Engagement leads to school biking and walking success

This blog post is part of a series chronicling our work with Healthy CPS. Read more about the project here.

An important part of the Healthy CPS Safe Routes to School project is developing school-specific recommendations to increase the number of kids walking and biking to school.

Since parents are among the best people to identify obstacles to walking and biking to school, parent engagement was essential to making this project successful.

Involving students and parents in creating healthier schools is an important part of supporting the CPS Local School Wellness Policy.

At nearly every school, our team held community workshops to gather parent feedback for the school’s Safe Routes Action Plan.

The workshops (pictured above and below) also provided an opportunity to empower parents and community groups with the knowledge, tools and resources to enhance the livability of their neighborhoods.

Over the course of our Healthy CPS project, we engaged more than 200 parents.

Workshops opened with a presentation (in English and/or Spanish) on the various aspects of a Safe Routes to School program. It allowed participants to share what they felt would be the most beneficial strategies to use in the community.

Workshops also included a mapping activity in which participants met in small groups to identify barriers to walking and biking in their neighborhood. All project schools are neighborhood schools, with attendance boundaries no more than two miles of the school, making it possible for students to more easily bike or walk to school.

Our community workshops were often the first time participants had heard of Safe Routes to School. Parents at Cameron Elementary, for example, used the presentation as a chance to brainstorm how encouragement activities could address some of the safety concerns in their neighborhood.

At Monroe School, Active Trans staff met with their LSNA Parent Mentor program, a group that is excited about the possibility of reestablishing a Walking School Bus program that existed in their neighborhood more than a decade ago.

We truly value all the feedback we received during our engagement opportunities and hope they were starting points for continued work with each of our schools.

Announcing the 2014 Bike Commuter Challenge winners!

For the last 23 years, the Active Transportation Alliance has created thousands of new bike commuters each year through the Bike Commuter Challenge. The Challenge promotes bike commuting as an activity that is easy, fun and environmentally-friendly.

Throughout the Challenge’s long history, it has been under the enthusiastic guidance of the Team Leader – our bike commuting evangelists – to create and recruit teams that have set new records for participation nearly every year.

Tuesday night Active Trans honored this year’s team leaders and winning teams as part of the 2014 Bike Commuter Challenge Awards Party at DIRTT Environmental Solutions. Jerome McDonnell, host of WBEZ’s Worldview, emceed the event and entertained attendees with his Bike Commuter Challenge dioramas and sharp wit. Attendees shared their Challenge stories over Revolution Brewing beer and Chipotle.

A big thank you to all the more than 6,000 Bike Commuter Challenge participants that made this the best Challenge yet. We rank winners in the Bike Commuter Challenge based on the percentage of employees who biked to work during the Challenge, the new website also tracked other valuable data:

• Total teams: 946 (more than twice last year’s number!)
• Total participants: 6,190 (5,277 last year)
• Total female participants: 42% (43% last year)
• Total new participants: 936 (15% of total)
• Total number of bike commutes: 151,895 (20,000 last year)
• Total miles biked: 151,960 (110,000 last year)
• Total pounds of C02 saved: 148,920
• Total calories burned: 7,446,042
• Most miles biked by a single commuter: 347 – Fred Stanton @ Allstate Insurance Northbrook Campus (329 last year)
• Biggest team: 300 - Groupon (204 last year)
• Most team commutes: 906 – Northwestern University (1,223 last year)
• Most team miles: 9,794 – Northwestern University (5,500 last year)

Everyone who participated in the Challenge is a winner, but here is the official list of this year’s winning teams. Congratulations to the 2014 Bike Commuter Challenge winners!

Bike Related Business
<5 employees: Warren Cycling & Scott Padiak & Associates
5-24 employees: REI – Northbrook
25-99 employees: REI – Lincoln Park
100-499 employees: SRAM

Education
<5 employees: Northwestern Medicine – Hospital Campus & Hive Chicago Learning Network
5-24 employees: University of Chicago Flow Lab
25-99 employees eSpark Learning
100-499 employees: Old Town School of Folk Music
500+ employees: The Museum and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

For Profit
<5 employees: Nancy Veloo Photography, Wargaski Violins, Tzer0, Data Everywhere, Nolan Collaborative, GrandBox & Pines of Edgewater
5-24 employees: moss::, Sam Schwartz Engineering & Cyclone Energy Group
25-99 employees: Studio Gang Architects
100-499 employees: Upshot Marketing
500+ employees: Orbitz

Non Profit/NGO
<5 employees: AEA
5-24 employees: Plant Chicago
25-99 employees: Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
100-499 employees: Center for Neighborhood Technology + Elevate Energy
500+ employees: Field Museum

Public Agency
<5 employees: State Rep. Elaine Nekritz District Office
5-24 employees: Alderman Deb Mell, 33rd Ward Office
25-99 employees: CTA Planning
100-499 employees: Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
500+ employees: US Environmental Protection Agency

The Bike Commuter Challenge is sponsored by WXRT, Revolution Brewing, Portland Design Works, Clif Bar, Dark Matter Coffee, SRAM, Village Cycle Center, The Chainlink and the City of Chicago.

