Bad driving you can do something about

While riding my bike to work last week, a delivery truck driver coming from the other direction illegally turned left in front of me, making my heart skip a beat and forcing me to stop suddenly. The truck couldn’t complete the turn right away, because he was (thankfully) yielding to a pedestrian. 

I made eye contact with the driver and said “What are you doing?”

His response was troubling. I got a 7 second middle finger salute that just added insult to injury.

He completed his turn. I got to work safely. End of story?


Since he was working for a well known company and had an identifiable truck number, I contacted the company and expressed my concern for their driver’s behavior – both the illegal turn and the "sign language."

The company representative assured me that they take these situations seriously and that they would look into it. They even sent me some coupons for some free product to thank me for my time.

Everyone should drive safely, but people that drive for a living have an even bigger responsibility since they are on the road more frequently, transport other people and/or often have larger vehicles that can cause more damage.

In London, commercial trucks without special safety features to protect pedestrians and cyclists will be banned from the city due to the disproportionate frequency of injuries/fatalities they cause.

If you see someone driving a commercial vehicle irresponsibly, whether they are driving aggressively, illegally or distracted, please report their behavior. Please note -- it’s not necessary or recommended to engage with the driver on site.

Collect the following information:

  • Vehicle number
  • Plate number
  • Date/time
  • Description of vehicle
  • Description of the driver
  • Exact location of the incident

Then, simply contact the company and calmly explain what you witnessed and that it was concerning behavior to observe from a representative of their company.

In the instance of dangerous cab driver behavior, you can submit your complaints directly to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs. I know from experience that they do a thorough job of investigating complaints.

Reporting bad driving, especially commercial drivers, is everyone’s job. 

Come to 'Spoketacular' event in Bronzeville on Sun., Aug. 17

If you haven’t had a chance to see the Bronzeville BikeBox in action, mark your calendar for the Spoketacular on Sunday, August 17, 2-6 p.m.

It promises to be a great bike and community event to get your bike fixed, tour Bronzeville and indulge in ice cream.  

With the Spoketacular, Bronzeville Bikes hopes to draw attention to the advantages of biking to Bronzeville residents.

Bernard Loyd of Urban Juncture, who was instrumental in organizing the BikeBox project, says the Spoketacular, a fun event on the surface, is part of a larger plan: “We expect it to raise the awareness of the great benefits of bicycling for fun, commerce, and health, and help build the local bicycling community.”

Part of building the bike community is through education. The Spoketacular will offer bike safety tips in addition to a bicycle tour to explore the neighborhood.

The tours, which examine the history and architecture of Bronzeville, started last summer with such impressive success they continued this summer.

The tour this Sunday starts at 3 p.m. and riders will leave from the Community Garden at 51st and Calumet; Bill Depenbrock, a volunteer who manages the BikeBox says the next ride will focus on urban foraging, “It’s a ride for edibles, looking at plants in the urban wild.”

The BikeBox, located at 51st Street and the CTA Green Line stop across from the Community Garden, is a repurposed 20-foot shipping container where Bronzeville Bikes does low-cost bike repairs and sells refurbished bicycles.

There are no other bicycle repair shops in the area; last year, Bronzeville Bikes hosted monthly “pop-up” bike repairs in the Community Garden.

Because there was such a demand for the services, the BikeBox was launched this summer. The shipping container is a low-cost structure that Loyd hopes will serve as a model for other communities.

“Once established," he said, "the BikeBox can be a self-sustaining 'mini-business' that can be replicated in other economically-challenged urban neighborhoods that are, effectively, bike deserts.”

The BikeBox got off the ground with support from Urban Juncture, Inc., Evanston Bike Club, Bronzeville Bikes, SRAM, Quality Bike Products, Bill Depenbrock and devoted volunteers (pictured above).

Though the operating costs are low, support through bike donations and volunteering are appreciated. If you can’t bring a bike for donation on Sunday, you can make contributions through the Metropolitan Planning Council to support the Spoketacular.

Though summer -- and peak bicycling season -- is coming to a close, the BikeBox will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September and Loyd says he hopes to continue bike education programs beyond the Spoketacular.

This blog post was submitted by Active Trans volunteer contributor, Rachel Roszmann. 

Watch our latest video on protecting your bike from thieves!

If you’ve ever been the victim of a theft, you’ll never forget that horrible and surreal sequence of realizations and emotions.

It was right there -- you know it -- you left it right there. Where is it? It’s gone -- but it can’t be. It just can’t be. But it is. It’s gone.

When it’s your bike that’s been stolen, it’s often so much worse.

Our bikes -- they’re special. They’re like a best friend, a pet and a favorite toy all rolled into one.

Well, we can’t get your bike back or remove those painful memories, but hopefully this video will help make sure neither you nor anyone else ever has to take a ride on that emotional roller coaster ever again.


If you're not an Active Trans member, please join the movement. Help us educate more people about good biking practices. 

At Mary Lyon, the whole school community supports biking and walking

This blog is part of our series chronicling our work with a Chicago Public Schools program called Healthy CPS. Read more about the project here.

