Biking Gets Better in Oak Park

Biking Gets Better in Oak Park

As a 20-year resident of Oak Park, I’m excited to share a number of changes coming to Oak Park that will improve conditions for biking and walking. A few weeks ago, the village board approved the Oak Park Neighborhood Greenways system as an addendum to its 2008 bike plan. Elements of the 2008 bike plan have already been adopted, such as significantly more and better bike parking near transit stations, bike lanes, wayfinding signs and creating a village government bike fleet.

Connect to Action: Help Transform Madison Street in Oak Park

Connect to Action:  Help Transform Madison Street in Oak Park

Madison Street has long been a street that does not meet the expectations of safety for walking and biking for Oak Park. The Oak Park Board of Trustees will meet December 8 to discuss a plan to invest TIF money to redesign Madison Street. Let’s take this opportunity to make a significant difference in the degree of biking and walking friendliness in our community. Please see the letter/petition to OP Village Board.

Three Special Green Living Tour Sites to Visit on Sept. 28


Green Community Connections' upcoming Green Living & Learning Tour 2013 on September 28th offers participants the opportunity to visit an array of homes and gardens that employ a variety of sustainable living practices.  Here are three unique tour stops that we wanted to highlight for you. 4 - Permeable-pavers-at-Sue-and-Bills-house-300x226Ecological Design

807 Forest Ave, River Forest, Tour at 2:30 pm (#4 on 2013 Tour Map)

Ecological principles were designed and built into this sustainably built home - the first of its kind in the Oak Park/River Forest area.  The home includes renewable energy, energy efficiency, water and resource conservation, and toxic free materials.  It's water conservation features include rainwater catchment for irrigation, native landscaping, permeable driveway and water-saving faucets and showerheads.  The homeowners have welcomed many visitors into their home since 2008 when it was built and look forward to this year's tour.



Save $$$, Increase Comfort, Decrease Carbon Footprint

616 Wenonah, Oak Park, Tour at 4:00pm (#9 on 2013 Tour Map)

The Environmentalist’s Dilemma:  Is it possible to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer without doing a whole lot of damage to the environment?  It is, and what's best, it's possible to do it on a reasonable budget.  After sealing and insulating their house, the homeowners had the warmest winter in their home in 15 years and their energy bills were lower than they had ever been.  Learn about air sealing and insulating and the fantastic rebates available to help make a more comfortable, environmentally friendly, (and valuable) home a reality. The Bonus: See a blower door test in action: a diagnostic tool designed to measure the air-tightness of buildings. and to help locate air leakage sites.


C - Bicycle SafetyBiking Safely in an Urban Area & Biking Supports

Greenline Wheels, 105 S. Marion, Oak Park Drop-in:  1:00-3:00pm (#C on 2013 Tour Map)

Get tips on how to stay safe while biking in an urban area. Greenline Wheels’ safety experts are teaching safety and adventure as part of the Green Living & Learning Tour.  Instruction focuses on basics such as checking and fitting gears, signaling, braking, and more. Greenline Wheels representatives will also familiarize participants with other biking supports that they offer.


Harvest Picnic with Green Community Connections and Sugar-Beet Co-op

For the end of the day, all are invited for a Harvest Picnic gathering at Field Park, hosted by Sugar Beet Co-Op.  All are welcome to join us at 5:00 p.m. in the northwest corner of the park (Berkshire & Woodbine) for fresh food, fun, prizes and community!

For more information about the event, including registration information for all 18 sites, visit the tour page at Green Community Connections.

