If you want safety and livability to be the priority on Chicago’s streets, here’s where the rubber meets the road.
Recently, 32nd Ward Alderman (and Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign supporter) Scott Waguespack asked the Wicker Park Committee, a neighborhood group, to conduct an advisory vote on potential protected bike lanes for Milwaukee Ave. The group voted 15-8 opposing, citing concerns about the need to remove parking in order to accommodate new barrier-protected lane design, which would make the street safer and more livable (not to mention better for business).
But we know that the people who live near and utilize Milwaukee Ave. want protected bike lanes. More than 2,700 people (including more than 500 who live in Wicker Park/Bucktown) have signed Active Trans' petition supporting the city’s plan to make Milwaukee Ave. safer and better for everyone who uses the street.
The message from this overwhelming response is clear: Chicagoans want our streets to give priority to people, not just cars. Barrier-protected bikeways are one way we can make this vision a reality.
Change can be scary and the choices we face about making changes in our communities often involve tradeoffs. As a community, we evaluate the relative costs and benefits of these tradeoffs based on the degree to which they reflect our shared values and priorities. It doesn’t take a traffic engineer to look at the status quo on Milwaukee Ave. and see that traffic and parking are given priority over safety and livability. This is out of step with the shifting priorities of the people who live, work, and travel in the area. We value protecting vulnerable road users and creating vibrant neighborhoods over making it easier to drive and park.
But our car-centered ways of thinking run deep. And shifting beliefs is hard work, even when you have facts on your side. That’s why it’s critical for each and every one of us to take action and help our neighbors understand that when our streets meet the needs of all users, everybody benefits.
If you agree with Active Trans (and the 2700 friends who signed the petition) that our world-class city deserves a world-class bicycle network, here’s what you can do:
As yesterday’s Streetsblog article explains, a good way to bring more cars and traffic congestion to Cubs games and Wrigleyville is to build a giant parking garage.
Unfortunately, that is one idea on the table in Wrigley Field negotiations between 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, the Cubs organization and the mayor’s office.
Wrigleyville is one of the most walkable, vibrant communities in the city. Let’s keep it that way by enhancing non-car travel options and remote parking to help Cubs fans get to games.
A new parking garage will only attract more cars and car traffic, making parking and traffic congestion in the area worse year-round.
Please sign this petition to Alderman Tunney created by local advocates who oppose a parking garage and support other solutions that are a good fit for Wrigleyville.
Oscar Aguilar was as surprised as anyone when he won this year’s MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive t-shirt contest with a landslide 69 percent of the votes.
Winning “shocked me, actually,” said 22-year-old Aguilar. When he saw his competition he asked himself, “How am I even supposed to compete with them?”
When Aguilar initially began work on his design he reviewed some past t-shirt designs for the event, but said he wanted to take his design in a different direction.
“I thought, let’s break down the bike and see the parts, so that’s what became the cog,” Aguilar said.
According to Aguilar (pictured below), good design boils down to “something pleasing to the eye. That’s what works.”
Of the 1,006 votes in the t-shirt contest, Aguilar won 696 with his design titled The Cog (image right). Aguilar’s prize includes two complimentary MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive registrations, one Active Trans membership and one complementary registration for Four-Star Bike & Chow.
But perhaps the biggest part of the prize will happen on May 26 when many thousands of participants will don his design for the ride.
“I’m excited really just to have that credit of ‘hey I designed that’ and all these people are wearing it,” Aguilar said. “Hopefully I’ll have clients who see that … and begin a conversation.”
He had learned about the design contest through his brother who encouraged him to send in a submission.
Aguilar has been a graphic designer for five years, and as a part of that work is no stranger to t-shirt design. He got his start designing merchandise for bands.
He moved to Chicago last fall to begin school at the International Academy of Design and Technology. A current resident of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, Aguilar grew up in the suburban communities of Hanover Park and Harvard.
Aguilar has been biking since he was a kid; his newest bike is a fixed-gear his older brother gave him for Christmas. Now that the weather is getting warmer, Aguilar said he’s been getting out on his new bike.
“I love it — there’s a lot more bikers. The one thing I want to see is more and more bike lanes, of course,” Aguilar said, adding that he loves riding the protected bike lanes on Dearborn Street.
So when Aguilar saddles up for MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive on May 26, who’s he bringing with his second ticket?
Aguilar said he's bringing his brother since he's the one who encouraged him to submit a design for the contest.
Getting a great t-shirt designed by Oscar Aguilar is just one of the many reasons to sign up for MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive. Another great reason: it’s one of the best bike rides in the nation. Support the important work that Active Trans does throughout the region. Register before May 5 to avoid the late fee.
This blog post was written by Julie Davis, a volunteer contributor.
