Bronzeville Bike Builder — creating the next generation of people who bike

The TAG Foundation, a non-profit committed to the health and wellness of local residents, had a mission – distribute 500 bicycles to youth in Bronzeville.

So on a recent Saturday, the foundation’s goal was accomplished with the help of Working Bikes (which supplied the bikes), local Bronzeville biking organizations, social agencies, schools, faith-based institutions and Active Trans.

For the bike distribution event, dubbed the Bronzeville Bike Builder, children ages 13 and under lined up outside of Wendell Philips High School starting at 7:30 a.m., waiting for their opportunity to pick out a bike.

“These bikes are not only for the smartest or the poorest or the most politically connected children of the community,” said Angela Ford, TAG Foundation executive director. “They are for the most passionate children interested in riding a bicycle.”

At 9 a.m., when the doors opened, children and parents received a Chicago Bicycle Map and a bike safety guide and then participated in a bike safety class. Wendell Philips Academy High School students explained the rules of the road and taught children how to use hand-signals while riding and how to conduct an ABC (air-break-chain) quick check.

After the training, Children entered rooms filled with hundreds of refurbished bikes of all colors and styles. Children shopped for the bike that called out their name.

Working Bikes staff and other volunteers helped adjust seats and handlebars and passed out helmets and U-locks. Before children could take their new bikes home, the final step was completing a cycling course in the high school parking lot led by the Chicago Bicycle Ambassadors.

“It was one of the best events I’ve had the fortune to be a part of,” said Charlie Short, CDOT’s Bike Safety and Education Manager. “Angela did a great job not only in putting the event together, but getting people that supported the mission. I worked with 7 young people who volunteered their Saturday to help kids not only ride better, but in some cases, ride for the first time.”

By the afternoon, 500 children in Bronzeville had earned their own bicycle.

The TAG Foundation’s goal is to distribute 500 children’s bikes in different Chicago neighborhoods, at least once a year. If you have an old child’s bike sitting in storage that you would like to pass along for the next generation of bicyclists, visit

“I’m glad to see the city move towards encouraging more bicycling,” said Ford. “I am still friends with most of the children from my youth. As we all turn 50 this year, we still laugh at all of the adventures we had with our bikes. Those bonds and memories will last to the end of our days! I wanted to help a new generation create the same lasting memories. It is my firm belief, one is never unhappy on a bicycle.”

The Bike Commuter Challenge (June 13-20) is coming and we want you (yes, you) to participate!

Join the friendly competition – workplace against workplace – to see which workplace team has the most employees biking to or from work. This challenge is for newbies and experts alike, and we’ll provide the tools to get you rolling. If you’ve been waiting to try it out, this is the time to bike to work!

Have you seen our new Bike Commuter Challenge video? Check it out:

Biking in Chicagoland is easy! No, really!! Check out our handy Everyday Biking Guide for everything you need to know about getting to or from work safely and comfortably. Also be sure to check out the Celebrations happening before and after work during the Bike Commuter Challenge.

Team Leader T-Shirt

Are you ready? Sign up for the Bike Commuter Challenge here.

Would you like to be the one that leads your Bike Commuter Challenge team to victory? Participants who sign up for the Bike Commuter Challenge as a team leader get a free t-shirt! Check it out:

Did you know Team Leaders also get a free water bottle cage for their bike? It’s true! We’ll also give you all the tools you need to get your office going on two wheels. Team Leader toolkits are available for pick up now.

So what are you waiting for? Sign Up Today!

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements here, at, as well as on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, for further info including our line-up great Bike Commuter Challenge events!

Registration for the 2014 Bike Commuter Challenge is now open!

Now in its 23rd year, Active Transportation Alliance’s annual Bike Commuter Challenge, taking place June 13-20, is open for registration!

Like last year, you will be able to track your bike commuting trips, view your and your team’s stats (miles biked, CO2 saved and calories burned), find resources on how to bike safely and comfortably, download helpful team leader tools and more!

