Game Changer for Winter Pedestrians?

Michael McCurdy

A simple, quiet change in practices implemented by Town of Normal Public Works director Wayne Aldrich could change where pedestrians walk in the winter.

In our car-centric world, you may ask “who is walking in this weather?” With a little observation you’ll see dog walkers, kids walking to and from school (or their bus stop), those walking for exercise, and people getting to a Connect Transit bus stop. Clear sidewalks are vital for transit users to get to the begin point of their trip safely. Frankly, we owe those transit users a favor for choosing not to drive, adding another car to the already busy traffic on some Bloomington-Normal streets.

After the winter of 2013-14, complete with the introduction of the term Polar Vortex and a record amount of snow, many pedestrians found themselves in the street because sidewalks weren’t cleared of snow. Additionally, snow plows drivers clearing  intersections piled snow right where the sidewalk meets the street, creating huge mounds of frozen snow that a well meaning property owner couldn’t clear with a pick axe. That meant that even in cases where pedestrians could use the sidewalk, when they reached an intersection, they’d have to sidestep into the street to get around the pile at the end of the walkway. This winter isn’t nearly as harsh, but pedestrians are finding themselves in the same predicament.

A clear sidewalk in Normal, IL

Sidewalk in Normal, cleared to the curb.

In Normal, that obstacle may become a thing of the past. The town’s public works director is asking plow drivers to be mindful of where they pile snow, adjacent to the sidewalk-street intersection. This may require extra effort on the part of the driver.

There have been murmurs of a creating an ordinance requiring property owners clear their sidewalks, much like Bloomington’s requirement. However, Normal elected officials and staff have been reticent to move on an ordinance because of enforcement issues. Enforcement would be complaint based and while it might help with serious or repeat offenders, officials believe it wouldn’t lead to real change.

Director Aldrich says before (or if) an ordinance is written and approved, the town should do its part first by not piling snow on sidewalks. With no fanfare, he’s implemented a common sense change regarding where the snow goes.

Could this be a game changer for pedestrians Normal? Maybe. If property owners don’t feel it’s futile to clear their walks because of the mini-Matterhorn at the end of the sidewalk, maybe (just maybe) they’ll  keep shovel in hand after wrapping up the driveway, and tackle the sidewalk.  By not piling snow on sidewalks, town is also sending the message that sidewalks are important.

 

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Bloomington Ward Four Candidate Surveys

Michael McCurdy

I’m grateful to the candidates who took the time to complete and return our GLT-Good To Go/Bike BloNo candidate survey.  I think Ward 4 candidates Amelia Buragas and Jeremy Kelley are both bike friendly and I believe our organization could work with either of the candidates to make our community more bike friendly. However, as you’ll see, one candidate scored slightly better than the other.  I’d also like to express my disappointment that more candidates did not complete and return the survey. Candidates Chip Frank, Dan Metz, and Ron Schultz have been graded with an “incomplete.”

Mike McCurdy
Director, Good To Go
President, Bike BloNo

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Candidate Survey – Jeremy Kelley

Michael McCurdy

 

WGLT’s Good to Go initiative partnered with Bike BloNo to create a Candidates’ Survey to inform voters on the candidates’ positions on bike policy. WGLT wrote the questions and Bike BloNo created a rubric to grade each of the candidates; that rubric will be made public once all surveys have been submitted. Neither organization endorses any individual candidate.


Based on his survey response, Bike BloNo gives Jeremy Kelley a “B” on bike issues.


Question 1: U.S. Census figures show a 60% increase in bicycle commuting in the last decade. Research shows Millennials (those 16-34 years of age) are avoiding car ownership and choose the mode of transportation that makes the most sense for the trip. Do you, or do any members of your immediate family, routinely bicycle for any of the reasons below? (select all that apply)

Going to work    I do    Family member does
Running Errands    I do    Family member does
For recreation ✓ I do ✓ Family member does
Other ✓ I do ✓ Family member does

Comments:
My entire family enjoys riding and cycling. I have a Cannondale Silkroad road bike, my wife has a Specialized hybrid, and my son has a standard child BMX style bike and a Razor scooter. The ways and reasons we choose to bike is varied. Personally, I have participated in long rides, the Tuesday night time trial, tri-sharks triathalon (loooong ago), and various rides both on the trails and out in the country. I typically enjoy cycling more for exercise, sport, and then occasionally as a way to hang out with friends. I have also mountain biked in the past, though I do not anymore as I do not enjoy it as much. I have never looked at racing (as my size is a definite disadvantage there for anything other than leading out teammates and blocking wind), but I have many friends on the fringes of this community and I enjoy attending events in this arena such as the B/N criterium. My wife rides more for exercise and social enjoyment. She rides in the Spokeswomen ride, and rides with her girlfriends often. From time to time, she and I go out for an enjoyable weekend type of ride or we go as a family with my son cruising the trails or around the neighborhood. Occasionally we will ride down to Coffeehound, ride to eat somewhere like Medici or Reality Bites, bike over to eat at a food truck and then ride back, etc. While we do not usually ride to run ‘errands,’ and neither of us have ever chosen to ride to work, we have many friends who choose to do both.


