Chicago Kidical Mass
By Greg Borzo
Chicago's bicycle community is so vibrant and varied that it's hard to keep up with it on a bi-monthly basis. Therefore, the Chicago Section of momentum magazine is converting to an online publication. The free bi-monthly momentum magazine will still be available at bike shops, cafes and libraries across the city and it will continue to have an article or two about the Chicago bike scene, but it will no longer have a dedicated Chicago section. Look for that coverage online at: momentumplanet.com/community/chicago
Here are a couple of examples of how the Chicago bicycle community is overflowing with energy, ideas and activities – all of which will continue to be covered online.
On March 20, bike advocates from organizations including Break the Gridlock and Bike Boulevards Now! conducted the city's first Kidical Mass ride. Despite a late snowstorm, 15 riders showed up. The following ride two weeks later was attended by 70 people, and interest continues to grow.
Kidical Mass is a play on Critical Mass, but without the edge. Bicyclists make merry in a gentler fashion, one suitable for kids in face paint riding bikes festooned with balloons and streamers. In other words, rather than creating "corkers" that block traffic, this ride sees traffic guards that usher kids and their families along the way. Car drivers have been extremely courteous and seem to delight in the festivity.
"We started this as a way to build support for bike boulevards and create a constituency that could lobby for that," said Todd Allen, a Break the Gridlock director. "We choose routes that would make good bike boulevards, as long as they got some infrastructure improvements."
So far, the four-mile (and approximately one-hour) rides have graced Palmer Square, Humboldt Park and Lincoln Square. Future rides are planned, at least until winter, for the second Saturday of every month in the Palmer Squareís Bunny Park and the third Saturday at various locations around town, including Indian Boundary Park and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
"Everyone is welcome, as long as they respect our guidelines," Allen said. "For example, we suggest helmets. We need some order and control to keep the kids safe, but everyone involved has had lots of fun."
Bicycle Art Shows
Chicago is blessed with frequent art shows featuring photos, sculptures and paintings of bikes – from the Bike Winter Art Show, to Mars Gallery and Little Black Pearl. From April through June, Flourish Studios hosted The Bike Show! at its elegant gallery and store. The opening benefited the Working Bikes Cooperative.
Among all the attractive and provocative art on display, I was most drawn to the penny-farthing bookends created by Adam Clark, an intrepid artist who also runs Pedal to the People, a mobile bike shop that travels by bike (what else?). All the spokes in the handsome yet practical piece of art are real spokes from recycled wheels, and the seats are made from an old leather wallet.
Clark lives in a community of artists and works at Bubble Dynamics in Bridgeport. The high wheel bookends are for sale, as is all the art from The Bike Show! Clark said the idea for the bookends came to him while he was cleaning up a pile of cast iron pipes. He had to make something for another art show and fiddled around with designs for a bike trophy or statue.
"I started bending this one-quarter-inch steel rod around some piping and then, POW! the vision of a small 'high wheeler' bike was born," he said. "I had no idea they'd be used as bookends until my brother suggested that I place them sideways for the viewer to see the beauty in the shape."