Bike tour highlights Des Plaines River Trail study

Do you enjoy walking, running or biking on the Des Plaines River Trail in northern Cook County?

Many people do, and we expect many more people would if there was safer and easier access to the trail.

To create improved trail access, a coalition of groups -- including Active Trans -- is in the process of completing a study that will offer ideas on how to make access to the trail safer and easier.

The study focuses on four key areas for improvement:

  • Trail crossings
  • Trail surface
  • Trail access using all modes of transportation
  • Wayfinding

Over the past year, hundreds of community members provided valuable suggestions about trail improvements via an online survey.

Last week, Active Trans organized a bike tour on the trail with project steering committee members, public officials and residents from nearby communities. The ride provided a perfect opportunity to talk with these people about recommendations contained in the plan (see photo).

After setting off from Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, participants toured planned projects along Central Road and discussed ideas for how to address challenging crossings like the one at Milwaukee Avenue and Winkelman Road.

One of the great features of this project is the way it’s bringing together a wide swath of organizations and municipalities to work together to improve the trail: Northwest Municipal Conference, representatives from the cities and villages along the trail, transit agencies, CMAP, the Cook County Forest Preserve District, Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways and various consultants.

We look forward to completing the study and helping communities along the trail make it easier for everyone to enjoy this regional treasure.

Take action to stop ban on pedicabs in the Loop

The Chicago Pedicab Association is calling on Chicago residents to sign a petition opposing a proposed city ordinance that would restrict access to the loop by pedicabs, or bicycle taxis.

Signatures are needed right away as the proposed ordinance will be reviewed at a City Council committee hearing on Tuesday April 29.

Pedicabs are a solution to traffic congestion and safety issues, not a cause. Sign the Chicago Pedicab Association’s petition here.

What’s in the proposed ordinance?

If passed, pedicabs would be banned entirely on State St. and Michigan Ave. between Oak and Congress, all day every day. Pedicabs would also be restricted from entering the Loop during rush hour (7-9, 4-6) weekdays, but not holidays.

Proponents of the ordinance say it’s about easing congestion and making our streets safer, but those arguments don’t hold up under much scrutiny. Pedicabs take up less space than private cars and taxis; we should be encouraging their use, not banning them from our car-clogged streets.

As for safety, pedicabs reduce car and taxi trips, which are the leading cause of crashes in these areas. Taxicabs are involved in a disproportionate amount of crashes, and pedicabs clearly don’t have the same destructive capacity as a speeding, 3,000 pound taxi.

Add your voice to those opposing this misguided ordinance. Sign the petition by Chicago Pedicab Association here.

Making Kedzie Ave. better for biking and walking

With help from a new upcoming study, Kedzie Ave. in East Garfield Park may become a better place for biking, walking and transit.

The Garfield Park Community Council was recently awarded a grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to do a study on Kedzie Ave. The study will look at ways of creating a safer, more attractive neighborhood that provides greater mobility to residents and visitors to access CTA and bus facilities, businesses, schools, parks and other destinations within the neighborhood.

The primary focus will be the existing CTA transit facilities serving the Kedzie corridor, including the Kedzie Green Line station, the #52 Kedzie/California bus and the #20 Madison bus, with additional consideration of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, local roads and the surrounding streetscape.

The study is the result of an effort that started a couple years ago when community residents came together over a shared concern for the safety of people biking and walking in the area.

To help address problems like broken a traffic signal, faded crosswalks, vacant lots and a lack of bike lanes, the community enlisted help from Better Blocks — an Active Trans program that works with residents in underserved neighborhoods to pursue changes that will make streets more inviting for people walking and cycling.

The Kedzie Corridor Steering Committee will host a public meeting for residents to learn about recent outreach efforts and suggestions made by the community. There will also be an opportunity for residents to add input about the plan and process. The meeting will be held May 8 at Marshall High School, 3205 W. Adams at 6 p.m.

Image courtesy of the CTA.

Active Trans staffer lauded by state’s attorney

Congratulations to Active Trans staff member Jason Jenkins for receiving the 2014 Victim Service Award from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The annual award honors citizens and organizations that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support and advocate for victims and their rights.

Jenkins, who was among four recipients to receive the award in a recent ceremony, was honored for his work on the case of Hector Avalos, who was killed by a driver while riding his bike home from work last December. The driver was charged with a felony aggravated DUI and two misdemeanor DUI charges.

