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Active Trans’ Kickstand Classic Lets You Race or Cruise on Car-Free Streets

Kickstand Classic Logo Full Color

Which kind of rider are you?

The Active Transportation Alliance is pioneering a new kind of biking event, a cross between a competitive race and a leisurely recreational ride, which could eventually turn into a significant fundraiser for their walking, transit, and bike advocacy efforts. The Kickstand Classic takes place in the morning of Sunday, September 25, in the suburban village of Bartlett, Illinois, southeast of Elgin. The starting line and post-race festival area will be located just south of the local Metra station.

The event will take place on a 4.8-mile, roughly trapezoidal course of village streets that will be rendered car-free for the occasion. While the ride is only open to people 16 or older, Active Trans director Ron Burke says it’s designed to be enjoyable for riders of all abilities, analogous to a 5K fun run. There will be three different heats for experienced, fast racers and road riders; confident cyclists who want to try their hand at racing; and casual riders who want to see what it’s like to pedal a bit faster, or just take a mellow cruise.

Burke says some of the inspiration for the event came from seeing his father organize the first 10K race in the small southern Illinois river town of Chester, home of Popeye creator Elzie Crisler Segar, when Burke was a kid. “Running races really began to happen for the general public in the 1970s,” Burke says. “For example, the Peachtree Road Race started in Atlanta in 1970 with 130 people and it now gets about 60,000.”

Sausage

Likewise, Burke expects a modest turnout for the first Kickstand Classic, but hopes it will pick up speed in subsequent years to become a major draw, and perhaps inspire similar events in other parts of the country. “Just as recreational running events have brought more people to running, we’re hoping to have a similar effect for biking,” Burke says. “We’re hoping that as bicyclists do this they’ll say, ‘That was fun’ and want to do more. I believe someone who gets into road racing or recreational riding is more likely to ride a bike to the store or the train station.”

To ensure a safe and comfortable start for novice racers, the races will feature staggered starts, with participants wearing electronic chips to keep track of their start and finish times. The “Speed Demon Wave” of the race departs between 6:30 and 6:45 a.m. and requires racers to do four laps, or about 19 miles. Racers are expected to maintain an average speed of at least 15 mph, and it’s the only heat in which drafting (riding closely behind another racer’s rear wheel to minimize wind resistance) is permitted.

The “Middle of the Road” wave starts between 7:45 and 8 a.m., and riders are expected to go at least 13 mph. The “Sunday Funday Wave” kicks off between 9:30 and 9:50 a.m. and is intended for rider who plan to go 12 mph or slower. All riders must be off the course by 11:45 so that the roads can be reopened to car traffic.

Read more…

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Artist Takes a Crack at Improving Crosswalk Safety With Piñata Bump-Outs

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Krueger-Barber used pinatas on construction bollards to create temporary curb bump-outs at Milwaukee/Drake. Photo: Corner gallery

You might not think that someone from Provo, Utah (population 116,288), would have much to tell Chicagoans about pedestrian safety issues, but artist Susan Krueger-Barber is bringing a fresh approach to tactical urbanism to our city to highlight the dangers to people on foot.

As an MFA student at the Art Institute of Chicago, this month Krueger-Barber is doing residency at Avondale’s Corner gallery, 2912 North Milwaukee, focusing on crosswalk dynamics in cities with a project called “Stripes Aren’t Enough.” She’s studying driver behaviors that endanger pedestrians at the adjacent Milwaukee/Drake intersection, and testing out fun strategies for safety interventions, while dressed in the costume of her comedic alter ego Art Grrrl. At the end of her residency, she’ll present a formal proposal for changes to the intersection to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

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Kreuger-Barber pushes responsible shoveling during an intervention in Provo, Utah. Photo: Susan Krueger-Barber.

Lynn Basa, the owner of Corner gallery, said the residency is a perfect fit. “We’re this friendly neighborhood gallery, but you look out the window and see all this, mean egregious behavior,” referring to drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians in the zebra-striped crosswalk at the southeast leg of the T-shaped Milwaukee/Drake junction. “It’s surprising that people in cars would do that to their fellow citizens in crosswalks.”

According to the Chicago Crash Browser, created by Streetsblog Chicago’s Steven Vance, there were four pedestrian crashes and one bike crash near the intersection between 2009 and 2014. In 2013 Ronald Lee Hubert, 51, was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver at Milwaukee and Ridgeway, a few blocks northwest of the gallery. Basa is excited to see if Krueger-Barber’s outside-the-box ideas can help improve safety on the corridor.