 

Question 2: The Bloomington City Council unanimously voted to approve a contract with the League of Illinois Bicyclists to create a Bicycle Master Plan in a shared-cost agreement with the Friends of the Constitution Trail. Would you have voted to create a bicycle master plan for the city?

✓ Yes
__No

Comments:
I would have. I count myself among the vast majority of those in the community that believe that the Constitution Trail is one of the great features/assets of our community; it was a great decision to create the trail, and we should continue to look for ways to expand and enhance the trail. However, I also believe that the trail cannot and should not be the only avenue for bicyclists to use and enjoy. Although the trail is great for the basic and recreational rider, it is still lacking in providing an outlet for other riders (such as heavy mile or race cyclists, those who chose to ride to work, etc.). With the increasing support for cycling (both within and beyond Bike BloNo), I feel the most responsible way to plan for the future in this arena is to encourage a discussion with major stakeholders, put together a plan and direction, and then take community input. While there are certainly some who have complaints with the plan (and I understand some of those complaints), I believe that the Master Plan is certainly the best way to create a stake in the ground in which everyone can react from. Further, I am happy that the plan involved funding and buy in from some of the major non-governmental stakeholders (Friends of the Trail and League of Illinois Bicyclists), as both groups showed their commitment to fund and participate in the implementation of the plan and now have a stake in the ground to ensure it can succeed. In order to succeed, the plan will take private or community stakeholder action and cannot and should not be done by government alone.


 

Question 3: What do you think are some important safety issues facing bicyclists on Bloomington streets? Choose as many as you think apply.

✓ Vehicle speed
✓ Driver attentiveness
✓ Access across Veterans Parkway
✓ Lack of infrastructure (bike lanes, buffered or protected bike lanes, etc.)
✓ Need for more motorist education regarding rules of the road
✓ Need for more bicyclist education regarding rules of the road
__Need for more enforcement of existing laws for all road users
✓ Bicyclists didn’t choose sidewalk as an option
✓ Cyclist in the middle of the road
✓ Car too close to bicyclist
__Bicyclist not visible enough during day or night
✓ Bicyclists choosing the wrong roads

Comments:
While I could have certainly clicked every one of these issues, I think that most of these apply in one way or another. A few of them do not stand out as major issues. For example, I think that most cyclists on streets are usually adequately visible, but the real safety issue is that much like with motorcyclists, drivers may not be used to looking out for cyclists.

So, in my mind, I think the biggest safety issues around cyclists on streets fall into a few categories:

  1. are there safe paths for cyclists to be on (both on and off the streets)?
  2. when the street is the option, is there a clear way to create the necessary safe space between car and rider?
  3. Are those who are sharing a street (both rider and driver) aware and conscious of the rules in regards to riding and safety and
  4. Are there cases in which there are ways for riders to get around town without having to choose unsafe or busy roads where they should not be riding?

In my mind, these are the main issues that need/needed to be addressed in a bike plan in the past and going forward. While ideas that address the other issues (such as the Bike BloNo proposal of ticket diversion) are interesting ideas that should be discussed, I would tend to favor focusing initial efforts on discussing

  1. how to expand the trails system (like along Sugar Creek for example) in a way to keep riders safer,
  2. how to construct bike friendly roads where they are appropriate so that a ‘redesign’ that is bike friendly can be made in a cost efficient way as we rebuild/reconstruct existing roads that already need repair/infrastructure work (for example considering reconstructing Bunn street out to Hamilton in this way when we are finally able to afford the road work that is greatly needed there), and
  3. how to address bike needs while working on needed existing sidewalk repair work where appropriate (for example, trying to tie the trail into the downtown by creating a path with a bike friendly 6 foot sidewalk vs. putting the route on a busy road like Washington Street or even Front Street where it goes now).

My fear would be that if we try to address everything on the list at once, we may fall shorter than we would if we focused on a handful of the most important issues first.


Question 4: Bike BloNo is working with Bloomington leaders to establish a ticket diversion program. The diversion program would provide cyclists or motorists cited for a bicycling related infraction the option to take a Secretary of State approved test on bike rules of the road instead of paying the fine. The test also serves as an educational tool. Police officers would be encouraged to ticket cyclists and drivers for bike-related infractions at an increased rate certain times of year. Do you support such a diversion program?

