Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Light the Night Bike Light Campaign

On October 15th a group of intrepid volunteers braved cold drizzle and installed 450 bike light sets on bicycles on the U of I campus between 4:30 ad 8:30 PM to improve the visibility of cyclists at night. Many cyclists were caught in the dark with the early sunsets during winter.

Cyclists waited in long lines to get a free bike light set. The event was sponsored by the members of a group names the Campus Area Transportation Study (CATS), The Bike Project, and Champaign County Bikes.

Why are we advocating for people to make more trips by bicycle you may ask? There are many reasons, but the most important reasons are:

  • Bicycling for short trips on a regular basis is good exercise.
  • Bicycling is the most efficient form of transportation in terms of Green House Gas emissions.
  • Bicycling takes less space and is a less expensive form of transportation than driving cars.
  • Bicycling reduces the costs to cities and businesses by requiring fewer roads to be built and maintained and less parking.
  • Bicycling is safer. When a car that weighs several thousand pounds crashes into another car, a pedestrian, or a cyclist the chance of serious injury or death occurring is much higher than a crash with a bicycle.

We understand that switching from driving to bicycling is a bit daunting. But, if you take it in small steps it can be fun and easier than you think. Here are some resources if you are interested in exploring how to make bicycling a bigger part of your life.


>The CIF 2 Mile Challenge

When leaving the house every morning: do you reach for the car keys or the bike lock? We created the CLIF 2 Mile Challenge in 2007 because that little pedal-powered machine gets little love in comparison to its 4-wheeled roadway counterpart. Haven’t ridden on two wheels since you were small? Does your bike live with the lawn mower, gathering dust in the garage? Maybe your old ride could use a modern overhaul to handle kids or gear? Have no fear! Our Build Your Bike tool can outfit the right bike for your needs.

>Active Transportation Alliance:

We can help you every step of the way. You have been curious about it, now here is your chance to discover the ease and delight of commuting by bicycle. This is the place for you to learn everything you need to make your commute by bike comfortable and safe. Commuting by bike is for anyone who wants to bike to and from work or school. Not sure about biking on that power-meeting day? Use our guides to learn the tricks to arrive at work looking fresh and sharp.

Several community organizations were heavily involved in the success of these events.

Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District:

City of Champaign:

City Urbana:

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign:

Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study:

The Bike Project (TBP) is a nonprofit bike coop dedicated to providing cyclists with access to a space, tools, and a community to repair bikes, share knowledge, hold classes, and advocate for bikes in Urbana-Champaign. Most of the volunteers who installed lights are members of The Bike Project.

Champaign County Bikes (CCB) is a bicycle advocacy group dedicated to making Champaign County the most bicycle friendly county in the Midwest. Many of the volunteers belong to both organizations.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ways to Eat Right and Keep Moving in Tough Economic Times

Wellness is a priority for most families. Many people are trying to make changes to eat healthier and be more active, but in these tough economic times, it can be difficult to maintain healthy lifestyles and keep families well. One strategy Maria Capps used was group personal training. She would get together with a few of her friends and a personal trainer and they would split the cost of the personal trainer, a great way to get the benefits of a personal trainer without the expense. However, after her husband lost his job, this was a luxury they could no longer afford. One of her daughters is involved in volleyball, and they still intend to nurture that, and she is keeping her youngest in gymnastics. While these are costly activities, they are too important for the Capps family give up, so they save elsewhere.

Park Districts offer many free and low cost opportunities for families to keep moving. Amy Doll, Aquatic, Tennis and Fitness Manager at the Champaign Park District shares some of those opportunities.

The Dodds family is a family that runs together. They were at the C-U on the Trails run, and I had seen them at another trail run, so I asked Janelle, of Tolono, IL about how they stay healthy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Urbana Free Library Gets Healthy

It isn’t easy to get a room full of squirming preschoolers to quiet down, but when Barb Lintner, director of children’s services at
The Urbana Free Library pulled out a caterpillar puppet and a copy of The Hungry Caterpillar at a recent library story hour, the room fell silent. All eyes were on Lintner as the caterpillar ate his way through a week’s worth of familiar foods.

The focus of this story hour was healthy habits and Lintner used the puppet and the book to introduce preschoolers to a variety of fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods. Lintner and the library are part of C-U Fit Families, a coalition of 60 local individuals and organizations working together to promote childhood wellness in the Champaign-Urbana community. The idea for the story hour came from conversations Lintner had with other C-U Fit Family members. “Since I’ve been on the committee I’ve been ‘chomping at the bit’ to get information into the hands of real people, and I am really glad that it’s working,” says Lintner.

Once the preschoolers at the story hour finished discussing fruits and vegetables, Lintner conducted a simple portion size demonstration. She poured water into cups and asked the children to guess which cup held more liquid. The task was difficult and the kids guessed wrong about 50% of the time, but activities like this one introduce young children to the concepts of portion size and portion control.
Before the story hour ended, Lintner asked all the children to join her in a rousing round of The Hokey Pokey. Judging from the children’s response, Lintner’s story hour was a smashing success.

In addition to hosting a healthy habits story hour, the library created a bibliography of adult and children’s books on topics related to childhood wellness and obesity prevention. “We’ve passed out about 100 bibliographies so far, which is good for two months,” Lintner explains.
Topics covered in the bibliography include:

  • Healthy Food Choices
  • Active Living
  • Shared Family Meals
  • Healthy Cooking for Healthy Kids
  • Access to Healthy Food at Home and at School and
  • Food Advertising and Marketing
The library also created a healthy habits display using books from the bibliography as well as books, CDs and DVDs from a
Sesame Workshop Healthy Habits for Life kit provided by
Illinois Public Media. The display drew attention from library patrons and Lintner says, “The books with the Sesame Street characters were particularly appealing. I added my own Elmo and Cookie Monster to the display which did help attract children.” Items on the display were checked out a maximum number of times and some items had holds.

If you are interested in exploring some of these materials for your family, visit the children’s department at The Urbana Free Library or check out the bibliography online at:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Organic Gardener Maps Gardens in African American Community

Aaron Ammons has turned the greater part of the backyard at his north Urbana home into an organic garden. His wife Carol, and their sons Jelani and Amir, actively maintain the family's garden along with Aaron.

Aaron's love of gardening developed as a boy and was sparked by an aunt from Chicago (see Aaron talk about his initiation into gardening in the video below).

Aaron gardens today for a multitude of reasons including staying fit, eating healthy and saving money. Learn more about why Aaron gardens in the video below.

Aaron is also a community organizer. Inspired by a class he took with Professor Ken Salo at the University of Illinois, Aaron started to interview other African American gardeners in Urbana. He talked to them about their gardening tips as well as the role gardening can play in building community and the sharing of important information. Learn more about Aaron's community garden mapping project in the video below.

Aaron has put his map on-line at the City of Champaign's Champaign Tomorrow website. Click on "Urban Gardens" in the list of maps. To connect with Aaron, email him at this address:

This story was posted by Kimberlie Kranich of Illinois Public Media. If you'd like to post stories to this blog, please contact me at: We are looking for volunteers! We will train you. It's easy.

Amir eats fresh broccoli while Aaron looks on.