The Chainlink

Friends,

Traffic in my little community (the Quad Cities, west of Chicago on the Mississippi River) is immeasurably worse when school is in session because just about everyone drives their children to school. And they say they don't want their children to ride bikes because all those cars make it too dangerous.

This situation is horrid. Children need safe routes to ride to school, and they need to have a little physical exertion on the way to get their physical and intellectual motors running.

I want to start a clamor for safe routes and more kids on bikes, but I'm not sure what authority types I should speak to, nor how I can recruit ordinary parents and kids to join the chorus. 

Please suggest to whom I should be speaking and what further substance I can offer to bolster the argument.

Many thanks,

Hector

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Hector, do you have a sustainable transportation organization like Active Transportation Alliance?  That would be the first place I would think of starting a conversation.

 

Unfortunately, I don't think we have an advocacy group around here that's anything like active enough to be worth much. And I'm afraid I have too many commitments to try to form one just now. But I'll touch base with the organizations, such as they are, that are around here.

Thanks very much for your input, Lisa. I often feel like I'm talking to myself, and it's just lovely to hear some folks with good thoughts!

Lisa Curcio 6.5 mi said:

Hector, do you have a sustainable transportation organization like Active Transportation Alliance?  That would be the first place I would think of starting a conversation.

 

Cameron, I think I've reached the age when even nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

I recall riding mostly on sidewalks when I was an elementary student. And sidewalks here in the Illinois Q-C are neither well maintained nor safe for kids bicycling. They're all pushed up from tree roots and have garbage cans or recycling cans obstructing them on pickup days.

And while I can see kids riding with relative safety along residential streets, schools seem mostly to be perched on thoroughfares, where young cyclists really aren't safe on the street.

As infrastructure problems go, that's relatively sissy stuff. So I agree that parental perception is likely the highest hurdle to clear. 

You are also correct that getting kids to convince other kids is a strong tool. My wife and I have four kids, and two of them are ardent and evangelical cyclists. (The others are 1, too young and 2, too "cool.") Of the two golden children, both have convinced friends to ride with them. But little by little is frustrating!!



Cameron 7.5 mi said:

I grew up in a fairly similar area to yours (Waterloo in NE Iowa). When I was in elementary school 20ish years ago it was still considered safe to ride school. The only part of my 2 mile ride that was dicey was right at the school where parents and buses were dropping off kids. A lot of neighborhoods and schools that are at least as old as me haven't really changed much (I've taken younger cousins riding on the same streets I rode to school and they're about how I remember them), the difference is more in parent's perception. So the hurdle isn't really an infrastructure problem, it's a problem of getting parents to let their kids try it in significant numbers. If you have kids start with them and their friends and see if it spreads from there. That said in many newer neighborhoods and newer schools there are infrastructure problems.

Hi Hector! Which Q of the C's are you from (I'll assume by "over the Mississippi" you're on the Iowa side)?  I'd recommend getting in touch with the Bi-State Regional Commission to see what their connections might be, and to see where those plans might fall in with the 2040 Quad Cities Long Range Transportation Plan.  After going to undergraduate in the QCA, I can fully attest to the lack of safe options for riding/commuting by bike.  If you're looking for additional support, I'd also encourage you to reach out to your local planning office to help build consensus.

If you're on the Illinois side, you may want to contact the League of Illinois Bicyclists and ask about Safe Routes to School resources and ideas to help start a dialogue in your community.  On the Iowa side, the state advocacy group is the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.  Good luck!  I hope you're able to get a program started.

Holy fire!! Bi-State is in the same building as my office, but I didn't even think of it. Thank you! 

(Oh, and I'm on the Illinois side -- I meant to say "over BY the Mississippi.")


discobandito said:

Hi Hector! Which Q of the C's are you from (I'll assume by "over the Mississippi" you're on the Iowa side)?  I'd recommend getting in touch with the Bi-State Regional Commission to see what their connections might be, and to see where those plans might fall in with the 2040 Quad Cities Long Range Transportation Plan.  After going to undergraduate in the QCA, I can fully attest to the lack of safe options for riding/commuting by bike.  If you're looking for additional support, I'd also encourage you to reach out to your local planning office to help build consensus.

Dang, Anne. I'm getting all these great suggestions, and now I have to act on them!! Thank you!

Anne Alt said:

If you're on the Illinois side, you may want to contact the League of Illinois Bicyclists and ask about Safe Routes to School resources and ideas to help start a dialogue in your community.  On the Iowa side, the state advocacy group is the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.  Good luck!  I hope you're able to get a program started.

