2. Illinois

from BikeLeague.org


 Illinois scores a couple of states higher in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike-Friendly America standings than my featured state last week, Idaho. With nineteen Bicycle-Friendly Communities, twenty one Bicycle Friendly Businesses and nine Bicycle Friendly Universities, Illinois scatters the goods across the state. A detail from Gold-level Urbana jumped out at me — 95% of its schools offer bike education. That could result in more bike riding as a family and more independent kids, both of which benefit moms. More big stuff relating to women is happening in the Silver-level City of Chicago, but let’s not first fail to mention that Chicago is also where the first bikeshare-related death in the USA happened when a woman named Virginia Murray was crushed by a truck driver while she was riding a Divvy bikeshare bike. Ah, but I digress. 

Back to the good stuff. Chicago boasts two bike shops, Recyclery and West Town Bikes, that offer women-only repair classes. West Town Bikes also offers my very favorite find from this week’s research — the Girls Bike Club! According to the website, GBC meets every Wednesday afternoon and offers a fun, relaxed environment for young women and girls to explore the many advantages of cycling for transportation, independence and sport. Weekly activities include: basic bicycle mechanics, bike crafts, community gardening, group rides and volunteering. Additionally, a bike shop named BFF Bikes seems to be entirely focused on women. Chicago also serves as home to a number of women-focused bike groups, including a chapter of the group Black Girls Do Bikes and a meetup group named Illinois Women’s Cyclists.
Speaking of Illinois as a whole, there are stunning trails throughout the state which include train trestles and windmills (!), lake fronts and forests, and connected neighborhoods in suburbia (hello!). In addition to the Rails to Trails Conservancy, let’s give a shoutout to the Illinois Bike Transportation Plan’s Guiding Principles:
Access – Bicycling will be accessible to all Illinois residents regardless of age, ability, background, and income.
Choices – Bicycling will be a safe and viable transportation option, among a host of mobility options, for people of a broad range of ages and abilities in all areas of Illinois.
Connectivity – Bicycling will seamlessly connect with other modes of transportation like trains and buses and the state transportation system will provide diverse options for bicycling that connect communities throughout Illinois.
Safety – Bicycling will be a safe and comfortable activity for everyone. IDOT will continue progressing towards its goal of zero traf c fatalities and strive to minimize safety concerns for current and prospective bicyclists.
Collaboration – IDOT will strive to strengthen existing partnerships and to build new and innovative ones to advance its vision and goals for bicycling in the state.
I also do like how the Alliance for Biking and Walking monetizes the potential future Illinois biking benefits to include itemized and total vehicle emissions reduced; reduced traffic congestions and vehicle crash costs; reduced road maintenance costs; household vehicle operations cost savings; and healthcare cost savings from physical activity. All of these reductions and savings have positive impacts on women.
Finally, Ride Illinois has a terrific Municipal Bike Plan boilerplate document (with the exception of how it describes sharrows) for other cities to use. I especially like how it refers to those on bikes “who are less traffic tolerant” rather than calling them beginner riders or those at a lower skill level if they don’t want to ride with vehicular traffic. Women, in general, bear a greater responsibility for caregiving of both children and their aging parents and may choose not to put themselves in higher-risk situations not because of their skill level but because of vehicular traffic’s kill level.
See here and here for backgrounders to this series. Continue tapping in as we go state-by-state to see what’s great for women on bikes across the USA.
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