There’s a reason taking the bus or train is called “public transportation” or “mass transit.” It involves a lot of people getting around together.
I’ve always been a fan of taking transit because of the opportunity to get somewhere and hopefully have positive interactions with other people. For me, it’s about the journey. Sometimes it can be repetitive or dull, but more often, I enjoy the opportunity for reading, listening to music or getting crushed by my free chess app.
Over the years, I’ve had wonderful interactions with other people on the bus or train, and also with operators and conductors from Pace, Metra and CTA.
One of the most engaging, friendly CTA staff people I’ve ever met is Michael Powell. During his 36 years as a CTA train conductor and operator, Powell made a deep and lasting impression on countless people who rode his train.
If you ever took the Red Line and your operator told you, “May the Force be with you” or “it’s only Monday — the Bears will win next week” or “If you just woke up, that last stop was Belmont,” that was Powell.
He would frequently chat and connect with passengers. Not at every stop, but always in a way that made a difference in your commute.
At the end of his career, I was fortunate enough to be taking the train to work more often instead of my more usual bike commuting (thanks, polar vortex).
In December 2013, Powell (pictured right) started sharing with riders comments like “thanks for riding everyone, I’ll be retiring at the end of the year” and “my name is Michael, I’m retiring soon, I’ve got a granddaughter on the way and a lot to look forward to, it’s been good knowing you.”
Passengers around me would shout out and talk about what a great guy he is and how much they would miss him. Dozens of people would rush off the train at each stop and go to the front car to shake his hand or take a picture with him.
Powell grew up in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and attended University of Illinois at Chicago. After college, he applied for numerous jobs, including ones with the Chicago Fire Department and CTA.
In 1978 he started working as a conductor on what is now the Brown Line.
He met his wife, Elaine, on the train. They had their first date at a pizza joint near the Kedzie stop on the Brown Line.
With their first grandchild on the way, Powell is shifting into retirement. He and his wife hope to travel more together — by train of course.
And Powell will continue to expand his model train empire that covers almost their entire basement. “When I was a kid, I just dreamed of having something like this,” he said.
Powell’s wife Elaine and some of their kids appear in the video. “I met him on the train,” said Elaine Powell. “I might as well ride the last one with him.”
We hope Elaine and Michael Powell have many more train rides ahead as they travel around the country.
Mr. Powell, may the Force be with you, always.
Video credit Melissa Thornley with the assistance of Cutters Studio.
Active Trans is excited with today’s announcement that Divvy landed a $12.5 million sponsorship arrangement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. Bike sharing is now poised to have an even greater impact on the way people get around Chicago.
The sponsorship deal will last over a five year period. The city plans to use the $2.5 million in annual funds from the partnership to expand the Divvy system and enhance bicycling in Chicago.
The funds will be used for securing equipment to sweep and plow bike lanes; more bike lane materials like bollards, signage and striping; and more bike ambassadors on the streets to educate people about bike safety.
By the end of this year, Divvy plans to increase the number of docking stations in the city from 300 to 475. Chicago will then have the highest number of bike share stations in the nation.
We like how this new sponsorship arrangement will benefit Divvy riders as well as anyone who rides a bike in Chicago. And we like the way sponsorship emphasizes the connection between biking for transportation and better public health.
Less than one year after its launch, Divvy has been a resounding success. Last week, Divvy announced it reached one million trips totaling 2.5 million miles. That's a lot of pedaling!
If you're not a Divvy member, now is the time to join. New and renewing Active Trans members receive a $10 discount on annual Divvy memberships.
Photo courtesy of Divvy.
Do you enjoy walking, running or biking on the Des Plaines River Trail in northern Cook County?
Many people do, and we expect many more people would if there was safer and easier access to the trail.
To create improved trail access, a coalition of groups -- including Active Trans -- is in the process of completing a study that will offer ideas on how to make access to the trail safer and easier.
The study focuses on four key areas for improvement:
Last week, Active Trans organized a bike tour on the trail with project steering committee members, public officials and residents from nearby communities. The ride provided a perfect opportunity to talk with these people about recommendations contained in the plan (see photo).
After setting off from Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, participants toured planned projects along Central Road and discussed ideas for how to address challenging crossings like the one at Milwaukee Avenue and Winkelman Road.
One of the great features of this project is the way it’s bringing together a wide swath of organizations and municipalities to work together to improve the trail: Northwest Municipal Conference, representatives from the cities and villages along the trail, transit agencies, CMAP, the Cook County Forest Preserve District, Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways and various consultants.
We look forward to completing the study and helping communities along the trail make it easier for everyone to enjoy this regional treasure.
The Chicago Pedicab Association is calling on Chicago residents to sign a petition opposing a proposed city ordinance that would restrict access to the loop by pedicabs, or bicycle taxis.
