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Sustainable Transportation Advocacy

New walk/bike/transit nonprofit is working on Ravenswood Bike Lending Library, other projects

The group would like to see bike libraries expand citywide, and has other ideas to get more people to use active transportation more often and drive less.

Equipment that will be available from the Ravenswood Bike Lending Library. The cargo trailer carries up to 275 pounds and will fit at least six bags of groceries. Photo: Nate Hucheson

This post is sponsored by The Bike Lane.

As longtime Chicago sustainable transportation advocate Randy Neufeld discussed with Streetsblog last month, his latest project is a non-for-profit called "We work behavior change around helping people maximizing 'activing' and minimizing driving in daily life," he said. "'Activing' is running, walking, biking, and other human-powered movement to the extent of each person's ability... We offer partners and community organizations a platform for shared resources, incentives, know-how, organizing, measurement. Basically we're trying to create community around folks who want to drive less, and use active mobility in daily life."

"We have a roadmap to achieve our moonshot of 60 percent of trips using active mobility by 2040," says the website. "It starts with enlisting 1,500 founders and the organizations they're affiliated with to reach the most motivated 5 percent of the population. By 2032, we believe we can achieve 25 percent active mobility. As active mobility grows, government and the market will respond."

The board.

One of the group's current initiatives is the development of a bicycle lending library, partly inspired by the Camberville E-bike Lending Library in Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston. has released a survey to gauge interest in creating a similar resource in the Ravenswood neighborhood, an unofficial district straddling the Union Pacific North tracks in the Uptown and Lincoln Square community areas. Neufeld said they're more than happy to talk to people in other neighborhoods across the city, and even in the suburbs. So far, they've received 86 surveys, and 15 people said they want to help out with the Ravenswood Bike Lending Library.

"Most people are interested in the possibility of loaning certain kinds of bikes at certain times," Neufeld said. "One of the things that people are most interested in is just having loaner bikes available [to use] if their bike is broken, or if they have a guest from out of town that needs a bike."

A work stand that will be available through the bike library. Photo: Nate Hutcheson

Is there even a need for that, due to the availability of Divvy bike-share? Neufeld said that while Divvy is a great resource, it differs from having your own bike, and there are many reasons one might want to be able to borrow a non-Divvy cycle. "Being able to take it places, take it out of the city. Having a lighter bike for a longer ride."

At the moment, is storing equipment for the Ravenswood Bike Lending Library at Neufeld's home in the neighborhood. However, Network Director Nate Hutcheson said that's just the tip of the iceberg. They have reached out to Ald. Matt Martin (47th) about other possibilities, such as getting access to a location where the group could have a shipping container or fenced-in area for keeping the cycles secure.

"We would like to create a platform or a way for more lending libraries and local garages to happen around the country," Hutcheson said. "But we want to do it in a way where people are doing this with our help, but mostly with their own help. So, it's about mutual aid. It's about empowering people to kind of have agency and become less car-dependent. It's not about us providing this turnkey solution for everyone. It's about creating this system that makes it easier for people to help each other and help themselves."

A child trailer that will be available from the bike library. Photo: Nate Hutcheson

"There should be 200 bike lending libraries in Chicago at some point," said Randy Neufeld, whose title with the organization is "Board Chair and National Garage Activator. "But how do you get there? You have gotta have some tests, and then you essentially create the blueprint, the playbook for people to follow to make it happen in their neighborhood if they're interested."

The Ravenswood Bike Lending Library just one a few projects that is working on right now. Another is their National Garage concept, a package of benefits that would reward people for using active transportation more often. That could include things like Amtrak discounts or upgrades, and health insurance discounts, since walking, biking, and riding transit as an alternative to driving helps keep the doctor away.

A third initiative is Local Garages, groups of people who support each other by providing resources and encouragement to use sustainable transportation more and drive less. Bike lending libraries are one piece of that, according to Hutcheson. But participants could also use in-person and virtual forums for problem-solving, brainstorming, and helping people figure out ways to accomplish the goal of using greener transportation more often.

Folding bikes that will be available from the bike library. Photo: Nate Hutcheson

A fourth project is MotorActive survey. which gauges people's transportation habits before asking them about their aspirations for change, whether they want to drive less or use active mobility more, and what resources they might need in order to do that.

"I'm excited [about the bike library]," said Hutcheson. "I always love community building projects. Meeting new people and figuring out ways to make the neighborhood better, especially when you can do something like that with bikes. Anything that fights back against car culture is fun for me."

"But I also know there's going to be a ton to learn," Hutcheson said. "It's impossible to just plan out how this is going to go. We're going to have to see how much interest there is, who gets involved, and what kind of resources emerge. So, there's a lot of unknowns."

Click on these links to take the Ravenswood Bike Library survey and the MotorActive survey.

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