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Bears great and Advil pitchman Richard Dent with The Chainlink’s Julie Hochstadter – photos and story by guest blogger Katie Vogel

On Wednesday morning, a crowd of sixty huddled in the parking lot of Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd., clutching free hot cocoa and waiting for ex-Bears defensive end Richard Lamar Dent to cut the ribbon of the new protected bicycle lane on Jackson. What had drawn the crowd was not just the free hot cocoa or Mr. Dent’s willingness to pose for pictures, but fifty free, Advil-branded Citizen Gotham1 folding bikes to be raffled off.

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Advil also gave the City of Chicago a snow removal and salt truck that fits in the new protected bike lanes. These donations are part of the drug company’s Congestion Relief Project marketing campaign to provide “the right relief for the real problem” for cities across the country. As part of the promotion Advil has also donated classroom space to an overcrowded New York City school. The company will select future projects out of proposals solicited from communities.

Considering the City of Chicago’s bleak financial outlook, it’s no surprise that City Hall accepted a free addition to its snow removal fleet with open arms. Speaking at the ribbon cutting, Chicago Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton thanked Advil for the truck, which will help bicyclists get around Chicago’s snowy streets better this winter.

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The snow truck is visible behind Dent

It was great that Advil was giving away free bicycles, including helmets, but it was too bad that the tires of the bikes weren’t properly inflated and quick-release levers were open, and that no one was on hand to demonstrate how to safely fold and assemble the cycles. One woman who received a bike got a crash course on safe riding from West Town Bikes instructor and J.C. Lind Bike Co. employee, Nathan Kemphues (full disclosure: we’re married).

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Kemphues, left, helps out a raffle winner

After that, a small line formed behind Kemphues as the Advil staff referred bike recipients to the only professional mechanic in sight. While Advil’s generosity is great, giving away bikes in this condition was certainly shortsighted on the safety front. Riding a folding bicycle with improperly locked quick-release skewers is a significant danger. No wonder Advil had release forms on hand.

As communities struggle to close budget gaps, will more city services become branded by major corporations? The Advil Congestion Project snow removal truck is not likely to make me switch from store brand ibuprofen anytime soon. Considering the issues bicyclists face every winter, specifically bike lanes that are often full of snow plowed off the rest of the street, one can only hope that the attention paid to snow removal in protected bicycle lanes will eventually be paid to the humble painted bike lane as well.

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Dent leads a ride down the protected bike lane

Safety and branding concerns aside, the pure joy on the faces of some of the recipients of bicycles was unmistakable. “This is my Christmas present!” shouted one person to the crowd as he rolled away on slightly flat, Advil-yellow tires.

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  • Jason Marshall

    I hate to look this gift horse in the mouth but the Kinzie St. protected bike lanes were not cleared for today’s morning commute.  Right now I believe that there are less than one mile of protected bike lanes.   Apparently there is a dedicated vehicle to clear this path.  Which leads me to believe that staffing and execution of PBL snow removal is not currently a priority for the city. 

    This is just my opinion but if the protected bike lanes are going to be a low snow removal priority for the city I would rather see “normal” lanes implemented over the protected ones. 

    I know that today’s snow was hardly a major event and that it will take some time for the city to get a plan in place to deal with this.  I think this might be a good topic of conversation for tomorrow’s community meeting.  Making biking safe and practical year round should be a major component of any long term plan.

    • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

      I’m willing to cut the city some slack on this. The snow was a total surprise to me (although I suppose it’s the city’s responsibility to check the weather report!)

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      How did you feel when riding over the Kinzie Street bridge plates?

      Check out this reader’s comments when it comes to bridges with plates, and ones without. 
      http://gridchicago.com/2011/on-open-metal-grate-bridges/#comment-381502226

      • Jason Marshall

        Steven,
        Let me preface this by saying that I am in the minority here.  I know that my views do not reflect those of the majority of bike riders in the city. 

        I don’t like protected bike lanes because I feel that they reduce my options as a vehicle in traffic and generally make it harder for me to mitigate obstructions safely.  I don’t like the plates because when it snows the snow has nowhere to go (like this morning) and I think given the choice between the open grating and the plates covered in snow I would feel more confidant on the open grating.

        Having said all that I support PBLs and BPs because they seem to encourage those less “fearless” to ride more.  I am willing to set my personal preferences aside if it means that more people will ride instead of drive.

        In response to John below.  I agree that the city deserves a bit of slack.  As I said it wasn’t a major accumulation.  However given the fact that they just had this event that you reported on I believe that this was a golden opportunity for them to demonstrate their commitment to providing year-round encouragement and support for cycling. 

        I don’t normally take Kinzie in to work (mostly because of my preferences that I outlined above).  I did today because my normal routes were not cleared and I wanted to take a route that I thought would be less slippery.  I was a just a little disappointed. 

