More than 12,000 residents tell Gov. Rauner to kill the Illiana Expressway

On the day Gov. Rauner delivered his first budget address, more than 12,000 Illinoisans highlighted a way he can save taxpayers money and support efficient regional development: end the Illiana Expressway boondoggle.

Active Trans joined a diverse coalition of advocates and Will County residents in delivering 12,865 petition signatures against the Illiana to the Governor on Wednesday. Our partners included No Illiana 4 US, Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), Sierra Club, Openlands and Illinois PIRG.

You can still join the effort by sending a message to the Governor’s office today.

After taking office in January, Gov. Rauner put the ill-conceived tollway on hold pending a “careful review of costs and benefits.”

Our members and supporters have spoken out against the project for months, making the case for why the sprawl-inducing project would not be an efficient use of limited taxpayer dollars.

The proposed highway would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65, serving only 8,000 vehicles per day at a cost of over $1 billion.

The state is proposing to build the project as a public-private partnership with the state guaranteeing a private operator's costs, but there are lots of questions and skepticism about the politically motivated project’s actual financial viability.

We believe taxpayer dollars could be better spent on infrastructure priorities that carry far greater benefits, like upgrading rapid transit and commuter rail lines, and critical projects like CTA’s planned Red Line South Extension.

Sign our petition to the governor in support of efficient regional development and against the Illiana.

Excited about better rapid transit in the Loop? Get involved!

Most commuters, visitors and residents in Chicago’s Loop can quickly identify the biggest transportation challenge: moving east-west across downtown.

Whether you’re walking, biking or riding transit, getting across the Loop is often frustratingly slow and unpredictable, particularly during peak rush hour times.

That’s why the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is installing a new rapid transit corridor this year with dedicated bus lanes on Washington (image below) and Madison, and connections to Ogilvie and Union Stations in the West Loop.

Fill out this brief survey if you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved.

In addition to transit riders, the project also will benefit people walking and riding bikes. Existing bus shelters will be relocated from the sidewalk and replaced with new stations on the corridor, opening up sidewalk space for people walking. People riding bikes will be able to take advantage of new protected bike lanes on Randolph and Washington.

The data shows the vast majority of people are riding transit, walking or biking to get around the Loop. Buses carry nearly half of all travelers in vehicles on Washington and Madison, yet travel as slow as 3mph during rush hour, or walking speed.

With construction beginning this spring and service scheduled to launch later in 2015, we’re stepping up our advocacy efforts to help ensure the project is implemented efficiently with the benefits promised to people riding transit, walking and biking.

We are looking for Loop commuters and residents who use the corridor regularly and can provide feedback on their experience. Activities may include sharing their stories with our members and supporters, speaking with a reporter about transportation in the Loop or signing on to a letter of support.

Complete this brief survey to learn how you can help.

Images courtesy of the CTA. 

Lakemoor named to 'best-of' list for Complete Streets!

Congratulations to Lakemoor, Illinois for adopting the nation's third-best Complete Streets Policy in 2014!

The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2014, released by Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition, examines and scores each of the 74 Complete Streets policy enacted in 2014.

The report outlines ten ideal elements of a Complete Streets policy and scores individual policies based on these ideals. Lakemoor's policy scored an impressive 88.8 points out of 100!

Lakemoor, a village of  nearly 6,000 residents that straddles Lake and McHenry counties in Chicago's North Suburbs, was inspired to adopt Complete Streets through its participation in We Choose Health, an initiative of the Illinois Department of Public Health and McHenry County Health Department and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Active Trans was delighted to provide technical assistance on the project by identifying model policies, helping define a process for policy development, and helping identify tactics for adoption and implementation.

Lakemoor joins an increasing number of Illinois municipalities and counties that are embracing Complete Streets principals as a key component of improving community health and wellness. Congrats to Lakemoor for the win!

Evanston walks the walk on shoveling sidewalks

That walking and biking takes a back seat to driving in most cities is never more apparent than after a good snowfall. Even in downtown Chicago, where people moving on foot vastly outnumber those in cars, the streets generally get cleared before the sidewalks. 

Making matters worse is the accumulation of snow removed from streets that blocks sidewalks and bike lanes.

Like streets, sidewalks in front of homes and businesses are public spaces.  Unlike streets, however, most cities rely on private citizens to clear sidewalks. 

Ideally, cities would treat walking and driving with equal respect by plowing sidewalks like they do streets. Forest Park, Winnetka and some other towns do this. 

For cities hard-pressed to pay for sidewalk plowing, another option is to select priority "sidewalk snow routes," similar to "street snow routes," that the city will plow. 

These would be high foot-traffic routes to schools, transit stops, grocery stores, etc.  Cities can also do less street plowing on low-traffic streets and use the savings to pay for plowing sidewalks.

