Show your support for North Branch Trail extension at Aug. 21 public meeting

We invite you to attend an upcoming public meeting on Thursday, August 21 to show your support for the Cook County Forest Preserve’s North Branch Trail extension project. 

If you walk, jog or bike on the North Branch Trail then you have experienced moving from busy streets into quiet woods where the sounds of the city quickly fade away. You may have seen a deer or two.

Trail users can hop on at Caldwell and Devon Avenues and travel north along the north branch of the Chicago River to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

Next Spring, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County plans to make this experience even better by extending the trail south from Caldwell and Devon to Irene Hernandez Woods at Foster and Kostner Avenues. From there bicyclists can connect to the Sauganash Trail to the north, the Lakefront Trail to the east or the planned Weber Spur Trail to the northeast.

Active Trans supports the vision proposed by the forest preserve, which creates the most comfortable route for the broadest cross-section of trail users. The south trail extension will provide greater access to more people and open up more destinations for users.

Some residents, citing concerns about tree removal and public safety, have proposed an alternative route that would take the trail extension onto neighborhood streets, which would turn off many potential trail users and seriously compromise the experience of riding on the trail.

Please join us on August 21 to show your support for the existing plans for this important link in our regional trail network.

What: Cook County Forest Preserve District open house on North Branch Trail extension
When: August 21, 6-8 p.m. 
Where: 6100 N. Central Avenue, Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center

Please RSVP in order to attend. 

Chicago biking community loses a dedicated supporter

The bicycling community in Chicago lost a great friend and supporter with the recent death of Dan Brown. Dan died as a result of a boating accident on Lake Michigan on Saturday evening. 

A committed supporter of Active Trans, Dan volunteered at our MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive and Four Star bike ride for many years.

For these events, Dan served as a ride marshal, helping people on the route with mechanical issues with their bikes, offering first aid, and sometimes providing just a snack, a bottle of water or some words of encouragement to those who needed it.

He volunteered at our Chicago Bike Swap events. And just a few weeks ago, Dan donated his time at Active Trans’ inaugural Bike to Brew ride, where he helped mark the route and ensure that the party after the ride ran smoothly. At this event, he also served as a ride marshal, leading the first wave of riders on the route.

As always, Dan performed these tasks with a big smile on his face. Dan was the type of person who would jump in to help where ever he was needed.

Dan, 56, loved helping people and he loved seeing more people riding bikes.

In addition to volunteering for Active Trans for many years, he often participated in events held by The Chainlink community.

His infectious enthusiasm will be missed dearly. 

Photo of Dan Brown courtesy of The Chainlink

First ever Indiana Walk Summit, August 27-28!

Step up, Indiana, and register to attend the first-ever Indiana Walk Summit, taking place August 27-28 at the Marten House Hotel and Lilly Conference Center in Indianapolis.

The conference will share examples from around the state and nation of best practices, model policies, and tools and resources that will help all Hoosier communities, regardless of size or setting, create safer and more accessible pedestrian environments.

Walkable communities are healthy and thriving. They help make a place great – somewhere people choose to live, desire to visit and are willing to spend time and money.

Safe, accessible and convenient pedestrian experiences are critical in ensuring that people of all ages and abilities have mobility options.

And the growing body of evidence is clear: walkable places are also economically vibrant.

The summit will consist of workshops on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 27 ($25), and a full-day conference on Thursday, August 28 ($85). People are welcome to attend one or both days.

The event website has all of the pertinent details, including a promotional flyer, an updated program overview, continuing education info (expected to include AICP, CHES/MCHES, LACES & PDH), the list of sponsors and more. Sign up now!

Bad driving you can do something about

While riding my bike to work last week, a delivery truck driver coming from the other direction illegally turned left in front of me, making my heart skip a beat and forcing me to stop suddenly. The truck couldn’t complete the turn right away, because he was (thankfully) yielding to a pedestrian. 

I made eye contact with the driver and said “What are you doing?”

His response was troubling. I got a 7 second middle finger salute that just added insult to injury.

He completed his turn. I got to work safely. End of story?


Since he was working for a well known company and had an identifiable truck number, I contacted the company and expressed my concern for their driver’s behavior – both the illegal turn and the "sign language."

The company representative assured me that they take these situations seriously and that they would look into it. They even sent me some coupons for some free product to thank me for my time.

Everyone should drive safely, but people that drive for a living have an even bigger responsibility since they are on the road more frequently, transport other people and/or often have larger vehicles that can cause more damage.

