Dark Matter Coffee and Active Transportation Alliance team up to fuel advocacy and events

Do you love coffee? We do too! Much of our work and office is powered by delicious coffee and we know that lots of people who walk, bike or take transit are also fans of hot or iced coffee.

So, we’re pleased to announce a new year-round partnership with Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee. These premier artisan coffee roasters are now a sponsor at our 2014 fundraising special events and outreach campaigns!

This is how cool the Dark Matter people are:

“Dark Matter is committed to powering people who utilize active transportation like biking, walking and transit. We’re also proud to help power the advocacy efforts of Active Trans,” said Kyle Hodges, Minister of Propaganda, Dark Matter Coffee. “Our double-strength iced coffee will be the perfect kick for bike commuters this summer.”

As the Preferred Coffee of the Active Transportation Alliance, Dark Matter Coffee will be available for bike commuters on Winter Bike to Work Day Tuesday, January 21 (hot, of course) and during Bike Commuter Challenge Pit Stops June 13 through 20 this summer.

As a sponsor, Dark Matter Coffee will also donate coffee for Active Trans’ outreach campaigns and sell coffee at MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive May 25 and Four-Star Bike Tour Sept. 7. Dark Matter Coffee samples will also be available at the start of the new Bike to Brew ride Saturday, July 26.

We hope you’ll be able to try some Dark Matter coffee with us in 2014!

Bike swaps 2014

For the past three years we’ve hosted the Chicago Bike Swap in partnership with our friends at Bike Winter. And we really enjoyed hosting the swaps, but unfortunately we’re not able to produce the swap for 2014. We’re bummed about this because we feel it’s a great event and opportunity to connect with the local bike community.

The good news: we’re planning a new large-scale bike ride for the summer (official announcement coming soon!). We wanted to make sure we could focus our event team on making that successful.

We may bring our swap back it in 2015, but thankfully Bike Winter is working with some other folks to host a Winter Bike Swap at Jak’s Tap on Feb. 15 (the same place we worked with Bike Winter and other partners to host a pilot bike swap four years ago).

And in a couple of weeks, there’s also the 7th annual Chicago Winter Bike Swap on Jan. 18 at Harper College in Palatine.

Both swaps look to be great opportunities for local cyclists to get together and check out cool deals.

So if you want to get your bike swap on, thankfully there are some Chicagoland options!

New commish named for Chicago DOT

Mayor Emanuel has selected CTA Senior Vice President Rebekah Scheinfeld to be the next Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner.

Scheinfeld led the planning work at CTA, including major projects like the Red Line reconstruction and new Bus Rapid Transit lines planned for the Loop and Ashland Avenue. She also has law and MBA degrees.

Scheinfeld's transit experience should help bridge gaps that sometimes exist between CDOT and transit agencies, and she will be well-positioned to help complete a new rapid transit line on Ashland -- a top priority for Active Trans.

Her credentials are very solid for this job, and her professionalism and smarts tell me she can move up the biking and walking learning curves fairly quickly.

Scheinfeld is replacing Gabe Klein, who oversaw many exciting developments for transportation in Chicago. It's unfortunate that Scott Kubly, a key deputy to Gabe Klein, also left CDOT. He and Klein were change agents who deployed savviness, persuasiveness, determination and thick skin to reboot the city's perspective on transportation. Fortunately, Deputy LuAnn Hamilton is still on board, and she brings a strong appreciation for all transport modes, and she knows the ins and outs of CDOT better than anyone.

The biggest challenge for Scheinfeld is sustaining the arc of change at CDOT. There is broad support for mayoral goals like 100 miles of protected bike lanes, expanding rapid transit and calming streets to make them safer.
But will she stand firm when the vocal minority tries to stop progress, as we've seen recently with the Ashland rapid transit line? I'm optimistic she will, and Active Trans will help her solidify a new normal with Compete Streets that are safer and move people efficiently across all modes.

Photo of Scheinfeld courtesy of Ryan Griffin-Stegink, MPC

Active Trans staffer honored with award

Melody Geraci, the deputy director for programs here at Active Trans, was recently honored for her work in encouraging better health among local children from the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC).

CLOCC is a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program that collaborates across sectors to promote healthy lifestyles for Chicago’s kids.

Some of CLOCC’s work includes the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! public education campaign, the Healthy Places campaign and the Healthy Teacher Network.

CLOCC’s Katherine Kaufer Christoffel Founder’s Award honors seasoned leaders in Chicago who reach beyond their defined arena to work on childhood obesity prevention issues. Past winners included Colleen Lammel-Harmon of the Chicago Park District (2011) and Lucy Gomez Feliciano of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (2012).

Since the 2002 founding of CLOCC, Active Trans and CLOCC have worked together to emphasize the link between health and transportation. As a founding member of CLOCC’s executive committee, Active Trans has partnered with the organization to promote walkability and bikability as core strategies for keeping people active and reducing the risk of obesity.

Geraci (pictured right) and Active Trans are excited to be honored with the Founder’s Award and look forward to our continued work with CLOCC.

