Chicago speed cameras reduce speeding 65 percent in less than two months

The Chicago Department of Transportation recently announced that its first nine speed cameras had done something remarkable: Reduced speeding at those locations by 65 percent in less than two months.

Warnings were issued the first 30 days, and then tickets. CDOT's analysis went through the first three weeks of ticketing, for 51 days in total.

For those who argue speed cameras won't work and are all about revenue — not safety — these results must be hard to swallow. Before the city council approved speed cameras, critics dismissed them with faulty logic and misrepresented research to make their case.

We're pleased with the results, but not surprised. Studies from other countries show speed cameras work, and it’s simply it’s a matter of common sense that they would reduce speeding. When you enforce traffic laws, people comply!

And let's not forget that people are injured badly and die at a much higher rate when speeds go up.
We want to see tickets issued to people who make our streets dangerous, whether they are on a bike, in a car or walking. Everyone needs to be safe and respectful, and traffic rules should be enforced consistently regardless of the travel mode.

But some have a double standard for cars and bikes. They say ticket those darn cyclists but not me and my 4,000 lb. car going too fast. Their argument doesn't fly, and neither will they as they drive streets increasingly patrolled by speed cameras.

Dearborn protected bike lane named America’s best

Nearly one year after the Dearborn Street protected bike lane’s opening in the Loop, the national advocacy group People for Bikes announced it as their pick for the top protected lane in the country on their Green Lane Project blog. 

In addition to the on-street markings, People for Bikes praised the bike traffic signals on Dearborn that have increased traffic light compliance from 31 to 81 percent for people biking.

The Dearborn Street protected bike lane

Active Trans advocated for the Dearborn protected bike lane throughout the approval and construction process. Active Trans' Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign organized aldermanic support and circulated a petition signed by nearly 4,700 people in support of the Dearborn project.

Also on the People for Bikes top 10 list was the Milwaukee Avenue bike lane, coming in at number seven in the country.

Keep tabs on the Dearborn lane’s celebration on its Twitter page, and keep riding in these great bikeways right here in Chicago!

Great deal for Active Trans members from Icebreaker apparel

To celebrate the opening of its new store in Chicago, the apparel company Icebreaker is offering a sale for Active Trans members.

Show your Active Trans membership card and you’ll get 10 percent off Icebreaker apparel for the rest of December. In addition, 10 percent of the profits from all Icebreaker purchases will be donated to Active Trans from Wednesday, Dec. 5 to Tuesday, Dec. 10.

You can take advantage of this deal at Icebreaker's new store in Chicago's Gold Coast at 44 E. Walton Ave., and at

  • Three locations of Uncle Dan's the Great Outdoors Store:
    • 3551 N. Southport Ave., Chicago 
    • 621 Central Ave., Highland Park 
    • 901 W. Church St., Evanston
  • Moosejaw: 1445 W. Webster Ave., Chicago

If you were thinking of shopping for more athletic apparel this winter, consider taking advantage of this offer to keep a few dollars in your pocket while raising money for better biking, walking and transit in Chicagoland. Win-win!

Thank you Icebreaker! Active Trans is grateful for your support.  

Public meetings for Ashland BRT: The scoop on what an environmental assessment is and why we need you to show up!

Calling all Bus Rapid Transit supporters! We need you to keep up your great work in pushing for BRT to come to Chicago. The CTA recently released the environmental assessment for the project and is holding two public meetings to gather input about their plans to make transit faster and more reliable along 16 miles of Ashland Avenue.

In addition to attending one of those meetings, please join us for a rally on December 10 to show your support for the project!

What’s an environmental assessment?
Over the summer, the CTA and CDOT got to work analyzing the social, economic and environmental impacts of building the BRT project. This is standard procedure for all transportation projects of this size and it’s a requirement for receiving the federal dollars used for this study. It’s also good practice to make sure everyone understands how a new project may change the surrounding area.

The environmental assesment is now complete and CTA and CDOT would like your comments on it, which can be made at the public meetings or by e-mail at

What’s going on at these public meetings?
The meetings will summarize studies of the project impacts, including traffic analyses that have been performed as part of the formal environmental assessment. This is a chance to take a detailed look at the effects of the Ashland BRT project on your street and the route overall.

