This Man Wants to Install YOUR Bike Rack! John Greenfield and the CDOT Bike Rack Program have dozens of shiny new racks ready to install RIGHT NOW at the site of your choosing. THEY COST YOU NOTHING, and beautify any establishment. Request one! Request a dozen! Fill out the
on-line form at cityofchicago.org!
DuPage Passes Healthy Roads Initiative
Routine accommodation becomes a reality
For many of Cook County's residents, "urban sprawl" brings to mind the burgeoning high growth, low density, wide road communities of DuPage County. But now, this Republican bastion will also represent the most progressive bicycle and pedestrian accommodation mandate in Illinois outside of Chicago. Indeed, DuPage County's Healthy Roads Initiative should be the model for Cook County and the State of Illinois as well.
Passed unanimously by the DuPage County board and introduced on March 19 by Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, the Healthy Roads Initiative will be in practice the region's first application of routine accommodation, now referred to by many as "complete streets." The holy grail of bike advocacy, complete streets means that roads routinely include accommodations for non-motorized users (see "Complete the Streets," back page). Many of the roads you're familiar with are incomplete streets since they were designed and built only with accommodating motorized vehicles in mind, too often wholly excluding other users.
This applies to DuPage County as much as anybody. And growth trends that show DuPage will for many people continue to be a desirable place to live also warn of continued traffic growth, lengthier travel times, inevitable delays and nagging congestion.
"This initiative applies creative solutions to these problems," says Schillerstrom in the county's press release, and he pledges that the county will from now on work to satisfy travel demands by non-motorized means in its road building projects. "By providing additional travel options that are less costly for the commuter and that promote healthy living," he continues, "we are maintaining DuPage County's superior quality of life."
Key components of the Healthy Roads Initiative direct the county to, whenever feasible:
"I think that Chairman Schillerstrom has always had a strong interest in the environment and environmental issues," she replied, explaining that prior to becoming county board chairman, he was president of The Conservation Foundation, a leader in many local environmental issues. "He has also worked many years on trail development along our greenways and served as a member of the DuPage County Regional Planning Commission," she added. "I think the combination of the two interests led, as a natural progression, to what the County can do to further the goals related to the environment and non-motorized transportation at the same time."
She admits that applying the Healthy Roads mandate won't be easy. "We have a highly urbanized area with almost a million people living in DuPage. A lot of the County is already developed and that will make implementation of some of the recommendations challenging." But she does believe the implementation of Healthy Roads begins immediately.
If, as I hope, the Healthy Roads Initiative will lead the rest of the region to complete their streets, immediately is just soon enough.
"We Will Catch Up"
Cook Co. commissioner pledges to do more, better for bikes
When Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin took the podium Friday afternoon at the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Conference on March 19, he most likely had heard that DuPage County board members were awarded the Pedal Power award for encouraging and improving bicycling. It was easy to imagine this was on his mind when he began his address to the crowd of over 130 planners, engineers, public officials and bike advocates.
"In many ways," Suffredin began, "[Cook County is] behind in the progressive trends on biking in some of the other counties and the development of trails.
"But I promise you: We will catch up."
Coming from a representative of an agency responsible for 68,000 acres of forest preserve and more than 1400 lane miles of roads, Suffredin possibly made the most significant pledge of any public official at the conference, which includes Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Martin. The county's network of bike paths and its control over many of the region's arterial roads could play a dramatic role in encouraging and improving bicycling if the county made the effort. Thus far, acknowledged Suffredin, it hasn't.
Suffredin touched on some recent positive developments that are hopefully the beginning of Cook County's own trend toward bicycle accommodation. He said Illinois' General Assembly, "in its wisdom," overrode the veto on Senate Bill 83 which helps the Forest Preserve District raise money for path construction by issuing bonds. And he publicly thanked the leaders and members of the League of Illinois Bicyclists as well as the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation for helping the county land $200,000 to close the gap between the Green Bay Trail and the North Branch Trail through Glencoe.
Then he dropped a bomb.
"I'm fortunate to be one of the seven commissioners who gets to appoint Metra board members," said Suffredin. "Since I've been commissioner, we've appointed three of them. One of the issues we've asked each of them about is making sure there are bike racks and facilities on Metra trains to allow people to get on those trains with their bikes."
Applause and shouts forced Suffredin to pause, but he wasn't finished. He told the crowd, "Our new commissioners know that [bikes on Metra trains] is a priority. I sat down with one of our old commissioners who still has a year left on his term, and he's noticed the trend of long-time commissioners being replaced," Suffredin told the chuckling listeners. "I brought up bikes on Metra, and he began telling me all the reasons bikes couldn't be on trains.
"I don't understand these reasons," exclaimed Suffredin. "These are the reasons of the past. We're moving into the future. There will continue to be new people on the county board unless someone begins to take leadership."