Wayne Township on the way becoming the first township in Illinois to adopt a bike plan

Last week, Wayne Township residents and elected officials came together to brainstorm ideas for making the six-community area in Chicago's Northwest Suburbs safer and more accessible for cyclists.

The enthusiastic crowd identified opportunities for new side paths, trail connections, on-street bicycle lanes and signage pointing the way to shops and downtowns.

Residents enjoy riding the trails in the area – such as the Illinois Prairie Path – but expressed frustration about “not being able to get to them.”

They also mentioned barriers at crossings such as Schick Road and Rt. 59. DuPage County Forest Preserve District recently finished a path on Schick Road starting west from Bartlett High School, but it stops short of Rt. 59.

As one resident said, she wants kids to be able to bike from the neighborhood across Rt. 59 to the Bartlett Library, less than a mile away.

Attendees also debated the pros and cons of various policies and programs that could be implemented in the future. Their input will be used to inform plan recommendations.

Through this plan, the township hopes to build stronger connections between the portions of communities it encompasses – Wayne, West Chicago, Bartlett, Hanover Park, Carol Stream and St. Charles – and ensure that all residents are able to bike as a mode of transportation.

Did you miss the meeting but still want to weigh in? You’re in luck – we are running an online survey now through the end of August. 

Photo Credit: Laurie Nowak

UPDATED: Join us at 7/24 Public Meeting on Clybourn Protected Bike Lane

UPDATE: Check out our Clybourn Complete Street Project factsheet for background information and options for improving the street.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will hold a public meeting on the proposed Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project on Thursday July 24 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at Near North Unity Program, located at 1111 N Wells Street, First Floor.

Active Trans members and supporters will recall first hearing about this project last Fall, when Alderman Walter Burnett announced the first protected bike lane on a state-controlled roadway would be installed on Clybourn Ave. between Disivion and North. The announcement was made during an honorary street naming ceremony in memory of Bobby Cann, who was killed after being struck by a drunken driver while riding his bike on Clybourn Ave in May 2013.

The meeting marks the first opportunity for the general public to learn more about the Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project and offer input to help shape the final vision for this important street.

In addition to the potential for including the first protected bike lane on a state controlled roadway, the project is also notable because city planners have publically discussed the possibility of installing a concrete curb to separate people riding bikes from motorized traffic. While concrete curb separated bike lanes have begun to appear in other cities, Chicago has not yet seen this type of infrastructure on our streets.

Beyond improvements for people riding bikes, this is a true complete street project that also promises to enhance the street for people walking, taking transit, or driving.

All are welcome to attend the public meeting. Please don’t miss out on this opportunity to give input on a project that has the potential to set the tone for the future of walking and biking in Chicago.

Here’s the complete announcement from the City of Chicago:

Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project

CDOT and IDOT will be holding a public meeting to gather input for the Clybourn Avenue Complete Streets Project which extends from North Avenue to Division Street. Community members are invited to learn about and provide input regarding potential safety improvements to Clybourn Avenue and Division Street that will benefit all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and motorists). The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 6 PM at the Near North Unity Program (1111 N Wells Street, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60610). A presentation at 6:15 PM will be followed by opportunities to ask questions and provide input. The meeting is accessible to all persons and materials presented at the meeting will be made available on CDOT’s website (http://chicagocompletestreets.org) after the meeting.

 

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Clybourn Project Profile Sheet-v5.pdf987.17 KB

Bloomingdale Trail rolls ahead while looking back

We’re getting more and more excited about the Bloomingdale Trail, especially with the recent announcement that the Trust for Public Land has acquired land for a sixth neighborhood park connected to the trail.

The more than four-acre park will be located at the current site of the Magid Glove factory (1800 N. Ridgeway Ave.), adjacent to the Bloomingdale Trail’s western trailhead.

The past month also brought the news that the trail’s completion date will be June 2015, rather than this fall, thanks to our cold and interminable winter.

Still, the trail is nearly halfway complete, and construction is continuing at full speed.

Speaking of construction, on Saturday, July 19, Damen Ave. from Churchill Ave. to Willow St. will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so that crews can work on the Bloomingdale Trail bridge over Damen.