✓ Yes
✓ No

Comments:
I am not 100% familiar with all the details of the program so I must give a slightly reserved ‘probably, yes’. As said above, I believe this is a program that should be looked at. My concerns are fairly limited in that I would want to understand the administrative burden and costs that this program may impose, I would want to understand the extent of a burden this may place on officers time in writing the tickets, and I would want to understand what the public users experience in the program would look like (ie, is it a nuisance or is it welcomed and educational). Past these issues and barring any other game changers that would emerge through exploring the program, I am interested in the concept and would look for ways to support the program if these concerns were addressed. I especially like the fact that the program is one created by those within the biking community for those in the biking community.


Question 5: Do you think bicycle infrastructure, like bike lanes, boost existing businesses and attract new businesses and jobs to our community?

✓ Yes
__No

If yes, how would you tie together bikes and business? If no, why?
I think they can, yes. I am slightly skeptical of some of the claims that I have seen that give large numbers (for example: bike lanes help create XX, XXX jobs in a community!) but I certainly think that a bike friendly community can boost existing businesses and attract new businesses in a few ways. For starters, I have personally seen and experienced cases in which friends are either attracted to our community or become more connected to the community because of their love of cycling and the opportunities the trails, Comlara dirt bike paths, the Tuesday night time trials, etc. affords in this arena. This can help local business in recruiting or retaining talent that may otherwise choose to live elsewhere. At the same time, I have seen personally how events such as Ragbrai can create a massive economic boost through bike tourism to other areas. I know that can happen here and I hope that the BN Criterium (of which I was personally involved in the initial implementation steps with Brandon Beehner and others) can take off and result in an increase in tourism dollars to our town. While I do not think that the single key to revitalizing the downtown is to connect it to bike paths, I do think that bike paths could be a piece of the pie and add to downtown revitalization by allowing people to bike into the area or allowing downtown residents greater access out of the area. I think that efforts to link the downtown so far are nice, but I do not think they are complete or adequate enough to make a dramatic impact. I would look for ways to better link the trail portion that runs parallel to Clinton avenue to the downtown, likely somewhere along the intersections near Oakland, the warehouse district by the bridges, and the trail portion that runs out to the Westside. I also think that programs such as the walk in, bike out, program on the west side of Bloomington can serve to help meet some needs of residents who may not have viable transportation and thus provide a slight boost to both the individual and those businesses they may patronize. I would look for opportunities, in a cost effective manner as discussed in question 3, to meet these needs to help the community as a whole.


Question 6: Do you support a “complete streets” policy applied to existing roads during reconstruction or resurfacing and for new road construction?

✓ Yes
✓ No

Comments:
As discussed in question 3, I would look for opportunities that make sense for this policy when doing reconstruction, resurfacing, and new roads. My two areas of hesitation (and the reason I did not just mark yes) are

  1. I believe that there are some streets (major arterials, narrow streets, streets in which parking is needed on both sides of the street and there may not be a safe way to create a bike lane given the traffic flow) that we should stay away from adding bike lanes to, and
  2. I believe that there may be cases in which there are cost constraints (either short term ‘we don’t have that extra money now’ or longer term ‘this would cause us to have to spend an additional million dollars due to the fact we would also have to rebuilt the bridge this road crosses’) that would cause us to in certain cases have to choose to not do the complete street path.

That being said, as alderman, I would encourage city staff to look at those cases in which this would make sense and try to focus on those as much as we can first. For example, I would encourage city staff when dealing with the redesign or repair of bridges (say on Sugar Creek) to think to the future and design bridges so they could someday be supportive of potential bike paths (like the one on Veterans just north of GE Road) instead of choosing bridge designs with slanted support walls that would not allow future bike paths to be built. I believe that the best time to make these changes is when we are already there doing existing work and I would look for opportunities to make this happen and put us in a better spot to be able to say yes in the future even if today’s answer to a bike path request is ‘we can’t right now’. I am supportive of this approach.


Question 7: How do you plan to engage constituents, including those who may ride bikes, on issues involving local transportation and infrastructure?

For starters, I would always have an open door to anyone to speak on these issues. Proactively, I plan on systematically checking in with different stakeholders within the town (Bike BloNo, Friends of the Trail, Bloomington Cycle, Wilson Cycle, etc.) to gather their opinions on these issues as I have from time to time over the years already. I will continue to speak to my various friends within the biking community to gather their insights. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I will continue to personally get a first-hand view of the issue myself as I ride the trails, attend the Criterium, go to a BikeBlo No meeting, stop into Bloomington Cycle, etc. If elected, I am guessing that I would already likely be the alderman most personally tied into this community….so I would serve the council as a fresh voice with personal perspective on these issues.