Signatures are needed right away as the proposed ordinance will be reviewed at a City Council committee hearing on Tuesday April 29.
Pedicabs are a solution to traffic congestion and safety issues, not a cause. Sign the Chicago Pedicab Association’s petition here.
What’s in the proposed ordinance?
If passed, pedicabs would be banned entirely on State St. and Michigan Ave. between Oak and Congress, all day every day. Pedicabs would also be restricted from entering the Loop during rush hour (7-9, 4-6) weekdays, but not holidays.
Proponents of the ordinance say it’s about easing congestion and making our streets safer, but those arguments don’t hold up under much scrutiny. Pedicabs take up less space than private cars and taxis; we should be encouraging their use, not banning them from our car-clogged streets.
As for safety, pedicabs reduce car and taxi trips, which are the leading cause of crashes in these areas. Taxicabs are involved in a disproportionate amount of crashes, and pedicabs clearly don’t have the same destructive capacity as a speeding, 3,000 pound taxi.
Add your voice to those opposing this misguided ordinance. Sign the petition by Chicago Pedicab Association here.
With help from a new upcoming study, Kedzie Ave. in East Garfield Park may become a better place for biking, walking and transit.
The Garfield Park Community Council was recently awarded a grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to do a study on Kedzie Ave. The study will look at ways of creating a safer, more attractive neighborhood that provides greater mobility to residents and visitors to access CTA and bus facilities, businesses, schools, parks and other destinations within the neighborhood.
The primary focus will be the existing CTA transit facilities serving the Kedzie corridor, including the Kedzie Green Line station, the #52 Kedzie/California bus and the #20 Madison bus, with additional consideration of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, local roads and the surrounding streetscape.
The study is the result of an effort that started a couple years ago when community residents came together over a shared concern for the safety of people biking and walking in the area.
To help address problems like broken a traffic signal, faded crosswalks, vacant lots and a lack of bike lanes, the community enlisted help from Better Blocks — an Active Trans program that works with residents in underserved neighborhoods to pursue changes that will make streets more inviting for people walking and cycling.
The Kedzie Corridor Steering Committee will host a public meeting for residents to learn about recent outreach efforts and suggestions made by the community. There will also be an opportunity for residents to add input about the plan and process. The meeting will be held May 8 at Marshall High School, 3205 W. Adams at 6 p.m.
Image courtesy of the CTA.
Congratulations to Active Trans staff member Jason Jenkins for receiving the 2014 Victim Service Award from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The annual award honors citizens and organizations that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support and advocate for victims and their rights.
Jenkins, who was among four recipients to receive the award in a recent ceremony, was honored for his work on the case of Hector Avalos, who was killed by a driver while riding his bike home from work last December. The driver was charged with a felony aggravated DUI and two misdemeanor DUI charges.
“Our work with CPD and the state’s attorney’s office will hopefully strengthen our relationships with these agencies,” said Jenkins. “We hope that we can be allies in advocating for enforcement strategies that can improve safety for people biking and walking, as well as for justice for cyclists and pedestrians who have been injured by reckless drivers.”
“Many cyclists and pedestrians who are injured in crashes — often through no fault of their own — are typically unaware of their rights or what recourse they have,” said Jenkins.
“It is not uncommon for them to be carted off to the ER unconscious while the driver gives their version of the crash to the police,” he said. “Or if they are able to stay on the scene, they are often bruised and rattled with adrenaline and at a disadvantage when it comes to advocating for themselves. Add to that the prevalent bias against cyclists and pedestrians in crashes combined with a victim blaming culture and oftentimes the victim of crashes, the physically vulnerable bicyclist and pedestrian, wind up being re-victimized by a system that is not designed to protect their interests.”
“It’s important and meaningful for people in that position to have a knowledgeable advocate who can help look out for them,” said Jenkins.
The purpose of Active Trans’ Crash Support Program is also to provide the friends, relatives and coworkers of the victims of fatal crashes with opportunities to advocate for the slain cyclists as the case relating to their crashes proceeds through the courts.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be recognized for the work," said Jenkins. "But really, I share the award with the rest of the staff at Active Trans and our members, who have created the foundation and provided the environment for the work to happen in the first place.”
In addition to the current honor, Jenkins also received a special commendation from the Chicago Police Department earlier this year for his outreach work after a bicycle crash claimed the life of bicycle advocate Bobby Cann last May.
Photo shows Jason Jenkins at the podium and Cook County State's Attorny Anita Alvarez seated left of the podium.
This blog post was written by Active Trans volunteer Lynda Barckert.
As we emerge from the long winter, we're beginning to see more people biking all over Chicagoland.