“Our work with CPD and the state’s attorney’s office will hopefully strengthen our relationships with these agencies,” said Jenkins. “We hope that we can be allies in advocating for enforcement strategies that can improve safety for people biking and walking, as well as for justice for cyclists and pedestrians who have been injured by reckless drivers.”

“Many cyclists and pedestrians who are injured in crashes — often through no fault of their own — are typically unaware of their rights or what recourse they have,” said Jenkins.

“It is not uncommon for them to be carted off to the ER unconscious while the driver gives their version of the crash to the police,” he said. “Or if they are able to stay on the scene, they are often bruised and rattled with adrenaline and at a disadvantage when it comes to advocating for themselves. Add to that the prevalent bias against cyclists and pedestrians in crashes combined with a victim blaming culture and oftentimes the victim of crashes, the physically vulnerable bicyclist and pedestrian, wind up being re-victimized by a system that is not designed to protect their interests.”

“It’s important and meaningful for people in that position to have a knowledgeable advocate who can help look out for them,” said Jenkins.

The purpose of Active Trans’ Crash Support Program is also to provide the friends, relatives and coworkers of the victims of fatal crashes with opportunities to advocate for the slain cyclists as the case relating to their crashes proceeds through the courts.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be recognized for the work," said Jenkins. "But really, I share the award with the rest of the staff at Active Trans and our members, who have created the foundation and provided the environment for the work to happen in the first place.”

In addition to the current honor, Jenkins also received a special commendation from the Chicago Police Department earlier this year for his outreach work after a bicycle crash claimed the life of bicycle advocate Bobby Cann last May.

Photo shows Jason Jenkins at the podium and Cook County State's Attorny Anita Alvarez seated left of the podium

This blog post was written by Active Trans volunteer Lynda Barckert. 

Raffle prizes galore!

As we emerge from the long winter, we're beginning to see more people biking all over Chicagoland.

Have you gotten out for a ride? Did you check out your bike and put some air in your tires?

Get biking now and please join Active Trans for a beautiful car-free bike ride Sunday, May 25. 

Sign up now through Sunday, April 27 at 11:59 p.m. and you’ll also be entered into a raffle for cool prizes.

You could win:

  • A $250 MB Financial Bank gift card
  • A Schwinn bike from Kozy’s Cyclery
  • A Trek bike from Village Cycle Center
  • An overnight stay at the beautiful downtown Fairmont Chicago
  • Two passes to a WXRT-FM Studio X performance
  • Delicious Dark Matter Coffee
  • Revolution Brewery beer

Sign up before 11:59 p.m. on Sunday to get into the raffle! We promise you won’t regret it.

State bike plan signals new direction for IDOT

We were pleased to see the release of the first-ever Illinois Bike Transportation Plan earlier this week. We like the plan’s objectives and strategies for making Illinois communities better and safer places to bike and walk.

The plan is another sign of an improving commitment toward biking and walking at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). This is a big step given IDOT’s historically car-centric perspective that has de-prioritized biking and walking.

The plan primarily addresses how IDOT designs and manages state-administered roads, as well as the federal and state funding that IDOT distributes to local governments. This is good because state roads are often stressful to bike on or across because they

  • Frequently are wide, multi-lane roads with cars traveling at high speeds
  • Lack bike facilities
  • Tend to have intersections that are not designed to safely accommodate people on foot and bikes
  • Often have controlled crosswalks and bikeways that are spaced far apart

These same features can also make walking alongside or across state roads difficult, and the plan’s recommendations should also improve the pedestrian environment

Nowhere is the need for change more evident than metropolitan Chicago where state routes are often the least-friendly roads for biking and walking. About 9 percent or 2,775 miles of roads in the 6 county region (Cook, Lake, DuPage, Will, McHenry, Kane) are state routes.

Many state routes are crucial segments for biking and walking, serving as either the only through-road to get from point A to point B, like Randall Road in Elgin, or as a local street through Chicago or a suburb that connects neighborhoods, transit, schools and jobs like North Avenue, Golf Road and 159th Street.

With the state’s adoption of a Complete Streets policy in 2007, its plans to pilot-test protected bike lanes on state routes, and now the state bike plan, I think it’s fair to say IDOT is turning the corner, so to speak, toward a multi-modal approach that provides a range of transportation options for Illinois residents.

It’s a work in progress and we want to see these objectives put into action, but Governor Quinn and IDOT deserve credit for taking another important step in the right direction.

In metro Chicago, biking has roughly doubled in the past five years, and IDOT’s survey of Illinois residents shows that even more people would bike but for the fear of car traffic.

