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Snow biking, and other events

There’s a bike ride planned for tonight — but only if it snows enough.

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Reducing Chicago’s Carbon Footprint

With 50 percent of in-town trips made in single-occupancy automobiles, Chicagoans could do much to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by changing their own individual behavior, according to a new report.

And while city policies – including 350 miles of bikeways and 10,000 bicycle racks – have increased opportunities to convert car trips to bike trips, much more could be done to reduce transportation-related carbon emissions, said Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

CBF is one of four urban transportation groups across the country that released the Urban Transportation Report Card last week.

One goal of the report, which covers transportation policies and air quality in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, is to spur competition with other cities when Chicago issues its emissions reduction plan later this year as part of the Clinton Climate Initiative, an international effort to reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions. “Chicago’s plans should be in line with, or better than, these other cities,” Sadowsky said.

Another goal is to move the conversation on reducing emissions beyond promoting hybrid vehicles, which reduce but don’t eliminate carbon emissions – and have environmental costs that are as high as other vehicles in manufacturing and shipping. Like other cars, hybrids also take up far more street space than mass transit, bicycling or walking, contributing to congestion that increases emissions in general.

According to the report card, 50 percent of area trips are made by single-occupancy automobile, compared to 26 percent by transit and 14 percent by car-pooling. Sadowsky said the 2000 census indicated that bike travel accounted for less than half of 1 percent of trips, but that figure represented an 80 percent increase over the previous decade. He guesses the number today would be 3 or 4 percent.

The report notes that Chicago’s new Complete Streets policy aims at making all streets safe for bicyclists and pedestrians, and the city’s Bike 2015 plan set a goal of converting 5 percent of all trips under five miles to bicycle over the next eight years.

But by focusing on moving autos quickly, the city’s traffic management department often undercuts other initiatives promoting biking and walking, Sadowsky said, and Chicago’s zoning code doesn’t do enough to promote transit-oriented development.

He said the city could reduce emissions with congestion-mitigation policies such as variable parking rates, and the state urgently needs to fix the funding formula for public transit, so the system can be expanded to address global climate change and rising gas prices.

Bike/Hike Trail Would Span South Suburbs

A new group is building community support for a 26-mile multiuse trail that would link 14 south suburban communities, 6 nature and forest preserves, and 5 existing biking/hiking/jogging trails.

Friends of the Calumet-Sag Trail will hold its second public meeting on Tuesday, February 13 at 7 p.m. at the Riverdale Marina, 13100 S. Halsted in Riverdale.

The Cal-Sag Trail would run from the I&M Canal Trail west of Palos Forest Preserve, along the Cal-Sag Channel and the Calumet River to the Burnham Greenway Trail near Indiana, where the Ford Environmental Center will open next year. It would create a network of more than 150 miles of trails in the area as well as an important east-west non-motorized transportation corridor, according to the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

The trail would provide several communities with bicycle and pedestrian access to Metra stations, said Keith Holt of CBF. The group estimates that 185,000 people live within two miles of the proposed trail.

The project would also spur ongoing efforts to clean up the waterways, where many industrial polluters have closed down, and turn what’s been considered an eyesore into a recreational and transportation asset that would help attract residential and business development, Holt said.

The South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and the Southwest Mayors Conference have endorsed the project, and Palos Heights has received a $340,000 state transportation grant for its portion of initial engineering and environmental studies. The entire project could cost $20 million, with federal programs expected to provide most of the funding. The Friends group is planning to help towns along the path raise private donations to help meet matching grant requirements, Holt said.

‘Ride of Silence’ Honors Fallen Cyclists

Fallen bicyclists will be commemorated in three silent bike rides in the area on Wednesday, May 17, as the Chicagoland Bicyle Federation prepares to launch a “Drive With Care” campaign to promote responsible driving.

Bike riders wearing black armbands will gather at 7 p.m. at Daley Plaza, Joliet Memorial Stadium, and Arlington Heights’ Recreation Park (see below for addresses), for ten-mile rides commemorating hundreds of cyclists killed on the roads annually. The Ride of Silence is taking place simultaneously in 177 towns and cities, according to Dan Korman of CBF.

Motor vehicles kill nearly 200 pedestrians and cyclists in the Chicago region each year, and injure thousands, Korman said. Pedetrians and cyclists account for nearly 25 percent of traffic-related deaths in the region. We tend to treat such fatalities as “accidents” rather than the result of reckless driving and traffic design that ignores nondrivers, Korman added.

Organizing the Joliet ride is Sara Jo Briese, whose 68-year-old mother, Janice Briese, was killed while biking in May, 2005. The driver in the case was acquitted of two minor traffic violations.

“It is beyond belief that someone driving with a clear sight line behind my mom kills her and walks free,” said Briese.

The Joliet ride will follow a memorial tribute at 6:45 p.m. for Janice Briese, who led the Joliet Bicycle Club’s Thursday morning ride for 12 years.

Chicago cyclists recently erected a “ghost bike” — a riderless white bicycle locked in place with a memorial sign — at 1000 N. Western Avenue, where 50-year-old father of three Isai Medina was killed by a hit-and-run driver in January.

In Arlington Heights, a 72-year-old cyclist died in October, 2004, after being struck by a hit-and-run driver.

CBF’s Healthy Streets Watch logs the constant stream of reports of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities.

The group’s Healthy Streets Campaign includes a range of initiatives “to make physically active transportation safe, convenient, and fun,” according to the group’s website. These include establishing a standard that all transportation projects must accomodate all modes to travel; establishing “safe routes” for pedestrians and bicyclists to destinations like schools, shopping, and parks; and opening selected streets for traffic-free biking and walking on weekends.

CBF is also preparing to launch a “Drive With Care” marketing drive, modeled on anti-drunk driving campaigns, to stigmatize all reckless driving and make responsible, attentive driving the norm.

The first phase will focus on speeding, pointing out that excessive speed is a factor in at least a third of all car crashes and virtually all pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. According to CBF, the probability of death and serious injury for a pedestrian hit by a car increases from 5 percent at 20 m.p.h. to 80 percent at 40 m.p.h.

The Ride of Silence will start at Daley Plaza, Dearborn and Washington, in Chicago; Memorial Stadium, 3000 W. Jefferson (Route 52) in Joliet; and Recreation Park, 500 E. Miner, in Arlington Heights.

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