At Mary Lyon Elementary in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood of Chicago, active transportation is a community effort.

Like Funston Elementary, Mary Lyon has a "wellness team" that works to increase staff and student wellness.

Mary Lyon also has a well-established "parent patrol" that assists students as they arrive and depart school each day, making sure they do so as safely as possible.

Since the parent patrol knows the neighborhood they have been able to recommend ways to make arrival and dismissal procedures safer for all students.

Physical education teachers are also an important part of the active transportation puzzle at Mary Lyon.

This spring, over 350 students received instruction around safe walking and biking during their PE classes at Mary Lyon, and there are plans to expand the program next year.

In partnership with Active Trans, Mary Lyon students joined nearly 3,000 students in 14 schools across CPS who received some form of walking and biking education in PE class during the 2013-2014 school year.

In future years we hope to see these numbers expand significantly so that every student in CPS receives this type of instruction.

Through the combined work of the wellness team, parent patrol and PE teachers, Mary Lyon has done a great job of keeping students safe while walking and biking to and from school.

The school’s new Safe Routes Action Plan will guide the efforts of making active transportation an integral part of students’ travel choices in the years to come.

(Additional past blog posts in this series not already linked above include the topics of engagement and administrative leadership.)

‘Transit deserts’ report demonstrates need for Transit Future

At its core, public transit is intended to connect people to jobs, boosting economic activity and helping cities thrive. In Cook County, our current system fails to meet this basic need for about one out of every 10 people, according to a new report by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) that's featured in the Chicago Tribune this week.

The report is part of our ongoing Transit Future campaign with CNT that calls for increased regional investment in public transit. The campaign asks the Cook County Board of Commissioners to establish a dedicated revenue stream to help local governments leverage available federal funds to improve and expand rapid transit throughout the region.

Transit deserts are defined as areas that have a high demand for transit but that are more than a half-mile from a rail stop, or at least one quarter of a mile from some form of express bus service or bus route that offers service every 15 minutes or less.

With more than 438,000 Cook County residents living in transit deserts, far too many people lack quality access to the region’s largest job centers in the city and surrounding suburbs. These people are forced into their cars – if they can afford one – and inevitable congestion, or they face a long and challenging commute with multiple transfers and opportunities for further delays.

The Tribune’s coverage features stories like Erin McMillan’s, who takes two trains and two buses to get from his home in Hyde Park to his job in Little Village. If you live in Chicagoland long enough, you inevitably know someone with a similar story.

Sign our petition today to show your support for eliminating transit deserts and increasing investment in public transit. You can also volunteer to join the campaign and help organize transit supporters in your area to contact your local Cook County commissioner.

Big. Marsh. Park. Is. HAPPENING!

Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District announced the beginning of phase 1 work on Big Marsh Park -- a truly awesome new project to benefit Chicago's far southeast side.

The 268 acre, $30 million eco-recreation gem will be "a playground for cycling," featuring "family-friendly bike trails as well as world-class venues for mountain biking, cyclocross racing, and trail riding within minutes of southeast Chicago communities, and just 20 minutes from the Chicago Loop."

Big Marsh Park will also have a treetop adventure course (think rope courses and zip lines) and fishing and canoeing access.

Active Trans was glad to be in attendance at the event that took place on Thursday at the site where the park will be built.

The effort will be a public-private partnership, with Active Trans friend and supporter SRAM Corporation leading the private sector fundraising effort. Other project partners include Trails for Illinois, International Mountain Biking Association and Hitchcock Design Group.

You can learn more and sign on as a one of the Friends of Big Marsh here! There's also a video highlighting some features of the park here. 


Tell us about the unsafe crossings in your neighborhood

Look out!

Everyone who lives in the Chicago region has had the experience of trying to walk, bike or drive through a particularly dangerous intersection, dodging traffic, cyclists, pedestrians – or some combination of all three.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We’re looking to identify some of the most dangerous intersections and impossible street crossings in the city and suburbs so we can advocate for improvements, and we need your help.

Nobody knows a neighborhood better than the people who live in it, so think about the trickiest intersections on your way to work, home or the local grocery store. Don’t you think there must be a better way?

Whether it’s a spot where people are constantly crossing while confronting dangerous situations with oncoming traffic, or a street where nobody even tries to cross because it’s too intimidating, we want to hear about it.

Fill out the form below to tell us about the most unsafe crossings in your area.

Then sign up to receive updates and stay tuned to the Active Tran blog to learn more about our work to improve safety at crossings throughout the Chicago region.

Know an unsafe crossing in your neighborhood? Tell us about it!


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5. Sign up to learn more!





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Here's a sneak peek at our latest newsletter

Active Transportation Alliance members recently received the latest issue of our quarterly printed newsletter in the mail.

If you haven’t yet taken a look at the newsletter – or if you’re considering a membership and wondering about the content of our newsletters– here’s a sneak peek at some of the articles from the summer 2014 edition.

CDOT commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld: Our cover story is a Q&A with the Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld.