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Candidate Survey — Amelia Buragas

Michael McCurdy

WGLT’s Good to Go initiative partnered with Bike BloNo to create a Candidates’ Survey to inform voters on the candidates’ positions on bike policy. WGLT wrote the questions and Bike BloNo created a rubric to grade each of the candidates; that rubric will be made public once all surveys have been submitted. Neither organization endorses any individual candidate.


Based on her survey response, Bike BloNo gives Amelia Buragas an “A” on bike issues.


Question 1: U.S. Census figures show a 60% increase in bicycle commuting in the last decade. Research shows Millennials (those 16-34 years of age) are avoiding car ownership and choose the mode of transportation that makes the most sense for the trip. Do you, or do any members of your immediate family, routinely bicycle for any of the reasons below? (select all that apply)

Going to work    I do    Family member does
Running Errands    I do    Family member does
For recreation    I do ✓ Family member does
Other    I do    Family member does

Comments:
My husband and I both commuted to work by bicycle while living in Seattle and Madison, but have not been in the position to do the same yet in Bloomington. Right now our cycling is limited to teaching our two young sons how to ride, but it is an activity we intend to enjoy as a family as our boys get more proficient. In fact, one reason we chose to live on White Place is because of its proximity to Constitution Trail and the cycling opportunities it offers. I believe it is important that we put into place programs and policies that are attractive to perspective residents, especially Millennials, because keeping and attracting the next generation of residents is critical to the future of Bloomington.


 

Question 2: The Bloomington City Council unanimously voted to approve a contract with the League of Illinois Bicyclists to create a Bicycle Master Plan in a shared-cost agreement with the Friends of the Constitution Trail. Would you have voted to create a bicycle master plan for the city?

✓ Yes
__No

Comments:
I believe the partnership between the City of Bloomington, Bike BloNo, Friends of Constitution Trail, and the League of Illinois Bicyclists to develop a Bicycle Master Plan is a model of policy making. Bringing together different stakeholders is key to developing successful policy while being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. I also believe that the Bicycle Master Plan is very important to the City’s overall infrastructure plan, and moves us toward a Complete Streets model of planning.


 

Question 3: What do you think are some important safety issues facing bicyclists on Bloomington streets? Choose as many as you think apply.

✓ Vehicle speed
✓ Driver attentiveness
✓ Access across Veterans Parkway
✓ Lack of infrastructure (bike lanes, buffered or protected bike lanes, etc.)
✓ Need for more motorist education regarding rules of the road
✓ Need for more bicyclist education regarding rules of the road
✓ Need for more enforcement of existing laws for all road users
__Bicyclists didn’t choose sidewalk as an option
__Cyclist in the middle of the road
✓ Car too close to bicyclist
✓ Bicyclist not visible enough during day or night
__Bicyclists choosing the wrong roads

Comments:
While having the proper infrastructure in place is essential to creating a safe, shared roadway it also is the responsibility of all users to know and follow the rules of the road. I fully support transportation safety programs that educate both drivers and cyclists.


Question 4: Bike BloNo is working with Bloomington leaders to establish a ticket diversion program. The diversion program would provide cyclists or motorists cited for a bicycling related infraction the option to take a Secretary of State approved test on bike rules of the road instead of paying the fine. The test also serves as an educational tool. Police officers would be encouraged to ticket cyclists and drivers for bike-related infractions at an increased rate certain times of year. Do you support such a diversion program?

✓ Yes
__No

Comments:
The purpose of the traffic code is to make streets safe for all permitted users of the roadway. The writing of a citation creates an excellent opportunity to educate cyclists and motorists on the rules of the road in order to increase overall safety.


Question 5: Do you think bicycle infrastructure, like bike lanes, boost existing businesses and attract new businesses and jobs to our community?

✓ Yes
__No

If yes, how would you tie together bikes and business? If no, why?
There are a number of studies that have found a positive correlation between bike lanes and business revenue. For example, in 2012 the New York City Department of Transportation reported that the construction of a protected bicycle lane on 9th Avenue in Manhattan resulted in a 49% increase in retail sales for local businesses. Businesses in comparable areas experienced an increase of just 3% over the same time period. Similar results have been observed in cities across the U.S. including Portland, San Francisco, Memphis, Austin, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Fort Worth. The common theme seems to be a move toward dedicated or protected bike lanes combined with increased bicycle parking. This brings cyclists into the retail areas and encourages them to visit the retailers.