CTA and CDOT heard from various key stakeholders about the plan for BRT on Ashland over the past 6 months. Now they're holding two public meetings as an extension of this outreach to gather additional input from all Chicago residents. The Ashland BRT design is not yet final, and the CTA and CDOT are still considering options and modifications (adding more left turns to the plan for example) based on feedback they get at the meetings. This is an excellent opportunity for riders and residents to show up and let them know what you think.

Why should we go?
CTA and CDOT will consider the results of their analyses, the impacts of any possible changes to the BRT plan and all public comments before they move forward with the next phase of the project.

For supporters of BRT on Ashland, this is an important time to stand up and let people know why we're so strongly in favor of the project. We need to review the plans carefully and let CTA know that we want the fastest, most reliable service possible. For the more than 30,000 people taking the bus every day on Ashland Avenue, it’s important that we speak up to make gold standard BRT a reality.

Busse Woods trail overpass opens for bicyclists and pedestrians

In a victory for pedestrian and cyclist safety, a new pedestrian overpass opened this weekend connecting the northern and southern portions of the Busse Woods Trail. The new overpass is located in Elk Grove Village, just east of the intersection of Higgins Road and Route 53.

The new pedestrian overpass in Busse Woods. Photo used with permission from Thomas Mulick, Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove

The bridge eliminates the last remaining roadway crossing along the heavily trafficked trail. The 11.2-mile Busse Woods bike path sees over 2.5 million visitors per year, and had previously included several roadway crossings on Higgins Road. Elk Grove Village officials said that the newly-bypassed stretch of Higgins Road, a 6-lane road where speed limits reach 45 mph, sees 40,000 cars per day.

The project for a safe crossing overpass had been on Illinios Department of Transportation's project list for years, but was given priority after the death of 46-year-old cyclist Rosaleen Waters, who was struck and killed at the crossing in May.

Waters’ husband Tony Waters attended the overpass ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, along with Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson and other state and county officials.

The ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, November 22. Photo used with permission from Thomas Mulick, Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove.

Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove, along with Tony Waters, is planning to organize a Ride of Silence in 2014 in Rosaleen’s honor on International Ride of Silence Day, May 21. “We wanted to do something in her memory, but we are still working with the forest preserve to settle details,” said Dave Simmons, president of Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove and Active Trans member. “It will be a bittersweet occasion, but a good way to connect the community.”

Congratulations to Elk Grove Village on the great addition to the Cook County Forest Preserves trail system, which will undoubtedly benefit thousands of people who walk and bike every year. And many thanks to all the local advocates (including many Active Trans members) who help push for the bridge.

Celebrating Chicagoland’s leaders in walking, biking and transit

Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses the crowd

Active Trans wants to thank everyone who attended our awards reception this week. We also want to thank the Revolution Brewery Tap Room for hosting the event and, of course, our honorees for their great work in continuing to turn the Chicago area into a hub of active transportation.

Our top award, The Extra Mile Award, went to Mayor Rahm Emanuel who, during his time in office has started the Divvy bike sharing program, installed many miles of innovative bike lanes, begun work on new bus rapid transit routes and overseen the reconstruction of the Red Line south.

A Public Leadership Award went to the City of Evanston for being the first Chicago suburb to put in protected bike lanes. And we want to commend the city for having 37.3 percent of its commuters use some form of active transportation. 

Public Leadership Awards also went to 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis and 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnet, all of whom have worked for better transportation in their wards by supporting protected bike lanes, launching bike education programs and welcoming Open Streets events.

 A Public Leadership Award also went to Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein for overseeing the rapid improvement of transportation in Chicago during the past couple of 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

Active Trans handed out Business Leadership Awards to bicycle component manufacturer SRAM and the e-commerce company Groupon. Both of these Chicago-based companies have shown their dedication to make the city a friendlier, more accessible place for bikers and walkers.

Congratulations to all our award recipients! And we’d again like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Revolution Brewery Tap Room for hosting and to all our attendees!

CDOT Commissoner Gabe Klein (left) with Burke





New Red Line south is looking good after one month of service

It’s been about a month since the reopening of the Red Line South, so it seemed like a good time to check on how the line has been running since its renovation.

