Bike BloNo Asks for Retrial

We’ve been following the case of Randy Crump, a driver who ran Dean Davis, a cyclist, off the road last summer. Yesterday, the jury returned a not-guilty verdict on a count of misdemeanor reckless driving but could not make a decision on two felony counts of aggravated reckless driving causing bodily harm and reckless conduct causing great bodily harm.

We respect the jury’s decision and thank the members of the jury for their service. We also thank McLean County State’s Attorney Jason Chambers and Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Scarborough for their work on this case and for their decision to take bicycle safety in our community seriously. We hope that the State’s Attorney will pursue a retrial for the two outstanding charges.

This case highlights the continued need for education efforts to ensure that our roads are safe for everyone. Cars and bicycles can safely coexist, but only if everyone follows the rules. This incident was preventable. It serves as an important reminder that drivers must treat bicycles like other vehicles and give them plenty of room.

Governments the world over require that people pass tests before allowing them to drive cars because driving a car is an inherently dangerous activity to those around you. Every time anyone gets behind the wheel, we ask that they remember this fact and treat driving with the vigilance and attentiveness that it deserves.

Regardless of the outcome of this trial, drivers should take seriously the resources and time necessary to respond to criminal charges as well as the possible consequences.

We also ask drivers to remember that cyclists are members of our community. They are our friends and family. They are our coworkers. Let’s all work together to make sure that everyone gets home safely.

Why a Complete Streets policy is a win-win-win for Bloomington-Normal

We’ve been spending too much money on terrible streets for decades.

One of the few things that everybody in town seems to agree on – liberals, conservatives, and independents alike – is that our streets are in terrible shape. Drivers complain about extra maintenance costs for their cars, cyclists worry about having to weave around potholes, and pedestrians can hardly cross the street after it rains without leaping across roadside puddles the size of a baby elephant.

Part of that, certainly, is underfunding. But it’s also about how we’ve been spending the limited dollars our city councils have been able to dedicate to streets.

When you design streets with only the most costly users (cars) in mind, you end up with vast swaths of pavement that are effectively useless for anything but cars and trucks, and you spend a lot of money doing it. When you design streets with everybody in mind – cars, bikes, buses, and pedestrians alike – you can spend less money, raze fewer trees, and keep neighborhoods intact.

We’ve all seen it. Take Main Street for example. It’s chock-full of cars for thirty seconds, virtually empty for a minute and a half, busy for another thirty seconds, rinse and repeat. What if, instead of building three overly-wide lanes for cars, we only built two car lanes, and just used them better? What if we allowed people to choose from an array of safe, comfortable options to navigate around town, rather than ostracizing everyone who wanted to smell the flowers on their way to work?

What we’d end up with is less expensive streets, with better streetscapes, and more thriving businesses alongside them. Nearby homeowners would see their property values increase. And people wouldn’t be forced to use a car if they don’t want to.

Look – Bloomington and Normal have both adopted bike master plans, and that’s great. But those plans don’t represent fundamental shifts in thinking about our community’s streets the way a complete streets policy would. At its core, a complete streets policy says that all streets in the community should be friendly to all people using all modes of transportation; not just a handful of streets in a document somewhere. It says that, as a community, we value safety over speed – and we should design our streets for people, not just for vehicles. And, when we do that, we can end up stretching our tax dollars even further so we can improve even more streets every year without spending any more money.

Roughly 20% of the community’s land is public right-of-way. Shouldn’t all that public space be accessible to everyone?


On Monday night, the Bloomington City Council will meet to discuss moving forward with a complete streets ordinance. We’d love to see you there.

Bike to Work Day 2016

bike to work day, May 20 2016 6:30-8:30am

bike to work dayBreakfast is on us!

Bike to work on May 20th between 6:30 and 8:30am and grab a free donut and coffee, care of CoffeeHound and Cravin’ Donuts (first come, first serve). We’ll have two locations along the Constitution Trail:

 

helmetEnter to win!

  • You’ll also get a chance to enter a drawing for bike gear below.
  • Bontrager bike helmet (adult large)
  • Bontrager fingerless bike gloves
  • Cable lock (2)
  • Women’s kit (bottom and top, women’s large)

Questions?

If you don’t commute to work very often (or ever) it can be a little intimidating. Don’t worry! We’ve got your basic questions covered.

Bike Commuting TipsSuggested Routes

Doubting whether biking to work is right for you? Have some questions before you head out for your first bike-to-work ride?

Do it! Seriously, just give it a try.