Have you gotten out for a ride? Did you check out your bike and put some air in your tires?
Get biking now and please join Active Trans for a beautiful car-free bike ride Sunday, May 25.
Sign up now through Sunday, April 27 at 11:59 p.m. and you’ll also be entered into a raffle for cool prizes.
You could win:
Sign up before 11:59 p.m. on Sunday to get into the raffle! We promise you won’t regret it.
We were pleased to see the release of the first-ever Illinois Bike Transportation Plan earlier this week. We like the plan’s objectives and strategies for making Illinois communities better and safer places to bike and walk.
The plan is another sign of an improving commitment toward biking and walking at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). This is a big step given IDOT’s historically car-centric perspective that has de-prioritized biking and walking.
The plan primarily addresses how IDOT designs and manages state-administered roads, as well as the federal and state funding that IDOT distributes to local governments. This is good because state roads are often stressful to bike on or across because they
These same features can also make walking alongside or across state roads difficult, and the plan’s recommendations should also improve the pedestrian environment
Nowhere is the need for change more evident than metropolitan Chicago where state routes are often the least-friendly roads for biking and walking. About 9 percent or 2,775 miles of roads in the 6 county region (Cook, Lake, DuPage, Will, McHenry, Kane) are state routes.
Many state routes are crucial segments for biking and walking, serving as either the only through-road to get from point A to point B, like Randall Road in Elgin, or as a local street through Chicago or a suburb that connects neighborhoods, transit, schools and jobs like North Avenue, Golf Road and 159th Street.
With the state’s adoption of a Complete Streets policy in 2007, its plans to pilot-test protected bike lanes on state routes, and now the state bike plan, I think it’s fair to say IDOT is turning the corner, so to speak, toward a multi-modal approach that provides a range of transportation options for Illinois residents.
It’s a work in progress and we want to see these objectives put into action, but Governor Quinn and IDOT deserve credit for taking another important step in the right direction.
In metro Chicago, biking has roughly doubled in the past five years, and IDOT’s survey of Illinois residents shows that even more people would bike but for the fear of car traffic.
Bicycling will never achieve its full potential as an inexpensive, healthy, and fun way to get around unless it is comfortable and convenient to bike where people want to go. That means safer intersection designs, calmer streets and separation from cars on busy streets.
In the past week, the state committed to funding a variety of important biking and pedestrian projects through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP). The 71 projects are receiving support that totals $52.7 million.
Unfortunately, a new proposal to expand the Divvy bike sharing program in a couple of nearby suburbs and some Chicago neighborhoods was not included.
ITEP is federally funded and supports bike paths, walking trails, transit improvements, historic preservation and streetscape beautification projects.
Here are some of our favorite projects. Here's the complete list.
A proposal to expand the Divvy bike sharing network to the suburbs of Oak Park and Evanston, and the Chicago communities of Rogers Park, West Rogers Park, Austin and Garfield Park was not approved. Up to 66 bike share stations would have been added in these new service areas, including the first suburban locations.
Oak Park and Evanston border Chicago, which creates the opportunity for Divvy trips between Chicago and these communities. Moreover, both suburbs have high densities and ample transit stations, which are key ingredients for generating bike share trips that occur solely within each suburb, such as biking between neighborhoods and train stations or the local library.
Despite the setback, we think this expansion will eventually happen. The communities are already exploring other funding options.
Volunteering is a fun way to be part of MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive on Sunday, May 25.
But did you know your volunteerism has a direct impact on Active Trans’ success? Each volunteer is a part of something larger.
Let’s take a look at how our volunteers fit into the bigger picture of Active Trans’ work.
Great volunteers = great events
Over 600 pre-event and day-of-event volunteers help the Active Trans staff produce MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive. Volunteers distribute registration materials, fix flat tires, pass out refreshments at the rest stops, cheer on riders and set up an amazing post-ride festival in Grant Park. Volunteer support makes it all come together into one memorable biking event.
Great events = fundraising
Over 20,000 people participate in MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive – all supported by our volunteer team. Proceeds from these registrations provide essential funding for our advocacy work.
Fundraising = great results for Chicagoland
Buoyed by volunteer support and event proceeds, Active Trans works to make Chicagoland a better place to walk, bike and take transit – in other words, a better place to live.
Here are just a few of the things we do around the region:
|Help expand the region’s network of protected bike lanes||Bus Rapid Transit advocacy|
|Bike safety education and outreach||Trails advocacy|
What’s the impact of volunteering?
All these project wins are made possible by our volunteers’ contribution of time, talent and hard work. Be part of this special group. Six hours goes a long way to make Chicago a more livable city in which to bike, walk and take transit.
Join us. Be part of the movement. Sign up to volunteer today.