During construction, the five month, $425 million dollar project shut down the 10-mile stretch of Red Line from Chinatown/Cermak south to 95th Street.

In that time, crews replaced over 65,000 railroad ties and 195,000 tons of ballast to eliminate slow zones and provide a smoother ride.

The early word is that things are looking good.

Active Trans board member Anne Alt takes the Red Line South once or twice a week, but started avoiding it six months before the repair because of slow service and a bumpy ride.

“I was experiencing trip times as long as 45-50 minutes between Cermak and 95th,” Alt said of the old Red Line. “Since the Red Line reopened in October, my trips have been reliably 20 minutes. The ride is smooth and comfortable. It's great to have a reliable Red Line South again.”

Another Red Line rider, Jeremy Cadiz, had similar feelings. “I don't take the Red Line South too often, but I have to say the service has improved drastically from when I last took it before renovations began in May,” said Cadiz. “I was pleasantly surprised how fast my commute was from Fullerton, a huge change from the much slower service before. I'm glad to see that the renovations have improved service as it is sorely needed in [the South Side].”

When the construction project was first announced, Active Trans wanted to ensure that the CTA would help meet all passenger needs during the shutdown of such an important piece of the city’s public transportation system. So  we drafted a Red Line South Riders Bill of Rights where, in addition to other considerations, we called for convenient alternate service, transparency from the CTA about the construction process and proactive communication between the community and residents.

Fortunately, the CTA did an excellent job meeting the needs of Chicagoland residents during the construction. The CTA also managed to complete the project on time and on budget. Great job CTA!

New York City’s West Side Highway conversion

 As Chicago begins a long process to reconstruct North Lake Shore Drive, one of our city’s most iconic streets, the Active Transportation Alliance and a coalition of 15 civic organizations in the city of Chicago are calling for a bold vision to better meet the needs of everyone who uses the lakefront.

On Wednesady at 12:15 p.m. Active Trans will partner with the Chicago Architecture Foundation to give a lunchtime lecture about our vision to improve transit along the lakefront, build a people-friendly roadway and provide better access to our parks.

Leading up to that event, we’re working with guest blogger Ian Adams to share a series of stories of how other cities are rethinking their waterfronts. Please enjoy these examples from other cities, which we hope offer inspiration for how Chicago could better tap our lakefront’s full potential and transform our waterfront into a people-friendly place.

New York City’s West Side Highway conversion

If you’ve ever been to Manhattan, you know that space is at a premium. New York works to make the most of the space it does have and use it efficiently (think small apartments, tall buildings and a park on an elevated rail line).

West Side Highway in disrepair
Renovated West Side Higway area

For decades, the West Side Highway was an exception to this rule. Originally built in the first half of the 20th Century, the elevated highway ran along the West Side of the island, cutting off the interior of Manhattan from the Hudson River Shoreline.

The road deteriorated throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s and there was wide recognition that it needed to be replaced: the crumbling elevated highway had a tendency to flood in heavy rains and had low speeds limits because of its tight curves and narrow entrance ramps.

Sound familiar? Chicago’s North Lakeshore Drive has also reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced. It too is plagued with high numbers of crashes and a large storm can send waves crashing down on the road and nearby Lakefront Trail.

Perhaps New York’s decision to use this opportunity to invest more in people-friendly infrastructure could serve as an example for Chicago.

The West Side Highway finally collapsed in December, 1973 under the weight of a heavy truck. This infrastructure sat unoccupied for years until its demolition was completed in 1989.

Rebuilding the elevated road came with a very high cost and lacked public support. Residents had grown accustomed to the West Side Highway being closed and the city was in dire financial straits. As a result, New York built a boulevard instead.

This new road was a much more balanced choice for the area. Although it maintained a major thoroughfare for vehicles, the design was safer and more aesthetically pleasing.

New York improved pedestrian access to the area and planted more trees and vegetation along the roadway. The city also built a bike path adjacent to the road.

In addition to all these improvements, the street proved much cheaper than rebuilding the elevated road and encouraged development in the area. By building a street with better bicycle and pedestrian features, New York invested in transportation options for all city residents. It focused on the best way to move people efficiently, not just the best way to move cars.