The artist first became interested in using art to raise awareness of the dangers posed to vulnerable road users after one of one of her Provo neighbors was fatally struck by a driver. Rosa Merino, 42, was crossing a street in the crosswalk with the right of way at 6:30 a.m. when she was run over by a pick-up truck driver who disregarded a red light. Authorities initially blamed the victim for causing the crash because she was wearing dark clothing.

Since then, Krueger-Barber has done several pedestrian- and bike-safety interventions and stunts in Provo. These range from serving as a crossing guard with a gigantic orange flag to creating a PSA against speeding featuring herself in a Sasquatch costume being struck by a driver, in a frighteningly realistic manner. One project, temporarily installing sharrows and traffic diverters on a roadway, proved so successful that city officials plan to create a permanent bike boulevard on the street.

So far in Chicago, Krueger-Barber has created a memorial wall within corner gallery with tributes to the 22 pedestrians and cyclists who have lost their lives to traffic violence in Chicago this year (by CDOT’s count), with info on the incidents and the victims partly based on Streetsblog Chicago’s Fatality Tracker posts. But she’s also created a “Wall of Solutions” to improve safety, including literally wallpapering the gallery with pages from the Chicago Pedestrian Plan.

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North Lawndale Residents: Restoring Ogden Bus Would Improve Job Access

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Bus and train routes in and near North Lawndale. Residents say extending the #157 route along Ogden from California to Pulaski would fill in a service gap. Map: CTA

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

In the second half of the 20th century, the North Lawndale community area on Chicago’s west side was devastated by redlining and other racist lending practices that led to civil unrest among the neighborhood’s by then booming black population. Fifty years ago this summer, Martin Luther King Jr. moved his family to an apartment in the neighborhood to highlight the need for fair housing and other improvements in black areas of northern cities.

North Lawndale never recovered economically from the disinvestment and social upheavals of the last 50 years. The area’s population plummeted from a high of 124,937 in 1960 to 35,623 in 2014. According to the U.S. Census, the median household income is currently $25,797, far below the city average of $47,408.

In April the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council and others launched the neighborhood’s first comprehensive plan since 1958, covering infrastructure, housing, economic development, transit, and more. Last week, the council hosted a panel discussion that featured a pair of speakers, Cynthia Hudson from the Active Transportation Alliance and Michael LaFargue from the Red Line Extension Coalition, to discuss possible transit improvements in North Lawndale and share best practices from transit advocacy elsewhere in the city. Read a separate post about LaFargue’s advocacy efforts here.

The area—bounded roughly by Taylor Street, Kenton Avenue, Metra’s BNSF Line, and Campbell Avenue—has four CTA Pink Line stations. The Blue and Green Lines aren’t far away. But community leaders say further improving public transportation access is key in creating more opportunities for residents. Specifically, NLCCC members argue that restoring bus service on Ogden Avenue and other corridors would be a shot in the arm for the struggling neighborhood.

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Fallen Courier Blaine Klingenberg’s Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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Blaine Klingenberg. Photo: Facebook

[This article was produced in partnership with the Chicago Reader.]

Yesterday afternoon a wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of the father of fallen bike courier Blaine Klingenberg, who was fatally struck by the driver of a double-decker tour bus at Michigan and Oak during the evening rush on June 15. The suit names bus driver Charla Henry and her employer Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Company.

According to friends of Klingenberg, he was on his way to meet up with colleagues at Oak Street Beach after work when the collision occurred. He was bicycling north on Michigan through the intersection when he was struck and dragged by Henry, who was driving westbound. Klingenberg was rushed to Northwestern hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.

The Chicago Police Department crash report clearly laid the blame on Klingenberg, stating, “The victim disregarded the light at Oak and turned into the bus, causing the collision.” Henry has not been issued traffic citations or charged with a crime. However, two witnesses told me they were convinced the bus driver was at least partly responsible for the messenger’s death because she also entered the intersection after her light turned red.

The lawsuit was filed in the Cook County circuit court by the bike-focused personal injury firm FK Law (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor). Klingenberg’s father Walter Klingenberg is named as the plaintiff. The document states that Henry was guilty of one or more of the following acts and/or omissions:

  • Disobeyed a solid-red traffic signal
  • “Failed to exercise the degree of care and caution tht a reasonable person under similar circumstances would have exercised in the operation of the [double decker] bus”
  • “Failed to keep an adequate lookout”
  • “Drove the… bus at a speed at a speed that was greater than was reasonable given the traffic conditions and the use of the highway”
  • Failed to avoid hitting a bicyclist
  • “Was otherwise careless or negligent in the operation of the … bus”

The suit argues that, in addition to being fatally injured, Klingenberg “suffered great pain and anguish, both in mind and body prior to his death.”

