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.

'Ghost Bike' play coming to Whitney Young High School

In the cycling community, a ghost bike is a roadside memorial for people who were hit and killed while riding bikes.

Serving as a somber reminder of the bicyclists we've lost, the ghost bike movement has gained lots of traction and helped raise awareness. Now, it's the namesake of a play that will be performed at Whitney Young Magnet High School this month.

Written by Chicago playwright Laura Jacqmin, "Ghost Bike" follows the story of two young people in love, and what happens after one is hit by a car and killed while riding his bike, according to Jacqmin's website: 

Ora and Eddie fell in love with Chicago on their bikes. But when Eddie is hit by a car and killed, Ora refuses to let him go. Instead, she rides beneath our city to bring him back, facing off against underworld gods and ghosts – some interested in helping her, some determined to get in her way. The more difficult her journey becomes, the more Ora must question what it is she’s journeying towards. Chicago culture skitches off of Greek, African, and Chinese mythology, sparking a spirited mash-up of underworld and after-life as seen from the seats of fixies, BMX’s and ten-speeds.

"Ghost Bike" has been produced only a few times, with its professional world premiere at Buzz22 in Chicago earlier this year. The Young Company, Whitney Young's extracurricular drama program, is excited to be sharing this story with the community. 

Tickets are $8 for all ages and available at the doors of The Young Company, 1431 W. Jackson Blvd. in Chicago. Performances are at 7 p.m. Nov. 14-15 and Nov. 21-22, and at 5 p.m. Nov. 20. 

Photo courtesy of Laura Jacqmin features an earlier production of the play. 

Show your support for fun, safe and convenient trails at FPDCC budget hearing

Calling all trail riders!

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) is holding its 2015 budget hearing on November 18, and we need enthusiastic trail users to make the case for more safe, convenient and accessible trails.

FPDCC is gearing up for the North Branch Trail Southern Extension, which will extend the popular trail from Devon & Caldwell to Foster & Kostner. While support for this project is high, there has been some criticism from local residents who are pushing for a less safe on-street route.

This meeting is a chance for the cycling community to further demonstrate our support for the project and explain why the project is essential for the neighborhood and the greater region.

Here are some important facts to keep in mind about bike trails:

  • Off-street paths encourage more people to ride bikes, which results in cleaner air and an overall healthier environment.
  • In areas where trails have been built, crime has decreased or remained the same, according the Rails to Trails Conservancy 
  • Cycling is a healthy and fun activity. It improves levels of well-being, self-confidence, and tolerance to stress.
  • Lastly, investment in trails can lead to higher property values. For example, a house located within a one-half mile of the Monon Bike Trail in Indianapolis is worth on average 11 percent more than an identical house farther from the trail, according to People for Bikes and the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

These future trail improvements are necessary in keeping Chicagoland one of the most bike friendly places in the country. Come out and show your support for safe trails!

What: FPDCC 2015 Budget Hearing
Where: County Board Room (118 N. Clark, Room 567)
When: 1 p.m. on Tuesday, November 18

Register Here. See you there!

This blog post was written by Sydney Prusak, Active Trans' advocacy intern. 

Register now for Active Trans Member Meeting & Advocate Summit


Register now for the 2014 Active Trans Member Meeting & Advocate Summit to be held Thursday November 13, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Red Frog Events, 320 W. Ohio St., Chicago. 

All are welcome to attend this free event. We'll be discussing and formulating our strategies for putting biking, walking and public transit on the map in the 2015 municipal elections.

Whether you live in the city or suburbs, this is your opportunity to take action in support of healthier, more livable communities.

As people across Illinois go to the polls today to pick federal, state and county officials, we're already gearing up for the next round of elections in 2015 when local communities will vote for their municipal leaders.

Local elected officials in the city and suburbs exercise a great deal of power over the issues we care about. That's why this year's Member Meeting & Advocate Summit will focus on our advocacy priorities during the upcoming election.

Please join us in critical dialogue and grassroots action planning as we collectively push to take our movement to the next level.

Metra’s ten-year plan for fare increases: A gutsy decision

In its proposed Fiscal Year 2015 Program and Budget, Metra announced it's prepared, if necessary, to implement a ten-year plan for regular fare increases to fund not only its day-to-day operations, but also to begin the long slog to finally address their $8.6 billion backlog of and on-going annual infrastructure needs.

This is a gutsy move on Metra’s part given that fare increases used to fund operations are a touchy subject. The past reticence of Metra to adequately fund operations have led to below-industry wages, archaic business management systems and little in the way of operating innovations.

By assiduously avoiding fare increases over the last 25 years, Metra’s fare revenue growth has been below the Consumer Price Index and well below the growth of U.S. industry peers like Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

Metra is now faced with reversing that trend. They know that it was only six years ago that Illinois increased the region’s annual transit operating funds by approximately $400 million. Metra can’t expect a state that has its own dire financial difficulties to run to the rescue with more funding just so Metra and its sister agencies, Pace and CTA, can avoid regular fare increases for operations.

The long-time assessment that the region has been under investing in its transit infrastructure was confirmed in 2009 by the RTA in a comprehensive capital assessment analysis. It showed a ten-year capital need of $24.6 billion between 2010 and 2019 to bring the entire northeastern Illinois transit system to a state of good repair.

Based on capital funding trends, the region was short $17 billion to achieve this goal. Since 2009, the shortfall has grown to $26 billion, despite a five-year boost of $2.7 billion in infrastructure capital funding from the now expiring Illinois Jobs Now capital program.

The federal transit capital program has also been of little help. After three years of delay in reauthorizing the federal highway and transit programs, Congress kicked-the-can down the road with a no growth two-year funding bill in 2012.

