Vision Zero campaign aims to eliminate traffic fatalities

James Bausch had just bought an engagement ring for his girlfriend Amanda Annis when he biked by a crash scene. Less than an hour later, he learned the crushing news: that his girlfriend had been hit and killed at that scene by a driver who ran a red light.

James told us that “nobody should have to go through what Mandy’s family and I went through in losing someone we loved to a preventable traffic crash.” 

Tragedies like this are not inevitable, are not acceptable, and should be not be forgotten in the debate about traffic safety and red light cameras.  

With this in mind, Active Trans was joined today by physicians, traffic safety experts and victims of traffic crashes in calling on Chicago’s elected leaders and candidates for elected office to support a comprehensive “Vision Zero” strategy to consistently reduce traffic injuries and eventually eliminate traffic fatalities.

In 2012, there were more than 77,000 reported traffic crashes in the city of Chicago that significantly injured nearly 21,000 people and killed 145 people -- which is about 55 people per day injured or killed in Chicago traffic crashes.

In the Chicago suburbs, the number of injuries and fatalities are roughly one-and-a-half times the Chicago totals. Because crashes and injuries are often unreported or misreported, the actual numbers are likely higher.

Vision Zero is an international traffic safety movement guided by the principle that no loss of life on our streets is acceptable. Traffic crashes are not mere “accidents,” but preventable incidents that can be reduced and eliminated with systemic changes.

Photo enforcement is one tool that’s been used internationally and across the U.S. to advance Vision Zero goals along with public awareness and education programs, policy changes, and improvements to traffic engineering and street design.

We also called for the creation of an independent task force to help develop and evaluate a comprehensive Vision Zero action plan. 

In the past year, the cities of New YorkSan Francisco and Seattle have all committed to Vision Zero and published detailed action plans that aim to reduce and ultimately eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries, and several other cities are already working on similar plans.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has adopted a goal of reaching zero traffic fatalities by 2022. In pursuit of that goal, CDOT has been implementing various strategies that would contribute to a comprehensive plan.

We are committed to Vision Zero and hope you will join us by signing our petition to elected officials.

We cannot forget the tens of thousands of people like Amanda Annis who have been and will be injured and killed in traffic crashes unless we take traffic crashes seriously and implement a Vision Zero strategy.  

Photo above courtesy of Steven Gross. 

Sun-Times op-ed: Why Chicago needs rapid transit on Ashland

It’s election season and the proposed rapid transit line on Ashland has been in the news.

Unfortunately, though, there have been many misperceptions about the project going around and little focus on the positive impact it would have on our neighborhoods.

Our Executive Director Ron Burke and Jacky Grimshaw, vice president for policy at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), sought to change that with a recent op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Although there are reasonable concerns being voiced, some residents simply believe that preserving all four lanes of car traffic and every left-hand turn on Ashland Avenue is more important than expanding the city’s rapid transit network for the millions of Chicagoans who use it every day. They are entitled to their opinions, but our elected officials shouldn’t buy the false populism they are selling. Downtown Chicago is important, but so is every other Chicago community. It’s time to support our communities and everyday Chicago transit riders by connecting Chicago’s neighborhoods with rapid transit on Ashland.

Read and share Ron and Jacky’s op-ed with your network.

We’re partners with CNT on the Transit Future campaign, which aims to establish a revenue stream at the county level to fund transit improvements and expansion.

The Ashland rapid transit project is part of our campaign vision, and if the campaign is successful the project and others like it are much more likely to get funded.

Show your support for rapid transit on Ashland and other expansion projects by contacting your county commissioner about Transit Future today.

Why institutionalizing speeding is a bad idea

In the latest Chicago Tribune story on the city’s photo enforcement program, the reporter quotes national safety experts who seem more concerned with keeping cars moving as fast as possible than making our streets safer.

The Trib uses its handpicked experts to make the case that Chicago’s yellow light times are too short and we should lengthen the time to accommodate drivers who are already speeding – and even consider raising our speed limits.

"What I see here tells me that in many cases throughout the city the yellow lights are too short and the speed limits are too low," safety consultant Hugh McGee says in the story. "That is a problem."

