by John Greenfield
[This piece also runs in the current Momentum magazine, www.momentumplanet.com.]
Would a safe-roads group by any other name still sound as sweet? The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (CBF) – Chicago metro area’s cycling voice since 1985 and the largest bike advocacy organization in the US – hopes so.
For years, the Federation has promoted cycling both for recreation and local transportation; lobbied the City of Chicago to provide lanes, paths, and racks; encouraged suburban municipalities to create bike plans, and organized cycling events like Bike the Drive which bans cars each year on Chicago’s lakefront superhighway to make way for over 20,000 pedallers.
In recent years the organization has also become Chicago’s de facto pedestrian and transit advocacy group, providing consultants for the City’s Safe Routes to School program, winning bike access on all three local transit systems, drawing attention to pedestrian safety with its Drive With Care media campaign, and organizing the city’s first Ciclovia, Sunday Parkways. Footprints, a new program in the south suburbs modeled after Australia’s TravelSmart initiative, is giving folks the tools to switch car trips to healthier modes.
This last November, at the CBF’s annual membership meeting, the board announced they had changed the name to Active Transportation Alliance to better reflect the group’s expanded mission. With the transformation, the organization follows the lead of New York’s Transportation Alternatives, which has historically been the nation’s leading multi-modal advocacy group.
Spokewoman Margo O’Hara says the change will make the group stronger by broadening its base. For example, two cyclists were recently killed by cars within months of each other at the same intersection in Chicago’s Logan Square neighbourhood. The alliance is working with locals to brainstorm ways to improve safety at that intersection for pedestrians and transit users as well as for cyclists. “By talking to residents who may not be cyclists, we’re opening the door to new partners and bigger successes,” she says.
The name change may also help the organization apply for more health-related grants from foundations and community organizations – funding that might not be available to a bikes-only group, O’Hara says.
Longtime bike activist Payton Chung applauds the change. “Bike-friendly communities are also pedestrian and transit friendly, with nearby destinations, lots of route choices, and calm streets,” he says. “So the new name advances the Bike Federation’s longtime goals while bringing new constituencies to the party.”