But for now, shoveling sidewalks is usually a civic duty for property owners, and it’s a law in most Chicagoland cities that is rarely enforced. 

We are glad to see that Evanston, according to the Chicago Tribune, is doing something Active Trans has been recommending: ticketing owners who don’t shovel, and making them pay the tab for city contractors to do the shoveling.  

The Tribune reports that Evanston began ticketing last Thursday, four days after the nineteen inch blizzard ended. 

That’s plenty of time for property owners to do it themselves or, if they are physically unable, to find a neighbor, entrepreneurial teenager or landscape company.  

Cities should use discretion and sensitivity when dealing with homeowners who perhaps struggle to even find someone else to shovel their sidewalk, and Evanston is doing this by lining up volunteers to help shovel.  

The one red flag we see with Evanston’s approach is the bill for a contractor to shovel: $190 per property on average, according to the Tribune. 

That seems awfully high, and with that price tag Evanston can skip the ticket and just send the shoveling bill! 

Image courtesy of / Dan Burden.

Calling 311 can save lives

I write this blog post with an extremely heavy heart, and a plea to Chicagoland residents: please call 311 (in Chicago) or your local municipal public works department (suburbs) if you observe dangerous roadway conditions.

I failed to do so just a few days ago, and if I had, someone may be alive today.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a man was fatally struck and killed while walking on East 79th Street -- about one-half mile from my home -- early morning by an unmarked Chicago Police vehicle.

While many of the circumstances of the crash are not currently clear (was the man walking in the street due to unshoveled sidewalks? was the police vehicle responding to a call?), one fact has been established: an entire bank of streetlights was out.

I know because I was in that same location just one day earlier, on Monday night Feb. 2. The street was pitch black, and there were many folks walking in the street, which is, as we all know, a necessary evil following heavy snowfalls when sidewalks go unshoveled.

Again, there are likely several factors that may have contributed to this crash. Unshoveled sidewalks? Very likely. Amount of care exercised by the person behind the wheel? Maybe. But the darkness? I'm almost certain.

That stretch of 79th Street is not otherwise well-illuminated by businesses or other ambient light. Having that entire bank of streetlights out was indeed extremely treacherous.

I am pointing the finger of accountability squarely at myself on this one. The Chicago Department of Transportation and Streets and Sanitation cannot be everywhere at all times, and cannot possibly know when its facilities go on the blink.

They in many instances rely on us -- residents -- to alert them to dangerous conditions. Is their response time always perfect? Of course not.

The Trib reports that, according to the 311 log, these lights have been out since at least January 29. But as most Chicago residents know, the more calls to 311 that are placed about an issue, the more that issue rises to the top of the priority list.

So the next time I see a pedestrian signal that is out, or a curb ramp that is torn up, or a crosswalk that's badly faded -- or a bank of streetlights that have failed -- I am going to stop, take 30 seconds to call 311, and hopefully contribute to a quicker solution to a potentially dangerous situation.

I can afford the time. And it might just save a life.

Image courtesy of / Dan Burden. 

Where do Chicago candidates stand on active transportation? Check out our 2015 voter guide

With election day three weeks away, we’ve released our 2015 Active Transportation Voter Guide so Chicago voters can learn about the views of candidates in their ward on walking, biking and public transit issues.

The voter guide is composed of responses from mayoral and aldermanic candidates to a questionnaire we sent to all candidates.

In the linked spreadsheets, click on a candidate’s name to view their complete response, including any additional comments they provided to each question.

As a non-partisan 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, Active Trans does not endorse candidates.

This voter guide is an educational resource to inform the general public and candidates for local office about current priorities for improving biking, walking and public transit, as identified by our members, supporters and staff.

We used publicly available contact information and multiple rounds of phone and email outreach to attempt to reach the campaigns of all candidates that will appear on the ballot. Candidates that have yet to respond can still contact us with their responses and we'll update our voter guide.

You can learn more about the city elections taking place on February 24 and how you can vote from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Early voting starts Monday February 9.

If you live in the Chicago suburbs, stay tuned to the Active Trans blog for resources that will help you know where candidates stand on active transportation issues in the coming spring election. 

Share your thoughts on Elk Grove Village Bike Plan

People biking in Elk Grove Village have long enjoyed riding in Busse Woods through meadows and woodland. Getting to Busse Woods by bike -- as well to other destinations in the village -- however, has been challenging.

To make cycling safer and easier, Elk Grove formed a Bike Plan Task Force. The plan, drafted by members of the task force, has been drawn up and is now open for your comments at the village website through February 15. Please share your thoughts if you live or ride a bike in Elk Grove Village. 

The draft plan includes a bike route system, signage for cycling destinations, and spot improvements that will make cycling safer in the Village.

The Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove Village have long advocated for a bike plan and are members of the Task Force. The group wanted to ensure that the plan focused on encouraging casual riders to feel comfortable riding to shops, schools and workplaces -- an excellent way to make cycling more family friendly!

Access to the large Busse Woods Forest Preserve is key for all -- including students at the high school across busy Arlington Heights Road.

Friends Treasurer Lee Skinner says that his group is “quite satisfied with results from five months’ work by people who were all new at the task.”

“We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the respect and openness the village showed us,” said Skinner. “We really could not have expected more.”

The plan is a great way to make cycling in Elk Grove more comfortable for riders of all ages!

Want to help improve bicycling in your suburban community? Find out more about Active Trans’ Family Friendly Bikeways campaign.

New study shows safety benefits of separating bicyclists and pedestrians

We’ve heard repeatedly from Lakefront Trail users that creating separated trail space for bicyclists and pedestrians would make everyone feel safer on the path.

Now a new study conclusively shows separated space reduces crashes and the severity of injuries when crashes occur.

Sign our petition to separate bicyclists and pedestrians on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.

The Canadian study, published in the new issue of the BMJ Open medical journal and covered by the urban not-for-profit Next City, is one of the first to analyze the relationship between route infrastructure and the severity of injuries resulting from crashes.

As other studies have shown and many advocates already know, the study underscored the importance of separating bicyclists from motor vehicle traffic with protected bike lanes and other facilities. Collisions between fast moving cars and bicyclists are more likely to result in serious injury than other types of crashes involving bicyclists.

The study’s findings on the safety of multi-use paths are more newsworthy. The authors found that crashes on sidewalks and multiuse paths, despite occurring off-street, were considerably more likely to result in ambulance transport and hospital admission, in comparison to crashes on major streets without bicycling infrastructure.

Twenty-seven year old Megan Williams was involved in one such crash with a bicyclist while running on the Lakefront Trail this fall. After recovering from the crash, she approached Active Trans and other trail advocates pushing for separated space for bicyclists and pedestrians on the path.

So far, more than 1,600 Chicagoans have signed our petition to the Chicago Park District to separate pedestrians and bicyclists and commit to other safety improvements. Sign and share our petition today

If you’re interested in getting involved in the campaign, please let us know. You can also donate to the campaign and renew your membership or join as a new member today to show your support.

CDOT releases 2015 street resurfacing plan

Though the 2014–15 winter hasn’t (yet) been as cold as 2014’s Chiberia or as snowy as 2011’s Snowpocalypse, the freeze-thaw cycles our region experiences each winter mean that potholes are inevitable.

The good news: Earlier this week, Chicago Department of Transportation released a list of 61 miles of arterial streets to be repaved as part of the city’s new annual standard of repaving at least 300 miles of roads!

For automobile drivers, potholes are quite a nuisance. For people biking, a pothole-ridden road can completely ruin a ride or potentially lead to dangerous crashes.

For those two reasons alone, the repavement projects are sure to warm a few freezing faces.

But beyond fixing bad pavement and patching potholes, resurfacing projects often provide the city an opportunity to install Complete Street improvements, such as high-visibility crosswalks or new bike lanes.

Neighborhood advocates should stay tuned for opportunities to help support walking and biking improvements as part of resurfacing projects happening in their community.

As a side note, be sure to check out how Jim Bachor is turning potholes into artwork in Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood.

Photo courtesy of Bike Walk Lincoln Park

Did you miss Winter Bike to Work Day on Friday?

Hundreds of winter cyclists descended upon Daley Plaza Friday morning to celebrate Winter Bike to Work Day and the first ever Roll the Cold Bike Challenge.
Winter Bike to Work Day commemorates the coldest day in Chicago history -- January 20, 1985 -- when the temperature dropped to 27 degrees below zero. 
Ronit Bezalel of The Chainlink was also there to capture the celebration. You can view her photos here.
Attendees mingled over warm coffee from Dark Matter, energizing electrolyte drinks from Nuun, cheesecake from Eli’s, various goodies from Clif Bar and free bike repair from Kozy’s Cyclery. FOX, NBC and CBS were there to report on the winter biking celebration.
Winter Bike to Work Day also marked the opening of registration for Chicagoland’s premier biking event, MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive.
MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive is the one time during the year that cyclists get to enjoy a sunrise over Lake Michigan and see iconic views of Chicago via a car-free Lake Shore Drive.
If you haven’t registered yet, you can receive a $7 early bird discount by signing up by noon on February 2, 2015. Want to save even more money? You can save an additional $2, for a total of $9 savings, if you stop by a Chicagoland MB Financial Bank location and grab a secret coupon code. And people who stop by MB Financial Bank will receive a deluxe CamelBak water bottle!
Last but not least, Michael Withers was annointed King of the 2015 Roll the Cold Bike Challenge for biking a whopping 267 miles during the week of January 17-23! Nice job Michael!

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