So join the friendly competition – workplace against workplace – to see which workplace team has the most employees biking to or from work. This competition is for newbies and experts alike, and we’ll provide the tools to get you rolling. If you’ve been waiting to try it out, this is the time to bike to work!

Sign Up Now!

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements here, at, as well as our Twitter and Facebook feeds, for Team Leader tools and our line-up great Bike Commuter Challenge events! SIGN UP TODAY!

Bike to School Day a success in District 15

This is a guest blog post by Ralph Banasiak, an eighth-grade math teacher in Community Consolidated School District 15.

Student bike riders in the northwest suburbs of Chicago embraced Bike to School Day in a big way on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. More than 500 students from one junior high and five elementary schools in Community Consolidated District 15 rode their bikes to school through Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Hoffman Estates.

The Bike Palatine Club (BPC) sponsored the Bike to School Day initiative, conducting a bike raffle and two workshops in the weeks leading up to the event.

Workshops included an ABC (air, brakes and chain) clinic, screening of a traffic safety video and a bicycle safety evaluation with a Palatine police officer. Every elementary student who rode to school received a bike sticker courtesy of the club.

Mikes Bike Shop in Palatine and the Palatine Park District also chipped in to make Bike to School Day a success. Mikes provided Palatine’s Winston Campus Junior High with a bike and several discounted bike accessories for its school-wide raffle, as well as free water bottles for Winston riders.

The Palatine Park District delivered and assembled additional bike racks for each school in order to accommodate the hundreds of extra bikes.

“A special shout-out is in order to the Palatine Park District for its assistance with the additional racks it provided,” said Kevin Keehn, a retired District 15 teacher and BPC vice-president. “None of the schools were set up to handle so many extra bikes on Bike to School Day.”

For more information on the Bike Palatine Club, visit

Ride on Chicago: riding across the Midwest for safer cycling

“This is the bike ride for better biking,” writes author and Chicago native Tom Vanderbilt in this piece for Outside magazine. The ride in question is the “Ride on Chicago,” a five-day, 485-mile bike ride that began in Kansas City, Missouri yesterday and ends in Chicago’s Millennium Park on Monday, June 2. 

 Jamie KripkeThe ride will raise money for People for Bikes, a Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit that aims to improve cycling conditions in communities across America. The 20 or so riders will meet with local officials, cyclists and cycling advocates along the route in order to raise awareness of safe cycling. 

The ride, now in its fourth year, traditionally took place on the East Coast. This year, however, professional cyclist and founder Tim Johnson brought it to the Midwest in order to celebrate recent advances in safe cycling, such as the Divvy program and Chicago’s growing network of protected bike lanes.

Just over 20 cyclists will be participating in the ride, including Vanderbilt, professional road racing cyclist Christian Vande Velde and Kickstarter co-founder Charles Adler. Active Trans Executive Director Ron Burke will be joining the ride on the final leg of the journey.

Everyone is welcome to join the cyclists for the last 10 miles into Chicago or to meet them along their route, information about which may be found at Those interested can also donate to the ride at



Take Evanston’s bike plan survey to support next-generation bike facilities, oppose bike bans

Evanston is moving forward with an exciting update to their bike plan, and they are asking people who live, work or visit to weigh in on a new survey.

We’re thrilled to see Evanston leading the way on bringing next-generation bike facilities to the Chicago suburbs. The draft plan includes "comfort corridors" that would create low-stress routes for people riding bikes throughout the city.

Ideas like these are on the cutting edge of bike planning for suburban communities.

While most of the survey questions are about making streets safer and more bike-friendly, we are concerned that the new survey includes questions about possibly banning bikes on certain roads, including key destinations like retail corridors.

Tell Evanston to scrap the ban idea and stay with its current approach of developing comfortable biking routes that connect key destinations, so people don’t need to bike on high stress streets.

Take the survey.

