Entries tagged: Chicago

Chicago Advocates Push New Transit Bill

imageLast September, Active Transportation Alliance launched a new campaign to preserve and improve the Chicago’s public transit system. Last week, the Riders for Transit initiative kicked into high gear with a full-court press for progressive state legislation.

On February 29th, the Chicago advocates mobilized nearly 30 volunteers for their Riders for Better Transit Day of Action. The volunteers passed out more than 6,000 fliers urging Chicago’s transit riders to support the Transit Fast Forward bill, a measure Active Trans worked to introduce in the state legislature.

Put simply, the Transit Fast Forward bill invests in faster, more reliable, more frequent and expanded transit service through a new, dedicated source of funding. According to Active Trans: “[The bill] would provide a new, dedicated source of funding for transit that will grow over time—generating an estimated $11.6 million in 2013, and a projected $168 million over the first five years. It indexes the state gas tax with inflation, a move that will add an additional fraction of a penny per gallon dedicated to public transportation. The end result will be better commutes for drivers and transit riders alike.”

At a news conference last week, Active Trans’ Executive Director, Ron Burke, made clear that increased funding is critical. “A lot of us who ride transit are really more and more fed up with higher fares and worse service,’’ he said. “Unfortunately, transit has been derailed by chronic underfunding.’’

To build awareness and solicit support from transit riders, volunteers will continue to engage morning commuters and distribute fliers outside of major downtown Chicago train stops. “The next few weeks are critical for the Transit Fast Forward bill as we build support in the legislature,” Breen Conway, Active Transportation Alliance’s Transit Campaign Coordinator, said.

Read more about Riders for Better Transit’s plans here.

PHOTO by Grid Chicago: Active Trans’ Executive Director Ron Burke makes the case for new state legislation at last week’s press conference.

Major Cities Highlight Biking and Walking as Key Mobility Strategies

imageThis week, more than 11,000 researchers, engineers, advocates and government officials are gathered here in Washington, DC, for the annual Transportation Research Board meeting. Glancing through the 328-page program this weekend, I had to admit that much of the content looked like a foreign language: I can’t say I’m familiar with the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide or well-versed on Inland Waterway Infrastructure. But being at the conference, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of buzz around biking and walking — even in the sessions that don’t have active transportation in the title.

Yesterday, for instance, I elbowed my way into a packed session on “Mobility Strategies for the 21st Century.” The panel included transportation commissioners from Chicago, San Francisco and New York City and, despite their diverse cities and populations, each of their presentations focused largely on their efforts to boost biking and walking.

“We’ve made lots of significant changes to the streetscape in the past four years,” Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City’s visionary transportation commissioner said. “Prior to 2007, we looked at everything with the planning ethos of 1950. We looked at streets through the eyes of a car. But simply adapting cities to pick up more and more vehicles, more and more traffic, is not a great strategy… So we’re rethinking how we use our streets and realized they weren’t really designed to meet the demands of the population.”

So, since Sadik-Khan took the reins, NYC has started thinking about streets as places, where limited space needs to be allocated to the safety and benefit of all users. Perhaps the first and most visible evidence of this paradigm shift, Sadik-Khan said, was turning Times Square into a pedestrian plaza. In very short order, the city realized massive economic benefits. “Since we closed Broadway [to cars], major flagship stores have moved in,” she said. “Retail rents have doubled in two years and Times Square has turned into one of the top 10 retail locations on the planet.”

Sadik-Khan also highlighted the city’s success in building out its bicycle network and the imminent debut of the Big Apple’s bike share, which will be the largest in the United States. And she wasn’t alone in showcasing bike-ped improvements as the top mobility strategies in her nation-leading city. Edward Reiskin, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, also touted the Bay City’s upcoming bike share system. He shared that, at any given time, s staggering 30 percent of the congestion in downtown San Francisco is motorists simply looking for parking, and the city’s effort to boost other modes of travel, including biking and walking. He highlighted his agency’s successful and growing use of parklets — re-appropriating parking spots and turning them into pedestrian parks and cafe patios — and raved about the power of people “taking back the streets” during the city’s recurring Sunday Streets ciclovia initiative.

