Street Smart Chicago

Chicago Bike Culture 101

Bicycling No Comments »

The obstacles to biking in Chicago seem endless: the bad weather, the stolen bikes, the angry drivers.  But figuring out how to get out there and face those obstacles shouldn’t be a challenge.  Maybe it’s because of all the challenges that bike enthusiasts in Chicago are so, well, enthusiastic about biking—and getting you biking too.

There’s hope even for you car people out there, according to recovering “autoholic” Jason Rothstein, author of “Carless in Chicago: Live and Thrive in Chicago Without Owning a Car,” from Lake Claremont Press. Pick up Rothstein’s book for advice and inspiration on transitioning to a car-free (or low-car) lifestyle.

You’ll need a bike to get going. In Chicago, buying a bike is an easy way to support local nonprofits that work to build community through building bikes.   Try  Working Bikes Cooperative, 2434 South Western, which is open Saturday 10am-5pm and Wednesday noon-7pm (go early for the best selection).  Your purchase of a used bike will help fund their bike donation program, which ships bikes to Africa and South America.  The Recyclery Collective, 7628 North Paulina, sells used bikes Saturdays from 10am-noon and donates bikes to low-income families as well as teaches kids bike maintenance. Or head down to Hyde Park, where Blackstone Bicycle Works, 6100 South Blackstone, sells both new and used bikes and teaches children bike and entrepreneurship skills. Read the rest of this entry »

Linked On: Chicago cycling rides high with its own social network, The Chainlink

Bicycling No Comments »

After five years of solo biking in Chicago left her craving more interaction with fellow bikers, Leah Neaderthal realized her problem wasn’t unique. “My friends didn’t ride bikes,” she says, and it took a lot of research to figure out which biking niche fit her style. The bike community is notoriously fragmented, and much of what makes it appealing to so many different people also makes it difficult to organize. “The bike community is unique because there are so many different kinds of riders in it,” says Neaderthal.

But Neaderthal found a way to improve accessibility to bike activities while maintaining the diversity of the community. Neaderthal, who works in marketing for the software company Savo, started The Chainlink, an online community for Chicago bikers, and now runs the site with Julie Hochstadter. Neaderthal contacted club leaders, put fliers on people’s bikes and spread the word. She didn’t want to change the way any one organization biked—she just wanted it to be easier for people to find the bike community that fits their needs. “I think it’s not just about riding with other people, it’s about riding with other people who ride the way you do,” says Neaderthal. Read the rest of this entry »

Bike Power: Alderman Robert Fioretti covers his ward on two wheels

Bicycling, Bronzeville, Politics No Comments »

If you drive through the South Loop or Bronzeville on a Saturday morning, there’s a good chance you’ll spot 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti out on his bicycle. Outgoing and lively, Fioretti would happily take a break from his bike to chat with you, but he might admonish you too. “Don’t take the car,” says Fioretti.

The alderman covers twenty-five miles each weekend, but he’s not your typical weekend warrior. “You’re able to see things, instead of just driving by things,” says Fioretti, who uses his weekly outings as a chance to see his community. Fioretti says he takes notes, calls 311 and “gets things fixed.” He isn’t talking in the abstract: the alderman carries graffiti-removing equipment with him and often goes ahead and makes the repairs himself.

“It’s a great way to stay in touch,” says Fioretti, who is inviting community members to join him for his weekend bike ride on Saturday, July 10. Getting out of a car and onto a bike, he says, will give community members a chance to experience an area they may drive through every day without really noticing what’s around them. “History actually happened at some of these locations,” says Fioretti, whose tour includes dozens of stops. Read the rest of this entry »

Ride a Beercycle: New Belgium Brewing is built on the happy union of cycles and suds

Bicycling, Events, Logan Square No Comments »

That bicycle on your Fat Tire bottle is more than just a logo. In 1989, New Belgium Brewing Company founder Jeff Lebesch gained an affection for Belgian-style beer on a trip bicycling through Europe. His taste for Belgian-inspired beer and reverence for the bicycle that brought him to it remain two tenets of the Fort Collins, Colorado craft brewery, which saw eighteen-percent growth last year. Bryan Simpson, spokesperson for New Belgium, says that bicycle culture “is pretty much in our DNA.” The company went commercial in 1991 when Lebesch and his wife Kim Jordan took their brew from a Colorado basement to bottles bearing a likeness to the fat-tired bicycle Lebesch traveled on over twenty years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Revenge of the Bike Nerds? Even cycling has its “Mean Girls”

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Everything I needed to know about cycling in Chicago, I learned in high school. This, of course, does not apply to the actual practice of cycling, e.g., pedaling and braking. Instead, I am referring to the social aspect of two-wheeling your body and gear around the Windy City and, to that end, the lunchroom tends to explain a lot.