Don’t become a dooring statistic

Until relatively recently, no real data existed on the number of doorings occurring in the city of Chicago or state of Illinois. As a result, we could only make a guess about the seriousness of the problem.

Then progress occurred in 2008 when the city of Chicago passed an ordinance that addressed dooring a cyclist. This meant officers would begin generating better statistics.

And in 2011 Active Trans won a legislative victory by convincing the Illinois Department of Transportation to begin counting doorings as crashes and begin tracking them.

And last summer, Chicago City Council increased the fine for someone who causes a dooring crash to $1,000.

Another victory occurred when the city of Chicago started requiring all taxis to install stickers on their passenger windows asking their fares to look for cyclists and pedestrians when exiting (see sticker graphic right).

Now we know that 1 out of 5 of Chicago's bicycle crashes occur when someone opens a car doors in the path of a person biking.

There are a number of precautions people biking can take to avoid getting doored. The most important strategy is to avoid the “door zone” as much as possible.

Avoiding the door zone — the area within 4 feet of a car — means riding on the far left side of the bike lane, closer to moving traffic than you may initially be comfortable with.

But as long as the roadway is wide enough and you are riding visibly and predictably in a straight line, the dangers associated with drivers passing too closely are manageable and far less than those of being doored.

If there isn’t enough room to ride four feet from parked cars and still provide passing motorists with the minimum 3 feet of required safe passing distance, it may be safer to move to the center of the lane (“take the lane”) for a brief period to prevent unsafe passing.

If this is only necessary for short distances, and doesn’t create undue delays for motorists, or if you’re travelling at the same speed as traffic, riding in the travel lane is often safer than riding in the “no man’s land” between the travel lane and the door zone.

If you do find it necessary to take the lane for long stretches in order to avoid the door zone and prevent unsafe passing, holding up faster moving traffic in the process, consider an alternate route with calmer traffic.

Also, be on the lookout for doors opening to your left. Whenever passing a line of cars stopped in traffic to your left, keep in mind that passengers may exit midblock, creating another door zone to your left.

If you find yourself trapped between door zones with stopped traffic on the left, parked autos on the right, slow down and proceed with caution while covering your brake. The few extra seconds it may cost you will be worth it in the end.

Our new bike education program will get kids rolling

This month marks the launch of a new Active Trans pilot program, Bikes on Wheels. The gist of the program is this: Active Trans loans a 20-foot trailer, 30 single-speed children’s bicycles, helmets and the necessary bike maintenance tools to a community, free of charge, for a year. Oak Park is the first community to participate in the program.

Earlier today, dozens of students at Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park made use of the new bikes while learning bicycling skills like using hand signals, helmet use and basic handling skills like starting, stopping and turning.

Active Trans hopes to bring the trailer to eight Oak Park schools during the course of this year’s program – six schools in the spring and another two in the fall. In the summer, when children will not be in class, the Oak Park Park District will have use of the bicycles for summer camps.

Oak Park Police officers were at the Whittier Elementary bike education event to help direct students through the skills course and reinforce the messages of safe cycling. Also on hand at the kickoff event were representatives from the Oak Park School District, the Oak Park village offices, the Oak Park Cycling Club and Oak Park Park District.

“We’re really pleased to see the kids on the bikes learning safety skills,” said Lisa Schwartz, Oak Park School District Curriculum Director. “This fits very well with the school district’s wellness initiatives.”

Though the trailer will move on to the next community after a year is up, our hope is that the program will create a chain reaction in its participants, inspiring them to purchase their own fleet of bikes for community use. Oak Park has already applied for a state grant for this purpose.

The bikes were purchased thanks to donations from a variety of sources, including the Specialized bicycle company.

At the moment, only communities that have previously worked with Active Trans are in the running to take part in Bikes on Wheels, which requires collaboration between park districts, school districts and Active Trans staff, as well as local businesses and organizations such as bicycle clubs.

