Ride Illinois hosts fourth annual bike summit

By Adam Kaz

The fourth annual Illinois Bike Summit took place Wednesday in the iHotel in Champaign, featuring over 30 speakers and 15 seminars. The topics of these sessions ranged from the “Benefits of Trail Tourism and Cultivating A Culture of Hospitality” to “E-bikes are Coming!”

“We had around 300 people, about half of them are what you would call advocates and about half of them are from state or other agencies,” said Gina Kenny, Ride Illinois outreach director.

The summit is run by Ride Illinois — formerly known as the League of Illinois Bicyclists — and Champaign County Bikes.

“Since 1992, our organization has been dedicated to one mission — to improve bicycling conditions throughout the state,” said Frank Brummer, president of Ride Illinois.

The last Illinois Bike Summit was held in April 2014, which was the first time the event was hosted in Champaign. The last two events were hosted in Normal. Ride Illinois changes the location of the summit every two years so they can spread themselves across the state, said Tania Sebastian, Ride Illinois marketing director and University alumna.

“I think the potential for the summit to be a catalyst for a lot of things is what I’m excited about,” said Jeff Yockey, Champaign County Bikes president. “I’m very excited for the cities that are a little farther along to become a model for other cities. I’m looking for good conversations between those kinds of groups.”

This year’s summit theme “Advancing Your Agenda!” is meant to invite communities around the state to look into improving roads and facilities in order to accommodate a bike friendly atmosphere.

Yockey said Decatur, Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and the Quad Cities are communities that have shown interest in improving biking conditions and benefit from the information the summit can provide. He said that he hopes these communities will find engineers and planners at the event that can help bring them up to the state’s standards.

“We just keep reaching out to more cities, you know just in that little word of mouth that happens when people around the state get together for a transportation meeting or something,” Yockey said. “They’re beginning to find out that if they want to learn about bicycles in a hurry, than the summit is a great place to make contacts and to learn a lot.”

The University often works alongside the cities of Champaign and Urbana to create a bike friendly campus and place a special focus on the need for cyclists on campus, said Stacey DeLorenzo, University transportation demand management coordinator.

“There’s a couple of (reasons to ride bikes), one is to alleviate congestion among single occupancy vehicles, another one is stable transportation — cleaner, greener, healthier,” DeLorenzo said. “From a health standpoint, it’s healthier for you.”

Interest in developing more bike-friendly cities has grown nation-wide as the U.S. realizes how many citizens use bicycles for transportation, said Steve Clark, bicycle friendly community specialist for the League of American Bicyclists.

“It seemed like 30 years ago there were just a few of us doing this,” Clark said. “Now so many people are involved, and really good people.”

Urbana was awarded a gold medal Monday from the League of American Bicyclists for its nationwide support of the organization’s five E’s of bicycling–education, enforcement, engineering, evaluation and encouragement, according to a press release from the Urbana Office of Community Development Services.

Urbana is the first city in Illinois to receive this honor; this year, Champaign was awarded a bronze medal and Chicago was awarded a silver medal. With 12 accredited bike friendly cities in the state, LAB rated Illinois as the 14 friendliest bike state in America.

“We’re good, but we can do better,” said Ed Barsotti, co-executive director of Ride Illinois.

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