2012 Oak Park/River Forest Sustainability Report Card

PlanItGreen has just released the 2012 Community Sustainability Report Card for Oak Park and River Forest.  The Community Sustainability Report Card provides a snapshot in time of progress against sustainability goals that were created over a ten-month community engagementprocess in 2010-2011. Over time, the sustainability report card will illuminate trends, highlight successes and shortcomings, and ultimately help support decisions on future policies, strategies, and resource allocation needed to achieve the 10-year plan’sgoals by 2020.
The report card provides grades on implementation progress within each of nine topic areas that are part of the Environmental Sustainability Plan for Oak Park and River Forest, and provides comparisons between baseline data on community resource and 2012 data. Grades are shown as a; Thumbs Up:  Exceeded Goals, Thumbs Sideways:  Met Goals and Thumbs Down:  Did not meet goals.
A quick overview of the results shows that:
    • 3 of the topic areas exceeded goals:  Energy, Education and Waste
    • 4 of the topic areas met goals:  Community Development, Water, Food and Green Economy
    • 2 of the topic areas did not meet goals:  Transportation and Open Space / Ecosystems


Review the complete report  here: planitgreen2012sustainabilityreportcard-final 
To schedule a presentation on the report card and an overview of 2013 priority implementation strategies, contact

Working Bikes

Saturday, Mar 2, 3P/Greenline Wheels, Oak Park - Tickets;
Sunday, Mar 3, 3P/Brown Cow, Forest Park - Tickets

2012/5 min

Follows the Chicago organization by the same name that removes discarded bikes from the waste stream and then rehabs the bikes for donation.

Programming note:  will be screened with Contested Streets and Bikes Belong (Saturday).  Will also be shown with The Clean Bin Project (Sunday).

Designing Healthy Communities PBS Series: Searching for Shangri-La

Saturday, Mar 2, 12:30P/Oak Park Public Library - Tickets

2012/60 min

Dr. Richard Jackson explains the link between our health and the way our communities — especially our suburbs — are designed.  Obesity, asthma, diabetes and heart disease are all aggravated by the auto-centric way we live our lives today. It’s no secret that today’s generation of children are likely to have shorter lives than their parents because of their unhealthy lifestyles.  It doesn’t have to be this way. Well-designed communities can improve both physical and mental health, as Dr. Jackson explains in this four-part public television series and the accompanying book.  Searching for Shangri-La is part four of the series.

Public health has traditionally associated the “built environment” with issues such as poor sanitation, lead paint poisoning children, workplace safety, fire codes and access for persons with disabilities. If we are what we eat, it can also be said that we are what we build. We now realize that how we design the built environment may hold tremendous potential for addressing many of the nation’s – childhood and adult — current public health concerns. These include obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, depression, violence and social inequities.

Almost everything in our built environment is the way it is because someone designed it that way. The project’s goal is to offer best practice models to improve our nation’s public health by re-designing and restoring our built environment. Our country faces grave challenges in environment, economy and health. The banquet is over. “Easy oil” has disappeared, so too other resources are being depleted. And global heating increasingly will threaten human and species survival worldwide. Economies built on ever increasing consumption have contracted and secure incomes are unlikely to be available to working people for a long time, if ever. And our medical care costs will continue to escalate for reasons of technology and population aging, but particularly as the tripling of obesity and doubling of diabetes rates show their health and cost effects.

In Designing Healthy Communities PBS Series: Searching for Shangri-La, Dr. Jackson searches past and present America for healthy, sustainable communities of all sizes and shapes that can serve as models for the rest of the nation. His journey takes him to Roseto, PA, Prairie Crossing, IL, New York City, Charleston, SC, and the forgotten 1960s urban renewal project of Lafayette Park in Detroit, MI, the brainchild of 4 men, including visionary architect, Mies van der Rohe.

Also included are walkability expert, Dan Burden, and the 1960s, humorous but insightful, candid camera-­‐style studies of people in public spaces by William Holly White.

Programming note:  will be shown with Dying Green.

Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock

Saturday, Mar 2, 3P/Greenline Wheels, Oak Park - Tickets

Stefan Schaefer/2008/57 min (25 min clip)/FAMILY

Through interviews with leading historians, urban planners, and government officials, Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock explores the history and culture of New York City streets from pre-automobile times to the present. This examination allows for an understanding of how the city, though the most well served by mass transit in the United States, has slowly relinquished what was a rich, multi-dimensional conception of the street as public space to a mindset that prioritizes the rapid movement of cars and trucks over all other functions.