Question 6: Do you support a “complete streets” policy applied to existing roads during reconstruction or resurfacing and for new road construction?

✓ Yes
__No

Comments:
The goal of the “complete streets” movement is to integrate people and places during the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of urban transportation networks. It recognizes that people choose to travel in a variety of manners and its goal is to make transportation accessible, pleasant, and safe for all users of city streets. Making sure that these policies are implemented during construction, reconstruction, and resurfacing is essential to ensure that Bloomington remains an attractive play to live, work, and play whether you travel by foot, car, bus, or bike.


Question 7: How do you plan to engage constituents, including those who may ride bikes, on issues involving local transportation and infrastructure?

I intend to engage constituents in four general ways: 1) informational website; 2) quarterly email newsletters; 3) email “alerts” on pressing issues; and 4) direct email and phone contact. These methods of communication will provide information on issues to be decided by the city council, including local transportation and infrastructure issues. In addition, I intend to reach out to area interest groups so that I can remain informed on the issues and topics related to their area of interest and also plan to attend, when appropriate, informational and planning meetings hosted by citizen groups.


A special note of disclosure from the candidate:
Michael Gorman serves as the treasurer of Friends of Amelia Buragas as well as treasurer of Bike BloNo. Mr. Gorman did not participate in the preparation of the responses to this survey, nor did he provide any advice on how to respond to the survey.

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Commuter Challenge By the Numbers

Michael McCurdy

The 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge has wrapped up with some great results, thanks to you. The Challenge is a friendly competition between individuals, teams and workplaces. During the week-long challenge, participants track and report their sustainable commutes online; anything counts except driving alone.

_____________________________________________________________________

By Tyler Curtis

We already know that the 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge was a huge success and that Good To Go is positively influencing Blo-No commuters to commute sustainably year-round. However, we decided to dig a little bit deeper inside the 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge results to find more trends behind the numbers.

We found that the most popular mode of transportation in terms of number of commutes was biking (again), with over 600 commutes logged. Carpooling was second with nearly 500 commutes and nearly 400 walking commutes were logged. Over half of commuter miles came from carpooling and over 40% were from telecommuting.

Many participants got a little creative and decided to try multi-modal commuting. 128 miles were logged for commutes using both biking and riding Connect Transit. Many participants also combined walking and biking, walking and busing, and even carpooling and biking. 2013 participants showed that you don’t need to rely on just one mode to get to your destination!

The number of participating organizations matched that of last year, and 12 new teams got on-board in 2013, including several churches and departments at ISU, and a major area employer, AFNI, returned in 2013 to place third in the 501+ employee category.

And, perhaps the most exciting result we found was that of the 709 total participants, 454 participants noted that their typical work commute before the challenge was driving in a single occupancy vehicle. That means that Good To Go was able to attract not only people who were already choosing to commute sustainably, but also commuters willing to give more sustainable commuting a shot for a week.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2013 Challenge, and we hope you’ll compete next year so we can eclipse our 2013 totals!

_____________________________________________________________

Tyler Curtis is the 2013 Good To Go Graduate Assistant through the Stevenson Center at Illinois State University. Mike McCurdy is WGLT Program Director and coordinates the community sustainable transportation project Good To Go. The next Good To Go Commuter Challenge rolls round the 3rd week of May, 2014.

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Good To Go Commuter Challenge Winners

Michael McCurdy

The 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge has wrapped up with some great results, thanks to you. The Challenge is a friendly competition between individuals, teams and workplaces. During the week-long challenge, participants track and report their sustainable commutes online; anything counts except driving alone.

_____________________________________________________________________

When it comes right down to it, we’re all winners because of the Good To Go Commuter Challenge. Less gasoline is used, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and our community is a little healthier as a result of participation in the Good To Go Commuter Challenge.

However, there’s only one winner of the $200 Visa gift card.

The recipient this year, like last year, is a bicycle commuter. That’s not surprising. The number one mode of transportation in the challenge is bicycle. Surprisingly though, the winner this year works at the Normal Public Library — also like last year!

Peggy Peters commutes by bike and commuted last year through November. She chose a bike as her sustainable transportation option during the Challenge and out of the thousands of logged commutes, Peg was chosen at random as the winner of the $200 Visa gift card. She chooses a bike whenever it’s not too hot, not too cold or not too wet.

“I have to park in a nearby parking garage,” said Peggy.  “So I can actually get to work faster when I bike.”

She also likes riding on the Constitution Trail for a short portion of her commute, likes saying “hi” to people on the Trail…and likes seeing the occasional family of ducks on her way into work.