You can keep up-to-date with trail construction on the 606 website.

And if you’re eager for more information about the trail, check out this hour-long presentation on the history of the rail line from a 606 event on July 8.

The presentation, given by School of the Art Institute historic preservation expert Jim Peters, covers the trail’s relationship with Chicago manufacturing going all the way back to 1851.

No time to watch the video? Here are some highlights:

  • The Chicago & Pacific Railroad (later, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad) originally built the Bloomingdale Rail Line in 1872. Its main purpose was as a freight line, transporting goods from the industries along the Chicago River. The line terminated at the great Montgomery Ward warehouse, where goods ordered from the Montgomery Ward catalogue were sent out across the country. The interior of the warehouse had railroad freight docks accommodating 24 trains!
  • Goose Islanders protested the building of the Bloomingdale Rail Line tracks by tearing them up, thereby hindering construction. The railroad’s solution? To build all of the tracks on a Saturday night while neighborhood residents were out partying.
  • The railroad tracks were originally built at ground level. In 1893, someone did a study of all of Chicago’s ground-level train crossings and found that these crossings caused 1,700 deaths in five years. Busier train lines in the Loop were soon elevated; the Bloomingdale Line only got its turn in 1913.
  • At least 10 coal yards and six lumber yards were located along the trail. The available lumber also ensured that there were many furniture makers along the trail (later, these buildings were converted into lofts, which are still standing).
  • Another use for all that lumber: musical instrument manufacturing shops. The Harmony Company along the trail was the world’s largest manufacturer of ukuleles.
  • Other items manufactured along the rail line: adding machines, toys, yeast, wholesale milk, beer, ice, snuff and motorcycles. 

Image courtesy of the Chicago Department of Transportation. 

Join our campaign to expand public transit in Cook County

The Chicago region’s public transit system is long overdue for an upgrade. There are too many gaps that prevent people from moving around the region and getting to work, school and other destinations on time.

Many existing lines are outdated and in disrepair, disrupting riders' lives and schedules every day. Meanwhile, too many residents are forced into their cars, where they end up stuck in traffic while damaging the environment.

Everyone who lives or works in Cook County knows it’s a problem, but nobody has the money to solve it.

That’s why we partnered with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) to launch Transit Future, a campaign advocating for the Cook County Board of Commissioners to adopt a robust revenue stream to fund the development of Chicago and Cook County’s transit system.

This new revenue source will allow the city and the county to take advantage of available federal funds and other existing financing tools to fund transit projects.

Such an investment in transit will save all commuters time and money, create jobs, connect residents to job centers, and benefit the entire regional economy.

Our vision will create a more livable, economically competitive and environmentally sustainable region built on a public transportation system that works for everyone.

Now we need your help! Sign up today to volunteer to be a Transit Future supporter in your neighborhood.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working with volunteers in districts throughout Cook County to engage their local Cook County Commissioner and mobilize other transit supporters in their area.

Transit Future

  Join the campaign today to be part of building a new and improved public transit system in Cook County.

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Get a photo of Rev Brew pedicab, win VIP tickets to Bike to Brew

Keep your eyes peeled for the Revolution Brewery pedicab around Chicago so you can snap a picture and get entered into a raffle to win two VIP tickets to Bike to Brew Saturday, July 26.

If you dig bikes and beer, this is your summer party opportunity.

Bike to Brew offers a fun bike ride starting at Daley Plaza and ending at a private party at Revolution Brewing’s production brewery on Kedzie with DJ Limbs, Revolution beer specials, local food trucks and more.

Bike to Brew is 21 and over and registration includes access to the pre-ride festival, wristband for the private party at Revolution Brewing, a beer ticket, colored-valve cap lights and bike route cue sheet and support.

VIP tickets also include:
1. Extra beer ticket
2. Rev Brew T-shirt
3. Voucher for brewery tour at a later date
4. Rev Brew growler to take home

Here’s how you enter to win two VIP tickets to Bike to Brew:

1. Snap a photo of the Rev Brew pedicab (pictured here; you’ll get two raffle entries if you’re in the photo)
2. Tag us in the photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the date and location of the pedicab
3. You’re entered to win!

So, keep your eyes open for the Rev Brew pedicab and tag us in your photos. We’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Learn more about Bike to Brew’s ride and party. Happy bike summer, people!

Arlington Heights plans for easier rides around town

The village of Arlington Heights recently launched a plan that will make cyling to everyday destinations safer and easier.

Lead by the village's Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, this is a third-generation bike plan, updating versions from 1988 and 1996.

Major priorities include making cycling more comfortable for all people of all ages, connecting with neighboring communities and identifying ways to make crossing arterial roads easier so cyclists can get to grocery stores and other daily stops safely.