Central to the story is a comparison of New York to what is experienced in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Interviews and footage shot in these cities showcase how curtailing automobile use in recent years has improved air quality, mitigated noise pollution and enriched commercial, recreational and community interaction. Congestion pricing, bus rapid transit (BRT) and pedestrian and bike infrastructure schemes and looked at in depth. New York City, though to many the most vibrant and dynamic city on Earth, still has lessons to learn from Old Europe. Written by Stefan Schaefer.

Programming note:  will be screened with Working Bikes and Bikes Belong.

Youth Films Demonstrate Commitment to Sustainability

by Katie Morris The One Earth Film Festival 2013, organized by Green Community Connections, will sponsor the first ever Young Filmmakers Contest: One Earth…Our Earth.  This film contest is a way in which young people can showcase their abilities in making positive changes for their future.  It is an opportunity to engage our youth, and create excitement around how they can, and do, make a difference in our world and in our local community.

As part of the 2nd annual One Earth Film Festival, the Young Filmmakers Contest invites students in all eligible age categories (from third grade through college) to submit film entries that cover at least one of the following categories: water, waste, food, transportation, or energy.

With this contest, “we want to encourage youth to not just contemplate the issues surrounding sustainability, but to get them thinking about potential solutions,” said Sue Crothers, contest committee chair. “Youth involvement in the sustainability movement is the key to our future, and film is a powerful medium for them to express their concern and awareness. ”

The Rainforest Rescue Coalition (RRC), a Chicago based nonprofit organization, is currently working on a submission for the college-aged category of the contest.  Founded by four OPRF High School graduates among others, the mission of the RRC is to conserve and protect rainforest land around the world and to support sustainable relationships between humans and nature. RRC raises money for sustainability and conservation initiatives through direct action campaigns.  One of RRC’s goals is to help educate the public about conservation and environmental issues - including both the problems and solutions, . . . and what better way than through film?

According to Adam Bauer-Goulden, RRC President, RRC is creating their film entry as a way to show that anything is possible, if you put forth the energy and try to make a difference.   Though the film is still in its production phase, Bauer-Goulden reports that RRC’s film will begin with a montage of the terrible environmental disasters taking place in the world today. It will move into the story of how RRC was formed and show footage from its first 350-mile fundraising ride. The audience will have the chance to learn how they can become involved with RRC and other conservation efforts.  The film will close with a final montage of the great and positive things that the environmental movement is accomplishing.

Bauer-Goulden says, “Our inspiration is trying to get as many people involved as possible in our movement. I really believe that energy is the most important thing that we have. I believe that our purpose in life is to use our energy for something inherently good and to make the world a better place…we really just want to show people that we are just normal kids and anybody and everybody has the power to make change in this world, no matter what your situation...Anything counts!”

The deadline to submit a film to the Young Filmmakers Contest is January 25, 2013 at 5 PM CST.  For more information on the contest, please check out our website and facebook page, or contact Sue Crothers, or Katie Morris,

Madison Street Makeover Proposal Considered by OP Board

Message from Active Transportation Alliance

On Sept. 18, the Oak Park Village Board will consider a proposal to redesign Madison Street into a three-lane road (two travel lanes + a left hand turn lane) with wider sidewalks and parkways, safer crosswalks, bike lanes, and streetscape improvements. Madison would become less like Harlem and North Avenues and more like two-lane roads such as Chicago and Ridgeland Avenues.

The project would create a safer, greener, more attractive and walkable street, and it would be funded in part with more than $7 million in TIF funds that are dedicated to improvements on and along Madison.

For more information about this project, read Active Trans' Q&A blog post.  send an email to the Oak Park Village Board to let them know that you want a Madison St. that is safer, quieter, more attractive and a better fit for the community.

Why does Madison Street need a makeover?