The commissioner expressed frustration shared by IDOT's Martin over getting a bureaucracy to change. But Suffredin dared go where Martin did not: he set a deadline. "Our county is really way behind," repeated Suffredin. "But we will have an online trail guide," he said. "We will have a trails committee. In six months, you will see dramatic improvements in Cook County Forest Preserve District trails and in the attitude of the Forest Preserve District staff."
Willing to lead by example, Suffredin offered himself to bicyclists looking for answers and action from the county. "Bring any problems you have to my office. I am willing to make them an issue and put them before the board."
In closing, Suffredin once again pledged to close the distance between Cook County's efforts to encourage bicycling and its neighbors. "We should be able to match our sister counties and have the finest trail system and the most satisfied riders of anywhere else in the U.S.
"After all," the commissioner proclaimed, "we are riding through the greatest urban forest that's ever existed."
DuPage Wins Pedal Power; Car Wash Honored
Clap. Clap. Clap clap-clap clap clap.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation awarded Thomas F. Bennington, Jr. and James D. Healy, DuPage County board members, 2004's Pedal Power Award for taking the Southern DuPage County Regional Trail from a concept in the county-wide bikeway plan to implementation.
After an address by Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Miguel D'Escoto, Federation board member Derrick James presented three additional awards to the Northbrook Cycling Committee, River West Auto Wash and Schaumburg Bicycle Club for their outstanding efforts to improve access and conditions for bicyclists.
The 40-year-old Northbrook Cycling Committee, a volunteer organization dedicated to bicycle advocacy and supporting track racing at the Northbrook Park District Ed Rudolph Velodrome, faced its biggest challenge last July when the Velodrome was threatened with closure after the 2004 season unless improvements were made. The Northbrook Park District, which owns the facility, offered to fund half the project. The Committee raised more than $225,000 to close the gap.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation also recognized River West Car Wash, an unlikely ally for a bicycle advocacy organization. The car wash, located in Chicago's River West neighborhood, recently posted a "Please Do Not Park in the Bike Lane" making it easier for motorists to spot bicyclists before entering the building's busy entrance at 478 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
The Schaumburg Bicycle Club was acknowledged for continually and actively promoting bicycling throughout the community. Formed in 1999, the 50-member club actively encourages people of all ages and skill levels to bicycle and promotes local events, such a 15-mile community invitational. Members also participate in Schaumburg's Bikeways Committee and a range of regional safe cycling efforts.
"We Can't Afford to Expand Your Roads"
IDOT Secretary Tim Martin Says Sprawl at Own Risk
Illinois state representative Elaine Nekritz introduced Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Martin as the leader of an agency often ignominiously labeled by transportation advocates as "the department of roads," referring to the agency's token approach to accommodating bikes. Secretary Martin in his opening remarks acknowledged that IDOT had earned that label. But he also felt that IDOT has enough character to change it, eventually. "We don't want to be comfortable. We need to be good stewards of our money. And in order to be good stewards, we need to reach out to organizations like Chicagoland Bicycle Federation."
Martin cited Chicago's Lake Shore Drive relocation plan as an example of the effort IDOT's making to broaden its vision beyond motorized vehicles in its projects. "Bikes were not considered second in the design of that. Pedestrians were not considered second. Bikes were brought in in the beginning."
As he would with other examples of progressive attitudes taking root at IDOT, Martin quickly tempered the crowd's optimism. "Don't leave here thinking we'll consider bikes first in all our projects," he advised. "Trust me, we won't."
In fact, that was Martin's clearest message: even for him, getting IDOT to move from it's soft, warm spot is like levering a sleeping pig to standing position with a tongue depressor. "We have a wonderful group of grumpy old men at IDOT," said Martin. "They don't want to change."
Still, Martin sounds willing to try, and is making progress where he can. Even though he advised not to count on IDOT building bike accommodations on or along all its roads, he suggested a compromise. "Why can't we grade the flat service and put the fill in so someone in the future can come in and put in a bike path? The people who put in Chicago's expressways had the foresight to put in large medians. Now you have the country's most efficient HOV lanes with the L trains. So don't prevent a future bike path from being built in the right of way."
Martin said that public involvement gives him a bigger stick with which to prod the stubborn agency. "We need people to be ever watchful with IDOT. Because I can tell you, it doesn't work just coming from me. Because the moment we're not there watching over every project, our folks will fall back very quickly and say 'No, no, no, we're just roads.' They don't want to spend money on anything else."
The secretary spoke a bit about IDOT's context sensitive solutions policy (CSS), which mandates the agency to consider in a road's design not only all road users but the community and land use surrounding the project. "I think our folks now understand CSS is not a way just to delay projects. We can figure out other ways to delay projects," he joked. Had CSS been in place at the time, said Martin, it could have helped IDOT avoid the recent quarrels with Chicago African-American communities over the planned Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction.