Funded by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency For Planning (CMAP), planners are looking at existing conditions and will engage the community through interviews, community visioning and an interactive website.

According to CMAP, "The pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly downtown and neighboring residential areas are unfortunately surrounded by arterial roads with little or no bicycle accommodations and an inconsistent or incomplete sidewalk network...Safe crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians are often absent."

CMAP expects to complete the plan by the spring of 2015.

Support for biking in Arlington Heights is clear, but the village faces a common challenge: funding. 

As mentioned in a recent article in the Daily Herald, many of the surrounding communities -- like Palatine, Mount Prospect, Wheeling and Des Plaines -- have already adopted and begun implementing bicycle and pedestrian transportation plans.

Over the years, Arlington Heights has done much to improve biking in the community. In addition to good bike maps (north and south), the village has installed bike parking throughout the town and at the Metra station.

This summer the Arlington Heights Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committtee launched its first community event to introduce residents to safe routes and to encourage more riding. Also, the Arlington Heights Bike Club offers rides for people of all levels, and it sponsors a legendary bike swap as well as other events.

And now it's time for the next step.  "Biking is just a great, fun way to get around," said Peter Szabo, chair of the Arlington Heights Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committtee. "It's a more active way of getting around the community; we just want to promote that choice of transportation."

Let’s rebuild Lake Shore Drive the right way

Strong turnout at last week’s open house on the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive shows Chicagoans are committed to a bold vision for the project that serves the needs of everyone who uses our lakefront.

More than 330 people – including several Active Trans supporters – attended the meeting last Tuesday at the Drake Hotel, sparking lots of dialogue about how to make our lakefront more safe, convenient and accessible.

Attendees reviewed data and presentations on the current configuration of North Lake Shore Drive and offered their feedback and ideas for the new design.

If you couldn’t make the meeting, there’s still time to be part of the public process. The project team is accepting comments on the draft Purpose of Need statement, which lays out the project vision, until July 31st.

You can join the hundreds of supporters already asking for greater attention to alternative transportation options, like bicycling and public transit, in the document. Read more about our vision for the project in this civic platform released last year.

This is a rare opportunity to stop the slow shift of Lake Shore Drive towards a superhighway that serves as an ever-widening barrier between Chicago and our lakefront, and support a design built upon shared principles of mobility, safety, connectivity, livability and sustainability. Contact the project team today.

The next public meeting for the project will be in summer 2015, and construction will not begin until 2019 at the earliest, but there are some things we can do right now to improve the experience for everyone using our lakefront, particularly in the busy summer months.

These include adding pavement markings to the trail to separate bicyclists from pedestrians and designating a separate trail in the most congested areas, such as between Oak Street Beach and Fullerton.

We’ll continue to engage trail users to push for these and other improvements in the coming months.

Stay tuned to the Active Trans blog for continued updates on the project and other opportunities to help improve our lakefront. In the meantime, be sure to submit your comments on the draft Purpose and Need statement to the project team.

Walking Wednesdays (and more) at Prieto Academy

(This blog is part of our series chronicling our work with Healthy CPS. Read more about the project here.)

Since the beginning of the Healthy CPS project last spring, Prieto Academy in the Cragin neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side has served as a great example of the type of work this project has been able to accomplish.

Assistant Principal Amber Richard has been an important part of this work at the school serving kids in pre-K through 8th grade.

Through meetings and workshops, she's been creating lots of opportunities to obtain feedback and garner support from school staff and parents (See another example of administrative support among Healthy CPS schools here).

In the past year, Prieto hit the ground running, planning an extremely successful Walk to School Day event in October, which laid the groundwork for more Walking Wednesday events throughout the school year, including five this spring.

For Walking Wednesdays, Prieto established a meeting point a few blocks from the school where students meet to walk as a group. Some students already at the school have been walking back to the meeting point to join the group for the walk to school!

Prieto was the first school for which Active Trans completed a school-specific Safe Routes Action Plan (SRAP), detailing recommendations of specific ways to improve the safety of students walking and biking and to increase the number of students traveling to and from school through active transportation.

By the end of the project this September, a total of 25 CPS schools will have a personalized SRAP to better assist their work to increase student active transportation.

This fall, Prieto hopes to continue its leadership in active transportation promotion by making Walking Wednesdays an every-week event.

Additionally, recommendations from Prieto’s SRAP will be filtered into the school handbook and other messaging aimed to make arrival and dismissal procedures safer.

Prieto also plans to establish a Wellness Team to continue to move forward with safety and encouragement recommendations, such as those already underway.

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