It also states that Walter Klingenberg, as well as Blaine’s mother Beverly Klein, brother Corey Klingenberg, and sister Kendal Klingenberg have suffered the loss of the deceased man’s “company and society.”

Read the rest of the article on the Chicago Reader’s website.

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Transit Advocate: TOD Could Revitalize Area Around the 95th Red Line Stop

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Cynthia Hudson of the Active Transportation Alliance and Michael LaFargue of the Red Line Extension Coalition at last week’s town hall meeting.

Last week at a town hall meeting hosted by the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, West Chesterfield resident and transit advocate Michael LaFargue discussed efforts to improve transportation access and encourage investment on the Far South Side.

LaFargue, a board member with the Red Line Extension Coalition, and Active Transportation Alliance community liaison Cynthia Hudson were invited to share their experiences with NLCCC members who wish to improve transit service on the West Side. “We’ll steal some good ideas and then share them back and forth,” explained council member Valerie Leonard.

LaFargue, who also chairs a transportation committee for South Side representative Elgie Sims (34th), began his presentation by providing background on West Chesterfield, an enclave that many longtime Chicagoans may be unfamiliar with. The half-square-mile community sits directly east of the station in the area bounded by 87th Street, the Dan Ryan, 95th Street, and King Drive. It lies within the official Chatham and Roseland community areas.

“It’s a historically Black area,” LaFargue said. “We started moving into this area after World War I, before there were streets and sewers and lights. We love it — we call it a great place to live and a great place to raise a family. But we’ve been challenged by crime and the economy. The recession of 2007 affected the community heavily.”

La Fargue noted that the 95th Street station, opened in 1969, is one of the area’s greatest assets. “It’s Chicago’s busiest transportation terminal, with 50,000 people coming through daily, 14 CTA buses serving the station, six Pace buses, and a Greyhound terminal.”

The 95th stop is currently undergoing a $280 million overhaul, which started in fall 2014 and is slated for completion in 2018. “We’re hoping that this station will wind up being the north end of the Red Line extension,” LaFague said. “The Red Line extension has been talked about since the 1960s. But even before that, circa 1900, we had the Burnham Plan that said there should be light rail to all sides of the city.”

“But the [Red Line] route ends at 95th,” LaFargue added. “That’s not the end of our city. There’s a whole group of people in the Altgeld Gardens area that are traveling an extra 35 or 45 minutes to work, and that’s not fair.”

LaFargue discussed how the current CTA proposal for the Red Line extension would parallel Union Pacific Railroad Tracks, with stops at 103rd, 111th, 115th (near Michigan Avenue), and 130th in Altgeld Gardens. It would require significant land acquisition, and the transit agency projects it would cost more than $2 billion.

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Drink Beer and Help Save the Lincoln Bus With the 11 on 11 Passport Program

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The 11 on 11 Beer Explorers Passport.

On June 20, thanks to tireless lobbying efforts by transit advocates led by 47th Ward alderman Ameya Pawar, the restored #11 Lincoln Avenue bus route returned as a pilot program. The new service includes the stretch of Lincoln between the Brown Line’s Western station and the Fullerton ‘L’ stop in Lincoln Park.

Community members are stoked about the new service, but it’s not a sure thing that the CTA will continue running buses on this segment of Lincoln after the six-month test period is over. The agency set a target of rides per day during the pilot, and buses are only running between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, every 16 to 22 minutes.

Local chambers of commerce have teamed up with the Active Transportation Alliance to organize a clever promotion to help ensure the #11 gets sufficient ridership while promoting local businesses. During the month of August you can win prizes by visiting five or more drinking and dining establishments along Lincoln as part of the 11 on 11 Beer Explorer Passport program.

When you grab a brew or a bite at any of the 11 participating breweries, taverns and bars, from August 1-31 and you’ll be given a stamp for a passport, which you can download here. Collect five of them and you’ll be registered to win prizes ranging from $25 Lakeview Neighborhood gift cards to a $100 gift card to Bistro Campagne to a Giro Trinity bike helmet to a wooden toy CTA bus.

The passport must contain five different stamps and be submitted by September 9 to enter. Winners will be notified by September 16.

The idea for the Beer Explorer Passport came out a meeting Pawar hosted with stakeholders along the line, according to Lakeview Chamber of Commerce director Lee Crandell. “He brought on some of the other local chambers on board to start developing a promotion,” Crandell said.

