Make your neighborhood a walkable winter wonderland

One of the pillars of the Active Trans' mission is making it safer and easier for anyone to walk in a community. Now that snow has returned to Chicagoland, it's time for a reminder about the easiest way to support that mission: Shovel!

It’s the right thing to do and in some places—including Chicago—it’s the law. If your Chicago business or organization does an excellent job of keeping the sidewalks clear of snow and ice, the City of Chicago and the Mayor's Pedestrian Advisory Council (MPAC) want to recognize you. 

Businesses and organizations may apply for recognition, and supporters may also nominate candidates by calling the Winter Wonder Nomination line at 312.744.5819 or completing the 2014-2015 online nomination form through March 15, 2015.

Winners will be listed on the CDOT website and will receive an award signed by the MPAC co-chairmen.

Top nominees will be awarded based on number of nominations, photos and social media mentions. Businesses and organizations can promote their participation by displaying this Winter Wonder Participation Poster.

Support Active Trans' mission

Clear sidewalks are important for everyone who uses sidewalks, but they are especially important for seniors, people with disabilities and children. Snow or ice-covered sidewalks force people to travel in the street—a thoroughly dangerous enterprise.

Uncleared sidewalks may even discourage people from walking at all. When people can't walk easily to a destination, they might opt for making an unnecessary car trip or, in some cases, residents may be prevented from making a needed trip to the doctor's office or the grocery store.

We want you to thank people for shoveling their sidewalks, or to remind them to do so. Active Trans designed fliers you can distribute in your community to do just that. Download the fliers here

City of Chicago resources

If you live in Chicago and see a snowy sidewalk, you can report it to 311, Chicago's city services hotline, or report it online. If calling outside of the city, dial 312.744.5000.

The city also has a website dedicated to winter resources, including a snow plow tracker and volunteer resources to help shovel sidewalks for those who can't. 

Stay on top of this and other topics that matter to you by subscribing to the Active Trans e-newsletter. Sign up on the Active Trans homepage. 

Registration for the inaugural Roll the Cold Bike Challenge is now open!

Join both newbies and seasoned winter riders across Chicagoland for the Roll the Cold Bike Challenge, January 17-23, 2015. Simply sign up and set up your page to start tracking your trips. The person who rides (and logs) the most miles during the Challenge gets the honor of being named the King/Queen of the 2015 Roll the Cold Bike Challenge. In addition to some serious bragging rights, this person will be featured on our social media and highlighted in communications when we launch our 2016 (Summer) Bike Commuter Challenge.

Got a short commute? You can still win prizes for raising money. Check it out:

  • $25 gets you…Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks
  • $50 gets you…Portland Design Works Bird Cage Water Bottle Holder
  • $100 gets you…Blackburn Central Combo Bike Light Set
  • $250 gets you… Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks + Pearl Izumi Windproof Biking Gloves
  • $500 gets you… Icebreaker GT® Merino Wool Socks + Portland Design Works Bird Cage Water Bottle Holder + Peal Izumi Windproof Biking Gloves

The participant that raises the most money will be awarded the Grand Prize – a SE F@E Fat Tire Bike (Retail $899) Please view all challenge rules here.

2015 Roll the Cold Bike Challenge

You don't have to bike all the way to your destination every day -- even biking to your local bus or train stop counts. We'll give you all the tips you need to get going on two wheels, winter style! What are you waiting for? Join the challenge and prove that a little cold won’t slow your roll. Rosy cheeks look great on everyone!

Chicago’s winter too cold for you? You can still participate by donating to Active Trans. All proceeds will help the Active Transportation Alliance’s efforts in making biking in Chicagoland safer and easier.

SAVE THE DATE! Winter Bike to Work Day is Friday, January 23, 2015. Stop by our event downtown for free coffee, Eli’s cheesecake and to mingle with other winter bikers.

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements here, at as well as our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

2015 Chicago Active Transportation Platform calls for safer streets

Based upon input from thousands members and supporters from across the region, Active Trans has released its 2015 Active Transportation Platform for the upcoming elections for mayor and alderman in the City of Chicago.

The platform features specific action items to achieve progress on five core goals:

  1. Design streets that work for everyone whether they walk, bike, use transit or drive
  2. Commit the city to reaching and exceeding the milestones of the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020
  3. Grow education and enforcement programs that improve the behavior of all road users
  4. Improve active transportation access and movement along the lakefront
  5. Connect people to jobs and educational opportunities by expanding investment in and access to public transit

Highlights include calling on leaders to expand and maintain the city’s growing network of protected bike lanes; establish a sustainable funding source for pedestrian infrastructure improvements at the city’s most dangerous intersections; and increase investment in transit to fund improvements and expansion of the existing network.