Contrary to this traffic consultant’s view, the city should prioritize reducing speeds rather than lengthening yellow light phases. We should be doing more to ensure that drivers are travelling at the appropriate speed to stop or get through an intersection in a reasonable amount of time.

Speeding kills and seriously injures thousands of people walking, riding bikes and driving in Chicago every year. Last year, there were more than 77,000 traffic crashes in Chicago that caused nearly 21,000 significant injuries and killed 145 people.  

In urban areas with high volumes of people like Chicago, we should be doing more to design our roadways and enforce existing laws to calm traffic to appropriate speeds, not doubling down and institutionalizing dangerous road behavior.

Heather Schady is the senior transportation planner at Active Trans.

Let's ensure suburban candidates support biking, walking and transit

As voters in Chicago prepare to vote in runoff elections on April 7 for mayor and 19 city council seats, suburban voters will go to the polls that same day to elect leaders with the potential to shape the future of biking, walking and public transit in the suburbs.

Based on input from our members and supporters throughout the region, we have released our 2015 Suburban Active Transportation Platform.

Like our city platform, the suburban platform urges candidates to support building safer streets and trails for everyone, and promoting safe and responsible among all users of the road.

Specific action items include the following:

  • Develop and implement bike plans that give priority to networks of family friendly bikeways, such as protected bike lanes, bike boulevards, sidepaths and off-street trails.
  • Commit to making pedestrian safety improvements a priority at the most dangerous intersections and crossings.
  • Support regional efforts to identify new revenue sources to support maintenance and expansion of public transit.
  • Identify targeted funding for police to increase education and enforcement around distracted driving and Illinois’ must stop for pedestrian law.

While Active Trans does not endorse candidates, we encourage suburban members and supporters to talk to members of their communities about these critical bike/walk/transit issues and ask candidates to share their views.

Social media and your local bike shops and clubs can be great venues to connect with members and supporters in your community.

We’ve compiled the following list of possible questions for suburban candidates as a guide, and we urge you to develop your own based on local insight and information.

  • Do you support the development of a community bike network that is safe and comfortable for all to use?
  • Do you support prioritizing pedestrian safety improvements at our most dangerous intersections?
  • Do you support efforts to increase regional investment in new public transit infrastructure?
  • Do you support increased enforcement of traffic laws, including photo/video enforcement?
  • Do you support efforts to encourage children to bike and walk to school through education and infrastructure improvements?

You can register to vote or update your registration on the State Board of Elections website until Tuesday, March 7, and grace period registration continues through April 4.

More information about your local suburban election can be found on your county board of election website: suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will.

Photo courtesy of; Dan Burden. 

Crain's op-ed: Rauner's budget aims to run transit funding off the rails

Our Executive Director Ron Burke has a strong op-ed in today's Crain's Chicago Business about Governor Rauner's proposed transit cuts:

"With more Chicagoans of all ages choosing to ride transit every year, we should be investing more to build a transit system that better serves our neighborhoods and connects people to job centers in the city and suburbs, rather than slashing funding for an already underfunded system."

Read and share Ron's op-ed with your network.

Then take action against the cuts today by signing a letter to the Governor's office and your state legislators.

We can't afford to allow our region's transit system to fall further behind.

// @activetrans

Photo courtesy of Accelerate Illinois. 

Chicagoans are hopeful Loop Link will make it easier to travel across Loop

The challenge of moving east or west across the Loop is familiar to anyone who has ever battled the daily congestion downtown, particularly during the morning and evening rush.

A new rapid transit corridor is designed to make those trips faster, safer and more convenient, whether you're walking, riding your bike or riding transit.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA) unveiled the branding for the Loop Link Monday, and released a construction schedule for the new rapid transit corridor scheduled to be completed in 2015. Features include dedicated bus lanes on Washington and Madison, and connections to Ogilvie and Union Stations in the West Loop, as well as improved space and safety for people walking and riding bikes.

You can see maps and images here and more details here in these materials from the city agencies.

Construction is scheduled to begin March 16th and prep work is already underway. We’ll continue to advocate for CDOT and CTA to efficiently proceed with construction so the corridor is operational as soon possible, and work to ensure the final project delivers the results promised to people riding transit, walking and riding bikes across the Loop.

