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Today’s Rally Lauded The $50M a Year Earmark For Bike/Walk in the State Budget

9:24 PM CDT on June 21, 2019

Cyclists pose with a giant check representing the $50 million a year the Illinois Legislature recently earmarked for walking and biking, at the urging of Active Trans. Photo: ATA

This morning was the centerpiece of the Active Transportation Alliance's Chicago Bike Week (sponsored by Freeman Kevenides bike law firm), the 28th annual Bike to Work Rally, and there was plenty of cause for celebration. Earlier this month the Illinois Legislature passed a $33 billion, six-year-transportation capital program. The bill, which includes $50 million annually for walking and bicycling projects -- a first for our state -- will soon be signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Speaking before the crowd Active Trans' Clare McDermott highlighted other Bike Week events, including the Bike To Work Challenge, Divvy's sixth anniversary party at Theater on the Lake on June 27, and the Bike Week Mini-Grant program, which offered six grants of $250 each to community organizations to host a biking celebration. Unlike in previous years, there were no speeches by city officials -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot was invited to address the crowd, but had a conflict.

Albert Laser. Photo: James Porter
Albert Laser. Photo: James Porter

A few bike riders in attendance shared their thoughts on the current Chicago cycling zeitgeist. Albert Laser said he thinks Chicago became a much more bike-friendly city under former mayor Rahm Emanuel. "I'd like to see continued what's been started, with the expansion of safe bike lanes," he said. Laser added that he appreciates that the city is currently piloting dockless scooters.

Dion McGill. Photo: James Porter
Dion McGill. Photo: James Porter

South Sider Dion McGill said he's also seen an improvement in biking, and he's also open to seeing where the scooter trend leads. "This scooter conversation is a part of the picture now, so we have to start taking these things into consideration and redesigning the city with them in mind." He added that that more attention could be paid to making the South Side bike-friendly. "I live in Woodlawn now. I used to live in [southwest-suburban] Alsip. I've actually biked from there into the city. The tip of the city is actually next to Alsip. Getting anywhere from that area is like a death race. I'd love to see [Lightfoot] have this conversation, so that in four or five years, we can see it happen."

Kevin Rechner. Photo: James Porter
Kevin Rechner. Photo: James Porter

Kevin Rechner mainly cycles around the North Side and the Loop, preferring the trails to the streets. He said the city needs to do a better job of cleaning curbside protected bike lanes. He hopes the new administration will address this issue. "They're full of gravel. I bought a [bike with bigger tires] so I wouldn't get flats."

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