The platform also advocates for leaders to support low-cost, near-term improvements on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, such as creating separated space for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Members and supporters provided feedback on our advocacy priorities at our 2014 Member Meeting & Advocate Summit. Following the summit, we released an online survey to collect ideas from supporters who were unable to attend the meeting.

The 2015 municipal elections in Chicago will take place on February 24, 2015 to elect the mayor and aldermen in all 50 of the city’s wards. If no candidate receives an absolute majority in a particular race, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held for that seat on April 7, 2015. The deadline to register to vote is January 27, 2015.

Active Trans will be releasing a Suburban Active Transportation Platform ahead of municipal elections in suburban communities in Spring 2015.

Easy projects to improve pedestrian safety in your city

In “21 Measures for Pedestrian Safety (in Baltimore or Anywhere),” architect Klaus Philipsen argues that although many cities around the nation have Complete Streets policies, there are still many on-the-ground improvements in pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure that need to happen.

He offers solutions for improving the pedestrian realm in the short term using “tactical urbanism” that involves temporary fixes to test out potential transportation improvements. He writes that these recommendations don’t require big money, but can build towards bigger pedestrian improvements in the future.

Examples of low cost and easy-to-implement projects that Philipsen recommends include: no right turns on red in the central city or areas of heavy pedestrian traffic, highly visible mid-block crosswalks, longer pedestrian crossing signals, not allowing construction sites to completely close the sidewalk, red light and speed camera systems, maximum speed limit of 30 mph in city limits, more street furniture for pedestrians, and reducing the number of one-way streets.

At Active Trans, we think that strong policies provide a strong foundation for pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements. Sometimes change can be slow due to perceptions and budget constraints, so easier-to-implement, "low-hanging fruit" projects can make the walking experience safer in the immediate future and be a catalyst for future support that leads to more pedestrian development.

If you haven't done so already, please sign our petition in support of our campaign to improve safety around some of the most dangerous intersections in Chicago and the suburbs. 

Bikes N’ Roses grows up with youth help

In the tiny back room of the 1,100-square foot storefront in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, high schoolers cluster around two bicycle repair stands. Three bikes are clamped onto the bike stands: a black road bike with its chain hanging off, a purple Huffy and a red and silver mountain bike, each with a tag detailing needed repairs.

“We’re fixing the derailleurs on this one. It’s messed up; we had to change it three times,” one young woman, Jassmyn, says about the road bike. The atmosphere in the room is one of patient concentration as the kids talk among themselves. After all, they have a job to do – an opportunity made possible by Albany Park bike shop Bikes N’ Roses.

Bikes N’ Roses has been around in some form since 2011, when members of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council decided to teach a group of kids in the community how to fix bikes. From a small collective of bike-minded residents, the program has grown into a full-fledged enterprise, complete with a business license, 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, a storefront at 4751 N. Kedzie Ave. and 20 paid employees.

Much of Bikes N’ Roses’ success can be attributed to the work of Oscar Antonio Rivera Jr., who grew up in nearby Kelvyn Park. He left a job at Cycle Smithy in Lincoln Park when he learned Bikes N’ Roses was operating without an experienced mechanic. For his work he received the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council Award during the Bike to Work Rally at Daley Plaza this past June.

“What I hope to get out of Bikes N’ Roses is what I didn’t have access to when I was a youth,” says Riviera. “A home away from home that’s a safe haven, a place to be with my brothers and sisters of the cycling family who understand who I am and why cycling is crucial to my life.”

Now, in addition to fixing bikes and overseeing day-to-day operations at Bikes N’ Roses, Rivera also supervises the 18 youths who work at the shop during the summer months through a grant from the Illinois Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Participants in the program earn $9 an hour and qualify if they live 200 percent below the poverty line and receive some form of state-sponsored assistance.

It’s a win-win for the shop and the children. “So many youths have a passion for cycling, and with Bikes N’ Roses as a resource, they are able to expand that passion in all sorts of creative ways,” Rivera says.

Bikes N’ Roses’ summer programming begins with a two-week crash course in bicycle mechanics before the kids graduate to fixing bikes on their own, as well as helping customers in the front of the store. About half of the teens, including Jassmyn, have completed the program and serve as supervisors who mentor the new recruits.