Check out these simple tips on clothing, planning, and other FAQ pointers from one of our own bike commuting pros and Bike BloNo board members, Kelly Rumley!

Clothing Tips

  1. Don’t buy anything new! That’s ridiculous. Bikers come in all sorts of clothing packages, and when getting started as a bike commuter you can just aim to wear something comfortable and biking-friendly. The cycling gear will come later once you get hooked, become a regular bike commuter, and save up all that money you were spending on gas. Or not. Some of us never spend a dime on bike-specific clothing.
  2. Consider how hard your ride will be. For a short commute, you might just wear your work clothes. For a longer commute, you might need to pack your work clothes or bring them to work the day before.
  3. Care about visibility. Lighter, brighter colors are best, especially if you’re riding before sunrise or as the sun is going down. If you plan to ride when it’s dark, you should definitely purchase (or borrow) a rear tail light and front headlight and think about wearing reflective clothing.

Clothing Checklist (Keep it Simple)

  1. Helmet: A must-have for safety.
    • Worried about your hair? In our experience, the whole helmet-hair thing is overblown. If you wear your hair long, you can loosely pull it back with an elastic band or secure your bangs with a headband. Your helmet really won’t matte down your hair much unless you’re riding for hours. Sweat will dry; your hair will recover. Plus, you just biked to work. How much cooler is that than having the best work hair?
  2. Weather-appropriate shirt and pants/shorts: Think about the length of your ride and how fast you plan to pedal. If you expect to get sweaty, keep the clothing to a mimimum and then do a quick change when you get to work. Pro tip: roll up your right pant leg (or run a piece of masking tape or a Velcro strap around it to keep it tight to your leg); this will keep your pants from getting greased up by your gears. If your pants are baggy, consider rolling/taping both sides.
  3. Biking-friendly shoes: Tennis shoes or cycling shoes are the best, but you could also get by with sandals that have a heel strap (no flip-flops!). You can even wear your work shoes if you’re not worried about them getting dirty or flying off your feet. Harder soles make pedaling more efficient and are kinder to your feet.

Other Useful Commuting Tips

  • Do a pre-ride bike maintenance check:
    • Fill the tires and make sure they stay full.
    • Grease your chain (remember, a little goes a long way).
    • Hold the bike firmly while you check if the handlebars or pedals/crank are loose.
    • Look the whole thing over for hints about potential problems (in particular heavy rust or cracks).
    • Take it for a test ride. Listen for anything that seems loose or rattling. Shift through all the gears.
    • Test your brakes at different speeds.
    • If you have any concerns or need expert advice and repairs, take your bike to one of your local bike shops for a maintenance appointment.
  • Find your best route. Map your ride online and/or ride to your workplace the weekend before your first commute. Bring a friend or family member for double the fun! Check out our Suggested Routes tab for more information.

 

There’s much more bike infrastructure beyond the trail (which is still awesome). Here are some of the streets that offer a more comfortable mix of bikes and cars.

bike to work map

bike to work day posterTell your office!

The best way to bike commute to work is with your colleagues! Hang up this rad poster and encourage your office, department, or company to join you. Workers who commute by bike are commonly more alert and productive. Skip rush hour and parking madness and hop on the bike!

gtg-logoAlready a commuter?

If you’re already biking to work, great! Consider registering for the Good To Go Commuter Challenge and log your commutes to compete for bragging rights 😉

Partners

We couldn’t have done without our friends below. They rock.

coffee hound   cravin donuts   friends of the constitution trail  mclean county regional planning commission

Re-envisioning East Washington Street

Way back in March 2014, the City of Bloomington held a public meeting to gauge interest in various corridors for potential bike-friendly road reconfigurations. More than 100 cyclists showed up and one of the top requests was East Washington Street. Throughout the process of developing the City’s Bike Master Plan, staff slowly turned away from high-quality bike lanes on Washington in favor of combined bike/parking lanes on East Grove Street.

Bike BloNo believes combined bike/parking lanes on Grove would be more dangerous than doing nothing at all (since people would end up weaving in and out of the travel lane) – and they wouldn’t solve the connectivity problem, since Grove ends at Mercer. People riding bikes for transportation want to go to all the same places people driving cars for transportation want to go, and low-quality bike lanes that dead-end at a busy street without the prospect of any future bike accommodations really wouldn’t help anyone.

We’ve also heard from residents on Washington that they feel people drive much too fast along their street. Speed and safety are almost always at odds; when a car is going 40 MPH and it hits a pedestrian, there’s a 90% chance that pedestrian will die. At 30 MPH, the pedestrian has a 50-50 chance of surviving – and at 20 MPH, the pedestrian has a 90% chance of walking away.

