Street Smart Chicago

Oy to the World: You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Enjoy a Secular Christmas

Bicycling, Holidays No Comments »

By John Greenfield

Christmas is a great time to be in Chicago, even if you’re not a Christian. As a largely nonobservant Jewish person, I make a point of staying in town during the holiday because I always have a blast. It’s the best of both worlds: I get to enjoy the spirit of brotherhood and good cheer that prevails, as well as taking the day off of work, but there’s no pressure to gather with relatives or exchange gifts. For me, Christmas is a chance to spend quality time with members of my family of choice—my longtime Chicago friends. Read the rest of this entry »

Life Cycle: How did Chicago’s progressive new transportation czar Gabe Klein get that way?

Bicycling, City Life, Transit 5 Comments »

Photo: Steven Vance

By John Greenfield

“Gabe Klein has always viewed his work as a canvas to create a contribution, and is inspired by ventures that give something back to the community, versus strictly producing profit. This is why he only works on projects that invoke his passion.” —From “Gabe Klein’s TreE-House,”

“True love knows no bargains. It is one-way traffic: giving, giving, giving.” —Swami Satchidananda, Klein’s childhood guru

When forward-thinking Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner Gabe Klein reported for work on May 16 as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new administration, it marked a sea change in the city’s priorities. After spending most of the twentieth century trying to make it easier to drive, City Hall was switching its focus to promoting healthier modes: walking, biking and transit. Read the rest of this entry »

Cycle of Regeneration: A bicycle store dies, a bike shop café is born

Bicycling, Food & Drink, Humboldt Park, Lakeview, Transit, Wicker Park No Comments »

Michael Salvatore outside soon-to-open Heritage Bicycles/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Chicago just lost one of its coolest bike shops, but we’re gaining one that may be even cooler. Last week Dutch Bike Co. abruptly closed its Chicago location, only three months after relocating from Lincoln Park to Wicker Park. Founded in Seattle, the company opened its only satellite store three years ago at 651 West Armitage in a gallery-like storefront. They offered beautiful, practical European-style city bikes by brands like WorkCycles and Linus, most costing over $1,000.

This summer the shop moved to 2010 West Pierce, around the corner from Penny’s Noodles, in search of lower rent and higher foot traffic, says owner Dave Schmidt, speaking from Seattle. But even in bike-crazy Wicker Park, sales were not what he’d hoped for. It probably didn’t help matters that Wicker Park mainstay Rapid Transit Cycleshop, 1900 West North, and Copenhagen Cyclery, another Euro-style store at 1375 North Milwaukee, were only a stone’s throw away. Read the rest of this entry »

State of Freedom: Can Open Streets downtown sell City Hall on future ciclovias?

Bicycling, Events, Green, Loop, Politics No Comments »

Photo: Brett Mohr

By John Greenfield

“On State Street, that great street, I just want to say
They do things they don’t do on Broadway”
—“Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” by Fred Fisher

The question is, can Chicago do on State Street what New York City already does successfully, not on Broadway but on Park Avenue; what San Francisco does on Grant Avenue; and what Bogotá, Colombia, does on Calle 11?

After two previous attempts, the Active Transportation Alliance hopes Saturday’s car-free event on State Street will finally convince City Hall to embrace the ciclovia concept.

Born in Bogotá, the “ciclovia” (Spanish for “bike path”) concept closes streets to motorized traffic, creating safe spaces for citizens to bicycle, jog, stroll, play and mingle, encouraging healthy recreation and social interaction. Ciclovias are now popular around the world, and most of America’s bike-friendly major cities are holding successful events, but the model still hasn’t gained a foothold in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Going Dutch: Meet Dottie Brackett, the Martha Stewart of Chicago biking

Bicycling, Roscoe Village 1 Comment »

By John Greenfield

Dottie Brackett is the Martha Stewart of the Chicago bike scene. Often spotted cruising the streets on her stately black Dutch bike or sprightly robin’s egg blue Rivendell, elegantly dressed in a skirt and heels, she belies the notion that urban cycling is only for sweaty guys in Lycra or skinny jeans. Since early 2009 her blog “Let’s Go Ride a Bike” (LGRAB) has shown thousands of people in Chicago and beyond how easy it is to use a bicycle for transportation and look good doing it. Read the rest of this entry »

Mind the Gap: Will West Rogers Park’s new alderman finally build a controversial bicycle bridge?

Bicycling, Politics, Rogers Park No Comments »

Photo: John Greenfield

The other day I was pedaling with friends under azure skies to Evanston’s Blind Faith Cafe when I was reminded of an old political fight. We were riding on the North Shore Channel Trail, a scenic, nearly car-free route from Albany Park to Evanston, when we came to the notorious gap in the path just north of Peterson. The trail ended abruptly, so we spun north on Kedzie a few blocks, turned west and rode on hectic Devon Street across the channel, then turned north to continue on the bike path into Lincolnwood.