Although many of the kids are new to fixing bikes, they seem to have a good grasp of bike repair. They deftly pluck screwdrivers and wrenches from the walls, cut chains, change tires, remove wheels and true them.

The kids mostly work on donated bikes, and with a limited inventory they often end up “Frankensteining” the bikes: replacing parts on one bike with parts from another and figuring out whether they’re compatible.

Bikes N’ Roses is not yet financially sustainable, Rivera says, but is on the way, especially now that it has a business license and can operate as a working bike shop that brings in revenue. At the moment, Bikes N’ Roses operates on money from SYEP and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, and Rivera and the children have become adept at fundraising; the kids raised $3,000, last year through just one fundraiser.

In October, Bikes ‘N Roses moved from its location at Kedzie and Lawrence Avenues to a new nearby location in Albany Park at 3460 W. Lawrence.

Albany Park is Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood and one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. It also happens to be a neighborhood of cyclists. Many of them can be seen riding bike lanes in the neighborhood. Many Albany Park residents are immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, Korea and the Middle East.

Rivera and the children do their best to give back to the local community. One Sunday, they fixed bikes for free at the nearby Global Gardens Farmers’ Market. The bikes were then donated to the workers at Global Gardens, refugees from Burma, Bhutan and Congo. “We fixed 10 bikes for them,” Rivera says. “They spoke no English, but they were in tears.”

Keep in the loop by visiting the Bikes ‘N Roses Facebook page.

This blog post was written by Sara Kupper, who served as a communications intern at Active Trans during the summer of 2014.

West Side community members push for safer streets in high-crash corridors

After two Austin locations appeared on Active Trans' Safe Crossings list of 10 of the most dangerous intersections in the city, residents and organizations from the community have helped rally support for safer streets.

Both the Madison and Cicero intersection and the Chicago and Cicero intersection in the Austin neighborhood appeared on our Chicago list released in the fall. These intersections are major gateways for people walking, biking and driving, offering connections between business districts on Madison Street and in Austin.

With 69 recorded crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists at those intersections from 2006 to 2012, Austin ranked second out of Chicago’s 77 community areas for the most life-threatening pedestrian traffic crashes, according to a Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) study.

Organizations such as the Westside Health Authority, Austin Coming Together and the local CAPS group have agreed that some changes to the street are needed to help create a truly walkable community.

"In order to create solutions that effectively create a safer environment for pedestrians and motorists, it will be critical for public institutions and the non-profit sector to engage with community members to identify the greatest risk factors at key intersections and common sense solutions that make sense for the Austin community," said Andrew Born from Austin Coming Together.

Alderman Jason Ervin of the 28th Ward supports the campaign and is working with Active Trans and CDOT on recommendations to make Madison and Cicero more pedestrian friendly. 

“Madison is troubling, and I have seniors that have complained mostly about driver behavior,” Ervin told community news website AustinTalks. “There’s some definite driver education and there’s some definite pedestrian education that needs to occur.”

Ervin said he wants to reduce traffic fatalities at the intersection to zero, embracing the city’s Zero in 10 goal to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2022.

Meanwhile, Active Trans is continuing to rally local support for change in Austin and plans to host a community event early next year to help build awareness.

Please sign our Safe Crossings petition to support safety improvements at the Austin intersections and many other locations throughout the city and the suburbs.

If you’re interested in getting involved in the Austin campaign, contact Active Trans Community Liaison Cynthia Hudson. You can also donate to Active Trans and renew your membership or join as a new member today to show your support.

Share your Illinois transportation woes

Everyone has an opinion about transportation in Illinois.

Now, by sharing those opinions with the Metropolitan Planning Council, you can help advocate for better transportation in the state.

MPC, which works on planning and development issues in the region, is asking people to share their experiences biking, walking, driving and using transit in Illinois. 

Your feedback on the state's roads and highway systems, train and bus lines, bike routes and sidewalks will all help MPC work for better transportation in the state, and the group will use feedback to inform its advocacy in Springfield in 2015. 

Take the survey here by Friday, Dec. 12 and you'll have a chance to win one of 250 checks for $20. Using the Dscout mobile app, you can answer questions in the survey and even use photos and video to share your biggest transportation frustrations. 

Sign our petition to separate bicyclists and pedestrians on the Lakefront Trail

Last month we shared Megan William’s story of recovering from a horrific crash on the Lakefront Trail and committing herself to making sure crashes like hers don’t keep happening. Now you have a chance to show your support for improving safety on the lakefront path.

