CDOT Presented Awards to Advocates at Today’s Soggy, Fun Bike to Work Rally
This morning’s dismal weather didn’t seem to dampen people’s spirits at the annual Bike to Work Rally, the traditional kickoff for Chicago’s Bike Week. The highlight of the event was a rain-soaked live rendition of youth education center Blackstone Bicycle Works’ awesome new Rhymefest-produced safety video “Stay in Your Lane,” featuring kids holding up colorful cardboard cutouts of bike wheels and cycles. Check out a video of the performance here, shot by the Active Transportation Alliance’s Melody Geraci.
During the rally, Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld presented this year’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council awards to organizations and individuals that have helped improve cycling in our city. The city’s Department of Finance, which enforces parking laws, was recognized for new initiatives to discourage drivers from blocking bike lanes. In 2017 the DOF added all bikeways to their parking enforcement patrol maps and added parking in a bike lane 311 complaints to their data analysis, which Scheinfeld said allows for more efficient deployment of parking enforcement aides to problem areas. “Since implementing this new citizen reporting function, 311 has received 406 documented, detailed complaints and the city of Chicago has responded with a total of 1,321 Bike lane violations,” she said.
Working Bikes Cooperative, a Little Village-based nonprofit that rehabs used bikes and distributes them to sister organizations in developing nations as well as in Chicago neighborhoods, received an award for their Cycle of Power and Cycle of Peace programs. These initiatives provide bikes to local nonprofits that focus health, restorative justice, and housing access. Angela Ford, director of the TAG Foundation, which promotes community development and sustainability, also received an MBAC award for partnering with Working Bikes to organize bike giveaways in Bronzeville and North Lawndale that have put 1,000 bikes in the hands of children who can benefit from them.
Scheinfeld recognized the Chicago Park District and Friends of Big Marsh for their work developing Big Marsh bike park, which opened last year on the Southeast Side. “What was a vacant and scarred industrial property has now been transformed into a 278-acre public park that marries nature with eco-recreation and provides Chicago the honor of being home to the largest off-road bike park in the Midwest,” she said.
Lastly, Scheinfeld gave an award to hedge fund billionaire and biking and running enthusiast Ken Griffin, who donated $12 million last year to create separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians along the entire Lakefront Trail. The project is currently underway and slated for completion next year.
Griffin, the richest man in Illinois also recently donated $20 million to the reelection fund for Republican governor Bruce Rauner, an erstwhile friend of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who has recently become a thorn in the mayor’s side on issues like school funding. So for Griffin to receive an award from the Emanuel administration seems to be a case of strange political bedfellows, on the bright side it shows that improving biking can be a bipartisan issue.
See a full schedule of Chicago Bike Week events here.