I recently spoke with transit riders from neighborhoods throughout Chicago about the project and what they’re hoping to gain from it. We’ll incorporate this feedback into our continued advocacy for downtown transportation improvements. Contact me to add your own thoughts.

Courtney Cobbs, 24-year-old social worker from Edgewater
“I ride the 20-Madison bus often and always add at least 20 to 30 minutes to the estimated travel time due to the congestion. The city needs to continue to invest more in transit to attract millennials, save money and improve access to jobs.”

Ian Adams, 29-year-old Ukrainian Village resident who works in the Loop
“Getting to the Loop is pretty straightforward but transit within the loop is really lacking. I’ll likely ride the bus more often with the new corridor and ride my bike in the new protected bike lanes when the weather is good. I’m in business school in Streeterville and need to get across the Loop in the evenings when the streets are totally jammed.”

John Aquilina, 64-year-old architecture and construction project manager
“I often need to make east-west trips across the Loop on a tight schedule and will likely ride the bus more often with the new corridor. Sometimes I avoid the Loop during rush hour because the congestion is so bad.”

Ian Magargee, 31-year-old Lakeview resident
“The only way to get more Chicago residents to take public transit is to make it faster and less congested. I used to live in New York City and when I lived there I felt like no neighborhood was off limits to me. That’s what I want to feel like in Chicago."

Curtis Kuhn, 36-year-old consultant from Edgewater
“I never take the bus across the Loop because I can walk faster. If the bus was faster and more consistent, I’d be much more likely to consider it.”

Joe Olson, 25-year-old engineer from Bucktown
“I work a block away from the new corridor and nine times out of 10 I just walk east-west because the buses go so slow. It will also cut down my travel time considerably when going to the lakefront parks or the West Loop.”

Matt Carley, 27-year old Lakeview resident
“I frequently travel to Ogilvie and Union Stations to ride Metra to the suburbs to visit family and friends and the dedicated bus lanes will save me time. I don’t have a car and rely on public transit and my bicycle to get around and truly experience the city."

Above images courtesy of the CTA. 

A spotlight shines on the great work performed by Active Trans volunteers

Last week, Active Trans hosted our annual Volunteer Appreciation Party at Ancien Cycles in West Town. 

The event was an opportunity to celebrate the great work performed our army of amazing volunteers (more than 2,000 in 2014!) who help move our mission forward.

As part of the event, we recognized five outstanding volunteers who have made tremendous contributions to our organization in 2014.

Here are the five award-winners:

Under the Radar Award -- Andrew Nicolaou

This award recognizes the excellence and dedication of an unsung hero in bicycling advocacy. Andrew’s dedication to his work with the Crash Support Hotline and his presence in court hearings related to crash fatalities that occurred last year made him the clear choice for this award.  

Emerging Leader Award – Carmen Aiken

This honor is bestowed to aspiring leaders who don’t just ride the beaten path, but blaze a trail for others to follow. Carmen not only volunteers her time directly at our events serving as a Course Marshal Manager, she also helps to plan them as an active member of our Route Committee. Last year she helped test and mark more than 73 miles of routes to ensure our Four Star riders saw the city and enjoyed a safe ride.

2014 Event Volunteer Award – Darrel Wood

This award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of an individual volunteer to our fundraising events. For many years, Darrel has donated his time and know-how to Active Transportation Alliance as a Route Committee member and crucial supporter of our events. Darrel’s involvement with Active Transportation Alliance is a testament of dedication and passion for our mission goals.

Advocate of the Year Award – Barton Crouch

This award recognizes the volunteer who works to expand our reach, sharing our bicycling, pedestrian and transit commitment to a broader audience and thereby moving our mission forward. Barton has been one of our most enthusiastic volunteers while serving in a variety of roles with advocacy programs, including our Go Pilsen campaign, activities in the 25th Ward and Ciclovamos.

Important Cog Award – Ruth Rosas

This award celebrates the volunteer who makes the most significant overall contribution to the success of our organization. Ruth (pictured top, left) is a longtime volunteer who has performed excellent work in a slew of different roles: assisting with packet pickup for our events, phone banking, volunteer nights in the office, and providing support at MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive.