And Gabe Klein, the new commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, added to the chorus of bike-ped enthusiasm. Known for his role in bringing bike share to Washington, DC, when he served as the transportation director in the nation’s capital, Klein shared a funny story that summed up the Windy City’s trajectory. Yes, Chicago is getting bike share, too, but that’s just the beginning of an ambitious plan to make the city more bicycle-friendly. On the day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his new DOT director, Klein was reading through the Mayor’s remarks. When he saw that Emanuel’s speech promised 100 miles of protected bike lanes, Klein got a bit anxious. Was there really the political will and public support to add such significant lengths of cycletracks? Trying to hedge his bets, Klein crossed out the word “protected.” But when the Mayor read his speech he barely stumbled before reinstating that significant distinction. And guess what? The first protected bike lane on Kinzie Street has been phenomenally successful, boosting bicycle mode share on that stretch from 22 to more than 50 percent.

Listening to those inspired transportation officials, all fired up about biking and walking as critical and integral transportation solutions for the 21st Century, I couldn’t help but think of the incredible advocates in those cities who have made that shift possible. From the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to the Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago to Transportation Alternatives in NYC, advocates have laid the foundation for this groundswell by doing the tough, long-term work of elevating the voices and need of people who walk and bike in their communities.

Stay tuned for more from TRB…

PHOTO: Transportation officials in major U.S. cities are excited about bike share as a mobility solution.

Posted by Carolyn S on January 24, 2012
Tags: san francisco, protected bike lanes, pedestrian plaza, parklets, new york city, mobility, chicago, bike share
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Active Trans’ Video Highlights Success of Open Streets

If a picture says a thousand words, then a video must say a million. That why the folks at Active Transportation Alliance have produced a three-minute highlight reel of Open Streets on State Street, which opened up the heart of downtown to thousands of walkers and cyclists.

We can talk and talk about how open streets initiatives are a lot of fun and a great way to introduce people to biking and walking, but this video does a better job showing the excitement that took place during the initiative. Check it out!

Posted by mlhall on October 26, 2011
Tags: video, open streets, chicago, active transportation alliance
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Advocates Bring Open Streets to the Heart of Downtown Chicago

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On October 1, Chicago advocates celebrated the first open streets initiative since 2009 — and they went big.

The initiative was held on the city’s iconic State Street in the heart of downtown, and was titled Open Streets on State Street. Unlike the initiative in New York City, which was organized by the NYC DOT, Chicago’s initiative was put on by local Alliance member organization Active Transportation Alliance, in cooperation with the Chicago Loop Alliance.

While Active Trans has organized open streets in the past, this was the advocates first time preparing an initiative downtown. In anticipation of the time commitment, the organization hired several part-time staff members to help coordinate volunteers, programming and logistics for the big event. Active Trans also partnered with local media to spread the word.

The initiative itself was a huge success, with thousands of pedestrians and cyclists enjoying a brisk fall day. Children were everywhere along the route, enjoying relay races, the imagination playground and plenty of active games. Even Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein got in on the fun by taking a turn in the dunk tank.

Active Trans Open Streets Manager Julia Kim summed up Open Streets on State Street by saying, “We’re encouraging people to ride bikes, take a stroll, and embrace the dramatic beauty of Chicago. Open Streets brings communities together to have fun and lead active lifestyles.”

With the success of this year’s initiatives, Active Trans is already looking forward to holding more frequent and larger open streets next year. The goal is to create routes that link downtown and neighborhood initiatives, allowing Chicago’s open streets to benefit both its diverse communities and major business district.

Learn more about the evolution of Chicago’s initiative and get tips from Active Trans’ Adolfo Hernandez by listening to or downloading the tip sheet from our recent Mutual Aid Call on Open Streets. If you have successes to share about initiatives in your community, e-mail me at Mike@PeoplePoweredMovement.org.

Posted by mlhall on October 13, 2011
Tags: open streets, illinois, children, chicago, active transportation alliance
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Active Trans Launches “Riders for Better Transit” Campaign

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The Active Transportation Alliance may be best known for supporting and promoting biking and walking in the greater Chicagoland region. But, last month, the advocates teamed up with the Natural Resource Defense Council to launch a new campaign that will unite and fight for transit riders.