But any enthusiastic community has the potential to be in the running, so contact Active Trans if you’re interested in Bikes on Wheels in your town. Contact for more information.

Thanks for the ride, Mr. Powell!

There’s a reason taking the bus or train is called “public transportation” or “mass transit.” It involves a lot of people getting around together.

I’ve always been a fan of taking transit because of the opportunity to get somewhere and hopefully have positive interactions with other people. For me, it’s about the journey. Sometimes it can be repetitive or dull, but more often, I enjoy the opportunity for reading, listening to music or getting crushed by my free chess app.

Over the years, I’ve had wonderful interactions with other people on the bus or train, and also with operators and conductors from Pace, Metra and CTA.

One of the most engaging, friendly CTA staff people I’ve ever met is Michael Powell. During his 36 years as a CTA train conductor and operator, Powell made a deep and lasting impression on countless people who rode his train.

If you ever took the Red Line and your operator told you, “May the Force be with you” or “it’s only Monday — the Bears will win next week” or “If you just woke up, that last stop was Belmont,” that was Powell.

He would frequently chat and connect with passengers. Not at every stop, but always in a way that made a difference in your commute.

At the end of his career, I was fortunate enough to be taking the train to work more often instead of my more usual bike commuting (thanks, polar vortex).

In December 2013, Powell (pictured right) started sharing with riders comments like “thanks for riding everyone, I’ll be retiring at the end of the year” and “my name is Michael, I’m retiring soon, I’ve got a granddaughter on the way and a lot to look forward to, it’s been good knowing you.”

Passengers around me would shout out and talk about what a great guy he is and how much they would miss him. Dozens of people would rush off the train at each stop and go to the front car to shake his hand or take a picture with him.

Powell grew up in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and attended University of Illinois at Chicago. After college, he applied for numerous jobs, including ones with the Chicago Fire Department and CTA.

In 1978 he started working as a conductor on what is now the Brown Line.

He met his wife, Elaine, on the train. They had their first date at a pizza joint near the Kedzie stop on the Brown Line.

With their first grandchild on the way, Powell is shifting into retirement. He and his wife hope to travel more together — by train of course.

And Powell will continue to expand his model train empire that covers almost their entire basement. “When I was a kid, I just dreamed of having something like this,” he said.

Many articles have been written about Powell. One of Powell’s frequent passengers, Melissa Thornely, even created a video short of his last ride. 

Powell’s wife Elaine and some of their kids appear in the video. “I met him on the train,” said Elaine Powell. “I might as well ride the last one with him.”

We hope Elaine and Michael Powell have many more train rides ahead as they travel around the country.

Mr. Powell, may the Force be with you, always.

Video credit Melissa Thornley with the assistance of Cutters Studio.

One more sign that bike sharing has come of age in Chicago

Active Trans is excited with today’s announcement that Divvy landed a $12.5 million sponsorship arrangement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. Bike sharing is now poised to have an even greater impact on the way people get around Chicago.

The sponsorship deal will last over a five year period. The city plans to use the $2.5 million in annual funds from the partnership to expand the Divvy system and enhance bicycling in Chicago.

The funds will be used for securing equipment to sweep and plow bike lanes; more bike lane materials like bollards, signage and striping; and more bike ambassadors on the streets to educate people about bike safety.

By the end of this year, Divvy plans to increase the number of docking stations in the city from 300 to 475. Chicago will then have the highest number of bike share stations in the nation.

We like how this new sponsorship arrangement will benefit Divvy riders as well as anyone who rides a bike in Chicago. And we like the way sponsorship emphasizes the connection between biking for transportation and better public health.

Less than one year after its launch, Divvy has been a resounding success. Last week, Divvy announced it reached one million trips totaling 2.5 million miles. That's a lot of pedaling!

If you're not a Divvy member, now is the time to join. New and renewing Active Trans members receive a $10 discount on annual Divvy memberships.

Photo courtesy of Divvy. 

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