THIS is the reason the Chainlink is so great!

Hector, you also might browse around on the websites of Bikes Belong/People for Bikes, America Walks, Smart Growth America, WalkBikeToSchool, and CLOCC (Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago's Children) for more research, resources and ideas. 

Update: Events move apace. The very same day I started this thread, the cops were obnoxious. Which prompted this letter to go to the city planner, with copies to the police chief, the LIB president, the Quad Cities Bicycle Club president, the Bi-State Regional Commission, and the principal of the school -- who voiced his complete support.

Ray Forsythe

Planning and Development Director

616 16th Street

Moline, IL 61265

Dear Mr. Forsythe:

Yesterday a police officer admonished my 11 year-old son that he couldn’t operate his bicycle on the sidewalk. Gabe was riding to Wilson Middle School from his home, as he does every day. There are only two avenues he can travel to get there, 12th (or Crosstown) and 23rd (or the Avenue of the Cities). Both are congested four-lane streets with posted speed limits that go up to 40 miles per hour and actual speeds well in excess of the limits.

While the officer was likely correct on the law, this is an instance where--in the phrase immortalized by Charles Dickens--the law is an ass. No rational person could conclude that an 11 year-old could safely bicycle to school in the midst of either street’s motor vehicle traffic. 

Nor are the sidewalks on 12th Avenue any safer. They are poorly maintained and dangerous for bicycling even when they are not closed--as they have been since before school started--due to construction.

I call upon you to design and implement whatever facilities are necessary to enable children to bicycle safely to school, specifically along the central east-west routes I’ve described, immediately. When police officers willfully endanger the lives of our city’s children by directing them to travel on life-threatening routes, and no safe alternative exists, government is failing. 

I am no traffic engineer, but it seems a relative no-brainer to include specifically striped bicycle lanes in 12th Avenue once the construction is complete. Physically separated lanes like those being implemented in Chicago seem an actually safe choice.

You're welcome. I hope you can motivate some friends and neighbors to join your efforts to help them gain momentum.

Hector Lareau said:

Dang, Anne. I'm getting all these great suggestions, and now I have to act on them!! Thank you!

Anne Alt said:

If you're on the Illinois side, you may want to contact the League of Illinois Bicyclists and ask about Safe Routes to School resources and ideas to help start a dialogue in your community.  On the Iowa side, the state advocacy group is the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.  Good luck!  I hope you're able to get a program started.

He's 11, he's allowed (encouraged in dangerous areas) to ride on the sidewalk until the age of 16.  In most of Illinois (except where covered by local laws, Chicago for example), he is actually allowed to ride the sidewalks for as long as he wants and as long as it is safe to do so.

Hector Lareau said:

Update: Events move apace. The very same day I started this thread, the cops were obnoxious. Which prompted this letter to go to the city planner, with copies to the police chief, the LIB president, the Quad Cities Bicycle Club president, the Bi-State Regional Commission, and the principal of the school -- who voiced his complete support.

Ray Forsythe

Planning and Development Director

616 16th Street

Moline, IL 61265

Dear Mr. Forsythe:

Yesterday a police officer admonished my 11 year-old son that he couldn’t operate his bicycle on the sidewalk. Gabe was riding to Wilson Middle School from his home, as he does every day. There are only two avenues he can travel to get there, 12th (or Crosstown) and 23rd (or the Avenue of the Cities). Both are congested four-lane streets with posted speed limits that go up to 40 miles per hour and actual speeds well in excess of the limits.

While the officer was likely correct on the law, this is an instance where--in the phrase immortalized by Charles Dickens--the law is an ass. No rational person could conclude that an 11 year-old could safely bicycle to school in the midst of either street’s motor vehicle traffic. 

Nor are the sidewalks on 12th Avenue any safer. They are poorly maintained and dangerous for bicycling even when they are not closed--as they have been since before school started--due to construction.

I call upon you to design and implement whatever facilities are necessary to enable children to bicycle safely to school, specifically along the central east-west routes I’ve described, immediately. When police officers willfully endanger the lives of our city’s children by directing them to travel on life-threatening routes, and no safe alternative exists, government is failing. 

I am no traffic engineer, but it seems a relative no-brainer to include specifically striped bicycle lanes in 12th Avenue once the construction is complete. Physically separated lanes like those being implemented in Chicago seem an actually safe choice.

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