Fast-forward to October 2015, when Bike BloNo held a meeting of its members to discuss project priorities from the Bloomington Bike Master Plan. We split the 30-or-so people into four or five groups, and all but one of those groups asked that we work on Washington Street, despite the fact that it wasn’t actually in the plan.

So we went back and looked at the original plan for bike lanes on Washington, before City staff removed it from the plan, and found what we thought was a perfectly workable solution:

A potential redesign of Washington St, which would include buffered bike lanes on either side of the street

Instead of the current 18.5′ travel lanes – which, by the way, are 6.5′ wider than Interstate standards – Ed Barsotti of consultant Ride Illinois had suggested 5′ buffered bike lanes with 11.5′ travel lanes. This would effectively slow down traffic without reducing capacity. What Ride Illinois hadn’t anticipated, however, was the need for on-street parking; the signage along the street is confusing and could be interpreted at first glance as saying that parking isn’t allowed anywhere. In talking with neighborhood residents, we learned that people do park, regularly, along the north side of the street. So we came up with another option, which would retain parking along the north side of the street:

Another layout for Washington, with 5-foot bike lanes, 10-foot travel lanes, and a 7-foot parking lane

We’re still actively seeking feedback from neighborhood residents about whether or not they’d like to move forward on this project, but in our meeting with the Founders Grove Neighborhood Association on April 21, we received mostly positive feedback; of the eighteen written comments we received:

  • ten people categorized themselves under “I love this idea, and I support it wholeheartedly!
  • four people chose “I think it could work, but I’m not passionate about it.
  • one person selected “I think it could work with some modifications.
  • two people said “I’d rather it not happen, but if it did, I’d like some tweaks.
  • nobody chose “I vehemently oppose bike lanes on Washington no matter how they’re designed.
  • and one person wrote in “Mixed feelings. I think I would be more enthusiastic if this section were part of a full downtown to Veterans Parkway stretch. (or at least downtown to Regency)

Digging into the written comments further, we were very pleased with the amount of thought people put into their responses. Some of the comments included:

  • A Washington Street resident who said s/he supports it wholeheartedly said:
    Very important to retain parking on the north side of E Washington – so I support a parking lane plus a north side bike lane there and clear striping/signage so people will be less likely to use the parking lane as another traffic lane. Thanks for listening. P.S. For the configuration w/ a parking lane, what about having a combined bike/parking lane on the north side – 12 ft wide – but w/ parking next to the curb? Then if someone was parked, a bike could weave around it but not go into the drive lane. This would be safe but involve less re-education of the public.
  • The person who wrote in “mixed feelings…” said:
    I’m in favor of bike lanes connecting all parts of the community. Really like the idea of putting bike lanes next to the curb with a parking lane buffer – as long as the pavement markings are clear and regularly maintained with fresh paint.
  • A Washington Street resident who said she thinks it could work, but she’s not passionate about it, said:
    I don’t love the idea of paint all over the streets and the idea of extra vehicles to look for while backing out of my driveway. But, in general I would be fine with bike lanes on Washington as long as we are still allowed to park on the street at all times.
  • The person who said he thought it could work with some modifications said:
    – Ensure parking where possible.
    – I like the idea of diverting bikes at Kreitzer + Perrin – State to Kreitzer as part of the original plan gave the same concerns. Thank you for altering.
    – Mercer to Regency: I would be interested about the potential of bottlenecked traffic at the 4-way stop @ corner of Washington/Mercer if that stretch were 2 lane.
  • A Washington Street resident who said s/he would rather it not happen, but would like some tweaks if it did, said:
    My concerns are related to the traffic. The children already cannot cross, play, etc. – adding bike paths may only increase the drivers frustrations as traveling on Washington Street. Second concern is parking – yes I have a driveway however, sometimes street parking is needed on occasions. Thank you!

We’re cautiously optimistic that, as we work to refine the plans further and continue to take resident feedback to heart, we’ll be able to find a workable solution that will end up making the street a much safer, more vibrant neighborhood street. By retaining parking on the north side of the street and adding high-visibility crosswalks and signage reminding drivers that state law requires them to stop for pedestrians, we think the vast majority of neighborhood residents will end up loving the re-envisioning of Washington Street that we’re helping to shepherd.

We’ll continue to move slowly and gather as much feedback as possible; we really don’t want to do anything the neighbors don’t support. So if you have any thoughts (positive, negative, or in between), please share them with Michael Gorman at michael@bikeblono.org. If you don’t mind, please include your street address for some additional context.