Thanks for your support of Ashland BRT! Last chance to give comments is Dec. 20

Photo courtesy of Streetsblog Chicago's John Greenfield.

Thanks to all of you who joined Active Trans last Tuesday at Punch House for a BRT rally before the Ashland BRT public meeting. More than 30 people braved the single digit temperatures to show their support for this project that will provide better public transit for the 31,000 people currently taking the bus on Ashland Ave.

The crowd was encouraged by a few words from Dennis ONeill, director of the Near West community organization Connecting4Communities; Steve Schlickman, director of the Urban Transportation Center at UIC; and Michael Whalen, a Pilsen resident and one of our BRT volunteer leaders -- all of whom join us in supporting a fast and reliable transit option for Ashland Avenue.

Our march to from the Punch House to the public meeting at Benito Juarez High School showed that BRT supporters are not just many, but hearty!

For those of you who couldn’t join us at one of this week’s meetings, there’s still time to show your support. You can see all of the material that was presented at the public meeting online at www.transitchicago.com/aslandbrt and make comments by December 20 via email to AshlandBRT@transitchicago.com.

We need your help to make sure this project moves forward. Our strong turnout on Tuesday was still matched with many skeptics of BRT who attended Wednesday’s meeting. We know that thousands of Chicagoans are ready for better transit, and we need CTA to know it too!

Send a comment in support of BRT today! Remember, the last day for your comments to be included in the Environmental Assessment is December 20!

Ringing in the holidays with active transportation

Parents and children from Shields Middle School, located in the Brighton Park neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side, recently took a fun-filled trip on the CTA Holiday Train. In addition to taking photos with Santa and meeting some elves, the event allowed an opportunity to shine a spotlight on school’s efforts to get more kids to be active on their way to and from school.

Since the school is one of the 25 participating schools in the Healthy CPS Safe Routes to School project, Active Trans is working with Shields to develop Safe Routes Action Plans, which will contain strategies to encourage walking and biking to the school.

Healthy CPS — which is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and led by the Office of Student Health and Wellness at CPS — works toward promoting health and wellness throughout the school day.

The Shields event was organized by the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, which has set up Parent Patrols in six elementary schools in the neighborhood. While Parent Patrol groups have been mostly focused on general student safety, the groups are beginning to address walking and biking encouragement strategies like walking school buses and traffic safety.

On the half-mile walk to the Orange Line station, members of the Shield’s Parent Patrol put their reflective safety vests to work to ensure the group safely crossed Western Avenue.

Many families from the Shields group were unaware of the holiday train’s existence, and some children were riding a CTA train for the first time in their lives.

It’s not too late to hop aboard CTA’s Holiday Train! Visit the CTA website for the detailed train and "Photos with Santa" schedule.


Calling all web developers!

Are you a Ruby on Rails wizard? A PHP guru? A Python master? Then Active Trans needs your help! We are seeking the pro bono assistance of a qualified developer or development team to assist in building a web-based platform for our annual Bike Commuter Challenge. This platform will be used by over seven thousand bike commuters during the week of June 13-20, 2014.

The system should allow users to:

  • Easily register and manage their accounts and join teams
  • Track and save their bike trips to win various prizes and compete against other teams
  • Share their bike trips via social media
  • Purchase Bike Commuter Challenge t-shirts, register for other Active Trans events, and purchase Active Trans memberships

The system should also have comprehensive reporting capabilities that shows trip data, miles per user, total calories burned, CO2 reduced and other metrics.

Currently we do not have a useable platform for the Bike Commuter Challenge, so we are open to any development framework or language.

If you are interested in helping out, we would love to hear from you. Click here for the RFP and full scope of the project. For any questions, please contact us at technology@activetrans.org.

Want a Divvy station in your neighborhood?

Following last month’s announcement that Divvy is growing to 475 stations in Chicago, the bike-sharing program has launched a suggestion page for users to map out their ideal spots for new stations.

The site’s map shows other users’ suggestions as well as the existing stations so that you can support or comment on each one.

There are currently 300 Divvy stations in the city. The additional 175 installed next year will make Divvy the largest bike-share system in the country and the fifth largest in the world.

Beyond the 475 stations to be installed, the Chicago Department of Trasportatioin has applied for funding to install 75 more. 

The new stations will expand to more neighborhoods and possibly suburbs while also filling in gaps in current service.

Divvy crowdsourced locations for its initial launch, so this is the second round of suggestions on where to add more blue cruisers.

Check out the site to suggest a new station near you, support suggestions with a heart, or comment on current and suggested stations with your own input. Get your voice heard!

Great things happening in Evanston

Recently, the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) released its report on the state of bike commuting in America, and identified Evanston as having the second largest population of bike commuters in the Midwest. 

Currently, 5.25 percent of commuters in Evanston are choosing to ride bikes -- a huge leap over the national average of .6 percent or even Chicago’s 1.6 percent. (Keep in mind these numbers do not account for commutes that use more than one travel mode).