Sign our petition to support increased investment in separating pedestrians and bicyclists on the trail and other safety improvements.

This week we spoke at the Chicago Park District’s annual hearing on next year’s budget and shared Megan’s story. As we’ve heard from all types of trail users in recent years, congestion continues to increase, putting everyone at risk of conflict and injury.

The 18-mile path is the busiest trail in the country, with peak usage at more than 30,000 users per day during the summer, and it’s not currently designed to accommodate that volume of users all travelling at different speeds.

With cost-effective solutions like enhanced pavement markings and a separate path in the most congested areas, everyone’s trail experience would improve.

While long-term planning projects like the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive provide opportunities to address safety concerns, we must develop and implement plans for near-term, lower-cost improvements now.

In addition to trail separation, our petition draws attention to other critical issues, like public education and trail etiquette, access challenges, the increasing frequency of events that use the trail and year-round maintenance.

These issues affect everyone who uses the trail, from tourists walking along the lakefront for the first time in July to daily commuters who ride on the path throughout the year. All of them were raised in our 2013 People on the Trail Report, published in partnership with Friends of the Parks and the Chicago Area Running Association.

Sign our petition today to support increasing safety on the trail for all users. 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.

 Support separating cyclists and pedestrians on Chicago's Lakefront Trail? Sign this @activetrans petition!

AARP offers resources for people who want livable communities

In an effort to make communities more livable for its members (and everyone), AARP released a helpful set of Livability Fact Sheets to help illustrate what makes a place work for people of all ages. 

There are 11 fact sheets, each four pages long, covering topics such as bicycling, traffic calming, sidewalks, economic development and more.

You can view or download the free fact sheets here

The factsheets were created by AARP Livable Communities and the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.

AARP hopes the fact sheets will be used by community leaders, lawmakers, activists and any community members interested in transforming their communities. 

Image courtesy of Mike Cynecki

What can Chicago do to eliminate pedestrian crash fatalities?

Three thousand pedestrians are hit by motor vehicles in Chicago annually, resulting in about 30 deaths a year. Seven to eight Chicago pedestrians suffer a traffic-related injury every day. 

How can these deaths and injuries be prevented?

A growing movement called Vision Zero aims to eliminate all traffic crash fatalities, and Chicago subscribes to the movement with its "Zero in Ten" campaign to bring the number of pedestrian fatalities to zero within 10 years.

Vision Zero was the topic of a recent symposium in New York hosted by Transportation Alternatives, and representatives from Active Trans and CDOT were in attendance.

Some of the most interesting takeaways are evident in this fantastic CityLab Q&A with Matts-Åke Belin, a traffic safety strategist for the Sweden Transportation Administration and one of the designers of the original Vision Zero plan.

Coming out of the symposium, we joined more than 300 urban leaders, policy makers, advocates, traffic enforcement authorities, and transportation and public health experts at the conference in signing on to a collectively affirmed statement of principles to guide Vision Zero implementation in cities around the world.

Vision Zero already has a great record in its home country. CityLab notes that Sweden has fewer than three traffic fatalities for every 100,000 people, compared to 11.6 per 100,000 in the U.S.

So what can be done in the U.S. and here in Chicago? One thing Belin stresses in the interview is that no matter how much education and enforcement is done, people are going to be people and make mistakes. Looking at the larger issue and smarter ways to engineer streets to reduce the impact of those mistakes is key. 

CDOT's Zero in Ten Campaign

When the city released its 2012 Pedestrian Plan, it included the ambitious Zero in Ten campaign with the main goal being to eliminate all traffic crash fatalities within 10 years.

Active Trans wrote at the time that we were excited to see Chicago make a commitment to improving the safety of all road users, whether they be walking, riding a bike, using transit or driving. We've also helped CDOT develop materials for the campaign (see campaign image above). 

Improving intersection safety will be a critical step towards achieving Vision Zero in Chicago. Eighty percent of fatal and serious pedestrian crashes occur within 125 feet of an intersection. 

We launched our pedestrian-focused Safe Crossings campaign to tackle the issue in October, and the response and support from Chicagoland has been tremendous.

Join more than 800 supporters in signing our petition that asks local leaders to make crossing the street safer for all users.

Every life lost is one too many; it's not collateral for the transportation system we have. We know the system can be better, and Zero in Ten is a big step forward. Read more about the Zero in Ten plan from CityLab

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