Congratulations, Peggy…and thanks for participating in the 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge.

_____________________________________________________________

Mike McCurdy is WGLT Program Director and co-coordinates the community sustainable transportation project Good To Go. The next Good To Go Commuter Challenge rolls round the 3rd week of May, 2014.

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2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge Results

Michael McCurdy

The 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge has wrapped up with some great results, thanks to you. The Challenge is a friendly competition between individuals, teams and workplaces. During the week-long challenge, participants track and report their sustainable commutes online; anything counts except driving alone.

_____________________________________________________________________

A record number of Good To Go miles were posted by Bloomington-Normal commuters during the week-long, 4th annual Commuter Challenge. The final mileage total exceeded last year’s numbers by nearly 15,000 miles, with nearly 50,000 miles logged (or almost enough to circle the globe twice).

Good To Go™ is a year round community project from WGLT public radio and ISU Sustainability focused on healthy living and sustainable transportation. The Commuter Challenge is a friendly competition between individuals, teams and workplaces to find alternatives to driving alone. The Challenge is the initiative’s primary annual event.

Bike parking and bus display at the 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge kick off event May 4th.

709 people participated in the challenge. Despite participation numbers practically matching those of last year, this year’s participants exceeded the mileage, greenhouse gas impact, and calorie totals from a year ago. Almost 50,000 sustainable miles were accumulated and 20.9 tons of carbon emissions were avoided. Because some participants chose active modes like biking and walking, 290,000 calories were burned during the Challenge. Bicycling was the most popular alternative transportation choice, followed by carpooling and walking. Participants also logged over 100 commutes with Connect Transit.

Although many 2013 competitors participated in the Challenge before; numerous community members participated for the first time. If trends continue, many of these new participants will continue to commute sustainably year-round. A survey of 2011 and 2012 Good To Go participants conducted earlier this year found that 40% of participants increased their use of alternative transportation year-round following Challenge participation, and 15% ceased driving alone to work altogether.

Awards will be given to businesses and organizations based on percentage of employee/member participation in the Challenge. New winners in their respective divisions were ISU College of Arts and Sciences Administrative Office and New Covenant Community Church. Illinois State University Advancement and Conference Services, Uptown Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Vitesse Cycle Shop and COUNTRY Financial were repeat winners. 

Last year four area churches, Northside Church of Christ, Calvary United Methodist, Unitarian-Universalist Church of Bloomington-Normal, and Mennonite Church of Normal, organized a friendly competition among the faith community. Those four churches participated again this year and two other churches, New Covenant Community and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)-Bloomington also got in on the action.  New participants New Covenant Community edged out the competition and also won their respective division.

Vitesse Cycle Shop, O’Brien Mitsubishi and The Friends of the Constitution Trail are Good To Go sponsors. Good To Go also partnered with Carl’s Ice Cream, providing gift cards for free ice cream cones to those signing up for the Challenge. Connect Transit also partnered with Good To Go to provide a Free Ride Day on the last day of the Challenge along with free ride cards to anyone signing up.

Also special thanks to the Downtown Bloomington Association Farmers’ Market for hosting our Good To Go kick off event May 4th. The Good To Go area is really like a mini-sustainable transportation expo with a Connect Transit bus display, free and secure bike parking, EV test rides, and an EV charging station demonstration. Everyone who signed up on May 4th also got a coupon for $2 off anything at the market, thanks to the Farmers’ Market and more than 33 participants used the coupon!

For the second consecutive year, the Normal Public Library can claim the winner of the $200 Visa gift card, awarded at random. Peggy Peters is a regular bike commuter and says she can get to work quicker on a bike than driving. Thanks for participating Peggy, thanks to everyone!

Sponsors and Partners:

Vitesse Cycle Shop — Good To Go Sponsor
O’Brien Mitsubishi — Good To Go Sponsor
The Friends of the Constitution Trail — Commuter Challenge Sponsor
Connect Transit — Good To Go Commuter Challenge Partner
Carl’s Ice Cream — Good To Go Commuter Challenge Partner
DBA Farmers’ Market — Good To Go Commuter Challenge Partner
Plug-In Vehicle Solutions — Good To Go Commuter Challenge Partner.

