Cycle city

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 20, 2004

That Bicycling Magazine picked Chicago as the best big cycling city in the United States isn’t surprising to us.

Chicagoans have been taking advantage of the more than 125 miles of new or improved bikeways for years.

More than 100 million Americans own a bicycle, and the number of people biking is growing at a rapid pace.

“With Mayor [Richard M.] Daley’s help, cycling has really exploded in the last 10 years in Chicago,” says Theresa Cowen, coordinator for the city’s Bike Chicago program. “Chicago actually is one of the most bike-friendly places. Besides all our bike lanes and paths, we have more bike racks than any other city in the country — 9,400.”

And we’re about to get more, now that the city has passed a new zoning ordinance requiring bike parking in most new developments. This September, the city plans on celebrating the installation of the 10,000th bike parking rack.         Dave “Mr. Bike” Glowacz, author of Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips, reports that the number of U.S. adults who bicycle regularly grows by more than a million each year. It’s not surprising then that biking is now the third most popular recreational activity in the United States, right behind walking and swimming.

With the popularity of the sport, there’s been an increase for bike parking as well. The mode of transportation once considered so lowly that only poor people used it now has its own valet service.

That’s right. Bicycle riders right here in Chicago can take advantage of valet parking for their Schwinns.

“Valet parking was incredibly successful at the Blues Fest,” says Randy Neufeld, executive director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. “We had about 600 people using it. We’ll be offering it at the Outdoor Film Festival, Taste of Chicago, the Country Music Festival and just about everything else at Grant Park this summer. We’re looking at opportunities to have them at neighborhood festivals as well.

“We want to encourage people to ride their bikes, but we realize bicyclers have their own problems. People complain about not being able to park their cars. People don’t want to drag bikes through crowds at something like the Taste of Chicago. They want to socialize and move around freely.”

Valet bicycle parking works the same way as a coat check. You give the valet your bike — they give you a ticket with a number on it. Simple. And the best part is, valet parking is free, thanks to a collaboration between Bank One and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

Even if your destination doesn’t offer valet parking, don’t let that stop you from enjoying a nice bicycle ride on a beautiful day. Health aside, a ride along the lake front is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. It’s also cheap. Why spend over $2 per gallon on gas when you can peddle over to a coffeeshop for free and use your newfound investment to buy an iced coffee instead?

According to www.mrbike.com, Congress carved out part of its road spending authorization in 1991 to fund non-motorized transportation, such as bicycling. The result to date–local governments have spent about a billion dollars on bicycling projects such as bike lanes, wider bridges and education programs.

Lest you fear your legs aren’t Lance Armstrong-worthy, stop worrying. There are plenty of places to go for a beautiful ride. And for those of you who like to know exactly where you’re going before you get there, think about checking out one of the guided neighborhood tours (see sidebar). They’re free, fun and fabulous.

Note: Just because we’ve painted an idyllic picture of biking, don’t think something bad can’t happen. Get yourself a helmet and a good lock. The point of having a bicycle is to give you mobility. But what good is it if you’re afraid to leave it for fear of it being stolen? The wheels are what the thieves want, according to the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, so make sure you protect them. They suggest the double whammy of a U-lock for the frame and the front wheel and a separate chain or cable with a lock. Make sure you chain your bike up to a sturdy pole or bike rack.

GET FREE GUIDED TOURS

If you like the idea of biking but are in no hurry to give Lance Armstrong a run for the money, check out Chicago By Bike’s summer schedule. You may participate in a free guided tour of some of the area’s prettiest locales. The tours last about two hours and span a very do-able 10 miles. Riders must provide their own bikes and helmets. Tours are limited to 15 people, so sign up for the one you’re interested in at www.bikeonechicago.com.

Saturday, June 26

10 a.m. Bronzeville 10 a.m. North Side 10 a.m. Riverside 10 a.m. Oak Park 10 a.m. Logan/Palmer Square & Humboldt 10 a.m. Ravenswood/Andersonville 1 p.m. Pilsen 1 p.m. West Side

Saturday, July 10

1 p.m. Pilsen 1 p.m. West Side

Saturday, Aug. 14

10 a.m. Pilsen 10 a.m. North Side 10 a.m. Riverside 10 a.m. Logan/Palmer Square & Humboldt 10 a.m. Hyde Park/Kenwood 1 p.m. Bronzeville 1 p.m. West Side

Saturday, Aug. 21

10 a.m. Pilsen 10 a.m. North Sid 10 a.m. Oak Park 10 a.m. Ravenswood/Andersonville 10 a.m. Hyde Park/Kenwood 1 p.m. Bronzeville 1 p.m. West Side

Saturday, Aug. 28

10 a.m. Bronzeville 10 a.m. North Side 10 a.m. Riverside 10 a.m. Logan/Palmer Square & Humboldt 10 a.m. Beverly 1 p.m. Pilsen 1 p.m. West Side

STARTING LOCATIONS FOR THE TOURS

Bronzeville, Pilsen, North Side, West Side: Bank One Plaza, Dearborn and Madison

Riverside: 6532 W. Cermak

Oak Park: 1048 Lake St.

Logan Square, Palmer Square and Humboldt: 2331 N. Milwaukee

Ravenswood and Andersonville: 1825 W. Lawrence

Hyde Park and Kenwood: 1204 E. 53rd Street

Beverly: 95th and Western

WHEEL-TURNING HIGHLIGHTS

*125 miles of bike paths and 15 new bike lanes being installed this year. *BIKE RACKS: 9,400 *EVENT VALET PARKING: Taste of Chicago on June 25 – July 4; Chicago Country Music Festival on June 26 – 27; and Outdoor Film Festival Tuesday evenings, July 13 – Aug. 24. *Neighborhood tours to destinations such as Hyde Park, Pilsen and Oak Park through Aug. 28. Go to www.bikeonechicago.com.

June 20, 2004

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