This past Sept., Evanston held its first Shared Streets event. 

Evanston is clearly heading in the right direction given that 37.3 percent of its commuters choose some form of active transportation (biking, walking, or taking pubic transit).

The city has been working hard to get more people to be active on their commutes. To accomplish this, Evanston was the first Chicago suburb to build a protected bike lane, which is located on Church Street, running from Dodge Avenue to Chicago Avenue. The city is also in the final stages of completing its second protected bike lane — this one on Davis Street from Ridge Avenue to Hinman Avenue.

And they aren’t done yet: The city just recently snagged a grant to build their third protected bike lane. Since both the Church and Davis Avenue lanes run east-west, this new lane will go on Dodge Avenue, one of the main north-south roads in the community.

Over the years, Evanston has invested in bike signage, bike lanes, trails through parks, bike parking and linking trails in the surrounding area — all of which foster a safe and welcoming cycling environment for riders of all levels. They also have a bike club that’s been around for more than 25 years!

Evanston's Director of Public Works Suzette Robinson (left) and Mayor Beth Tisdahl (center) accept an award from Active Trans Executive Director Ron Burke

Evanston also has exciting plans for the future. The city is currently updating its bike plan and will be considering a Complete Streets policy in coming months. In addition, it looks like Evanston will be welcoming the Divvy bike-sharing program to their community sometime in the next year.

In recognition of their hard work, last year the city was named a Silver-level Bike Friendly Community for the second year in a row by the LAB.

To acknowledge all these great achievements, Active Trans recognized the community with a Public Leadership Award at our recent 2013 Awards Reception. Evanston's Mayor Beth Tisdahl and Director of Public Works Suzette Robinson were on hand to accept the award.

Congratulations and keep up the good work, Evanston!

Death of man cycling hits close to home for Active Trans

Hector Avalos, 28, a former Marine and aspiring chef who worked at El Hefe restaurant in River North was struck and killed at approximately 11:50 p.m. on Friday night along the 2500 block of W. Ogden Avenue.

Photo of Hector Avalos courtesy of Facebook.

The driver of the vehicle, Robert Vais, 54, an administrator for Stroger Hospital, was taken into custody and charged with felony aggravated DUI and two misdemeanor DUI charges after fatally striking Avalos with his van and testing positive for a blood alcohol level of .118 (the legal limit is .08). Avalos was returning home from his shift at work when the crash occurred.

Hector’s death hits close to home for Active Trans because El Hefe, where he worked and was cycling home from, is in the same building as ours. We probably locked our bikes up next to his. And our heart goes out to Hector’s family, friends and coworkers.

According to the Tribune, at the bond hearing on Sunday, Judge James Brown called the death a “tragedy of epic proportions.” But of course every fatal crash on our roadways, regardless of the circumstances, is a tragedy beyond measure for those who have lost their loved ones so suddenly, so unexpectedly and so violently.

We at Active Trans try to stay focused on the improvements and gains that are making it safer for people to walk, to bike and to take public transit, whatever their destination, whatever the nature of their trip, wherever they are going and at whatever time. But sadly, we are routinely faced with these grim reminders of the work that still lies ahead.

Every few days I receive emails from a coworker who monitors our Google News searches using keywords such as “fatal crash,” “bicyclist killed” etc. These articles never convey good news. Almost all have headlines like these:

  • Oak Park man, 91, dies in bike accident
  • Girl, 2, dead after car speeds past stop sign
  • Man killed on birthday by speeding driver
  • Skokie pedestrian, 84, struck and killed
  • Senior citizen run down in hit-and-run in West Rogers Park
  • 11-year-old Harvey girl hit, killed by car
  • Toddler dies after being hit by car on Southwest Side.

I have a folder full of them, over 60 from 2013 alone, many of them senior citizens and children — our most vulnerable populations and those most likely to be walking or biking. And those are just the ones we know of.

I hate that folder. I resent having to open it. I hate reading those articles.

And those are just the fatalities. We almost never hear the stories of the devastating and life-altering injuries sustained from crashes in which someone was seriously injured, but not killed. But we know they are happening. We see the numbers two years after the fact when the Illinois Department of Transportation releases its crash statistics.

We know the positive data too. We know that crash rates are going down. We know bicycle and pedestrian fatalities are going down. And we try to take comfort in that, but it’s challenging when we read the names and see the faces of those who still did not benefit from the safety improvements from last year to this, because we take the work personally.

We are all just people trying to live our lives, get to our jobs, run our errands, go to school, visit our friends, and at the end of the day we all want to get back home safely, no matter how we are getting around. Everyone is entitled to that, and Hector was robbed of that right along with his life.

We take the privilege of driving for granted, but it is a privilege, and one that can and should be revoked for offenses like drinking and driving, especially when it results in a death.

Please don’t drink and drive. Take a train or bus or just walk. Call a cab or a friend — anything to avoid taking another life and ruining your own. There have been too many tragedies already.

For more information about what you can do to prevent drunk driving in Illinois, please visit the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.

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