February transportation advocacy happenings: Suburban Action Week and Bike Film Fest

A still from a Bicycle Film Festival short about the first BMX crew in Nigeria.
A still from a Bicycle Film Festival short about the first BMX crew in Nigeria.

On a day when it’s 16 degrees Fahrenheit and windy in Chicago, cycling may not be top-of-mind for many residents. (Although that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of people riding in this kind of weather.) But things are heating up on the transportation advocacy front this month as the Active Transportation Alliance is hosting a couple of promising-sounding online events.

Suburban Action Week

Chicago sustainable transportation advocates sometimes have tunnel vision when it comes to focusing on city issues issues while ignoring the ‘burbs. But more than two-thirds of the Chicagoland population lives in the suburbs, so we’re never going to have a truly walkable, bikable, transit-friendly region until folks who live in those villages, towns, and medium-sized cities also have good conditions for walking; safe and enjoyable bikeways and off-street paths; and efficient, reliable, and convenient bus and train service.

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As such, ATA is putting on Suburban Action Week from February 15-20, a week of seminars dedicated creating better conditions for active transportation outside of the city limits. The program includes:

  • County updates: Get the latest info on upcoming projects county departments of transportation, councils of mayors, forest preserves, and other agencies.
  • Advocacy advice: Get tips on best practices from advocates who have won walk/bike/transit improvements, such as a group that helped snag $150,000 in funding for a trail and another that successfully lobbied their village for a Slow Streets program last year.
  • Trainings and workshops: Attend workshops to sharpen your advocacy skills. Seminar topics include promoting safe walking and biking through public art, creating an inclusive public input strategy, and the nuts and bolts of how a project gets designed and constructed.

Especially handy for people who are new to the transportation advocacy scene will be the Advocacy Training 101 workshop on February 20. This session will include ideas to help rally supporters to your cause and lobby local decision-makers.

The session will provide step-by-step instructions on how to build a base of supporters from the community, how to activate this base, and how to engage elected officials to make positive change happen.

See the full schedule for Suburban Action Week at the bottom of this post.

The Bicycle Film Festival

ATA is also hosting the Chicago screening of the Bicycle Film Festival, which is taking place online in our city from February 24 to March 7. (Streetsblog Chicago is a media partner, helping to get the word out.)

Now in its 20th year, the fest, which celebrates bikes through art, film, and music, normally travels all over the country and the world, having visited over 90 cities worldwide, with an audience of roughly one million people. Of course, this being 2021, the festival is going virtual. 

During the Chicago version of the fest, reps from ATA and two of their community partners, Streets Calling Bike Club and Northwest Side Housing Center, will discuss how their organizations are using biking to help improve our city. A portion of the proceeds will benefit these groups.

 Tickets (buy them here) are $10 or pay-what-you-can, and they allow you to view the 90-minute short film format in one sitting, or as you will. This year’s topics include:

  • The first BMX crew in Nigeria
  • A charismatic Ghanian immigrant in Amsterdam who teaches refugee adult women to ride bikes
  • A bird’s-eye view of a BLM bicycle protest ride in New York
  • New York City through the lens of female bike messengers
  • Two women who bring a small town together around mountain biking and their pizza shop
  • The struggle of a young woman and her bike in Iran

Suburban Action Week Program (all sessions are virtual)

Monday, February 15

  • Noon. Pace Bus Update
  • 2 p.m. Q&A with Daily Herald Biking Columnist Ralph Banasiak
  • 3 p.m. Coffee Chat with Suburban Community Leaders Alderwoman Abby Beck and Mayor Sergio Rodriguez

Tuesday, February 16

  • 10 a.m. Will County Update
  • Noon. Advocacy Talk: Cycle Brookfield
  • 1 p.m. Advocacy Talk: Elgin Community Bikes

Wednesday, February 17

  • 9 a.m. Coffee Chat with Executive Directors Amy Rynell (Active Trans) and Dave Simmons (Ride Illinois)
  • 11:30 a.m. DuPage County Update
  • 2 p.m. McHenry County Update
  • 3 p.m. Lake County Update
  • 7:30 p.m. Advocacy Talk: East Branch DuPage River Trail

Thursday, February 18

  • Noon. Advocacy Talk: Midwest Sustainability Group (Lake County)
  • 2 p.m. Advocacy Talk: McHenry County Bicycling Advocates
  • 2:15 p.m. Advocacy Talk: Cycling Without Age
  • 3 p.m. Cook County Bike Plan Update
  • 7:30 p.m. Advocacy Talk: Bike Walk Oak Park

Friday, February 19

  • 11 a.m. Kane and Kendall Counties Update
  • Noon. Ask an Artist: Promoting Pedestrian & Cyclist Safety through Public Art
  • 2 p.m. Metra Rail Update
  • 3 p.m. Advocacy Talk: Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric
  • 4 p.m. Cook County Transit Plan Update

Saturday, February 20

  • 10 a.m. to noon. Suburban Advocacy Training 101
  • 1 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. Inclusive Community Engagement Workshop
  • 2 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. Ask an Engineer: How Projects Get Built with Christopher B. Burke Engineering
  • 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. General Gathering + Call to Action with Active Trans & Ride Illinois

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