Getting around the Midwest in multimodal style is about to get easier. Beginning tomorrow, September 6, bikes will be welcome on one of the Amtrak trains connecting Michigan and Chicago.
The Blue Water Line, which operates daily between Port Huron, Michigan and Chicago, travels between southern Michigan and Chicago’s Union Station. It passes through East Lansing and Kalamazoo, Michigan — cities that host two large state universities — as well as several other bike friendly communities.
|Director of Government Affairs for Amtrak’s Central Region, Derrick James, poses with a prototype of the modified railcar that provides secure storage for four bikes.|
Train riders will be able to walk their bikes onto the trains, which will be stored on racks that are positioned in modified café cars. The modified cars can securely carry up to four bikes per train; riders can lock their bikes to provided brackets.
A $10 fee will be charged per bike, in addition to the regular cost of the rail fare. Riders pay this fee when purchasing a ticket online or at an Amtrak station.
“We’ve worked with the cycling community to modify these railcars so bikes can be secured without disassembly,” said Derrick James, director of government affairs for Amtrak’s central region and a former Active Trans Board of Directors vice-president. “We look forward to measuring the success of this service with an eye to expansion to additional routes across our national network.”
The addition of bike racks in modified cars comes to the Blue Water Line earlier than expected. When Active Trans first reported Amtrak's efforts to get bikes on the trains earlier this year, the estimated start date was originally set for spring 2014.
Thanks to James’ work as an Amtrak liaison to the bicycling community, the efforts of the League of Michigan Bicyclists and pressure from the Michigan Department of Transportation, intermodal transit in Michigan will be easier starting this week.
Amtrak already offers walk-on bike service to other trains whose routes service Chicago, including lines in Illinois and Missouri, in unmodified railcars. With the addition of the Blue Water Line, even more transit connectivity has been created throughout the Midwest.
The Active Transportation Alliance already has more than 7,000 member heroes in our ranks and together we are making a huge impact in our region.
To make an even greater impact, we need you! Amplify your voice and truly make a difference on our streets by becoming a member today.
Recently Active Trans focused its influence to:
No one is fighting for your biking, walking or transit trip like Active Trans. If you want to make a difference on our streets – join us and together we will work toward making biking, walking and transit more safe, fun and convenient for all!
In addition to making the world a better place, you also get great benefits, like discounts at over 100 bike shops and businesses, Active Trans’ 2013 seven county Chicagoland Bike Map, event discounts and more!
Join before the end of September during our member drive, and you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win your very own super hero portrait by local artist and Active Trans member, George Berlin!
Please join today.
Two dynamic placemaking projects have been installed at Union Station, activating spaces that normally get passed by during daily commutes.
Until September 2, TrainYARD and Blah Blah Blob! will give visitors the chance to explore and play in new ways within familiar spaces .
After a public vote on 25 submissions, Blah Blah Blob! and TrainYARD were selected as winners of The Metropolitan Planning Council's 2013 Activate Union Station Placemaking Contest.
The Metropolitan Planning Council and other sponsors then funded each winning design team $5,000 to implement their plans.
TrainYARD is a lawn created inside Union Station’s Great Hall that invites visitors to play and interact as if Union Station was their own backyard.
The lawn is made of artificial grass and features chairs, a hammock, picnic tables and various lawn games. Stacked newspapers covered with artificial grass create more seating and places to play.
Blah Blah Blob is a spiky, striped nylon sculpture. Visitors can "feed the blob" and enter it on one end.
Once inside, chairs are provided for relaxing and there is plenty of space to explore. (Being inside the blob feels similar to being underneath a giant parachute in elementary school gym class, but with more space to move around.)
Located just outside Union Station at the Fifth Third Center (222 South Riverside), the Blob also hosts events including Blob parties and fitness classes.
Blah Blah Blob!, designed by Latent Design and Kent State University, adds color and interest to Fifth Third Plaza
Once inside Blah Blah Blob! visitors can have a seat or explore the unique space
TrainYARD provides lawn chairs, umbrellas, a hammock and plenty of lawn toys to make the Great Hall feel like a backyard
Tetherballs create play areas within the yard. Stacked newspapers covered in artificial grass provide more seating and places to play.
Picnic tables on the lawn provide a place to wait for a train, meet with friends or have a quick meal.
