Monday, June 20, 2011

Take transit and bike? Why not a federal commuter tax benefit that works with both?

Last month (before the seismic changes on Kinzie Street's separated lane), I had a chance to sit in on the Ped(al) forum at the TransportChicago conference here in Chicago.  The last third of the Ped(al) section was a paper presented by Gregory T. Smith and Michael Menelli about the Bike Commuter Tax Benefit and how it can and can't be used to encourage more bicycle commuters. I had never heard of the Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit.

The Bike Commuter Tax Benefit is part of the larger Transportation Benefit 26 U.S.C. 132 (f). This is a menu of different benefits for employees to encourage them to use public transportation, carpooling and bicycles. The cycling portion was part of the bail-out bill.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Grow Your Own School Bike Train

Our school began its first bike train this spring. Inspired by the Portland bike trains and local hero Jane Healy's train in Blue Island,  we grew our own school train. Maybe you might want to try one too!

Some of what we learned making our bike train work might help you plan yours...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why not try the North Branch Trail?

We have lived in Chicago for many years but for some reason never rode on the North Branch Trail, which connects Devon Ave at Caldwell to the Skokie Lagoons and the Chicago Botanic Garden near Lake Cook Rd in Glencoe. It's a great place for a kid who isn't completely at ease on a bike to practice and for a bigger kid to really ride without thinking about cars. That and it's green and outdoorsy. The trail follows...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Off to the North Branch Trail

We're a little behind on a new post!  We're out on our bikes. Please stay tuned. More soon on our school's month old bike train, bikes and taxes and a ride on the North Branch Trail.  Hope you get out to enjoy today's sun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wow! Get Ready for the Future! (Mayor's Bike Meeting)

We made it to the meeting yesterday. Very special thanks to Cdot for having us (despite our loud toddler ** and a late extra parent on the way to ferry the small children away).  Thanks to them also for letting our oldest ask questions. They had plenty to celebrate and more to share about the comprehensive sea change the Mayor plans for cycling and traveling in Chicago during this term. Cdot had ...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mayor's Bike Meeting is Today

So this is a late update-- the Mayor's Bike Advisory Committee Meeting is today. Many thanks to Julie Hochsdater and Steve Vance for the time and room: City Hall, Room 1103 from 3-4:45p.m.Should be an interesting meeting. I think that they may have lots of information on the new protected lane and hopefully some of their ideas for the future. I rode the new lane again this morning. Looked like the Cdot guys were having lunch and all was quiet but they are moving along!  Maybe we'll see you at the meeting!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thrilled About Seeing the New Protected Lane Cycletrack

Bad cellphone picture looking west, up the hill, at the new eastbound lane.
The playground is on the left.  The supermarket is at the top
of the hill. There will be a painted lane on the other side.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Protected Bike Lanes get a Wobbly Start

* this Posted yesterday morning- note the lane may be in by Bike to Work Week- that's fast! As you can find in the comments we think it's amazing that they can move so fast and we are thrilled that the new Mayor is showing such a strong commitment to cycle track right out of the gate.* I rode the "lane" this morning and it skirts the playground and  shopping so I was wrong on that! Now that I've seen it actually going it I'm just so excited and flabbergasted to see this in Chicago! thanks to CDOT, the Mayor and Alderman for showing us this can get done so fast. Mayor Emanuel hit the ground running on cycling!
My post on seeing the lane go in is above.

As you may know the Mayor has committed to installing two full miles of cycletrack, protected lanes with a physical barrier between cars and bikes, this year in Chicago and he is taking the first one hundred days of his term to decide where. It's a small start to what I hope will be a big change in Chicago transportation.

I had the luck of getting a chance to sit in on the bicycling session at TransportChicago - the Chicago transportation conference held last Friday. Huge thanks to them for letting me sit in. It will take me another day or so to get my post up about the conference but on that note I found the Guardian bike blog’s new post about creating cycletracks in England. This is an excellent introduction to the topic, focussing on a new study concluding that a protected cycletrack is one of the major tools needed to grow cycling (or in planner-speak, to increase modeshare). They discuss other traffic calming methods as well. Here is the link. We have some pictures of cycletracks from New York and Washington D.C. on our site and there are good videos on YouTube and StreetFilms about ones elsewhere.

I hope we can place some of the two miles Mayor Emanuel has committed to getting in this year where families can use them to shop or kids can bike to school. Then we can see how powerful it might be for those parents who are not confident on our streets now, to use bikes every day! This winter Alderman Solis, our Alderman in the 25th Ward, proposed a cycletrack in our ward from Pilsen to UIC that would connect several schools, the university, and the Pilsen business district on 18th street to downtown.

More discussion about bicycle lanes is going in a couple of places right now. Steven Vance at StevenCanPlan has been talking about lanes and he and WBEZ report that one location has been chosen, on Kinzie Street. I have to admit that this doesn't seem to be a location that fulfills any of the criteria I just mentioned - it seems instead to be directed at people who already are bicycle commuters to the Loop, largely young, fit adults. I don't think they are the people who can benefit from a track and it should be placed elsewhere.

In places with many protected cycletracks parents feel comfortable letting their children ride their own bikes, retirees can get to the store easily, shoppers can carry their groceries or other goods easily home without parking worries, and everybody gets more exercise and burns less expensive fuel. This could be possible here in Chicago, too, if good locations are chosen. Also, right now,it is easy to find automobile drivers who complain about bicyclists mixing badly with traffic. With a protected cycletrack riders have their own traffic signals and their path crosses other traffic much less often.

At One Less Minivan our friend Ash is excited about a proposed one for Humboldt Park, a place with a multi-aged population and lots of bicyclists. Where do you think your ward could use a lane?  Well, grab some other parents and head right on over to your Alderman's office and get to work!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Racing the Lightning Home from Bike the Drive

Three bikes and panniers in the box bike, three kids and
a grownup on the blue tandem behind. The junky trailer that
got stolen was easier, but this works too. We almost beat the rain.