Dear Gridlock Breakers,
We welcome the new decade with visions of communities where bike bells are more common than car horns; children walk, skip and meander to school; and more and more people embrace car-free and car-light lifestyles. . . for the benefit of themselves, their neighbors and the planet.
In 2009, a re-energized Break the Gridlock took steps towards realizing these visions. We hope you will work with us in 2010 and beyond to turn those steps into leaps and bounds. Happy New Decade and stay in touch.
Also, if you’re not already, we invite you to become a BTG member. (If you are already a member, we thank you heartily!) Now that we are a 501c3, your membership dues and donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
We hope you enjoy the return of the Carberator, Break the Gridlock’s newsletter. We seek volunteers to help with content and design. Our plan is to publish it 3-4 times a year.
On August 1, 2009, Break the Gridlock was officially re-launched at a backyard party on what will become Chicago’s first “home zone,” a street designed to discourage high speed through-traffic and promote walking, biking, playing and neighborliness. As a preview of changes to come, we claimed a street parking spot for bikes. Police stopped by to make sure everything was OK; they seemed enthusiastic about our vision for the future.
Dozens of long time and new transportation activists gathered to share hopes and schemes. We took turns signing a sledgehammer to show our commitment to promoting appropriate transportation choices and reducing car-dependency. Full of the gridlock-breaking spirit, one of our members borrowed it a few days later for a depaving project. Thanks to Lisa Phillips, Todd Gee (BTG board president) and the Handlebar, among other friends, for hosting and sponsoring.
Bike Boulevards Now!
This fall, Sarah Kaplan, a local activist, decided we need to turn up efforts to get bicycle boulevards installed throughout Chicago. According to Chicago’s Bike 2015 plan, bike boulevards “use a combination of traffic calming, intersection treatments, and signage to make it easier and safer for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross intersections and discourage non-local motor vehicle traffic.” They are great for pedestrians, kids, and neighbors and are similar to home zones, mentioned earlier. The city’s plan calls for identifying 5-10 potential bike boulevard locations by 2008 and establishing 10 miles by 2015.
With BTG’s encouragement, Sarah started a new group, Bike Boulevards Now! BTG set up the group’s website (still being developed) and represented them at the December Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting and attends their monthly meetings, which are open to anyone.
To help build excitement and support, Bike Boulevards Now! is also starting Kidical Mass, a family-friendly bike parade, along streets that would be good candidates for bike boulevards. The first ride will be: Saturday, March 20, 9am starting at Palmer Square (meet near the Bunny Park, 3100 W. Palmer).
Bike Boulevards Now! and Break the Gridlock are committed to helping Chicago achieve—and exceed—its goal of becoming a more bike-friendly city. You can learn more about bicycle boulevards at
Image from the Oregon Bike and Ped Plan, featured on the FHWA site
Imagine Chicago With a Million Fewer Cars
In celebration of World Car-Free Day, BTG organized a merry band of cyclists to spread car-free cheer to downtown commuters. Our bikes wore signs with messages such as, “Grow Your Life/Ditch Your Car” and “More Public Spaces, Less Parking Spaces.” We distributed flyers at major transit hubs, bus stops and at Chicago’s Millennium Park Bike Station, thanking people for not driving and asking them to imagine a Chicago with a million fewer cars. We made sure to yield to buses and pedestrians, ringing our bells and eliciting smiles with cries of “You’re beautiful. Thanks for using your legs!” We also visited highway ramps to invite drivers to join us next time. The ride ended at the annual Bike Winter Kick-Off Meeting, where we brainstormed more ways to keep Chicagoans in the saddle—and out of the car seat—year round. Save the date (Sept. 22, 2010) for World Car Free Day 2010..
Pushing at the Policy Level. . .
BTG is a member of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Task Force. Phew—a mouthful. We also attend the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meetings. As we sit next to representatives from local and state agencies (departments of transportation, transit agencies, park districts, etc), as well as other advocacy groups (Active Transportation Alliance, League of Illinois Bicyclists), we are able to represent the voices of those who believe in a less car-dependent future. Stay tuned for announcements about and notes from these meetings, which are open to the public. They are a great way to learn more about and influence transportation policy.
. . . While Stirring it Up at the Street Level
We have been mulling a range of other creative, boisterous, sneaky, and fun grassroots projects that are best talked about in person. Come on out Feb 6 to learn more, and—more importantly—add your ideas and willingness to help out.
In the News
Check out some media coverage of BTG and our member groups.
Albany Street Home Zone
: Chicago Tribune article
describing the project’s status: “Though Chicagoans can't just rent steamrollers and redesign their blocks, ‘we're pretty open to creative ideas. And we saw this as a way to create tools for communities to create safer streets,’ said Brian Steele, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation.” Hmmmm, anyone got leads on steam rollers?
· ABC news
covered Bike Winter’s snow rides. “’It's 50-percent guts and zest and just sheer will and the other 50 percent is gear, knowledge and knowing what you're doing out here,’ said Kevin Monahan, winter biker.” Kevin is also a BTG board member.
The LiveWell channel featured Bike Winter, Break the Gridlock and Active Trans in a how and why to video
on winter biking and living car-free.
Thanks for looking over this issue of the Car Berator! Please don’t hesitate to share
your feedback and suggestions on what to include in future issues.