Participants:

Advocate BroMenn Medical Center
AFNI
Bike BloNo
Bloomington Cycle and Fitness
Bloomington School District 87
Calvary United Methodist Church
COUNTRY Financial
Ecology Action Center
Family Challenge
First Christian Church Bloomington (Disciples of Christ)
Friends of the Constitution Trail
GROWMARK, Inc.
Heartland Community College
Home Sweet Home Ministries
Illinois State University
Illinois Wesleyan University
ISU College of Arts and Sciences Administrative Office
ISU Facilities
ISU Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development
ISU Student Health Services
ISU University Advancement and Conference Services
IWSS
McLean County Government Employees
Mennonite Church of Normal
New Covenant Community Church
Uptown Normal Marriott and Conference Center
OSF St. Joseph Medical Center
Pekin Community High School
Spokeswomen
State Farm
Town of Normal
Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington-Normal
Vitesse Cycle Shop
WGLT

_____________________________________________________________

Mike McCurdy is WGLT Program Director and co-coordinates the community sustainable transportation project Good To Go. The next Good To Go Commuter Challenge rolls round the 3rd week of May, 2014.

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Blo-No Bikes Building Community

Michael McCurdy

The 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge is underway through May 17. The Challenge is a friendly competition between individuals, teams and workplaces. During the week-long challenge, participants track and report their sustainable commutes online; anything counts except driving alone.

_____________________________________________________________________

By Tyler Curtis, Good To Go Graduate Assistant

The popularity of the bike as a viable form of transportation and a hip tool for community building is growing rapidly. Bloomington-Normal is no different, with a growing group of bike commuters lobbying for better bike infrastructure and awareness and bikes being used as a tool to tackle other major issues in the community.

Two such issues are youth literacy and the availability of healthy, locally-grown produce. That’s where the West Bloomington Book Bike and the Illinois Wesleyan “Veggie Bike” have come in to fill the void.

The veggie bike is a project of former IWU environmental studies major Alex Kim. The bike helps provide support to IWU’s Peace Garden, whose mission is to provide locally grown produce to BloNo community members while also promoting community connectedness. The Peace Garden provides produce for Sodexo, IWU’s food provider, and for the greater Bloomington-Normal community. Alex says that the goal of the Veggie Bike is to assist the IWU Peace Garden “in its efforts to exemplify and maintain sustainable principles through practice. In short, it will help the Peace Garden be as green as possible.”

Illinois Wesleyan’s Veggie Bike. The bike was the brainchild of former IWU student Alex Kim.

The bike took six months to complete with help from IWU’s Action Research Center (ARC). What’s great about the bike is that it is funded completely through donated materials and the labor of dedicated volunteers. The bike is still in use, and the ARC is planning to deliver the produce to the Normal trailside market during the summer and to the IWU campus market in the fall.

The Book Bike, a project of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP), had similar beginnings to the Veggie Bike, as it developed from the creativity of dedicated community residents. Bloomington City Council member and administrator of the Book Bike, Karen Schmidt, explains that numerous teachers have recounted stories to her about students who do not have access to books in their homes. “I have a hard time getting my head around a home without books,” she says, and it is for this reason that Karen has remained committed to promoting the use of the Book Bike throughout Bloomington-Normal. As she affirms, it’s all worth it when she realizes “every time a child or an adult goes home with a free book that they own, we just tipped the scales a little bit in the right direction.”

The West Bloomington Book Bike in action at the Irving School.

The hope is that the book bike will be brought out every weekend, weather and venue permitting. This goal would not be possible without dedicated volunteers, including IWU students, the McLean County Wheelers, and the ISU Bike Club, who are willing to ride the bike, which can weigh up to 200 pounds when fully-stocked, around the community week after week. Along with riders, the Book Bike project also relies on the generosity of book donors, including the Bloomington Public Library and various residents throughout Bloomington-Normal.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Another major bike initiative, also a project of the WBRP, is the Walk-In, Bike-Out program. The program utilizes volunteers to repair bicycles donated by community members, Illinois State University, and the Bloomington and Normal police departments and then gives those bikes away to individuals in need. There is no “needs testing” to the program; anyone who comes in and wants a bike can get one.

During the April 27, 2013 give away volunteers spent several weeks repairing the bikes and provided on-hand assistance with bike-fitting, bike lock and helmet distribution, and answering residents’ questions about bike safety and commuting, and in the end giving away more than 120 bicycles.

The much publicized National Bike to School Day bike ride, marking the grand opening of the Airport Road extension all started with the efforts of NCHS students who wanted a safer bike route to school. Efforts like next week’s Blo-No Bike Week, Ride of Silence,and Blokes & Spokes will bring more awareness to the importance of promoting bicycling as a healthy, inexpensive, and environmentally-friendly mode of transportation.

All these bikes found homes on April 27, 2013 through the WBRP’s “Walk-In, Bike-Out” Event.

If there’s anything that initiatives like the Book Bike and Veggie Bike show is that biking isn’t just great for commuting, but bikes can also be used as powerful tools for community development.