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Meeting to Discuss Manor Greenway Amidst Opposition Set for Thursday

CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT

This street view rendering shows how bumpouts and signs would add “filtered permeability” on Manor Avenue, by allowing only bicyclists and pedestrians to continue north and south past Wilson Avenue. Image: CDOT

The 33rd Ward is holding the monthly meeting of its Transportation Action Committee on Thursday to discuss the Manor Greenway, a proposal from the Chicago Department of Transportation to connect two multi-use park paths via an on-street route on Manor Greenway. Jeff Sobczyk, assistant to Alder Deb Mell, said in the meeting announcement that the time would be used to improve understanding of the project’s goals. Neighborhood greenways are intended to make it safer and more convenient to cycle on Chicago’s side streets.

Soon after I first wrote about the proposal in June, opposition to it came online. Local resident Lawrence Brown started a petition in June calling for CDOT to scrap their plan to install a traffic diverter there for three months in the fall, but the petition is overlooking what actually makes the plan to increase bicycling safety and convenience work. The petition currently has 23 signatures.

The Manor Greenway would include the most robust traffic calming treatments of any neighborhood greenway CDOT has installed to date. The plan calls for installing a physical barrier at the intersection of Manor Avenue and Wilson Avenue to prevent motorists from continuing on Manor. This would reduce the amount of cars on the street, improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

At the north and south ends of the greenway, which are are also the north and south boundaries of Ravenswood Manor, CDOT would install raised crosswalks to slow incoming motorists and send the message that this street is for slower, residential car traffic, reminding drivers to watch out for vulnerable road users.

The petition says, “We can make a bike path and greenway through Ravenswood Manor without diverting the traffic flow.” That’s pretty much what happened with the Berteau Greenway in Lakeview, Ravenswood, and North Center. That plan originally included traffic diverters, but these were scrapped due to similar opposition from residents.

The watered-down treatment on Berteau, which involved contraflow bike lanes, curb bumpouts, and a traffic circle, made the street somewhat better for cycling than it was before. But due to the lack of traffic diverters, the street still gets plenty of cut-through car-traffic, which means it’s still not an “8-to-80” facility for biking, and it’s not as safe or pleasant a street for walking as it would have been with diverters. The lack of good infrastructure changes ensures that only the fittest and boldest will cycle.

The petition also says, “This planned diversion of traffic will force frustrated drivers onto streets that have far more homes than Manor Ave., thus creating an unsafe environment for the many families that reside on these adjacent blocks.” CDOT’s analysis of predicted traffic flows after the diverter is installed indeed show that other streets will likely see some additional cars, but the analysis was limited because it assumed all drivers diverted from Manor would use Sacramento and Francisco Avenues. Read more…

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Dates Announced for CDOT’s Bike Classes, Suitable for Absolute Beginners

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Bike ambassadors (in red) in the parking lot of the Garfield Workforce Center, where the West Side classes will be taught. Photo: CDOT

Today the Chicago Department of Transportation announced the dates and locations for its free adult bike-handling classes on the South and West sides, part of the department’s strategy to encourage more use of the Divvy bike-share system in low-to-moderate-income communities of color. Here’s the info:

Garfield Workforce Center 
10 S. Kedzie Avenue

  • July 25-29, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 8-12, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Kennedy King College
 710 W. 65th Street

  • August 15-19 , 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 22-29, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 29 – September 2, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

These one-time classes, suitable for people who never learned to ride a bike, as well as those who wish to brush up rusty cycling skills, will be taught by CDOT’s Bicycling Ambassadors outreach team. Divvy bikes will be provided as loaners, so participants won’t need to bring their own cycles. Attendees will also get free helmets, funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the Divvy sponsor. Slow Roll Chicago and other community organizations are helping to promote the classes.

An RSVP is required to attend a class to make sure there are enough instructors available. To RSVP any time before the class, call 312-744-8147.

The seminars are geared towards adults, but they’re also open to children if space is available. However, kids under 16 need to bring their own bikes, since the Divvy system is only available to riders 16 and older.

Participants will start out by riding on a Divvy bike with the pedals removed to get the hang of coasting, steering, and braking, until they can coast for at least 20 seconds without putting a foot down. Next the instructor will add one pedal so that the students can try starting the bike with the pedal. Once they’ve mastered that, the second pedal will be installed.

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What’s Causing Chicago’s Latest Wave of Cycling Deaths and Serious Crashes?

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The memorial ceremony for Viriginia Murray at the crash site. Photo: Donte Tatum, Chicago Reader

[The Chicago Reader recently launched a new weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column on the day it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

In early June, I noted that there had been no fatal bike crashes so far this year in Chicago. “I’m crossing my fingers that this year’s good luck streak continues,” I wrote.

Tragically, it didn’t. Since then, two people have lost their lives while biking in Chicago.