With city officials facing tough budget decisions, Chicago transit agencies could see their funding slashed, and residents could be hit with service cuts and fare increases. Riders for Better Transit — the new initiative from Active Trans and the NRDC — is building a vocal constituency for increased investment and improved initiatives that serve riders’ needs.

“Transit reduces pollution, provides essential links to jobs and commerce, and offers an affordable transportation choice for Chicagoland residents,” Jennifer Henry of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a press release last month. “We need to use transportation dollars wisely and reinvest in existing communities and infrastructure.”

The Riders for Better Transit campaign has a vision for how to spend those dollars wisely and invest in a world-class transit system, including bus rapid transit, modernized rail service and a more-passenger-friendly Union Station. The campaign is also pushing for a universal fare system, real-time transit information and “complete stations” that are inviting and safely accessible by walking, biking, and persons of all abilities.

And, perhaps most importantly, the campaign will fight to prevent further service cuts and fare increases as transit agencies prepare to finalize their 2012 budgets.

“Riders across the region know our system is plagued by slow zones, overcrowding and deteriorating stations, and every community has a laundry list of needs, from restoring bus service that’s been cut to increasing train frequencies,” added Ron Burke, Executive Director of Active Trans. “Our region can barely maintain our current transit service, much less make improvements riders need. The bottom line is transit in our region is significantly underfunded.”

Read more on the campaign website.

Chicago Begins Work on City’s First Protected Bike Lane

imageChicago residents asked for it. Active Transportation Alliance advocated for it. And, now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is putting paint to pavement for safer cycling.

On Tuesday, Adolfo Hernandez, Active Trans’ Director of Advocacy, was on hand as the mayor unveiled Chicago’s first protected bike lane on Kinzie Avenue. “The first half-mile of protected bike lane is a great step in the right direction,” he wrote on the Active Trans blog. “It will help connect two of the busiest cycling corridors in the city and will certainly provide a safer passage into the loop.”

With Gabe Klein at the helm of the city’s Department of Transportation, Chicago certainly has reason to believe the Mayor when he says he aims to make the Windy City the most bike-friendly in the nation. But Hernandez also credited the partnership of residents and advocates in making the cycletrack a reality.

“Active Trans has been advocating for safer and more innovative bikeways for years, and I don’t believe we’d be where we are today without the strong community of supporters and advocates we’re fortunate to have in Chicago,” he wrote. “As CDOT started work on the project yesterday, I was reflecting back to our member meeting last November, when we outlined some of our priorities for this year. During a feedback session, members had emphasized the importance of protected bike lanes. We committed to making protected bike lanes and educating mayoral candidates priorities for this year. We then went on to create a Sustainable Transportation Platform, which highlighted protected bike lanes.”

The Mayor took heed of that united voice for better bicycling, and advocates are confident the Kinzie lane is just the first step to a larger, more comprehensive system. “Ultimately, we will need a robust network of protected bikeways to have a significant impact,” Hernandez noted. “Our Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign will focus on building a 100-mile network of protected bike lanes around the city—a goal we share with the mayor and CDOT.”

Subscribe to the Active Trans blog to stay up-to-date on the bikeways campaign.

Photo: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) speaks to cycling ambassadors at the unveiling on Tuesday (Active Transportation Alliance)

Registration Now Open for 2011 Membership Development Training in Chicago

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One of the most powerful tools to boost biking and walking in your community is a large, active membership. The 2011 Alliance Membership Development Training will give you the proven tools and innovative best practices to engage more people in your important work. Is your organization looking to lay a strong foundation for its membership plan? Does your group already have a membership program, but want to take it to the next level? Attend this affordable, three-day training geared specifically for bike-ped advocates and learn from top experts in the field.

Registration is now open!

The training will focus specifically on best practices in membership development and retention, provide opportunities for group discussions and sharing of success stories with peers, and offer a limited number of one-on-one consultations with trainer and membership guru Ellis Robison, Kate McCarthy, Membership and Volunteer Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and other Alliance leaders with expertise in this field. This event also includes social activities Wednesday and Thursday evening, providing plenty of chances for peer-to-peer networking.

Click here for a draft agenda. Click here for all the details and to register.