Croquet, bocce ball, lawn darts and jump ropes are supplied for use in TrainYARD.
The League of Illinois Bicyclists (LIB) is seeking volunteers to help count bikes parked at suburban Metra stations.
This project continues the once-every-five-year data collection effort to track the growth in the number of people using bikes as part of their Metra commute--from roughly 1,000 people in 1998 up to 2,000 people in 2003 and up to 3,000 people in 2008.
As the only bike count in most of these towns, it helps with planning and advocacy, such as identifying bike network and parking needs.
Are you willing to adopt a Metra line, or section of a line, to do bike parking counts on Tuesday, Sept. 10? Wednesday, Sept. 11 is the back up day. The counts will need to be completed between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The list of different Metra lines are below, followed by possible ways to divide them up, if needed. Although the preference is for people to take an entire line, do not hesitate to indicate whatever you can do.
Further instructions will be emailed to those who indicate they can volunteer. Please email LIB program manager Gin Kilgore at firstname.lastname@example.org your availability, including the Metra lines that you could do.
Thanks for your consideration and ongoing support of cycling in Illinois!
On Tuesday, August 27, after a decade of community organizing and input, the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail and community stakeholders joined Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and representatives from the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, and The Trust for Public Land at the Milwaukee/Leavitt access park to celebrate the start of construction on the Bloomingdale Trail.
Initially conceived out of the need for more green space in Logan Square, the trail is now much more than a rails-to-trail project. The 606 is a 2.7-mile elevated linear park and trail that will support active lifestyles for people of all ages and abilities.
Once complete, it will connect many thousands of people from four neighborhoods (Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park) through an alternative transportation corridor for walking, running and biking.
It’s always impressive what can be achieved through consistent local organizing and advocacy. Congratulations to all the local advocates and leaders for making this amazing project happen. It will beautify our city, but more importantly, it will make active lifestyles more accessible to local Chicagoans.
We can’t wait for The 606 opening day during the fall of 2014. What’s the next Chicago neighborhood transformation we’re eager to see? The new ERA Trail in Englewood? Let’s make it happen!
Starting New Year's Day, 2014, Illinoisans riding bicycles may confidently pass slow-moving cars on the right side of the road and know that they are on solid ground legally. The Active Transportation Alliance-backed bill was adopted by the Illinois legislature in May and was signed into law this month by Governor Pat Quinn.
The bill (HB 3367) does not change the intent or meaning of current law, but rather clarifies it — to end dangerous misunderstandings that have already caused real harm to Illinois bicyclists, as documented in a February Chicago Streets Blog post, The Obscure Traffic Law That Punishes Cyclists for Getting Doored, by Ken Griffith.
The article documented the case of Lilly, who was doored by a car while riding her bike and then blamed by police for the crash:
Lilly was lying in the trauma unit at Northwestern Memorial (for anonymity, she that asked we only use her nickname). She’d been doored on Lincoln Avenue on her morning bike commute, and now doctors were swarming around her, trying to determine if her pregnancy, then five months along, was at risk.
That’s when the police officer who had responded at the crash scene walked in to drop off the incident report and to let Lilly, 30, know that — by the way — she was at fault for the crash. Her heart-rate monitor began beeping furiously — how could she be at fault? She’d been riding in the shared lane on Lincoln, passing between the line of stopped traffic and the line of parked cars, when a passenger in one of the cars idling in the traffic lane swung his door open straight into her bike, sending her spinning into the pavement.
Barring extenuating circumstances, liability in dooring crashes is straightforward. "If you're driving a car and I'm on a bike, and you open your door into my path, then you're at fault, and your insurance pays my medical bills," Lilly said.
But in this case, the responding police officer said Lilly was at fault for passing on the right, and not the car passenger for opening a car door into the path of an oncoming cyclist. Subsequently, the driver's insurance company denied Lilly's claim and she has since been embroiled in a nearly year-long legal battle regarding $10,000 in medical bills that may never be reimbursed.
What gives? In a state where the law requires bicycles to ride as far to the right as safely possible, where they pass and get passed by cars dozens of times on every ride, why would Lilly be liable for being hit by a passenger who forgot to check for a cyclist before opening a car door?
