Did You Know?

Nearly five children are hit by people driving every day in Illinois while walking or biking within one block of a school.

REI to be honored for its longtime support

We will be honoring REI by giving the company a Business Leadership Award at our 2019 Active Transportation Alliance Awards Reception on March 7. Please join us as we recognize REI as well Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Logan Square Neighborhood Association. 


Specialty outdoor retailer REI does more than just sell clothing and gear for the outdoor enthusiast. The nation’s largest consumer co-op is committed to connecting people with nature and outdoor recreation, encouraging them to live active, healthy lifestyles that include bicycling and walking. And locally, REI has been a longtime supporter of Active Trans, providing funding and other resources to help create and promote more sustainable transportation infrastructure in the region.

“Active Trans’ mission resonates with REI and intersects with REI’s own mission,” says Theresa Salus, REI’s outdoor programs and outreach manager. “That’s why we wanted to get involved with Active Trans.”

REI conducts bike programs for kids as well as adults (photo courtesy of REI).

Crossing paths

REI recently awarded grants to Active Trans for our Trail Connect Chicagoland campaign, which seeks to fill 142 miles of trail gaps in the suburbs and 45 miles of trail gaps in Chicago. Both Active Trans and REI contend that filling these gaps is crucial to creating a truly connected regional network of trails for walking and biking.

These trails are not only great recreational assets, but they are also an underutilized transportation network that can provide low-stress walking and biking connections within and between communities.

“The Trail Connect Chicagoland project connects all of those trails so that it gives people places to hike, places to bike, places to walk that aren’t on the streets. It gives people a way to connect from their homes to public lands,” Salus says. “Active Trans plays a critical role in being the convener and bringing these municipalities, elected officials, agencies and communities together for this mission of creating better trail infrastructure, which is core to what we support.”

Active Trans also received a grant from REI to create access to new and existing open spaces in the Lake Calumet region on Chicago’s far South Side. REI is funding this project through its Rewilding program, in which the company partners with nonprofits for multiyear projects to transform blighted areas into outdoor recreation opportunities.

The Lake Calumet project is part of a bigger initiative REI is working on with Active Trans, the Chicago Parks Foundation and Friends of Big Marsh to revitalize this slice of the Southeast Side of Chicago from an industrial area into a thriving outdoor recreation hub and nature preserve.

REI often hosts a Bike Commuter Challenge pit stop at its Lincoln Park store.

Mutual benefits

Active Trans has also been able to consistently count on REI to support its annual Bike the Drive event, which closes Lake Shore Drive to cars so that people biking can cruise the thoroughfare for a few hours (see top photo). REI has also supported our Bike Commuter Challenge, a two-week biking competition that encourages people in the region to bike to work to earn prizes and bragging rights.

REI not only sponsors both events, but the company’s employees help out as well. The Lincoln Park REI store serves as the venue for Bike the Drive’s main packet pick-up location as well as hosts one of the pit stops for the Bike Commuter Challenge. When participants stop by the store, they can take advantage of its bike repair services or take part in one of the many hiking and biking classes REI offers. (And they will also soon get the chance to rent kayaks and paddleboards when REI relocates its Lincoln Park store in the spring to a nearby location along the Chicago River.)

REI says it’s proud to support Active Trans, an organization that it can truly work in partnership with to create impact in the region. “We appreciate the sophistication and level of professionalism and mutual respect in which Active Trans approaches its work — the ability to have conversations and collaborate,” Salus says. “It’s not just about the dollars, but it’s about the conversation and what we can all bring to the table, which is awesome because it creates more flexibility in how we can support. We’re not seen just as a funder. We’re really seen as a partner, and we see Active Trans as a partner.”

Join us at Active Trans’ 2019 Awards Reception, when we will be honoring REI, as well as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.