Lake St. protected bike lane can be success with some TLC

A recent Tribune story about Chicago bike lanes zeroed in on problems with the advanced bike lane on Lake St., which currently runs from Damen to Central Park and is scheduled for an extension to Austin Blvd.

I ride this corridor a lot to and from Oak Park where I live, and I often avoid the Lake St. lane because the glass and debris problem is so prodigious.

The pavement condition is lousy, too, and you’ll typically encounter a few cars parked in the lane. Liquor bottles are the main source of glass, along with broken car windows and years of glass accumulation.

It’s good the article calls attention to these problems, and CDOT is well aware and working to clean the lane more frequently. Lake is also slated for repaving, which will help a great deal.

I have heard from many suburban commuters and Chicago residents who are excited about the extension. But the story quotes some who oppose extending the lane on the assumption that the glass and debris problem will continue, and they won’t be able to use Lake St.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The city just needs to clean the lane more often. Then it will be a good bike lane that will also narrow Lake St and calm traffic that currently travels fast and recklessly, weaving between El supports and using empty parking spaces for additional travel lanes.

With El tracks overhead and the debris problems, Lake St. isn’t ideal for a bike lane. But then again, every street on the underserved and depressed West Side has issues. Lake is the only continuous corridor on the West Side that CDOT believes they can run an advanced bike lane all the way to the border with Oak Park, serving as a “Spoke Route” for the broader Streets for Cycling Plan.

The West Side deserves good bike facilities, too, and with more TLC and more bikes (which I believe will happen over time), the Lake Street lane can be an important segment in the city’s bike network.

One thing is for sure: it’s pretty cool that we are in a place to debate where to put protected bike lanes, when less than four years ago they weren’t even on the table.

Let's restore equity to commuter benefit

Six members of Congress from the Chicago region recently urged Congressional leadership to restore equity to the widely popular commuter benefit that currently favors drivers over those who ride public transit to work in Chicago and across the country.

The commuter benefit is an employer-provided federal tax benefit that allows commuters to purchase transit passes, carpooling rides or parking tax free. Citing the many benefits of riding transit, the members called attention to the gap between the monthly limit for the parking benefit – $250 per month – and the transit benefit, only $130 per month.

The benefits were the same until Congress failed to act last year, allowing the transit benefit to drop from $245 to $130 per month, while the parking benefit rose $5 a month.

In their joint letter to the chairman and ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the members said this drop costs transit riders as much as $100 per month.

All six members who signed the letter are currently co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill in the House (Commuter Parity Act – H.R. 2288) to restore parity to the benefit, including Representatives Dan Lipinski, Mike Quigley, Brad Schneider, Bill Foster, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky.

Riding transit helps reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and save energy throughout the region.

Join our local members of congress and transit supporters across the country in urging congress to take immediate action to restore parity between the parking and transit benefits. The commuter benefit should apply equitably, regardless of how one gets to work.

Sign on to a letter to your local member of Congress here.

West Town and Lakeview launch Bike-Friendly Business Districts

By Marianna Foral, Active Trans Campaign Intern

This week, Active Trans is partnering with the West Town and Lakeview Chambers of Commerce to launch Bike-Friendly Business Districts in their communities. The districts are the first of their kind in Chicago and intend to encourage cycling as part of their neighborhood identities through new discount programs for customers who arrive by bike and a number of bike-focused events.

Bike Friendly Business Districts are commercial zones where local business owners, community groups and residents actively promote biking in their neighborhood through special promotions, public events, and improving conditions for cycling. The Bike Friendly Business District model has flourished in cities like Long Beach, CA and New York, and it makes sense.

“Slower speeds increase the visibility of storefronts, helping to convert passers-by into loyal customers,” notes Kace Wakem, program manager at the West Town Chamber of Commerce. Studies also show that although customers who arrive by bike spend less per trip, they will visit more frequently and spend more per month than customers in cars.

West Town and Lakeview already have a thriving bicycle culture. The Milwaukee Avenue protected “Spoke Route” through West Town and the Lakefront Trail through Lakeview are two of the heaviest bike-trafficked roads of their kind in the country. With the city investing in safer bikeways and the Divvy bikeshare initiative, more and more people are using bicycles in their daily lives and local businesses recognize an opportunity to benefit.

Fittingly, West Town and Lakeview Bike Friendly Business Districts are kicking off during Chicago’s Bike Week, which starts June 13 and runs through June 20. In addition to the commitment of over 60 businesses participating in the neighborhood discount program, there will also be a number of events s in each neighborhood.

Saturday June 14
Lakeview: Schubas Bike Bash, at 3159 N Southport, 12-4PM: Kick off Bike Week with bike tune-ups, demos, raffle prizes and workshops, as well as BBQ and music.

Monday, June 16
Lakeview: On the Route Bicycles Commuter Pit Stop, at Lincoln and Barry, 6:30-9AM, with support from Whole Foods: Stop for free coffee, giveaways and bike mechanic.

Tuesday, June 17
Lakeview: Heritage Bicycles Commuter Pit Stop at Lincoln and Wellington, 6:30-9AM, with support from Whole Foods: Stop for free coffee, giveaways and bike mechanic.

West Town: Paramount Room, After Work Happy Hour and Pit Stop at 415 N. Milwaukee, 4-8PM, featuring: 20% Off Food and a $4 Craft Beer Pints all night, cyclist networking, presentations from a bike advocacy group, bike maintenance demos, and complimentary passed hors d'ouevres

Wednesday, June 18
West Town: Frontier, “Bikes Stunts and Oysters” at 1072 N. Milwaukee 4-9PM, Patio Happy Hour Oyster Boil featuring: $12 Boiled Dozens and $1 Raw Oysters, $5 Half Acre Family Tall Boys, and BMX Demos from Let's Roast Bike Shop starting at 6pm

Thursday, June 19
West Town: Duran European Sandwiches, “Brake for Breakfast” at 516 N. Milwaukee, 7-10AM, $3 for choice of bagel and smear and La Colombe coffee, or a made-to-order bagel sandwich with coffee for $5

Friday, June 20
West Town: Ancien Cycles, 6-9PM Live Music, Beer, Free Burgers & Pho-Style Soup

Find participating businesses in both neighborhoods and links to each community's webpage at our Bike Friendly Business District homepage.


Mark your calendar: More Bike Commuter Challenge (June 13-20) events announced!

Between the City of Chicago’s Bike Week Events and our Bike Commuter Challenge events, there are plenty of opportunities for you to have fun on two wheels.

Looking for something to do on your bike commute to or from work?

We’ve got some morning celebrations for you to stop by and fuel up with a free Clif Bar and a cup of Dark Matter coffee, get your bike checked out and open or renew your Active Transportation Alliance membership.

Whether you’re a Chicagoan or a suburbanite, we’ve also got some great evening celebrations that will allow you to meet with fellow bike commuters over some discounted food and Revolution Brewery beer. Check out our morning and evening celebrations here.

Are you going to be anywhere near downtown?

The city of Chicago has some great bike-centered events lined up including a showing of Rushmore in Millenium Park, a two-hour bike tour of the Near North side, an instructor-led and DJ-accompanied evening outdoor spin class under Cloud Gate and more! Click here for further details.

Not registered for the Bike Commuter Challenge yet?

Go to to join the challenge and get all the info you need to get going on two wheels. Biking one part of your commute to or from work for one day counts! Just be sure to log all your bike trips before June 30.

Did you know we’re throwing a party?

We’ll be celebrating with team leaders and winning teams on Tuesday July 22 at DIRTT. Save the date!
Stay tuned for upcoming announcements here, at, as well as on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

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.

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