Bicycling will never achieve its full potential as an inexpensive, healthy, and fun way to get around unless it is comfortable and convenient to bike where people want to go. That means safer intersection designs, calmer streets and separation from cars on busy streets.

State announces $52.7 million of "transportation enhancement" projects

In the past week, the state committed to funding a variety of important biking and pedestrian projects through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP). The 71 projects are receiving support that totals $52.7 million.

Unfortunately, a new proposal to expand the Divvy bike sharing program in a couple of nearby suburbs and some Chicago neighborhoods was not included.

ITEP is federally funded and supports bike paths, walking trails, transit improvements, historic preservation and streetscape beautification projects.

Here are some of our favorite projects. Here's the complete list. 

  • Aurora: Kautz Rd. Multi-Use Path extension
  • Berwyn: East Ave. bike plan implementation, sidewalk improvements, citywide bike route signs, Berwyn Depot District beautification
  • Countryside: Brainard Ave. Multi-Use Path
  • Des Plaines: U.S. Route 12 (Rand Rd.) Sidepath
  • Du Page Co. Forest Preserves: County Farm Rd. bridge and trail improvements connecting Hawk Hollow and Mallard Lake Forest Preserves
  • Du Page Co. Forest Preserves: West Branch Regional Trail – Winfield Mounds to West DuPage Woods.
  • Evanston: Sheridan Rd./Chicago Ave. Bike Path
  • Glenview: Shermer Rd. Bike Path
  • Highland Park: Robert McClory Trail paving, Bike-Walk 2030 sharrows and signage
  • Lakemoor: Wegner-Darrell Pedestrian/Bike Path
  • Northbrook: On-street bicycle signs and pavement markings
  • Prospect Heights: Willow Rd. sidewalk improvement project
  • Rolling Meadows: Euclid Ave. Bike Path connecting to the Salt Creek Trail
  • Skokie: Howard St. Multi-Use Trail
  • University City: multi-use trail
  • Western Springs: Bemis Woods Bike Path extension to Wolf Rd. and Ogden Ave.

A proposal to expand the Divvy bike sharing network to the suburbs of Oak Park and Evanston, and the Chicago communities of Rogers Park, West Rogers Park, Austin and Garfield Park was not approved. Up to 66 bike share stations would have been added in these new service areas, including the first suburban locations.

Oak Park and Evanston border Chicago, which creates the opportunity for Divvy trips between Chicago and these communities. Moreover, both suburbs have high densities and ample transit stations, which are key ingredients for generating bike share trips that occur solely within each suburb, such as biking between neighborhoods and train stations or the local library.

Despite the setback, we think this expansion will eventually happen. The communities are already exploring other funding options. 

A day of volunteering: what’s the impact?

Volunteering is a fun way to be part of MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive on Sunday, May 25.

But did you know your volunteerism has a direct impact on Active Trans’ success? Each volunteer is a part of something larger.

Let’s take a look at how our volunteers fit into the bigger picture of Active Trans’ work.

Great volunteers = great events
Over 600 pre-event and day-of-event volunteers help the Active Trans staff produce MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive. Volunteers distribute registration materials, fix flat tires, pass out refreshments at the rest stops, cheer on riders and set up an amazing post-ride festival in Grant Park. Volunteer support makes it all come together into one memorable biking event.

Great events = fundraising
Over 20,000 people participate in MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive – all supported by our volunteer team. Proceeds from these registrations provide essential funding for our advocacy work.

Fundraising = great results for Chicagoland
Buoyed by volunteer support and event proceeds, Active Trans works to make Chicagoland a better place to walk, bike and take transit – in other words, a better place to live.

Here are just a few of the things we do around the region:

Help expand the region’s network of protected bike lanes    Bus Rapid Transit advocacy
Bike safety education and outreach   Trails advocacy

What’s the impact of volunteering?
All these project wins are made possible by our volunteers’ contribution of time, talent and hard work. Be part of this special group. Six hours goes a long way to make Chicago a more livable city in which to bike, walk and take transit.

Join us. Be part of the movement. Sign up to volunteer today.

How to improve the Lakefront Trail detour at Navy Pier

After years of anticipation, construction has finally begun on the Navy Pier Flyover. However, the current bike and pedestrian detour around the construction zone is leading to confusion and potentially unsafe conditions for people walking and biking.

The huge numbers of people that use the Lakefront Trail at peak times deserve a safe and easy to use detour throughout the duration of the construction.