In London, commercial trucks without special safety features to protect pedestrians and cyclists will be banned from the city due to the disproportionate frequency of injuries/fatalities they cause.

If you see someone driving a commercial vehicle irresponsibly, whether they are driving aggressively, illegally or distracted, please report their behavior. Please note -- it’s not necessary or recommended to engage with the driver on site.

Collect the following information:

  • Vehicle number
  • Plate number
  • Date/time
  • Description of vehicle
  • Description of the driver
  • Exact location of the incident

Then, simply contact the company and calmly explain what you witnessed and that it was concerning behavior to observe from a representative of their company.

In the instance of dangerous cab driver behavior, you can submit your complaints directly to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs. I know from experience that they do a thorough job of investigating complaints.

Reporting bad driving, especially commercial drivers, is everyone’s job. 

Come to 'Spoketacular' event in Bronzeville on Sun., Aug. 17

If you haven’t had a chance to see the Bronzeville BikeBox in action, mark your calendar for the Spoketacular on Sunday, August 17, 2-6 p.m.

It promises to be a great bike and community event to get your bike fixed, tour Bronzeville and indulge in ice cream.  

With the Spoketacular, Bronzeville Bikes hopes to draw attention to the advantages of biking to Bronzeville residents.

Bernard Loyd of Urban Juncture, who was instrumental in organizing the BikeBox project, says the Spoketacular, a fun event on the surface, is part of a larger plan: “We expect it to raise the awareness of the great benefits of bicycling for fun, commerce, and health, and help build the local bicycling community.”

Part of building the bike community is through education. The Spoketacular will offer bike safety tips in addition to a bicycle tour to explore the neighborhood.

The tours, which examine the history and architecture of Bronzeville, started last summer with such impressive success they continued this summer.

The tour this Sunday starts at 3 p.m. and riders will leave from the Community Garden at 51st and Calumet; Bill Depenbrock, a volunteer who manages the BikeBox says the next ride will focus on urban foraging, “It’s a ride for edibles, looking at plants in the urban wild.”

The BikeBox, located at 51st Street and the CTA Green Line stop across from the Community Garden, is a repurposed 20-foot shipping container where Bronzeville Bikes does low-cost bike repairs and sells refurbished bicycles.

There are no other bicycle repair shops in the area; last year, Bronzeville Bikes hosted monthly “pop-up” bike repairs in the Community Garden.

Because there was such a demand for the services, the BikeBox was launched this summer. The shipping container is a low-cost structure that Loyd hopes will serve as a model for other communities.

“Once established," he said, "the BikeBox can be a self-sustaining 'mini-business' that can be replicated in other economically-challenged urban neighborhoods that are, effectively, bike deserts.”

The BikeBox got off the ground with support from Urban Juncture, Inc., Evanston Bike Club, Bronzeville Bikes, SRAM, Quality Bike Products, Bill Depenbrock and devoted volunteers (pictured above).

Though the operating costs are low, support through bike donations and volunteering are appreciated. If you can’t bring a bike for donation on Sunday, you can make contributions through the Metropolitan Planning Council to support the Spoketacular.

Though summer -- and peak bicycling season -- is coming to a close, the BikeBox will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September and Loyd says he hopes to continue bike education programs beyond the Spoketacular.

This blog post was submitted by Active Trans volunteer contributor, Rachel Roszmann. 

Watch our latest video on protecting your bike from thieves!

If you’ve ever been the victim of a theft, you’ll never forget that horrible and surreal sequence of realizations and emotions.

It was right there -- you know it -- you left it right there. Where is it? It’s gone -- but it can’t be. It just can’t be. But it is. It’s gone.

When it’s your bike that’s been stolen, it’s often so much worse.

Our bikes -- they’re special. They’re like a best friend, a pet and a favorite toy all rolled into one.

Well, we can’t get your bike back or remove those painful memories, but hopefully this video will help make sure neither you nor anyone else ever has to take a ride on that emotional roller coaster ever again.


If you're not an Active Trans member, please join the movement. Help us educate more people about good biking practices. 

At Mary Lyon, the whole school community supports biking and walking

This blog is part of our series chronicling our work with a Chicago Public Schools program called Healthy CPS. Read more about the project here.

At Mary Lyon Elementary in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood of Chicago, active transportation is a community effort.

Like Funston Elementary, Mary Lyon has a "wellness team" that works to increase staff and student wellness.