One bit of good news--at least for this audience--that Martin didn't temper or qualify was IDOT's inability to continue building the expansive roadways that suburban sprawl development requires. In fact, Martin sounded--irrespective of IDOT's ability to afford it--almost loathe to the idea that IDOT should be stuck with the roadway bill for suburban communities' inability to reign in developers.
Martin offered an anecdote from a recent meeting he had with west suburban community leaders "One said, 'I'm at 2000 residents right now, but [planning agencies] say I'm going to go to 15,000,' and another said, 'I'm at 10,000 and [planning agencies] say I'm going to 100,000.' I just casually mentioned that planning agencies' numbers only show where you'll end up if you don't change your ways. They are not goals for you to reach.
"But they have a developer coming in saying 'I'm going to build you a subdivision and generate millions of dollars of property taxes,' and the school district has already worked out the impact fee, and they've already worked out the sanitary and water and built the local streets, and then they dump everybody out onto the state route and say, 'Oh by the way IDOT, come here and do this.' Well, IDOT is now on record...we're not going to lie to you and say you'll get funding that you're not going to get, and you're going to be stuck with these roads over and over again."
"Bear in mind you will be sitting on a two lane road at a traffic signal for 20 minutes on a hot Sunday afternoon. We can't afford it. And you won't hear IDOT Secretary Tim Martin asking for revenue enhancements from gas tax increases, registration fee increases, because I don't think we can go to the voters--our customers--until we show them we are good stewards of their money."
That garnered Martin the second largest applause from the crowd. The first largest erupted when he answered a question from the audience: Will bicycling ever enter into the federal government's plans to reduce reliance on foreign oil?
Martin's answer: "Only if Halliburton starts making bicycles.
CONFERENCE SESSION REPORT
(More than 200 planners, engineers, bike advocates, and officials from state, county, and local governments attended our first ever Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Conference, March 18-20. In this issue and next, we'll bring you reports of the lessons and experiences they took home with them--SB).
Ride Your Bike NOW!
Ride Your Bike Now! Pretty strong words, don't you think?
Actually, it was the name of a Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Conference session led by the Federation's Alex Wilson and Randy Warren that was all about ways to get certain groups of people to use their bikes more often.
A Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant to the City of Chicago resulted in Alex's job with the Federation. He described the Chicago Department of Transportation's Student Bikes program, which encourages Chicago college and university students to bring their bikes to school and then use them to get to classes, shop the neighborhood and have fun.
Alex identified this population as being a prime audience for such a message due to several factors: bikes are affordable for cash strapped students; students normally exist in a casual environment where cycling clothing fits in well; most campuses have great routes that can easily be biked; and many campus buildings have shower facilities
Alex targeted DePaul, Loyola, UIC and the University of Chicago and marketed cycling directly to students, recruiting volunteers along the way. Alex helped them establish school cycling clubs and organize group rides that taught how to get around their area as well as safe ways of riding on city streets. The program has been so successful that it has been extended to all Chicago colleges. More information on Student Bikes is at biketraffic.org/studentbikes.
The Federation's Project Director Randy Warren described the Bicycle Commuter Challenge. He identified several factors that made local businesses and their employees excellent partners for such a program. These included congestion, lack of parking, pollution and the positive effects of cycling on employee health and health insurance costs.
Randy works with businesses to overcome any obstacles to biking to work and organizes a competition among businesses to see who could amass the most cycling trips to their company. Not only do people enjoy all of the benefits associated with using their bikes for transportation, they get to have fun and win prizes as part of their company team.
The Bicycle Commuter Challenge has become an annual event that has taught many workers that they can make bicycling their preferred mode for commuting. You can find out more about bicycle commuting at www.biketraffic.org under "resources."
CONFERENCE SESSION REPORT
On-Street or Off: Designing Roads for Bicycles
Let's say you're advocating for a bike lane network for a village or city, and you want to make the route as safe as possible. Would you place the lanes right on the street, or keep them as far apart from motor traffic as possible?
This question was addressed before a crowd of 60 planning, transportation and bicycle advocacy professionals at the first Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Conference - and the answer may surprise you.
"People who don't ride think it is safer to be away from cars, but in reality it is not," said Nick Jackson, director of planning for Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and one of the three speakers who presented the session, "On-Street or Off: Designing Streets for Bicycles."
Jackson and John N. LaPlante, vice president and chief transportation planning engineer for T.Y. Lin International, Inc., stressed that not only do bicycle crashes decline as a result of on-street bike lanes, but so do automobile crashes.
Bike lanes provide two key elements to bike safety: visibility and predictability, Jackson said. It is at intersections, where side paths feed into traffic, that problems arise, he said, showing a number of diagrams to illustrate how side path riders move largely outside of the fields of vision of motorists who are executing turns.
