGO
<5 employees: AEA
5-24 employees: Plant Chicago
25-99 employees: Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
100-499 employees: Center for Neighborhood Technology + Elevate Energy
500+ employees: Field Museum

Public Agency
<5 employees: State Rep. Elaine Nekritz District Office
5-24 employees: Alderman Deb Mell, 33rd Ward Office
25-99 employees: CTA Planning
100-499 employees: Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
500+ employees: US Environmental Protection Agency

The Bike Commuter Challenge is sponsored by WXRT, Revolution Brewing, Portland Design Works, Clif Bar, Dark Matter Coffee, SRAM, Village Cycle Center, The Chainlink and the City of Chicago.

Wayne Township on the way becoming the first township in Illinois to adopt a bike plan

Last week, Wayne Township residents and elected officials came together to brainstorm ideas for making the six-community area in Chicago's Northwest Suburbs safer and more accessible for cyclists.

The enthusiastic crowd identified opportunities for new side paths, trail connections, on-street bicycle lanes and signage pointing the way to shops and downtowns.

Residents enjoy riding the trails in the area – such as the Illinois Prairie Path – but expressed frustration about “not being able to get to them.”

They also mentioned barriers at crossings such as Schick Road and Rt. 59. DuPage County Forest Preserve District recently finished a path on Schick Road starting west from Bartlett High School, but it stops short of Rt. 59.

As one resident said, she wants kids to be able to bike from the neighborhood across Rt. 59 to the Bartlett Library, less than a mile away.

Attendees also debated the pros and cons of various policies and programs that could be implemented in the future. Their input will be used to inform plan recommendations.

Through this plan, the township hopes to build stronger connections between the portions of communities it encompasses – Wayne, West Chicago, Bartlett, Hanover Park, Carol Stream and St. Charles – and ensure that all residents are able to bike as a mode of transportation.

Did you miss the meeting but still want to weigh in? You’re in luck – we are running an online survey now through the end of August. 

Photo Credit: Laurie Nowak

UPDATED: Join us at 7/24 Public Meeting on Clybourn Protected Bike Lane

UPDATE: Check out our Clybourn Complete Street Project factsheet for background information and options for improving the street.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will hold a public meeting on the proposed Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project on Thursday July 24 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at Near North Unity Program, located at 1111 N Wells Street, First Floor.

Active Trans members and supporters will recall first hearing about this project last Fall, when Alderman Walter Burnett announced the first protected bike lane on a state-controlled roadway would be installed on Clybourn Ave. between Disivion and North. The announcement was made during an honorary street naming ceremony in memory of Bobby Cann, who was killed after being struck by a drunken driver while riding his bike on Clybourn Ave in May 2013.

The meeting marks the first opportunity for the general public to learn more about the Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project and offer input to help shape the final vision for this important street.

In addition to the potential for including the first protected bike lane on a state controlled roadway, the project is also notable because city planners have publically discussed the possibility of installing a concrete curb to separate people riding bikes from motorized traffic. While concrete curb separated bike lanes have begun to appear in other cities, Chicago has not yet seen this type of infrastructure on our streets.

Beyond improvements for people riding bikes, this is a true complete street project that also promises to enhance the street for people walking, taking transit, or driving.

All are welcome to attend the public meeting. Please don’t miss out on this opportunity to give input on a project that has the potential to set the tone for the future of walking and biking in Chicago.

Here’s the complete announcement from the City of Chicago:

Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project

CDOT and IDOT will be holding a public meeting to gather input for the Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project which extends from North Avenue to Division Street. Community members are invited to learn about and provide input regarding potential safety improvements to Clybourn Avenue and Division Street that will benefit all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and motorists). The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 6 PM at the Near North Unity Program (1111 N Wells Street, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60610). A presentation at 6:15 PM will be followed by opportunities to ask questions and provide input. The meeting is accessible to all persons and materials presented at the meeting will be made available on CDOT’s website (http://chicagocompletestreets.org) after the meeting.

 

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