  • Not safe, with 2 crashes every 3 days. Cars speed and weave, and rear-end collisions are common when cars back up behind left-turning cars. A three-lane configuration would be safer because it limits lane changes and traffic flows more evenly and at speeds appropriate for the neighborhood. A narrower street, along with crosswalk improvements, would make it safer for people on foot and bike to cross, including students who cross Madison to reach the four schools within one block of Madison.
  • Too wide for the amount of traffic it carries. Four-lane Madison carries the same number of cars (18,000 per day) as Ridgeland (18,000 per day), which is only two lanes and works just fine. Moreover, the improved Madison Street would have a left-hand turn lane at each intersection, whereas Ridgeland does not. Madison would not be narrowed between Home to Harlem and Lombard to Austin, in order to accommodate cars turning onto Harlem and Austin. Traffic engineers say narrowing Madison would not significantly add time to the drive between Austin and Harlem.
  • Not good for business and residential development. Four-lane roads work best with big box stores, strip malls and parking lots out front. But the lots on Madison are too shallow and the car traffic too light to attract this type of development. On the other hand, the street is too wide and cars move too fast to attract residential and commercial development that is typical of two-lane streets in Oak Park. Madison’s design doesn’t do either approach well, which contributes to the tired hodgepodge of empty lots, empty buildings and fast food.

Citizens Climate Lobby Launches Local Chapter

By Kenneth O’Hare, Green Community Connections On a sweltering Saturday morning in July, eleven citizens gathered in the basement of the Maze Branch Library in Oak Park to launch a new local chapter of an international movement to combat climate change.  Some of those present were old friends and neighbors, with roots in the environmental and civil rights movements. Most had attended a presentation on the science of climate change the week before at Oak Park Public Library. They were in the basement at Maze now to take the first steps in organizing locally to become the newest chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL).

Meeting organizers Rick Knight of Brookfield and Ken O’Hare of Oak Park sketched the origins, purpose and strategy of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) and invited the group to join in forming the newest chapter, the second in the Chicago area,  which encompasses Chicago’s West Side neighborhoods and the near western suburbs. An international movement that now has 63 chapters in the U.S. and Canada, CCL is dedicated to creating “political will for a livable world.”

The current primary strategy of CCL is to build support for a national fee (tax) on fossil carbon, with the proceeds of the tax to be rebated to the citizenry. An article on the fee and rebate concept is available on the Green Community Connections web site, under the title “The Case for a Carbon Tax.”  See also the links below for more detailed information on the fee (tax) and rebate concept.

CCL chapters around the country have been active in educating the public on climate change, and education on the growing crisis is a core activity of the new, local chapter here. Rick Knight, a chemical engineer, has presented his talk and slide show titled “The Science of Climate Change” to highly receptive audiences around the Chicago area. The presentation is available to local groups upon request (see contact information below).

Citizens Climate Lobby chapters seek to create a close relationship with their local U.S. Congressional delegation, positioning CCL as a knowledgeable resource on climate change. Here in the Chicago area it means getting to know and working with two U.S. Senators and ten or more U.S. Representatives.  Creating that relationship is a gradual process of meeting with the officials, soliciting their views on the subject, pointing out how climate change intersects with the officials’ other interests, providing resource materials, and promoting effective legislative solutions such as a carbon fee and rebate law.

Dedicated to creating the political will for stabilizing the climate, the Citizens Climate Lobby works by engaging individuals in a wide variety of life situations to exercise their personal and political power. The underlying belief is that ordinary citizens, with education and support, can become highly effective advocates on behalf of the climate.

If you are interested in a public education and legislative approach to combating climate change, the Citizens Climate Lobby may be a movement for you to consider. To learn more, first look over the CCL website, then contact Ken O’Hare ( or Rick Knight ( to get more details. The next meeting of the local chapter, dubbed the Chicagoland Citizens Climate Lobby—West, is scheduled for August 4, 2012, at 11:00 a.m., at Maze Branch Library, 845 Gunderson Avenue, Oak Park. The meeting will include participation in a national conference call with other CCL members around the country, and will include a report on CCL’s recent Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., in which several local chapter members participated.

For more detailed information on the fee(tax) and rebate concept from Citizens Climate Lobby:

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