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Active Transportation Alliance meeting

I had the chance last night to attend a little bit of the Active Transportation Alliance membership and advocate meeting. I'm not a member of the organization though very familiar with their work. And, with my new role as a Transportation Commissioner, I feel like I should be paying more attention to this valuable resource.

It was held in an old, converted warehouse-y space downtown. Friendly staff at the door helping with name tags. Nice open space with benches and tables and a projector to put the evening's presentation on the full wall. Plenty of finger foods and hot drinks. Bike valet. Supervised space to store coats. I scanned the crowd to see if I'd know anybody, but after a show of hands later it seemed like the majority were Chicago, city, rather than suburbs like me.

Being honest, I was there to hear about upcoming municipal election engagement. But it was interesting to see them take a voice vote to re-approve their governing board, hear from the board of directors' president, the executive director, etc..

The speakers had some very wise words, I thought, about the state of affairs for biking, walking, and transit in the Chicago area. A lot of it is their hard work. Some sea changes in the culture and politics. A mayor who is on their side helps. It was pointed out that the group used to be simply a bicycling organization. Nobody rode in Chicago during the winter. Bikes weren't allowed on trains. Now, we're the #2 most bike-friendly city in the nation. We have miles of protected bike lanes with more on the way including through the heart of the Loop. It's a good problem to have that some of the "victories" actually fall into maintenance mode.

The real issues now are about connections in the network. Upkeep. Working with suburbs and the county to integrate policy. And, let's be clear, it's about the money. Finding revenue streams to support bike/pedestrian/transit focused efforts.

I had to leave before the small breakout groups began. The groups were supposed to be brainstorming some big ideas to add to the generic platform that was briefly presented beforehand. What I got a chance to see was exciting...separation between bikes and walking on the Lakefront Trail. Ideas for light rail or BRT along the Lake Shore Drive corridor. Mandatory secure bike parking provided by large office and condo buildings. Making our bikeways more family-friendly.

They're doing good work.