Main Street TIGER support letter

Bike BloNo received an email from IDOT on Thursday asking us to voice our support for an application for federal funding to improve the Main Street corridor from Downtown Bloomington to College Avenue in Normal. The funding source they’re seeking, entitled “Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery” (or, TIGER), is incredibly competitive – out of $134 billion in applications, they’ve only been able to award $4.6 billion in grants since the program was established in 2009. This community already knows the benefits of a successful TIGER grant; Uptown Station was the first completed project in the country to have used TIGER funding. And IDOT, which has decided not to apply for TIGER funding anywhere else in the state this year, believes our Main Street Corridor could be the next winner.

Why does Bike BloNo support this application? You guessed it – IDOT has seen the light. They want to fully implement the recommendations in the 2012 McLean County Regional Planning Commission study that included adding safe, convenient bike lanes on Main Street. The study was an effort to make the entire corridor more bike/pedestrian friendly – promoting 21st-century mixed-use development along the entire stretch from Downtown to ISU and encouraging more business activity in the heart of our community.

We’ve included a copy of our letter to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx below. And, if you can be there, we’d love to see you in person at the Bloomington City Council meeting at 7pm on Monday to show your support for this project. All you need to do is show up with your helmet – and together we’ll make a powerful statement in support of safe, comfortable bike infrastructure in our community.

Dear Secretary Foxx:

We are writing in support of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant application for the reconstruction of US 51 Business through the cities of Bloomington and Normal. US 51 Business, also known as the Main Street corridor, is the commercial, educational, medical, and entertainment backbone for this regional hub. We formed Bike BloNo in 2012 to centralize community support for bicycle accommodations in response to the Main Street Transportation Improvement Feasibility Study. We are ecstatic to be able to partner with IDOT, the City of Bloomington, and the Town of Normal to voice our support for this project.

Creating a truly multi-modal system along this corridor has been a vision of the twin cities for nearly 10 years and the focus of the Main Street Transportation Improvement Feasibility Study. Completed with input from the community, the study’s goal was revitalization of this corridor by creating a multimodal environment with bicycle accommodations that make active transportation a safe and desirable choice within and around the corridor.

As a primary community corridor, Main Street is vital for development between Bloomington and Normal. This corridor serves two universities, Illinois State University (ISU) and Illinois Wesleyan, with a total student population of 22,897. The corridor is also home to BroMenn Medical Center and numerous retail and commercial businesses. Connect Transit bus service serves the corridor that is within a half mile of Constitution Trail (a multi-use trail running parallel to US 51 Business from Bloomington and Normal with a number of east-west branches). Adding bike accommodations will assist in combining transit with bicycling the first mile and last mile of user trips. It would create a pathway to jobs and economic opportunities especially for lower income community members who depend on public transportation. And it would help convince the many people we already see riding dangerously on the sidewalk against the flow of traffic to instead ride on the street.

The corridor has undergone mixed use development in the ISU campus area which has increased the need for bicycle and pedestrian accommodations; thousands of pedestrians cross Main Street many times a day, making its outdated design as an urban highway especially unsafe. Connectivity between ISU’s campus and downtown Bloomington would improve accessibility and safety though upgrades that meet PROWAG policy. Making active transportation a desired option also contributes to the health of the area.

Improvement of this corridor is part of an ambitious effort that will have a profound effect on the future viability of the Bloomington and Normal area. Consistent with the goals of the TIGER program, this project will provide safe, reliable, and affordable connections to employment, education, healthcare, and other essential services.

Sincerely,

Mike McCurdy and Michael Gorman
Co-chairs, Bike BloNo Public Policy & Infrastructure
PO Box 722
Normal, IL 61761

Walk-In/Bike-Out Sees Strong Community Support

Bike BloNo is joining with the Friends of the Constitution Trail to make a financial contribution to Walk-In/Bike Out. This will be the third straight year of multiple annual donations to WIBO from Bike BloNo.  At a regular Bike BloNo meeting on Wednesday, March 16 at 7 PM the Friends of the Trail and Bike BloNo will each present checks for $500. Mayor Tari Renner, Aldermen Amelia Buragas and Karen Schmidt, and Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts Director Tina Salamone will also attend.

The check presentation will take place at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts’ Creativity Center. The BCPA is providing bike repair and distribution space after other city-donated space was needed for other purposes.