When completed, the Flyover will carry people walking and riding bikes up and over the street-level congestion near Navy Pier, the popular tourist destination. Construction is slated to take several years, during which time Lakefront Trail users will be re-routed around the construction site.

Here’s a map of the current detour provided on the project website:

A bit confusing, wouldn't you say?

We’ve been hearing from many members and supporters with concerns about safety and ease of us for the thousands of people who walk or ride through this corridor everyday. So we went to scope out the situation first hand yesterday and then sent the following comments to CDOT on how they can improve the detour during construction of this exciting project:

Improve map: The detour map provided on www.navypierflyover.com is confusing. Separate routes should be marked for pedestrians and cyclists (ideally with different colors and patterns). This map, along with information about the Flyover, should also be prominently displayed in Jane Addams Park.

Separate modes: Currently the detour consists of pedestrian only routes and shared ped/bike routes. Given the high number of lakefront trail users, we believe separation of modes would be preferable and separate detours should be provided for people walking and riding bikes.

Provide alternate on-street route: In addition to being a popular recreation destination, the Lakefront Trail is also a key bike commuter corridor. More seasoned riders may prefer to take an alternative on-street route rather than ride through the construction zone. CDOT should develop alternative routes that enable seasoned bike commuters to bypass the construction.

Ensure detour meets trail design standards: On the north end of the construction zone, the detour leads users onto a sidewalk that is too narrow and does not meet the Lakefront Trail design standards. We are concerned the heavy volume of mixed traffic may result in an uncomfortable experience for cyclists and pedestrians, and may lead to increased incidence of crashes. Given the long term duration of the project, we recommend this segment be widened to align with existing lakefront trail design standards.

In addition, the detour instructs cyclists to use the north side of Illinois, however this route forces people riding bikes into an unsafe bottleneck at the intersection of Illinois and Streeter Dr. Currently, on part of the segment of Illinois between Lower LSD and Streeter Dr. jersey barriers are being used to create, what appears to be, a temporary on-street path over the fire lane adjacent to Lake Point Tower (LPT). However, this path stops abruptly at a LPT driveway/loading dock and was obstructed by illegally parked cars during our observations. This is not a sufficient accommodation for peak hour volume of bicycle traffic.

Improve signage and markings: In order to clarify the recommended trail routing for through trail traffic as well as people walking or biking to Navy Pier, detour signs should say "Lakefront Trail Detour" in addition to "Bike/Ped Detour." Perhaps spray paint or temporary spray chalk stencils could also complement signage to direct users to the proper route for their specific mode and destination.

In addition to routing signs, at the entry points of detours signs should explain in text or visually the routes for bikes/peds (i.e. Lower LSD closed to bike traffic between Grand and Illinois. Use Streeter Dr. to access southbound trail at Illinois.) Detour warning signs placed in advance of the detour could help alert trail users to the approaching detour and encourage them to be cautious through the construction zone.

If you have identified other issues or have other ideas on how to improve the detour, leave us a note in the comments or shoot me an email at jim@activetrans.org. We’ll be sure your comments and concerns make it to the good people at CDOT working on this exciting project.

Clarifying our position on proposed e-bike ordinance

Active Trans made a mistake the other day. We stated our support in the news media for a recently proposed Chicago e-bike ordinance, when in fact the ordinance contains a provision that we’re opposed to.

The ordinance includes several stipulations about e-bikes that we support:

  • Speeds can’t exceed 20 mph.
  • No one can operate them under the age of 16.
  • They can be used in the existing bike lanes in Chicago.

The problem we have with the proposed ordinance is that it also applies to bikes that are gas-powered.

This past November, 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack proposed a similar ordinance that did not apply to gas-powered bikes. Active Trans made the mistake of assuming that the new ordinance proposed by Waguespack and 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno was the same as Waguespack’s earlier e-bike ordinance.

Gas-powered bikes do not belong in bike lanes because they can be noisy, they emit noxious fumes and they tend to be more powerful.

We like e-bikes because they are a cleaner alternative while providing assistance to individuals — like older people and people who are disabled — who need extra help getting around on a bicycle. In fact, we have been contacted by people with health problems who tell us that e-bikes have allowed them to continue to get around on bikes — an option they would otherwise not have.

Active Trans supports allowing people to ride e-bikes in bike lanes as long as the speeds they travel are close to the speeds of people using conventional bikes.

We have contacted Ald. Waguespack to voice our opposition to the provision for gas-powered bikes in the ordinance. Stay tuned. 

Photo courtesy of Wanderbikes. 

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