Scheinfeld talked with Active Trans about pedestrian safety in Chicago, next-generation cycling infrastructure, her hopes for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Divvy and the upcoming CDOT projects she’s most excited about.

Family-Friendly Bikeways: Active Trans’ latest initiative seeks to create a network of accessible, low-stress biking facilities in suburban communities.

The goal is to build cycling infrastructure for the 90 percent of cyclists who feel anxious when they must bike on roads without much protection from cars. This article introduces readers to the program and describes the types of suburban biking routes we hope to construct.

Bike-Friendly Business Districts: Residents of the Lakeview and West Town neighborhoods in Chicago have even more incentive to shop locally thanks to the creation of bike-friendly business districts in both communities.

Businesses that participate will offer perks to cyclists such as discounts on merchandise or food and drink. We talked to the Lakeview and West Town Chambers of Commerce about the program, as well as one enthusiastic business owner.

Other articles from our summer newsletter include:

  • An examination of a study we commissioned, which found that on average Chicagoans take nearly 125,000 bike trips a day
  • An overview of our new share the road campaign launched with AAA, “Two Wheels, Four Wheels”
  • Our thoughts on Illinois’ first-ever Bike Transportation Plan
  • Information on the Transit Future Campaign
  • Our mobile bike fleet cycling education program in elementary schools
  • A Q&A with a crusader for pedestrian safety
  • A Complete Streets success story in Blue Island, Ill.

Every issue of our quarterly newsletter is jam-packed with important news about biking, walking and transit in the region.

Past newsletters have included articles on Divvy behind the scenes, building Chicago’s bike lanes, BRT, bike commuting essentials, tips for winter biking, how to avoid doorings, the Illinois Prairie Path and dozens of other topics.

Only members of the Active Transportation Alliance receive our newsletter. If you’re not a member, you're missing out. Please join today!

Evanston bike plan hits the brakes

Evanston City Council members unfortunately delayed voting on a new bike plan at a recent council meeting.

Most residents spoke in support of the plan, but several objected to the proposed extension of the Davis Street bike lane through their neighborhood.

Residents raised concerns about the lane increasing traffic congestion and impacting the historic character of the area. They also offered alternative streets for the route.

The new bike plan, updating an earlier version, focuses on “corridors of comfort.” The corridors include off-street paths and dedicated bike lanes intended encourage people of all ages to ride.

Evanston has received national recognition for installing a protected bike lane, the first suburb to do so in Illinois. The Church Street lane allows two-way travel outside of downtown and then becomes one-way downtown, as does Church Street.

Riders can head west on the Davis Street lane through downtown. Earlier this year, Evanston approved a resolution for a Complete and Green Network Approach, requiring the Department of Public Works to consider environmental sustainability and ease of public access in transportation projects.

Catherine Hurley, the city’s Sustainable Programs Coordinator, explains that this “incorporates really any project within the city right-of-way, on a park or on an off-street trail, not just the roadway.”

The city is addressing concerns about the bike plan and will bring it to council for a vote at a later date. Active Trans hopes to see the Evanston bike plan and Davis St. bike lane move ahead, and provide better transportation options for Evanston residents.

Working for safe crossings on North Ave.

North Ave., between Oak Park and Ridgeland Avenues on the border of Chicago and Oak Park, presents many challenges for pedestrians.

This road has pedestrian crossing signals that currently don’t work, faded crosswalks, no tactile or wheelchair ramps at the corner and pedestrians must walk a half a mile just to cross North Ave. at Elmwood Ave.

These are all serious problems, especially considering that there’s a children’s museum on this stretch of road that hosted 61,000 visitors last year.

The museum, called Wonder Works, is located just inside Oak Park at its border with the city of Chicago.North Avenue and Euclid Avenue, facing east

Fortunately, efforts have been underway to make this stretch of North Ave. a better place for people walking and biking.

Thanks to the North Avenue Zoning and Development Advisory Committee (NAZDAC), a “walkability assessment” was conducted to identify existing problems. Among other recommendations, the assessment called for a north-south crosswalk near the Wonder Works Museum and the completion of a streetscape plan that includes a pedestrian island near the museum. 

North Ave. improvement efforts have been in the works since December 2013, when 29th Ward Alderman Deborah Graham announced to the public that she would like to put together a sustainability plan for her entire ward.

This led to the formation of a Transportation Advisory Committee, which serves as a voice of the community on active transportation issues. The North Avenue Zoning and Development Advisory Committee has been pushing the work of the transportation committee for seven months.

As preparation for work on North Ave., NAZDAC met with a group of people who worked on a similar project on Roosevelt Road between Austin Blvd. and Harlem Ave. in Oak Park.

The group included the past president of Oak Park, as well as members of the South East Oak Park Community Organization and the Roosevelt Road Business Association.

NAZDAC considers the Roosevelt Road Redevelopment Project a model for what the North Ave. project will accomplish. The Roosevelt project installed pedestrian-friendly bump outs and ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps.

If you would like to get involved with this work, please contact Tom Drebenstedt at

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

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