Happy Walk to School Day!

imageKids today could be the first generation with a lower life expectancy than their parents. Many studies chalk up that disturbing possibility to the fact that nearly 80 percent of children don’t get enough exercise.

It used to be that students got a daily dose of physical activity simply traveling to and from school. In 1969, at least 50 percent of students walked or biked to school. Today that number has dropped to less than 15 percent.

Across the U.S., school leaders and local advocates are making strides in reversing that trend with International Walk to School Day activities. Drawing on inspiration from the United Kingdom, the Partnership for a Walkable America sponsored the first National Walk Our Children to School Day in Chicago in 1997. Five years later, more than 3 million parents, students and advocates in all 50 states marked the second international event.

Today, an impressive 3,213 schools are participating in Walk to School Day — and many Alliance member organizations are celebrating, too.

In California, for instance, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition highlighted yesterday that Walk to School Day marks a tripling in the number of schools participating in San Francisco’s Safe Routes to School Program. ““Safe Routes to Schools is a smart way to improve our streets and neighborhoods, which will encourage more families to walk and bike to school,” Renée Rivera, Acting Executive Director of the SFBC said in the press release. “Walk to School day is a great one day event that allows more kids and parents to experience firsthand how fun and easy walking to school can be.”

Up in Illinois, the Active Transportation Alliance helped a handful their local schools plan particularly festive celebrations with mini grants of $500. In addition to funding, Active Trans kicked in school safety patrol equipment, a banner to promote the event, snack bars, T-shirts, safety vests, signs, and stickers, as well as a Safe Routes to School consultation for the entire school district and safety resources for a Walk and Roll to School Day assembly.

How are you celebrating Walk to School Day?

New Hotline Offers Help in the Aftermath of a Crash

imageBetween 2004 and 2007, traffic crashes affected more than 15,000 pedestrians and nearly 5,800 bicyclists in Chicago alone. For many of the victims, the impact of the collision didn’t end at the 911 call, the police report or the hospital emergency room. The physical, emotional and legal consequences of a crash often extend far beyond the immediate aftermath.

So this month, the Active Transportation Alliance opened a new Crash Support Hotline to provide additional aid and assistance to cyclists and pedestrians involved in traffic crashes.

“Crashes are an unfortunate reality on our streets,” Melody Geraci, interim executive director at the Chicago-based advocacy organization said in a press release. “And when they do happen, there are a lot of questions: What are my rights? Do I need a police report? When will I feel comfortable riding again? We are ready to lend that support.”

According to Active Trans, every caller will receive a response within 24 hours of dialing the Hotline. Trained volunteers will be ready to answer all post-crash questions, from attorney referrals to logistical support. The Hotline isn’t the first resource offered by Active Trans. Already, the advocacy group hosts a monthly Crash Support Group meeting — a free, confidential gathering led by a trained facilitator.

For more information, visit their Crash Support website.

Posted by Carolyn S on July 26, 2010
Tags: traffic crash, pedestrian, crash support hotline, chicago, bicycle, active transportation alliance
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Must Stop Bill Passes IL Senate

imageAccording to Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance, “The Illinois General Assembly passed a monumental bill, HB43, clarifying the current law by requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks – even those that don’t have a stop sign or traffic signal; and even those that aren’t marked with paint. Current law is vague and nearly impossible to enforce.

HB 43 is clear: come to a complete stop when pedestrians are present.

Active Trans worked with Sen. Heather Steans (Chicago) and Rep. Luis Arroyo (Chicago) to make Illinois a state that prioritizes and protects people, not cars. These two legislators were champions that deserve a lot of praise. If you are in their districts, please call them or write a handwritten thank you note letting them know their efforts were appreciated and congratulating them on their victory. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Metropolitan Planning Council and a particularly active group of students at Curie Metropolitan High School have played critical roles in this victory.

This will go into law as soon as Gov. Quinn signs the bill.

HB 43 will save lives and prevent serious injuries. More than 6,000 people are hit by cars every year in Illinois. That translates into 1,000 serious injuries and 150 fatalities.

This victory has been nearly two years in the making and we couldn’t have done it without the phone calls, support and momentum you provide. Thank you!”

For more information, visit http://www.activetrans.org/blog.