Take, for instance, what you are going to eat, or in this case, ride. A Dutch bike? A fixed gear? A touring bike? A cruiser, perhaps? Your bike, like your choice of Salisbury steak, says a great deal about you, but in Chicago, it defines what others say about you.

Walking from the lunch line to the lunchroom itself, the focus on your food switches to where to sit, or more to the point, with whom you will sit. Always more important than mid-day nourishment was the decision to align yourself with a certain slice of the stratified, trajectory-defining social construct of the lunchroom. Similarly, with whom you choose to cycle and where you choose to cycle matters more in Chicago than that Salisbury steak you’re riding. Read the rest of this entry »

Road to Somewhere: Bike rocker David Byrne wants transportation policy to start making sense

Bicycling, Green 1 Comment »

It’s the last day of Chicago’s Bike to Work week but gale-force winds and buckets of rain make the evening commute feel like life during wartime. Still, a crowd has pedaled to the Claudia Cassidy Theater to hear ex-Talking Head David Byrne talk transportation at the forum “Cities, Bicycles and the Future of Getting Around.”

The lanky singer’s recent work to push pedaling includes championing New York’s Summer Streets events—which shut down roadways to cars to create safe space for non-motorized play—designing artistic bike racks and his new book, “Bicycle Diaries,” tales of his two-wheeled explorations of cities all over the world.

Local green transportation bigwigs have joined him for this stop on his national speaking tour: Luann Hamilton from the Chicago Department of Transportation, Jacky Grimshaw from Center for Neighborhood Technology and Randy Neufeld, co-founder of Active Transportation Alliance, now serving as director of the SRAM Cycling fund. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the Capricious Contours of Celebrity

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This week’s biggest gainers:

1 Jake and Elwood Blues
Blues Brothers movie notches a noteworthy anniversary with a papal blessing. Rawhide!

2 Ozzie Guillen
Who is the man behind the curtain? Ken Williams threatens a shakeup and poof!, a 10-1 run. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): A few years ago, a group of artists built a giant bunny out of pink wool on an Italian mountainside. The 200-foot-long effigy will remain there until 2025. There’s a disturbing aspect to this seemingly goofy artifact, however: It has a wound in its side where its guts are spilling out. That’s why I don’t recommend that you travel there and commune with it. According to my reading of the astrological omens, you would definitely benefit from crawling into a fetal position and sucking your thumb while lying in the comfy embrace of a humongous mommy substitute. But you shouldn’t tolerate any tricks or jokes that might limit your ability to sink into total peace and relaxation. Read the rest of this entry »

Oil’s Not Well: Taking in the BP Black Friday Flash Mob

Green, Loop, News etc. No Comments »

“At 12:11, casually converge on the BP pedestrian bridge. Wear all black and bring a black umbrella. Wait for the first whistle at 12:20, sit down close to those around you and open your umbrella. Wait for the second whistle at 12:35 and disperse. Do not linger.”

These were the simple yet precise instructions for the BP Black Friday Flash Mob. The essence of a flash mob is in its secrecy. And so the protestors, all alerted via Facebook and word-of-mouth, were relatively unaware of who actually invited them to participate. The Facebook event, entitled “Oil over the Bridge,” was created by Oliver Bridge, presumably a pseudonym. In addition to those precise instructions, an auxiliary message requested: “Anyone who wants to be a secret agent, wear a white hat.” This is where Lott Hill steps in. In donning his white fedora, Lott has no idea what he will be getting himself into, given the vagueness of the instructions. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the Capricious Contours of Celebrity

Chicago Hype Exchange No Comments »

This week’s biggest gainers:

1 Rocky Wirtz
Who’s your daddy?

2 Joel Quenneville
Wow. A Chicago coach who coaches. Read the rest of this entry »