Active Transportation Alliance
The League of American Bicyclists' official National Bike to Work Week event occurs in May. In Chicago, however, snow is still a real possibility in May, so the Chicago region's annual celebration takes place in the third week of June, from Saturday to Friday.
The most common type of event during Bike to Work Week is the commuter station. These daily events provide outreach and recognition for bike commuters all over Chicagoland's seven-county, nine million resident region. The stations also play a significant role in the Active Transportation Alliance's (Active Trans) Membership Program. Active Trans hosts commuter stations in several locations each day throughout the city of Chicago as well as in many city suburbs, totaling roughly 30 stations throughout the week. City-center stations differ substantially from those in the suburbs. Stations in Chicago are positioned along routes favored by bike commuters, such as on-street bike lanes and Chicago's Lakefront Trail. Each station offers free coffee and refreshments and donated mechanic services from local bike shops. Local businesses provide a variety of other giveaways. Locations in the suburbs are focused primarily at Metra commuter rail stations for cyclists who commute to transit, and are more modest in scope to accommodate tight train schedules.
The City of Chicago sponsors a one-day Bike to Work Day Rally on the final day of Bike to Work Week in downtown Chicago, featuring free breakfast and t-shirts for bike commuters, a celebrity commuter challenge and a variety of programming and vendor displays throughout the day. The government of DuPage County, Illlinois, also provides sponsor support for west-suburban Bike to Metra stations. Bike to Work Week events in Chicago receive a great deal of support from local companies and participants, as well as financial support and in-kind donations from such partners as Caribou Coffee, the SRAM Corporation, the Village Cycle Center (local cycle shop), the ING Direct Café, ClifBar and others. Many Bike to Work Week participating businesses also host commuter stations, including Chicago's Museum Campus (Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium), Orbitz Worldwide, Swedish Covenant Hospital, and Chicago Green City Market.
During the week-long Bike to Work celebration, commuters in Chicago leave the car at home and bike to work. In order to participate, anyone can become a team leader by signing up their workplace organization – commercial business, non-profit, educational, government - at the Active Trans Bike to Work Week webpage, then track the number of bike commuters within his/her organization. Every team leader receives a packet of materials for promoting the event including, literature and flyers; maps, and a T-Shirt. Team leaders also have access to free, on-site 'how to commute by bike' presentations. Those companies with the highest percentage of bike commute trips at the end of the week are recognized by Active Trans at an awards luncheon, a few weeks after the event.
With a history of organizing and hosting Bike to Work Week, as well as other commuter recognition and support in the Chicago area, Active Trans (formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) has seen its organization grow along with the increasing popularity of these events. Beginning more than 15 years ago as grassroots initiative, the Bike to Work Week initiative now has over 5,000 participants from 500 companies and experiences an average 20% to 30% growth in participation each year. Chicago's frigid winter weather and large snowfalls can make biking a daunting task during the winter, but a large number of people bike year-round nonetheless.
Active Trans partners with numerous public and private employers and sponsors in the greater Chicago Metropolitan area as well as with the City of Chicago and DuPage County. In addition, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and its three transit agencies (Chicago CTA, Metra Commuter Rail and PACE Suburban Bus) and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) are important partners and supporters of biking in the region and of the efforts of Active Trans.
The 2010 Bike to Work events were very successful. Over 500 companies and 5,000 individuals participated in the event. Bike to Work events are also big membership drivers for Active Trans. Over 140 new memberships were solicited during the 2010 Bike to Work week.
In recent years, Active Trans has partnered with area university graduate programs and student consultant services in an effort to expand and improve Bike to Work Week. The result is a move to revise the current overall approach and tracking system for bicycle commuters and expand the program to multi-modal commuters. The current system is spreadsheet-based and relies primarily on individual event organizers to record data for their companies or for themselves during Bike to Work week. The new system, which is expected to debut in 2011, will establish a year-round, multimodal commuter challenge program with a sophisticated web-based tracking and rewards program. Bike to Work Week will become a part of this greater initiative. This type of event expansion will allow for better data collection and reporting and will provide more opportunities to incentivize bicycling as well as walking, transiting and ridesharing to work in the greater Chicago area.