While the Chicago bike lane network has spurred a dramatic increase in cycling on streets with new bike lanes, the crash rate per intersection has decreased by nearly 10 percent, and mid-block collisions have declined by 15.4 percent.
This safety benefit to all road users can be emphasized as a selling point by the bike lane advocate, LaPlante said.
David Gleason, a consultant to the City of Chicago Bike Program, gave a detailed explanation of the specifications of bike lane design; and he discussed reconfiguring existing facilities to make room for a bike lane.
While parking can be consolidated, both Gleason and LaPlante cautioned against plans that seek to eliminate existing parking. "It creates opposition," LaPlante said.
LaPlante also outlined 18 factors to consider when designing a bike lane, including cost and funding, conflicts, bridges, maintenance and directness.
For those who wish to learn more about bike lane standards, two publications were recommended: Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 3rd Edition, which is published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; and the Bike Lane Design Guide authored by Jackson and available online at www.bicyclinginfo.org.
Complete the Streets
A sensible policy to move people
Complete streets provide choices to the people who live, work and travel on them. Pedestrians and bicyclists are comfortable using complete streets. A network of complete streets improves the safety, convenience, efficiency and accessibility of the transportation system for all users. Every road project should create complete streets.
Completing the streets means routinely accommodating travel by all modes. This will expand the capacity to serve everyone who travels, be it by motor vehicle, foot, bicycle, or other means. A complete street in a rural area may look quite different from a complete street in a highly urban area. But both are designed to balance safety and convenience for everyone using the road.
Many streets where people bicycle or walk are inadequate. Our states, cities, counties and towns have built many miles of streets and roads that are safe and comfortable only for travel in one way, in a motor vehicle. These roadways often lack sidewalks, have lanes too narrow to share with bicyclists, and feature few, poorly marked, or dangerous pedestrian crossings. A recent federal survey found that about one-quarter of walking trips take place on roads without sidewalks or shoulders, and bike lanes are available for only about 5 percent of bicycle trips.
Streets without safe places to walk and bicycle put people at risk. While 10 percent of all trips are made by foot or bicycle, more than 13 percent of all traffic fatalities are bicyclists or pedestrians. More than 5,000 pedestrians and bicyclists die each year on U.S. roads. The most dangerous places to walk and bicycle are sprawling communities with streets that are built only for driving. A recent study comparing the United States with Germany and the Netherlands, where complete streets are common, found that bicyclist and pedestrian death rates are two to six times higher in the United States.
The Solution: Complete the Streets
The Federal government can take the lead by insuring that all projects involving new construction or reconstruction include appropriate provisions to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians, if bicycles and pedestrians are permitted on the road. State Departments of Transportation should adopt and implement transition plans that identify the steps they are taking to complete the streets. At the state and local level, transportation agencies should update design, planning, and policy manuals to reflect an integrated approach and should train all personnel to plan and design complete streets. Project checklists and program audits should evaluate roads in terms of how well they serve all users.
The Benefits of Complete Streets
Complete streets improve safety. They reduce crashes through safety improvements. One study found that designing for pedestrian travel by installing raised medians and redesigning intersections and sidewalks reduced pedestrian risk by 28%. Complete streets also improve safety indirectly, by increasing the number of people bicycling and walking. A recently published international study found that as the number and portion of people bicycling and walking increases, deaths and injuries decline.
Complete Streets encourage more walking and bicycling. Public health experts are encouraging routine physical activity as one response to the obesity epidemic, and complete streets can help. One study found a 23% increase in bicycle traffic after the installation of a bicycle lane; another found that residents were 65% more likely to walk in a neighborhood with sidewalks. Streets that provide travel choices give people the option to avoid traffic jams, and increase the overall capacity of the transportation network.
Two recent polls found that a majority of Americans would like to bike and walk more. Spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects has increased dramatically over the last decade. But most of the attention and funding has gone to build specific projects, such as multi-use paths, not to make sure that every resident can safely walk or bicycle where they live. The vast majority of transportation money continues to go to road projects that often do not accommodate all users of the right of way. Transportation agencies need to complete the streets--routinely investing in road designs and facilities that ensure safe, comfortable travel by the millions of Americans who would like to bicycle and walk more often. For more details, go to the America Bikes web site, www.americabikes.org.
Unlike all of Hollywood's post-apocalyptic
depictions of a car-less future, these people on the 2003 Bike the Drive
look...happy. Of course, there's no atomic mutant zombies chasing them.
Register for the real-life revelation
of a car-free Lake Shore Drive at bikethedrive.org,
the only ride with no atomic mutant zombies... guaranteed!*
(*Offer void in event of actual apocalypse.)
2004, Chicagoland Bicycle Federation