People on bikes do have the right to pass cars on the right, but as bike lawyer Brandon Kevenides wrote in a subsequent blog post, the language of Illinois law on this matter makes that fact about "as clear as mud."
The law in question is known as "eight foot rule" and, as Griffin wrote, is intended "to prevent motorcycles from roaring down the shoulder of the road.” It prohibits "two-wheeled vehicles" from passing cars on the right unless there is eight feet of space.
Dozens of pages earlier in the statute, the term "vehicle" is defined as a "device that transports people and property . . . except devices moved by human power.” So the law is limited to motorized devices like motorcycles and does not apply to bicycles.
That limitation makes sense because motorcycles may need eight feet of space to pass cars because they are much wider, heavier, and operated at much higher speeds than bicycles. But if applied to bicycles it "would turn the whole concept of ‘share the road’ on its head," said Kevenides, because bicycles routinely and safely share the road in parallel streams of traffic with cars in cities where there is less than eight feet of space between traffic and parked cars.
Even designated bike lanes, which are normally 5 feet wide and have a long history in national and state standards, would be in violation of the 8 foot rule if cyclists were subject to it, said Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists.
HB 3367 should help prevent future situations like Lilly's by clarifying that the 8 foot rule applies only to motorcycles and not bicycles. It was passed less than a year after the current law's problems were first noted by Griffith and Kevenides — thanks in large part to the work of its sponsors, State Representative Laura Fine of Glenview and Senator Thomas Cullerton of Villa Park.
"I drive a car and ride a bicycle, and I think this bill is a big victory for both," said Fine. "Whether or not a person agrees with a particular law, everyone agrees that the law should at least be clear."
With this bill's passage, Illinois cyclists will now have a crystal clear understanding about their right to pass cars on the right side of the road.
Active Trans is your voice for better biking, walking and transit. Support our efforts to make active transportation safer and easier by donating or becoming a member today.
The Village of Wheeling will honor former resident Phyllis Harmon by dedicating a new portion of the Dundee Road bicycle/pedestrian path to her.
Harmon helped found the Wheeling Wheelmen in 1970, helped reestablish the League of American Bicyclists after World War II, and provided guidance to the Active Transportation Alliance when it began 27 years ago as the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation inducted Harmon into its Hall of Fame in 2006, and in November 2010 she became the oldest living inductee of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. Harmon currently lives in Florida and continues to ride (see photo).
The Active Transportation Alliance prepared an Active Transportation Plan for the Village of Wheeling this year. The Wheelmen requested the dedication of a path in the plan (between the Des Plaines River and the I-294 tollway) to Harmon.
The segment, when complete, will provide residents of many communities a safe connection for commuting and recreational riding, including access to the 53-mile Des Plaines River Trail segment that is part of the 475-mile Grand Illinois Trail.
Each year, the Wheeling Wheelmen honor Harmon with an annual ride called the Harmon 100. This year's event takes place on Sept. 8.
In recent years, Harmon shared details about her life in the Active Trans newsletter.
A new bike plan in Downers Grove will make it easier and safer for people to bike and walk.
A few of the improvements outlined in the recently passed plan include: completing the sidewalk network, adding bike racks and creating striped bike lanes.
The village felt it needed to improve safety since the rate of crashes involving bicyclists is more than 1.5 times the national average.
"The bike club wants to support this plan and help to get it implemented," Bill Chalberg, a member of the Downers Grove Bicycle Club, recently told the Chicago Tribune. "It will make Downers (Grove) an even better place to live."
Taking biking one step further, Village Commissioner Geoff Neustadt called for the village to explore how to connect its bike path network to those in surrounding areas.
Oh, and you can read the plan, too.
I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but does anyone believe condo owners David Kolin and Jeannine Cordero when they say their lawsuit to remove a Divvy station is because it’s “hideous?”
They also complain that the station is obstructive and blocks their building’s entrance. Keep in mind the Divvy station, which holds up to 15 bikes, is on the street – not on the sidewalk – where two cars used to park.
Personally, I’ll take the aesthetics of a Divvy station and its bright blue bikes over door slamming, emissions spewing, oil leaking cars any day.
But that’s not the only complaint from our condo curmudgeons. They say it will hurt property values, too, but we know property values are much higher near transit stations, and Divvy is a mini-transit station.