Help raise awareness of bike issues by documenting the demand for more bikeways in Chicago! The Chicago Bicycle Program is recruiting volunteers to participate in the April 2013 Downtown Bike Count during one or more of the following times:
Approximately 25 volunteers are needed for each of the 3 time slots. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will provide training on data collection and no experience is necessary.
In September 2012, volunteers recorded 9,395 bicyclists at 20 locations entering and exiting the central business district during the morning and afternoon peak hours. Here are stats from the 2011 and 2012 counts.
To volunteer or for more info., please contact David Smith, CDOT Bikeways Planner, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312.742.7620.
Do you love cycling and enjoy spreading the word about great biking events? Want to help the Active Transportation Alliance promote the MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive and Four-Star Bike & Chow, and get a free registration in the process?
Active Trans invites you to join its Street Team. No uniform required, just your time, energy and your ability to inform your neighborhood about these two great events that bring together people who bike from throughout the region.
With your help, we can encourage more people to register for these exciting events.
To volunteer or to learn more, contact Michael Mundo, email@example.com. Please be sure to indicate the neighborhoods or suburban communities in which you’d like to volunteer. Thanks!
Kicking off the event season at Active Trans means recruiting hundreds of talented people dedicated to volunteering. We are highlighting some of these great volunteers, beginning with a special sub-set, tandem volunteers! Ron and Marge Spears are star volunteers for Active Trans. The Chicago couple demonstrated their commitment by responding to our interview questions from France! So here are the Spears (told by Ron).
What was your first volunteer experience with Active Trans?
Our first experience was the Boulevard Lakefront Tour (now Four Star Bike & Chow) in 2011. Our friend Bob Hoel, an Active Trans board member and a member of our tandem bicycle club (Chicago Area Tandem Society), made us aware of the ride and the need for volunteers. We served as ride marshals.
What keeps you coming back?
We had so much fun helping make the ride a success, and helping the cyclists with mechanical problems that we just had to do it again.
Tell us why you love tandem riding and tandem volunteering.
Tandeming is a fantastic way to share a passion for a bicycling. It equalizes both riders, as each adds to the energy put into making the bike move in their own way and their own ability, even if there is one strong and one weak rider. Both get the chance to enjoy the ride.
As far as volunteering as a tandem ride marshal team, we can be very responsive, as one rider can handle the bike, and the other can handle both navigation and the radio to communicate with "central," without stopping. We can also move quite fast when the need arises, and you never know what to expect with the variety of riders on the Four Star. Also, I am quite the bike mechanic and can usually change a flat in less than 4 minutes — and handle most simple repairs roadside.
What would you tell someone interested in volunteering with Active Trans?
That it's very rewarding to help bicyclists in need when they cannot handle repairs themselves. Also, everyone we have worked with in the volunteer group is very pleasant and takes their responsibilities seriously, while also having a fun time. That helps make the ride even better.
What is your favorite thing about using alternative transportation in Chicago?
We love taking both the train and bus in town to avoid the hassle of dealing with the car. I love running my local errands with my heavy and clunky city bike as I never have to worry where to park. As I don't have a regular place of work, I don't commute since my office is in my home. That certainly classifies for alternative transportation.
What is your first or your favorite bike memory?
Our first and funniest memory was before we bought our first tandem. I took Marge on a ride that should have been about 40 miles, but the road I wanted to take had been closed as part of the creation of a golf course. So, to go around, the mileage turned into a 60+ mile ride that Marge was not prepared for. So to help her along and forget the fatigue, I recited the entire story of Alice's Restaurant, in four part harmony. She laughed the rest of the way and we made it back to the start.
What do you do when you are not volunteering for Active Transportation Alliance?
Marge is presently retired and does a lot of volunteer work for a botanical garden in Michigan, sits on the board for the newly formed School of American Music in Three Oaks, Michigan, and works at an organic farm, as well. We are both avid gardeners, love to cook and try to source everything we eat as local as possible.
Ron is the owner of a French wine import company he founded in 1996. This follows a decade’s long career in biochemistry and biotechnology. So you might surmise that wine is an important part of our everyday life, as well as business.
Fun fact about yourselves
Ron: From New York City and moved to Chicago for a job in 1984; never left. Married Marge, a Chicago girl. Marge: Spent my entire career working for Wall Street in investments. Retirement is a wonderful time to spend more time bicycling, gardening and volunteering!
Thanks to Ron and Marge Spears for their photos included above.
The case for more investment in trails in Illinois just got a boost with the release of a new report that surveyed users of six trails in Illinois, including two in the Chicago region.
The report shows that trails in Illinois attract hundreds of thousands of visits a year, generate local economic activity, attract tourists, provide needed access to the outdoors, and likely improve the health and quality of life of Illinoisans.