This year facing a depleted Highway Trust Fund (which funds both the highway and transit programs), Congress granted an eight-month extension of the Fund with an infusion of general revenue rather than finding a long-term solution. This trend indicates that Congress is unlikely to do anything in the foreseeable future to even modestly increase transit capital funding.

So it is not surprising that Metra’s anticipates less than one percent annual federal funding growth over the next five years.

Metra’s budget is also doubtful on the prospects of a new multi-year state capital program. To confirm Metra’s skepticism, one only has to look at the past 25 years of practice where the state initiates a new five-year capital program every ten years. In other words, five years on and then five years off.

So it was inevitable and responsible for Metra to assume that its future financial destiny lies with what it controls through cost containment and regular, but modest, fare increases. This is prudent transit management.

This guest blog post was authored by Steve Schlickman, executive director of the UIC Urban Transportation Center and member of the Active Trans Board of Directors. 

Tell your members of Congress to support bike and transit commuters

It’s time for change. As we wrote last spring, our commuter tax benefit system favors car travel over public transportation and bicycle commuting. The benefit is an employer-provided federal tax benefit that allows commuters to purchase tax free transit passes, carpooling rides or parking.

Currently, the monthly benefit for car parking is $250, compared to just a $130 benefit for transit users (down from $245 last year). The transit benefit reduction has already cost commuters up to $100 a month in additional travel expenses.

We need Congress to pass legislation that will increase the tax benefit for transit users and bicycle commuters. Six members of Congress from the Chicago region -- including Dan Lipinski, Mike Quigley, Brad Schneider, Bill Foster, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky -- are already supportive, but we need a greater commitment to get this off the ground.

Here’s what’s on the table:

  • HR 2288: Under this bipartisan-sponsored bill, the Commuter Parity Act would raise the transit benefit and lower the parking benefit for commuters, making both $220 a month. The bill would also increase the monthly commuter bike benefit from $20 to $35 and would make bike share memberships eligible for the benefit as well. 
  • S. 1116: The companion bill in the Senate, the Commuter Benefits Equity Act, removes the parity between transit and parking benefits, keeping the bike benefit the same. Additionally, the EXPIRE Act includes a commuter benefit for bike sharing.

If we continue on the current path and do not take action on these bills, the bike benefit could be repealed altogether.

Commuting by public transit reduces congestion and improves air quality, making the region a better place to live. With fewer cars, the streets are safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, encouraging more active transportation.

The transit benefit also helps both employers and employees save money. Commuters spend less on transportation per month, and a higher transit tax benefit reduces employers’ payroll taxes. Furthermore, the benefit allows more employment options for workers because travel costs are limited.

This is an urgent issue so we need to act now before it is too late! Show your support for equitable transit benefits by signing a letter to your local member of Congress and taking action through the League of American Bicyclists’ alert. We need to let Congress know that all commuters deserve the same transit benefit, regardless of how they get to work.

This blog post was contributed by Sydney Prusak, an Active Trans advocacy intern.

Active Trans helping to develop state's first township-wide bike plan

Active Trans is excited to be working with Wayne Township officials to develop a comprehensive bike plan that should be completed by the end of this year.

Once completed, Wayne would be the first township in Illinois to adopt a bike plan. Over the summer, residents and elected officials brainstormed ideas for making the six-community area in Chicago’s northwest suburbs – Wayne, West Chicago, Bartlett, Hanover Park, Carol Stream and St. Charles – safer and more accessible for people riding bikes (see right).

As The Daily Herald reported this week, there are many recommendations in the plan that aim to make cycling safer and easier while also building a bike culture throughout the communities.

Some of the proposals will be easier to accomplish, such as painting bike lanes and installing wayfinding signs and bike racks. Other infrastructure improvements would require a funding source from these communities.

At the meeting over the summer, residents said they enjoy riding trails in the area but said they had trouble getting to them in the first place. Bike lanes, trail connections and side paths were high priorities and something we plan to address in the township’s plan.

Michael Sewall serves as an Active Trans communications intern. 

Chicagoans want a safer and more accessible North Lake Shore Drive

As the public process for the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive continues, the demand for biking, walking and transit improvements throughout the corridor is becoming increasingly clear.

Last week the reconstruction project team released an updated timeline and a list of the top 20 ideas raised during in public comments at the July meeting and submitted online through the project website and email address.

The top 3 ideas match the priorities we identified based on conversations with members, community residents and longtime trail advocates:

1. Separating people biking and walking on the trail.
2. Improving transit service throughout the corridor.
3. Improving east/west walking and biking connections to the lakefront.

More than 260 commenters mentioned separating people biking and walking to make the trail safer for everyone. Just last month a crash between someone biking and someone running on the trail left a Chicago woman seriously injured, raising the issue of creating a separate trail once again.

Mayor Emanuel also addressed trail congestion and safety at a recent press conference for a new park on the lakefront.

Improving transit service was featured in more than 180 comments while more than 130 commenters talked about improving east/west access. The transit comments mostly focused on implementing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line to move more people through the corridor.

The project’s study area is not limited to just the lakefront path itself, but also includes the surrounding intersections and adjoining city streets, which are crucial to addressing current safety and connectivity issues.

The project is still in its conceptual stages with the next public meeting expected to be held in summer 2015, and construction will likely not begin until 2019.

You can leave a comment in support of a top 20 priority or give feedback regarding where you think an improvement is needed on the project’s online comment form. Send an email to to receive future email updates on the project.

This blog post was written by Roxanne Bertrand, Active Trans' Advocacy Intern

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