By the way, if you need to tune up your bike but can’t find the right tool, there’s always the Tool Library.

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Tyler Curtis is WGLT’s Graduate Assistant, helping to coordinate the community sustainable transportation project Good To Go. The 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge is underway through May 17.

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Good To Go’s Favorite Blog

Michael McCurdy

Registration is open for the 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge, May 11-17. The Challenge is a friendly competition between individuals, teams and workplaces. During the week-long challenge, participants track and report their sustainable commutes online; anything counts except driving alone.

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If you don’t know Sara Hoffee, you may know her bike: a green Civia Twin City Step-Through. A lot of regular BloNo cyclists will recognize it because Sara rides it practically everywhere. And she’s sharing her experiences in her blog: Little Bike on the Prairie.

It’s a blog I wish I had the time to write.

Her most recent post nudges Downtown Bloomington to become as bicycle friendly as Uptown Normal.

“I hope with the new mayor and the influence of Bike BloNo (if you don’t like them on Facebook already you should do it now!) that Bloomington can turn itself into a more convenient cycling destination. The city boasts quite a few great local businesses that seem to get overlooked by the cyclists I run around with because it’s so much more convenient to utilize Uptown Normal. One of my summer resolutions is to take advantage of Downtown Bloomington…especially since I live and work nearby anyway.”

She’s also working to dispel myths.

“While I had a gut feeling that it was faster for me to bike than drive, I was honestly surprised when I saw today’s results. I save about eight minutes a day by cycling rather than driving and actually end up covering more miles in the car than on the bike thanks to parking locations–you can see the breakdown at the end of this entry. Couple this with my financial savings (for example, if I drove to my freelance job at ISU every day I would spend about $850 a YEAR on parking alone) and the real question is: ‘Why wouldn’t I ride my bike every day?’”

And Sara is always thinking about her safety on Bloomington-Normal streets.

“I wish more people knew about/obeyed this particular law, and honestly am tempted to keep the yardstick tied to my bike indefinitely to raise awareness of it. I can think of dozens of times in the past few months where I’ve been nervous about how closely an automobile comes, and I hear stories all the time of cyclists getting buzzed by angry drivers. It’s no joke and no way to “teach a lesson”, as one particularly charming man in a van yelled at me last year. I really wish all drivers were familiar with the “three feet” law, and that they  understood how terrifying (not to mention dangerous!) non-compliance is from the cyclist’s perspective.”

Subscribe to Little Bike on the Prairie. Unless you’re on a bike, it might be the only way you can keep up with Sara.

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Mike McCurdy is WGLT Program Director and co-coordinates the community sustainable transportation project Good To Go. The 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge is May 11-17.

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Questions Answered at GLT’s Sustainable Transportation Fair

Michael McCurdy

Registration is open for the 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge, May 11-17. The Challenge is a friendly competition between individuals, teams and workplaces. During the week-long challenge, participants track and report their sustainable commutes online; anything counts except driving alone.

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The Good To Go Commuter Challenge kick off is Saturday, May 4th. Where else can you find nearly all of the major elements of sustainable transportation and the experts to answer your questions in one place?

Vitesse Cycle Shop owner, Chris Koos, accepting an award for his business' performance in the Good To Go Commuter Challenge

Look for the Good To Go area at the northeast corner of the square in Downtown Bloomington during the first outdoor Farmers’ Market of the season. You can’t miss it. Just look for the parked Connect Transit bus. This is your chance to get your questions about Bloomington-Normal’s mass transit system answered. You can also try out the bike rack out on the front of the bus. Every fixed route bus has bike rack.

The Friends of the Constitution Trail (a Commuter Challenge sponsor) are on hand, offering free valet-style secure bike parking. They’ll offer their expert advice about bike commuting.

New Good To Go sponsor O’Brien Mitsubishi will be providing test drives of the new iMiEV, Mitsubishi’s all-electric car. They can answer your questions about electric cars and Rod Sabick with Plug-In Vehicle Solutions can tell you what you need to know about charging your electric car.

Electric cars, buses and bikes are all acceptable modes of transportation in the Good To Go Commuter Challenge. Learn more about the Challenge at the GLT tent. Register and you’ll get a Good To Go collapsible shopping bag stuffed with a card good for one free Connect Transit bus ride, a certificate for a Carl’s Ice Cream cone, and a coupon for $2 off anything at the Farmers’ Market.  Log at least one sustainable commute May 11-17 and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $200 Visa gift card.

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Mike McCurdy is WGLT Program Director and co-coordinates the community sustainable transportation project Good To Go. The 2013 Good To Go Commuter Challenge is May 11-17.

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