Mary Lyon also has a well-established "parent patrol" that assists students as they arrive and depart school each day, making sure they do so as safely as possible.

Since the parent patrol knows the neighborhood they have been able to recommend ways to make arrival and dismissal procedures safer for all students.

Physical education teachers are also an important part of the active transportation puzzle at Mary Lyon.

This spring, over 350 students received instruction around safe walking and biking during their PE classes at Mary Lyon, and there are plans to expand the program next year.

In partnership with Active Trans, Mary Lyon students joined nearly 3,000 students in 14 schools across CPS who received some form of walking and biking education in PE class during the 2013-2014 school year.

In future years we hope to see these numbers expand significantly so that every student in CPS receives this type of instruction.

Through the combined work of the wellness team, parent patrol and PE teachers, Mary Lyon has done a great job of keeping students safe while walking and biking to and from school.

The school’s new Safe Routes Action Plan will guide the efforts of making active transportation an integral part of students’ travel choices in the years to come.

(Additional past blog posts in this series not already linked above include the topics of engagement and administrative leadership.)

‘Transit deserts’ report demonstrates need for Transit Future

At its core, public transit is intended to connect people to jobs, boosting economic activity and helping cities thrive. In Cook County, our current system fails to meet this basic need for about one out of every 10 people, according to a new report by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) that's featured in the Chicago Tribune this week.

The report is part of our ongoing Transit Future campaign with CNT that calls for increased regional investment in public transit. The campaign asks the Cook County Board of Commissioners to establish a dedicated revenue stream to help local governments leverage available federal funds to improve and expand rapid transit throughout the region.

Transit deserts are defined as areas that have a high demand for transit but that are more than a half-mile from a rail stop, or at least one quarter of a mile from some form of express bus service or bus route that offers service every 15 minutes or less.

With more than 438,000 Cook County residents living in transit deserts, far too many people lack quality access to the region’s largest job centers in the city and surrounding suburbs. These people are forced into their cars – if they can afford one – and inevitable congestion, or they face a long and challenging commute with multiple transfers and opportunities for further delays.

The Tribune’s coverage features stories like Erin McMillan’s, who takes two trains and two buses to get from his home in Hyde Park to his job in Little Village. If you live in Chicagoland long enough, you inevitably know someone with a similar story.

Sign our petition today to show your support for eliminating transit deserts and increasing investment in public transit. You can also volunteer to join the campaign and help organize transit supporters in your area to contact your local Cook County commissioner.

Big. Marsh. Park. Is. HAPPENING!

Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District announced the beginning of phase 1 work on Big Marsh Park -- a truly awesome new project to benefit Chicago's far southeast side.

The 268 acre, $30 million eco-recreation gem will be "a playground for cycling," featuring "family-friendly bike trails as well as world-class venues for mountain biking, cyclocross racing, and trail riding within minutes of southeast Chicago communities, and just 20 minutes from the Chicago Loop."

Big Marsh Park will also have a treetop adventure course (think rope courses and zip lines) and fishing and canoeing access.

Active Trans was glad to be in attendance at the event that took place on Thursday at the site where the park will be built.

The effort will be a public-private partnership, with Active Trans friend and supporter SRAM Corporation leading the private sector fundraising effort. Other project partners include Trails for Illinois, International Mountain Biking Association and Hitchcock Design Group.

You can learn more and sign on as a one of the Friends of Big Marsh here! There's also a video highlighting some features of the park here.

Tell us about the unsafe crossings in your neighborhood

Look out!

Everyone who lives in the Chicago region has had the experience of trying to walk, bike or drive through a particularly dangerous intersection, dodging traffic, cyclists, pedestrians – or some combination of all three.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We’re looking to identify some of the most dangerous intersections and impossible street crossings in the city and suburbs so we can advocate for improvements, and we need your help.

Nobody knows a neighborhood better than the people who live in it, so think about the trickiest intersections on your way to work, home or the local grocery store. Don’t you think there must be a better way?

Whether it’s a spot where people are constantly crossing while confronting dangerous situations with oncoming traffic, or a street where nobody even tries to cross because it’s too intimidating, we want to hear about it.

Fill out the form below to tell us about the most unsafe crossings in your area.

Then sign up to receive updates and stay tuned to the Active Tran blog to learn more about our work to improve safety at crossings throughout the Chicago region.

Know an unsafe crossing in your neighborhood? Tell us about it!


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