Chicago’s residents deserve a balanced approach to transportation investments as well. Over 100,000 people use the Lake Shore Drive corridor each day via public transit or bicycle.

This is in spite of the fact that buses are often significantly delayed in traffic and the Lakefront Trail is frequently overcrowded. If we improved these facilities with dedicated lanes for buses and expanded bike trails, thousands more would likely take advantage of this infrastructure as well.

For more on New York’s West Side Highway, please visit these links:

Portland’s visionary approach to waterfront parks

As Chicago begins a long process to reconstruct North Lake Shore Drive, one of our city’s most iconic streets, the Active Transportation Alliance and a coalition of 15 civic organizations in the city of Chicago are calling for a bold vision to better meet the needs of everyone who uses the lakefront.

Next week Active Trans will partner with the Chicago Architecture Foundation to give a lunchtime lecture about our vision to improve transit along the lakefront, build a people-friendly roadway and provide better access to our parks.

Leading up to that event, we’re working with guest blogger Ian Adams to share a series of stories of how other cities are rethinking their waterfronts. Please enjoy these examples from other cities, which we hope offer inspiration for how Chicago could better tap our lakefront’s full potential and transform our waterfront into a people-friendly place.

Portland’s visionary approach to waterfront parks

As a transportation advocate, I frequently find myself looking to Portland, Oregon for inspiration. From its infectious bike culture and walkable downtown to its investment in BRT, the city has established itself as a leader in active transportation.

Portland along the water

Another view of Portland's waterfront

Portland -- a city known for thinking ahead -- was one of the first cities to re-imagine what its waterfront could be. The city decided to replace a waterfront highway and develop a large park space flanked by a wide boulevard for vehicle traffic.

Portland thought outside the box and created a people-friendly space and increased nearby property values in the process, helping the entire downtown area become more pleasant and accessible.

Perhaps a similar change could be made to Chicago’s waterfront to better connect residents to Lake Michigan and to prepare us for a future of more active transportation as travel trends in our city continue to change.

Portland's Harbor Drive was the first limited access highway in Portland when it was constructed in 1950. However, it wasn’t long before Oregonians re-imagined a more balanced use for the space.

Portland eventually removed its waterfront highway, established a large park (named after the governor, who was a leader in the effort) and developed a boulevard to provide a thoroughfare for vehicles. Instead of a loud elevated highway cutting the waterfront in two, this tree-lined street is much more aesthetically pleasing, with calmer traffic and bike lanes in each direction.

Even today the city continues to make the area more pedestrian friendly by redesigning sections of the parkway. It’s a lesson that even after a roadway has been built it can benefit from redesign that improves its use and access.

This park space now allows for a wide variety of uses, from casual dog walking and joggers to beer festivals and symphony concerts. Portland created a space where all its citizens can feel welcome.

Infrastructure lasts for generations once it is built. As Chicagoans consider the city’s future of Lake Shore Drive, it is important that we consider trends that will help shape the future.

People are driving less, while using public transit and bicycles more. Shouldn't we have a lakefront that reflects this rich transportation diversity? Imagine dedicated lanes for the numerous buses which run along the drive, improving the commutes for the over 60,000 passengers a day that use these routes.

Across the nation, cities are reinventing their waterfront areas. Will Chicago take the next step to make itself a more vibrant and livable city?

For more, please check out these links:

This is a guest blog by Ian Adams. He is a volunteer with the Active Transportation Alliance

Engagement needed to create better biking in communities of color

A recent article highlighting Bread of Life Church’s bike club on Chicago’s South Side argues for thoughtful community engagement in planning new and innovative bike projects in communities of color. 

Controversy over new bike lanes in some African-American communities has sparked discussion about the perceived gentrifying effects of bike infrastructure and what is necessary to broaden support for biking in all communities.

The article cites a Portland bike lane project that required extensive community engagement in order to gain traction in a community that had historically experienced city-imposed change and underinvestment. A new plan with added community support includes the bike infrastructure as well as public art projects honoring the neighborhood’s history as Portland’s African American hub.


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