We are proud of our award recipients and all of our volunteers who share their time and talents with Active Trans.

We thank our board members in celebrating our volunteers and we send a special shout out to Scott McIntosh at Ancien Cycles for hosting this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Party. It was a great party and we look forward to next year. 

If you are considering volunteering or would like to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, contact Ray Arroyo, Volunteer Coordinator at or call 312-216-0487. MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive is just a few weeks away and we have many volunteer opportunities waiting to be filled. 

What would you like to see more of on Chicago's streets?

Imagine, if you will, a city that features wide (and safe) sidewalks, an abundance of bike racks, bike workstations on street corners, and public gathering spaces with trees, landscaping and places to sit. What if that city was Chicago?

After gathering preliminary feedback, the Chicago Department of Transportation has launched a citywide text and online survey to seek input from Chicagoans regarding future improvements to Chicago’s public spaces.

Click here to take the online survey.

To participate via text message, read the following question and text your answer to (312) 800-1729. To take the survey in Spanish, text your response to (312) 757-6675:

“I’d like to see more _____ on Chicago’s streets.”
A: Trees & Landscaping
B: Seating
C: Public Gathering Spaces
D: Bike Amenities
E: Wider Sidewalks

You’ll receive a series of follow-up questions and a final “Thanks!” text — I received 10 texts in all — which will take about six minutes to complete.

Both the online and text message version of the survey close on March 9, 2015.

Walking assessment in Chicago Heights

Recently, a group of people in the south suburban community of Chicago Heights did a walkability assessment of Dixie Highway as it runs through the town.

The group, comprised of the town’s Active Transportation Plan Steering Committee, included people from community’s public works department, the park district, as well as local schools Bloom High School, Prairie State College and the U of I Extension.

Dixie Hwy.’s walking and biking facilities will be looked at closely as part of Active Trans’ Family Friendly Bikeways Campaign. This is because the road is an important route for all types of transportation in the South Suburbs, and will soon connect to the Thorn Creek Trail, which is a portion of the Grand Illinois Trail.

Armed with a walkability checklist, the committee members observed people driving, walking and biking during Bloom High School’s dismissal.

After noticing the short amount of time available for students to cross Dixie Hwy., the representative from the public works department made a phone call to have the signal timing changed for a longer pedestrian crossing signal.

Many students were observed crossing against the walk signals. In response, the representative from Bloom High School arranged for the police officers to visit the high school regularly and hand out educational materials and provide warnings to students who do not follow the signal.

Larger infrastructure fixes were identified, too. In one spot, snow covered a portion of the street that made the crossing distance very long. By making this location part of the sidewalk, attendees agreed it will give people walking a shorter amount of time to be in the street.

Nice work, Chicago Heights in working to create a safer environment for people walking.


Take action: Say NO to Governor Rauner’s proposed transit cuts

On Wednesday Gov. Rauner unveiled a budget proposal that would further damage the Chicago region’s already underfunded transit system, while bolstering the road fund statewide.

Now you have a chance to fight back and show your support for public transit.

The proposed budget would slash nearly one-third of state funding for the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) -- almost $130 million -- while adding $120 million to the road fund. These proposed cuts directly affect the budgets of CTA, Metra and Pace, and likely would lead to service cuts and fare increases.

Rauner's proposal to eliminate the state funding for paratransit and the RTA's reduced-fare program would make things even worse. Seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families rely on transit even more than others to access jobs and get around. Moreover, state spending on these efficient programs is small and would do little to solve the state's financial crisis while punishing our most vulnerable residents.

Stand up for transit-dependent residents by taking action today.

Now is not the time to cut transit funding; we should be looking to increase funding with a capital program and new revenue.

Transit improvements and expansion are long overdue during a time when more Illinoisans of all ages are choosing to ride transit, walk and ride bikes, rather than driving inefficient private vehicles.

Revenue for these investments could be raised in a variety of ways, such a modest increase in the gas tax and indexing it to inflation, or increasing transportation user fees.

We can't afford to attempt to balance our state's budget by decimating our transit systems.

Tell Gov. Rauner and your state legislators you support improving and expanding public transit.

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