The report is the result of a nearly 13-week study of trail use by the non-profit Trails for Illinois and its partners Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the University of Illinois Office of Recreation & Park Resources, and trail agency and volunteers around the state. Between mid-July and mid-October 2012, the study counted and surveyed trail users on six trails statewide:
Trail visits, when averaged for annual use, soared above 100,000 at some locations along trails near metro areas, such as the Fox River Trail, Old Plank Road Trail and MCT Goshen Trail. But trail counts on rural trails — Hennepin State Canal Trail, Rock Island State Trail and Tunnel Hill State Trail — still measured on some segments in the tens of thousands.
“To bars and grocery stores and B&Bs in towns like Toulon and Bureau Junction and Vienna, numbers like that count,” said Steve Buchtel, executive director at Trails for Illinois and former Active Trans staffer.
The report looked at money spent by trail users on gear, restaurants and bars, and grocery stores, as well as overnight stays and visits to the trail from outside the area.
Also included in the report is demographic information of trail users and their reasons for using the trail. One important finding is the significant role trails play in the healthy lifestyles of Illinoisans, including their access to nature, particularly for middle-age adults and seniors.
“It’s tough for a local or state official in a cash-strapped state to green light projects that can’t show a return to the tax payer on their investment,” said Buchtel. “And it’s tough for businesses or tourism to capture the customers they don’t see. We’re showing the return on trails. We’re pointing out the customers.”
Buchtel believes the report will help spark new relationships to build and promote trails. “The more people out on trails, the more economic benefits, the more health and environmental benefits. This report opens an invitation for healthcare and tourism to get involved in trail development and programming, in promoting the trails we have.”
Trails for Illinois wants to expand the study to more trails. This summer, the organization will count and survey users on the historic Illinois Prairie Path near Chicago. “These six trails are just the start. We’ve got a baseline of data that gives us a sample of how trails are benefiting Illinois, and we want to grow and leverage that,” said Buchtel. “The more trails we count, the more trails will count in Illinois.”
Old Plank Road Trail is pictured in both photos above.
This week the Chicago Architecture Foundation and the Chicago Architectural Club announced the 2013 Burhnam Prize Competition: NEXT STOP, a design competition for Bus Rapid Transit stations. NEXT STOP is an international design ideas competition intended to catalyze iconic, sustainable and functional design for representative corridors in Chicago’s planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
The competition asks designers to focus on three locations that reflect current BRT projects in Chicago: downtown near State and Madison, Bucktown-Logan Square at Western Avenue Blue Line ‘L’ stop, and Pilsen near 18th and Ashland.
The stations are a critical element of Bus Rapid Transit, so we’re excited that the competition will help bring increased attention to their design. BRT is all about making the bus more like the train – faster, more reliable and more convenient. One of the key elements that distinguishes the train experience from the bus experience is stations, so careful consideration needs to be given to station design in order to make the BRT experience feel more like taking the train for the rider.
We’d also like to see stations that are responsive to what riders are looking for, which is why we conducted a rider survey about transit stations that could help inform the design competition and the city. We collected more than 1,000 responses from riders in Dec. and Jan. and have shared the results with the city and Chicago Architecture Foundation. Rider experience and community feedback have been integrated into the competition evaluation criteria, and a summary of our survey results is included in the appendix of competition materials (PDF).
Interested in designing a BRT station? Entry information, including a complete set of rules, can be found at www.chicagoarchitecturalclub.org. Entries are due by noon, May 13, 2013.
Good news! The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is in the process of drawing up a bike transportation plan for Illinois!
The plan will make recommendations in a variety of areas, including:
In short, the plan will lay out the policies, practices and strategic direction for implementing a sustainable, multimodal vision for Illinois. Sounds enticing, doesn't it?
To help this process along, IDOT wants to connect with community members, namely you.
As an initial step, the agency is distributing this questionnaire, which will be the first of several opportunities for community members and transportation professionals to share their thoughts and opinions on bicycling in Illinois. By adding your email address to questionnaire, you'll be signing up to receive updates about the plan.
And you'll be glad to know that your favorite biking, walking and transit advocacy organization (yes, Active Trans!) is helping to develop this groundbreaking bike plan.
Walking to work. It’s good for your heart, it’s good for your lungs and it’s good for the environment. Strong scientific evidence supports the numerous health benefits of regular walking.
Think you live too far away to walk to your job? It's probably easier than you think.
To get their daily walking in, many people take transit or drive for part of the distance and walk the rest.
As program manager of DriveLessLiveMore at Active Transportation Alliance, I'll be celebrating National Walk to Work Day on April 5 by walking nearly eight miles to work in River North from where I live in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood!
To say thanks to our generous Bike Commuter Challenge 2013 sponsors (yes, it's coming!), I'll be stopping in for Caribou Coffee, grabbing Clif Bars at REI Chicago and dropping in at Village Cycle along the way.
Those who @ reply or use the hashtag on Twitter are eligible to win a drawing for 2013 MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive registration —a $45 value!
Pictured above the are walkers who joined Brian Morrissey last year for Walk to Work Day.