I’ve also heard of at least 11 collisions that occurred since June 12 that resulted in injuries, many more than usually cross my desk in a month. At least three of those incidents resulted in serious injuries.

Anecdotally, this seems to be an unusually high number of bike crashes for a 30-day period. But it’s a difficult thing to prove, since collisions that don’t result in serious injuries or fatalities often go unreported. And while the Illinois Department of Transportation is responsible for documenting local crashes, the agency doesn’t release its findings until about two years after the fact.

So going by the anecdotal evidence, if there has indeed been an uptick in bike crashes, what factors are to blame? And what we should be doing differently to bring these numbers down?

The first crash of the recent wave to draw widespread attention was the June 15 death of 29-year-old courier Blaine Klingenberg, who was fatally struck by tour bus driver Charla A. Henry during the evening rush at Michigan and Oak.

The second fatality occurred July 1 around 9 AM, when a 28-year-old male flatbed truck driver struck 25-year-old Virginia Murray while she was riding a Divvy in Avondale. Video from a nearby gas station’s security camera shows the truck was facing north on Sacramento, stopped at the light at Belmont. As Murray rode up to the right of the truck, the light changed and the driver turned east, striking her. The driver, who works for nearby AB Hardwood Flooring and Supplies, has so far been issued only a citation for not having the proper driver’s license classification to drive the truck.

Until a few weeks ago Murray worked in marketing for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, a Divvy sponsor. She had been preparing to apply for graduate school in library sciences. A spokeswoman for Blue Cross described Murray as “an avid Divvy supporter, a wonderful employee, and a special person.”

The first of the three crashes that resulted in serious injuries took place on June 21 at the intersection of Wilson and the Lakefront Trail. At around 7:20 PM, a 61-year-old man who has not been named by police was bicycling north on the path and was critically injured by an eastbound SUV driver as he crossed Wilson. The driver, Liliana Flores, 32, received three traffic citations.

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Eyes on the Street: Vigil at the Avondale Corner Where Virginia Murray Died

Ghost bike vigil for Virginia Murray

Parents of fallen cyclist Virginia Murray’s childhood friends recite two prayers at a vigil to install a ghost bike in her memory.

Motorists drove carefully around the large crowd of supporters that had gathered and spilled into the roadway last night at the corner of Belmont and Sacramento, where Virginia Murray was fatally struck while riding a bicycle on July 1.

Over 40 people had come for a vigil for Murray, and to watch the installation of a ghost bike in her honor. Ghost bikes are a worldwide tradition memorializing the life of someone who died riding a bicycle. Anthony Arce, a nearby resident who witnessed the crash, and Kristen Green, a former neighbor of Murray, organized the event.

Ghost bike vigil for Virginia Murray

Anthony Arce, a witness to Murray’s fatal crash, helped organize the vigil with Kristen Green.

Around 9 a.m. on Friday, July 1, Murray was riding northbound on Sacramento when the nortbound driver of an AB Hardwood Flooring flatbed truck turned east onto Belmont, running over Murray. Security camera video from the gas station across the street proves that this was a “right hook” crash. Attorney Mike Keating (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor) wrote about the crash on his blog, stating that “Ms. Murray’s path was exactly the one that a Chicago bicyclist should follow.”

The crowd was silent for nearly 15 minutes, while friends and family placed candles, balloons, flyers, and other mementos. Pamela Lowe, the parent of one of Murray’s friends, broke the silence and said, “In times when there’s a lot of upheaval in our world, Ginny stood for everything that was good,” according to DNAinfo. Then Lowe and other parents of Virginia’s childhood friends recited the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” prayers.

Alder Deb Mell (33rd Ward) joined the vigil and spoke with the parents, Lowe, and Green. Mell’s office organizes a Transportation Action Committee, of which I’m a founding member, to advise her on active transportation issues in the ward, which includes parts of Avondale, Albany Park, and Ravenswood Manor.

Mell told DNAinfo that plans to install bike lanes on Belmont from Kedzie to Halsted had “been put on hold.” Staff from the Chicago Department of Transportation’s bike program told the Transportation Action Committee two times in 2014 that CDOT was planning to install the bike lanes that year or in 2015.

I’ve asked CDOT to comment on the status of this project and will update this post if they provide one. Bike lanes on Belmont would help remind drivers to check for bicyclists before turning onto the street, which could help prevent crashes like Murray’s in the future.CDOT and Divvy staff also attended the vigil. The TAC meets on the fourth Thursday of each month at Horner Park Fieldhouse.

Ghost bike vigil for Virginia Murray

Mourners and supporters mingle after the prayer. 33rd ward Alder Deb Mell speaks to vigil organizer Kristen green in the background.