The $1,000 donation will be used to purchase consumable materials such as brake pads, chains, tires, and other common bike parts. Walk-In/Bike-Out is an annual free bike giveaway event organized by Rick Heiser, and is one of the many community involvements efforts of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project. From February to April, volunteers repair abandoned or confiscated bikes to get them in good working order. The free bikes are then given away on the third Saturday of April to anyone who needs one.

The effort is an attempt to connect people who may not own a vehicle to affordable transportation. A bicycle can get people to and from work and/or school, connect to bus stops, or any door-to-door trip.

Bike BloNo is also partnering with an anonymous donor to purchase bike lights, ensuring every adult bike will have a front and rear bike light. The cost of the lights will amount to an additional $1,200 donation to WIBO.

Recipient numbers have grown year after year, along with the need for more volunteers, space, and parts. Over 800 bikes have been given away in WIBO’s five-year run. The group is now preparing for the 2016 giveaway on Saturday, April 23. Volunteers with or without basic bike maintenance experience are needed for this effort.

The March 16th Bike BloNo Meeting will also feature Jim Freeman, a partner in Freeman Kevenides Law Firm of Chicago. He’ll talk about legal matters related to being a cyclist in a world of cars: policing, insurance, bike-on-bike crashes, and more.

Spread the word about this one-of-a-kind Bike BloNo meetup through the Facebook event. We hope to see you there!

2015 Annual Report

Collage of bike blono event images from 2015

Events, people, and action in 2015

As prescribed by the Bike BloNo bylaws, its president is to “prepare and deliver an annual report of past organization activities at the annual membership meeting.” What follows is the organization’s annual report for 2015 as prepared by Bike BloNo President Mike McCurdy.

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Bike Movie Night 2016 at Normal Theater

Ghost Bike Memorial Ride, São Paulo, Brazil. Photographer: Flora Dias for WG Film.

Ghost Bike Memorial Ride, São Paulo, Brazil. Photographer: Flora Dias for WG Film.

When: Wednesday, February 17
Time: 7:00 p.m – 9:00 p.m.
Where: Normal Theater, 209 North St. Normal IL 61761

BIKES vs CARS depicts a global crisis that we all deep down know we need to talk about: climate, earth’s resources, cities where the entire surface is consumed by the car. An ever-growing, dirty, noisy traffic chaos. The bike is a great tool for change, but the powerful interests who gain from the private car invest billions each year on lobbying and advertising to protect their business. In the film we meet activists and thinkers who are fighting for better cities, who refuse to stop riding despite the increasing number killed in traffic.
For the fifth annual winter bike movie brought to you by the Town of Normal, the Normal Theater, Bike BloNo and the Bloomington-Normal Marriott, we’ll be showing BIKES vs CARS!

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Bicycle Crash Data Report

BLOOMINGTON, IL – November 10, 2015 – Bike crash data can teach people a lot about how to stay safe.

After this summer’s incident in which an aggressive driver intimidated a group of people on their bikes on a rural road outside of Hudson – ultimately sending one to the hospital – Bike BloNo partnered with Data Scientist Mike Bernico and built a coalition of stakeholders to answer important questions, like “where are the most dangerous places for people on bikes in our community?” and “what are the best ways to stay safe?”

The first step in answering these questions was gathering police reports. The City of Bloomington, the Town of Normal, and the McLean County Sheriff each provided 18 months’ worth of reports on crashes involving a bike and a car. Bernico distilled the data from those reports and published the results at http://bikeblono.org/crashdata/

“An important finding for our community is that riding a bike on the sidewalk is one of the most dangerous things people do,” says Bike BloNo board member Michael Gorman. “It turns out that, while it is probably safer for children to stay off the road, as an adult, the safest thing you can do is to ride with traffic – behaving like a car and following all the same rules of the road that you would if you were behind the wheel.”

“Open and available access to public data is key to understanding and improving this and other civic challenges,” says Bernico.  “Open Data, Math, and Statistics are tools we can use to understand the world around us and hopefully make it better.  That’s what a Data Scientist does, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to bring that idea to the public domain.”

Bike BloNo has partnered with other local groups to compile and publicize this data on an ongoing basis. Partners include the Friends of the Constitution Trail, the McLean County Wheelers, and the Bloomington Cycle-Coffee Hound Race Team.

Bike BloNo is an advocacy group promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation in Bloomington-Normal. The Friends of the Constitution Trail works for expansion and beautification of the trail. The McLean County Wheelers is a club of cycling enthusiasts in Central Illinois. The Bloomington Cycle-Coffee Hound Racing Team is a team of riders who live, love, and want to grow cycling in the Bloomington-Normal area.