If it weren’t for opposition from former 50th Ward Alderman Berny Stone, we would have been able to instead make a car-free transition to the section of the trail west of the channel via a bike-pedestrian bridge. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Tour de Fat fetes Beer Drinkers, Bike Riders and Beer-Drinking Bike Riders

Bicycling, Events, Green, Logan Square No Comments »

“If Tour de Fat was a drug,” an attendee to the cycling festival says on its Facebook page, “I’d say it was the same chemical compounds released in your brain and euphoric experience that we know as love.”

Those interested in the way beer, free music and bicycle riding can stimulate that particular feeling would do well to check out the upcoming Chicago leg of the Tour de Fat, which comes to Chicago this Saturday. Centered around a costumed bike parade, the festival, which is hosted by the Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company, will have an emphasis upon sustainability. The Car-for-Bike program allows one pre-chosen Chicago citizen to trade in their polluting car for an eleven-speed handcrafted bicycle for one year. Performing acts this year are appropriately eclectic, including vaudeville comedy act The Daredevil Chicken Club, psychedelic blue-grass band The Dovekins, and  self-described “circus punk marching band” Mucca Pazza. Seventies rock mainstay Free Energy headlines the stage. (Michael Gillis)

The Tour de Fat is in Chicago on July 16. Registration for the bike parade begins at 9am, with the parade itself being at 10am at Palmer Square, North Kedzie Avenue and West Palmer Square. Performances continue at Palmer Square from 11am to 4pm. 

411: Traffic Jamming

Bicycling, Green No Comments »

Every day, thousands of people bicycle to work via the Lakefront Trail spanning Chicago’s beautiful lakefront parks and connecting neighborhoods from Edgewater to Hyde Park with the Loop.

As part of its role to promote bicycling, walking and public transit over environmentally costly and sedentary forms of travel, Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance has been monitoring conditions on the Lakefront Trail for years. Active Trans issues regular blog posts on major obstructions and ongoing detours on the trail, receives complaints and notices from commuters and works directly with the Chicago Park District to resolve issues as quickly as possible.

Now Active Trans proposes to expand their ongoing conservatorship of the Lakefront Trail with a new reporting system that allows commuters to instantly update trail conditions via Twitter. Commuters using the trail need only tweet their update and include the hashtag #CHILFT in order for it to appear instantly in Active Trans Lakefront Trail twitter feed, which will be displayed, along with blogs and other relevant media, at Read the rest of this entry »

Wheel Dreams: Can Emanuele Bianchi win his race to build the $45 million Chicago Velo Campus by 2013?

Bicycling, Southeast Side No Comments »

By John Greenfield

Imagine yourself watching—better yet, competing in—a breakneck bicycle race on a gleaming indoor track at the Chicago Velo Campus sports district. It is a freezing winter night outside but sweat pours off the chiseled, Lycra-clad riders as they whiz by and zip around the sloped turns on sleek fixed-gear bikes. The crowd goes wild.

Emanuele Bianchi, businessman, racer and president of the low-profit limited liability corporation Chicago Velo Campus L3C, is working hard to make this vision a reality. The sports district would include a stadium nearly as large as the United Center housing the velodrome (bike racing arena) and many other sports facilities, plus outdoor BMX, mountain bike and cyclocross tracks, at an estimated total cost of $40 to $45 million.

Bianchi, no relation to the Bianchi bicycle company, and his partners want to build the velo campus on the former site of U.S. Steel South Works, a hunk of land on the lakefront between 79th and 92nd Streets. They hope it will be the centerpiece of Lakeside, an ambitious new 500-acre community proposed for the site by real estate developer McCaffery Interests, in partnership with the steel company, which still owns the land. Read the rest of this entry »

The Top 5 of Everything 2010

Bicycling, City Life, News etc., Politics, Transit No Comments »

Once again, Newcity ends its year with lists that compile the best, mostly, of the year that was, in the arts, the city, pop culture and the slightly offbeat, more than seventy in all. See you in 2011!

The Top 5 of Everything 2010: City Life and Pop Culture

Top 5 People Who Passed Away That You Thought Were Already Dead
Art Linkletter, 97, TV-show host and ad-lib interviewer (“Kids Say the Darndest Things”)
Mitch Miller, 99, recording artist and 1960s TV-show host (“Sing Along with Mitch; follow the bouncing ball”)
Patricia Neal, 84, Oscar-winning actress (“Hud,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still”)
Teddy Pendergrass, 59, R&B soul singer (severely paralyzed in 1982)
Art Clokey, 88, animator (creator of “Gumby”)
—Sarah Louise Klose

Top 5 Sports Moments That Make You Say “Huh?”
Blackhawks nab Stanley Cup, dismantle championship team
Cubs attendance dips in 2010, ticket prices rise in 2011
Wrigley Field hosts Northwestern vs. Illinois football, only one end zone used for both teams
Evan Lysacek wins Olympic gold medal, loses “Dancing with the Stars”
LeBron James teases Cavs, runs with Bulls and takes the Heat
—Sarah Louise Klose

Read the rest of this entry »