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Half of school children walked or biked to school in 1969, but only 13 percent were doing it in 2009.

Celebrating progress at the annual member party

The Active Transportation Alliance’s annual member party isn’t just a gathering; it’s a celebration of our community and our accomplishments, allowing us a moment to pause and renew our dedication to transforming Chicagoland into a hub for sustainable transportation.

This year’s event brought more than 100 individuals to the Revolution Brewing Taproom eager to laud the year’s victories, forge new connections, and honor the efforts of advocates and volunteers.

The volunteer awards showcased the outstanding contributions of people so generous with their time and energy. Kudos to the following people awarded for their volunteerism:

  • Faraz Hussain: Volunteer Co-Manager of Volunteer Accommodations at Fifth Third Bike the Drive
  • Kailen Lee: Set-up Super Volunteer for Fifth Third Bike the Drive
  • Michael Schra: Member of our Fifth Third Bike the Drive Volunteer Steering Committee and Tear Down Volunteer Lead at Bike the Drive

The Advocate of the Year award went to the coalition spearheading the Campaign to Stop I-55 Expansion. This critical effort addresses environmental justice concerns on Chicago’s Southwest Side, an area burdened by poor air quality due to industrial traffic.

The coalition, comprising various environmental justice organizations, stands against plans to expand I-55, recognizing how it will exacerbate already compromised environmental conditions.

The alliance between environmental justice advocates and those championing sustainable transportation underscores the intricate web connecting social and environmental causes. It’s a testament to the understanding that an equitable transportation system goes hand-in-hand with environmental well-being.

 

 

POLICY AND INFRASTRUCTURE VICTORIES

There were plenty of victories to celebrate from the past year, including the passing of three state laws to make roads safer and three big policy victories at the city level.

“This was our most significant year for Safe Streets for All advocacy victories, possibly ever,” Jim Merrell, Active Transportation Alliance’s managing director of advocacy, told the crowd.

He explained how the uptick in concrete protected bike lanes, pedestrian bump outs and islands, and smooth trail connections are making walking and biking easier and safer for people of all ages and abilities.

Merrell said Chicago and our whole region stands out as one of the few places in the country that saw at least a 50 percent increase in bicycling since 2019. “That is unprecedented growth in daily bicycling trips,” he said.

 

MAKING AN IMPACT ON THE MAYORAL ELECTION

Another big win occurred early in the year, when Active Transportation Alliance organized the first-ever mayoral candidate forum on sustainable transportation, offering a unique opportunity for residents to hear directly from candidates.

“We shaped Mayor Johnson’s transportation agenda as part of the transition committee on transportation,” said Merrell. “And for the first time, a Chicago Mayor kicked off Fifth Third Bike the Drive, making public commitments to lower speed limits and to equitable infrastructure.”

 

 

SAVING TRANSIT WHILE ALSO MAKING IT BETTER

With an alarming fiscal cliff rapidly approaching for Chicago-area transit agencies, Merrell said Active Transportation Alliance answered the call for a bold vision for not only saving our transit system, but making it thrive.

As part of these efforts, we co-led a committee that developed recommendations to improve the rider experience and to increase ridership. The recommendations — which included restoring and investing in transit service, fare integration, better bus service, full system accessibility, and safety and security — were part of a larger plan submitted to the state legislature.

 

WHAT’S ON TAP IN THE COMING YEAR

As we stride into 2024, audience members got a taste of what’s on the horizon for the organization.

  • We’re launching a robust Sustainable Transportation Campaign in tandem with Illinois environmental advocates, targeting state policy reforms that reduce transportation-related greenhouse gases through improved public transit, safe walking and biking infrastructure, and clean vehicles.
  • Our commitment to Safe Streets for All intensifies, focusing on rapid expansions of safe streets and trails to eliminate serious and fatal crashes. We’ll ensure that the legislation passed in 2023 translates to tangible improvements on hazardous roads, advancing green infrastructure development, and advocating for lower speed limits.
  • Additionally, we’ll be mobilizing transit riders to shape Chicago’s bus network. Collaborating with partners in the Transportation Equity Network, we’ll amplify the voices of bus riders, advocating for faster, more reliable networks along three city corridors.

 

 

TRANSITIONS AND CELEBRATIONS

The gathering also served as a platform to welcome new board member Kevin Irvine and bid farewell to departing board members Art Gilfand, Bob Hoel, and Jeff Judge.

Heartfelt sendoffs were also issued to departing staff, Deputy Executive Director Melody Geraci and Graphic Designer Anne Evans.

While enjoying libations from Revolution Brewing and snacks courtesy of Nando’s Peri Peri, plenty of time was dedicated to mingling, sharing success stories, and looking toward another year of great progress in improving transportation options in Chicagoland.