Lots of people like Divvy, as evidenced by the throngs of people using it, including people who want to hop on a Divvy bike in their neighborhood and ride to CTA, restaurants and so forth. This is a selling point for their condo!
No, I suspect our condo friends' real beef is with losing two parking spots.
Here’s our legal analysis of their lawsuit: 15 bikes is a better use of that public space than two cars, and the city has every right to locate the station there.
Stand strong Alderman Cappleman and CDOT, because the law and the public are with you.
Tens of thousands of people have ridden Divvy in less than two months, and the numbers are growing quickly. All those spinning feet are generating massive support for Divvy!
Active Trans member and Bike a Bee founder Jana Kinsman was violently harassed while riding her bike in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. Her story has made headlines and enraged the biking community after it occured on Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Active Trans wishes Jana a quick recovery and hopes that the criminals that committed this terrible crime are brought to justice. There is currently an online campaign to raise funds to assist Jana with her medical bills.
Jana’s story has resonated with many people. Although her case is particularly disturbing, it’s not uncommon for people biking to experience some form of harassment, verbally or otherwise, from people in cars.
Active Trans asked Sgt. Joe Andruzzi, commanding officer of the Chicago Police Department’s Bicycle Patrol Unit, about what to do if you feel you are a victim of harassment while on a bicycle.
Active Trans: What is harassment?
Sgt. Joe Andruzzi: Harassment can be something as minimal as verbal name calling or hand gestures. A more serious form of harassment is assault, when verbal threats occur or when someone is using their car as a deadly weapon.
Essentially, if you felt someone was purposely threatening you with bodily harm, it might be assault. If someone actually makes contact with you, with their body or car, that could be considered a battery.
What should you do if you are a victim of harassment?
If you feel you are being harassed, the most important thing to do is to remove yourself from the situation. If you are riding, pull over, get onto the sidewalk and wait for the car or person to pass. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but it is important not to escalate the situation into an assault or battery.
If you think you may report the situation, document as many details as possible (license plate, driver description, where the car was headed, witness info, etc.)
When does it make sense to report it?
Plain and simple, if you are the victim of a crime, you should report it and feel empowered to do so.
It’s important to report instances of assault or battery. While a person not observing a traffic law or calling you a name is frustrating – it is not necessarily a reportable offense. If you are unsure if your experience was harassment, assault or battery, err on the side of caution and report it.
It’s extremely important to report reckless driving to 911 as soon as possible in case police officers can find the vehicle in question. When you do so, be sure to leave your contact information so that officers can follow up for more information.
What are the common mistakes that bicyclists make that weakens their case/report?
Making any contact with the motorist, verbally or otherwise, can weaken your case and potentially make you a part of the crime. Doing anything other than attempting to remove yourself from the situation could threaten the credibility of your report. However, you have the right to defend and protect yourself as needed.
What is the process of reporting harassment?
First, call 911 to report the incident. Based on the circumstances, officers will be dispatched to you or you will be given the option to submit a report over the phone. Please note that if your report is taken over the phone, it does not mean that it is less important.
Once the report is submitted, a detective will be assigned to the case. After interviewing you and any witnesses, the detective will determine if a crime has been committed and if it’s possible to identify the person involved.
Will the offender be arrested?
Once the report is completed, a police officer or detective assigned to the case will contact you to determine if the offender can be identified, located and placed under arrest if the circumstances warrant it. You, as the victim, would need to sign a complaint form.
After a person is arrested, it’s up to the state’s attorney office to decide whether or not charges will be filed. If charges are filed, the office would work with you to build a case. If not, the person would be released, but there would be an arrest on their record.
If a case goes to court, it’s extremely important for the victim or complaining witness to work with the state’s attorney, who acts as their representative. Unfortunately, it’s not a process that is simple and easy for the victim.
Once a person is arrested, you’ll be given a court date and location to appear. At court you’ll discuss the matter with the state's attorney, who acts as your representative in court. While it may require several court appearances before the matter is adjudicated, it’s important you attend each court date.
If you are involved in a criminal court case, it could potentially be time consuming and frustrating. Please know that your vigilance will be rewarded with safer streets.
Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law, nor does it recognize certifications of expertise in any phase of the practice of law by any agency, governmental or private, or by any group, organization or association.