How Ride Illinois is helping develop local bike baths and educational programs

Except for the pathways carved out by native wildlife and their native hunters, our complex Illinois transportation network depends on planning. The same goes for many of the taken-for-granted commuter trails and bike lanes that criss-cross our communities.

The Illinois organization responsible for much of this bike planning celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 13. Ride Illinois, the statewide nonprofit bicycle advocacy organization, has helped develop 22 local bike plans, 40 bike maps, and bike-friendly design suggestions on more than 500 projects road.

If you ride a Batavia, Geneva, or Palatine bike path, chances are you should thanks to Ride Illinois. If you get around by bike using the Bike to Metra guides in Barrington, Crystal Lake or Wheaton, you benefit from their expertise.

Reflecting on this milestone, Dave Simmons, Executive Director since 2019, said: “We use a round number like this to celebrate. It is also a time to reflect on what has been achieved and what we hope to achieve in the future.

Besides bicycling planning, Ride Illinois accomplishes its mission to “improve Illinois through bicycling” in several ways. Providing safety education and advocating for bike-friendly legislation and infrastructure improvements have been key initiatives of this 1,800-member organization.

Share the road

Ed Barsotti led the Illinois Cyclists League/Ride Illinois as its first paid executive director from 2001-2016.
– Courtesy of Ed Barsotti


Key achievements include changes to traffic laws such as allowing three feet clearance when passing bicycles and allowing vehicles to pass bicycles in a no-passage zone, where safe to do so. Educational achievements include the “Share the Road” program and the incorporation of bicycle-related questions into the Illinois driving test.

The success is attributed in part to its positive relationship with the National League of American Cyclists. Beginning in 1989, veteran educator and avid cyclist Ted Sanders, now deceased, led efforts to launch the Illinois Cyclists’ League, incorporated in 1992, as LAB’s first state chapter.

Rebranded in 2015, Ride Illinois has partnered with LAB bringing their advocacy programs to Illinois. Efforts include helping municipalities achieve LAB Bicycle Friendly Community designation, gaining strong congressional delegation support for national legislative platforms, and teaching LAB’s Smart Cycling courses in Illinois.

Public education has been a hallmark activity. In 1996, the Illinois Department of Transportation awarded LIB a $20,000 contract to train effective cycling instructors. Currently, Illinois has 63 League-certified instructors, including more than 40 in the Chicago area, all trained to deliver bicycle safety instruction.

security quiz

This educational focus is also evident in the free Bike Safety Quiz program developed in 2013 under the leadership of Ed Barsotti, LIB’s first paid executive director. This safety program, available in English and Spanish, is aimed at young and adult drivers, as well as car and truck drivers. Since its launch, more than 180,000 people have taken the quizzes. In Illinois, its popularity is growing.

Simmons reports that more than 45,000 students completed the quizzes during the 2020-2021 school year: nearly 28,000 students in driver education (Motorist Quiz), more than 11,500 elementary school students (Quiz on children’s cyclists) and more than 5,500 high school students in physical education (Cyclists’ quiz for adults). Nearly 90 schools requested Spanish versions.

Schools can earn $2 for every registered student taking a quiz. Funding comes from an IDOT Injury Prevention Grant, supported by federal biking and pedestrian safety funds. IDOT renewed the grant for 2021-22 with a Ride Illinois goal of 50,000 students.

Ride Illinois also regularly offers free safety courses. The monthly “Cyclo Friendly Driver” has been offered virtually since December and continues throughout the summer.

In addition to classes, Ride Illinois hosts the Illinois Bike Summit every two years with a full schedule of speakers and workshops related to Illinois biking. The next summit on Oct. 12 in Champaign will likely be followed by a professional training session on Oct. 13.

The joys of biking have permeated the history of Ride Illinois, with rides frequently sprinkled among the serious business of meetings, conferences and summits. The Grand Illinois Bike Tour (GIBT), a major fundraiser, has remained popular since its launch in 2003, a reflection of longtime board member Chuck Oestreich and current board chairman Dick Westfall. .

Free Driving Guide

Gracing the Ride Guide cover, a photo of life imitating art in Shelbyville, July 2021. Pictured, L-R, Matt Philips, Sam Hughes, Nichole Binder and Jesse Davis.

Gracing the Ride Guide cover, a photo of life imitating art in Shelbyville, July 2021. Pictured, L-R, Matt Philips, Sam Hughes, Nichole Binder and Jesse Davis.
– Courtesy of Emily Steele

In addition to GIBT, Ride Illinois promotes safe cycling for recreation, transportation and fun events to more than 10,000 people and 200 Illinois bike shops through its free annual Ride Guide.

This year’s guide features route information for 30 bike clubs from Cairo to Evanston and Geneseo to Manteno. Bike tours in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin are also listed.

Launched in 2001, this guide has grown from a set of affiliate club brochures mailed to Illinois bike shops and LIB members like me. Current print format, adopted in 2019, expanding to an online PDF in 2021. Along with a schedule of 47 rides/events, the guide features information on safety, trails, bike shops, and other resources from Illinois.

The online version is particularly convenient, featuring interactive maps, ride registration links and downloadable cycling routes.

Rides ‘Kidical Mass’

October 2021

October 2021 “Kidical Mass” bike ride in Chicago’s Roscoe Village.
– Courtesy of Rebecca Resman/Chicago Family Bike

Beginning Saturday, April 16, monthly “Kidical Mass” rides will run from Proksa Park in Berwyn, hosted by Chicago Family Biking (CFB). Founded in 2015, CFB enthusiastically spreads the good news of cycling with children through parents, community organizers and educators who are passionate about cycling.

Chicago’s Roscoe Village is also launching its monthly kid-friendly rides this spring.

“We plan to add another six to 10 neighborhoods to our rides program, some in the suburbs … and plan to host at least 50 rides in 2022, a huge feat for a 100% volunteer-run organization,” said BFC founder Rebecca Resman. .

Since 2013, Resman, a lifelong cycling enthusiast, has been organizing neighborhood rides. BFC also organizes family bike parties and supports school communities in celebrating Bike to School Day, this year on May 4th.

• Join the race. Contact Ralph Banasiak at

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