        I will be a winter bike commuter as I have always been.  I just wonder how many people newer to bike commuting might have been turned off by today’s conditions and decide to hang it up for the winter.

         

        • Jin Nam

          To each their own, I suppose. 

          I was surprised by the dusting of snow this morning. It was not in the forecast for the city. I was not surprised that the bike lane on Washington was the only section of the street that had not been cleared or salted. Bike lanes being cleared is something I will definitely be inquiring about at the open house tomorrow.

          I was hoping that the new PBL plow might have been used on Kinzie but it was not. Hopefully, the plan for how and when it will be used will be implemented in short order.

          I LOVED the bridge plates. I love all bridges with plates or concrete strips during winter. Snow that is not cleared on streets have no where to go either. Metal grates and moisture or ice is not a safe combo regardless of one’s levels of fearlessness. Physics and nature make no differentiation based on one’s perceived expertise for bike handling.  

          Again, to each their own. For the sake of the masses and to encourage more to cycle, I am a huge proponent of PBLs & BPs.

          =)

          • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

            I think Jason is a proponent, too, Jin. 
            “Having said all that I support PBLs and BPs because they seem to encourage those less “fearless” to ride more.  I am willing to set my personal preferences aside if it means that more people will ride instead of drive.”

          • Jin Nam

            Yes, absolutely! We all want a National Park and not a Country Club for cyclists everywhere…I stole that from the RKP blog.

            http://redkiteprayer.com/?p=6873

        • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

          In the winter time, or when it’s raining, I take a route to use a bridge that has a closed deck, or I ride my bike on the sidewalk. 

          Someone contacted me on Twitter to ask about the missing plowing and salting on Kinzie Street this morning. I’m not concerned about the apparent lack of a response – I will be if it happens again. 

          Do you know about Bike Winter? 
          http://bikewinter.org/ – It’s a place for resources and could even be considered a winter cycling support group.

        • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

          In the winter time, or when it’s raining, I take a route to use a bridge that has a closed deck, or I ride my bike on the sidewalk. 

          Someone contacted me on Twitter to ask about the missing plowing and salting on Kinzie Street this morning. I’m not concerned about the apparent lack of a response – I will be if it happens again. 

          Do you know about Bike Winter? 
          http://bikewinter.org/ – It’s a place for resources and could even be considered a winter cycling support group.

      • http://twitter.com/aka60643 AKA60643

        I’ve spent plenty of time riding on all types of bridge surfaces in various weather conditions on different types of bikes (mountain bike with 2″ knobbies or 1.75″ semi slicks, road bike with 1 1/4″ tires, folding bike w/20″ wheels and recumbent w/26″x1.35″ tires).  My personal experience has been that open grate bridges are more challenging with narrower tires than wide ones, and with smaller wheel diameters than larger ones.

        In all but the iciest conditions, I like the bridge plates.  I think the texture does its job pretty well under most conditions.

        The 20″ wheels on my folding bike are super sensitive to the grated surface, so I prefer plates or sidewalk for that bike.  The mountain bike will go over and through almost anything.  The only time I have problems with that one on a grated surface is if conditions are wet or icy and I’m changing direction.  If I maintain a straight line and go slower to make stopping easier and more predictable, then I’m fine. 

        If I’m in a location like Wells St. where I might want to make a left turn at the end of the bridge, I simply wait until I reach Wacker to move left.  I often reach that intersection just as the light is turning red, then walk the bike in the crosswalk to reach the left side and make my left onto Wacker when the light changes. 

        If I’m going to reach the intersection on the green light, I’m more likely to make a box turn when conditions are slippery – cross to the SW corner of the intersection, stop, turn the bike to line up with eastbound traffic, then roll with the traffic when the light turns green.  It takes slightly longer, but it’s much less stressful than trying to move to the left lane on a wet or icy bridge deck.

        The road bike is more sensitive with skinnier tires, less so with slightly wider ones.  My comment about maintaining a straight line with the mountain bike holds true for my road bike.

        I haven’t tried the recumbent on an icy bridge, but I’ve had no problem with it on either grates or plates under dry conditions.  That bike does offer me the advantage of being able to put my feet down very easily if necessary.

        I think that everyone’s experience with grates is a little different due to variations in bike type, wheel diameter, tire width, and individual riding style.  All of these variables seem to affect the ease or difficulty of riding on grates.

        I appreciate the plates and I’m glad that we’re getting more of them.  They offer better traction than open grates.

  • http://twitter.com/tonyatoms Tony Adams

    I’m grateful that anyone wants to pony up and help pay for some city bikey stuff. Bravo! But ibuprophen is an anti-inflamatory right? It does not relieve congestion. Perhaps that is obvious? A cynic might suspect that they are trying to associate their product with an effect that it does not produce.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      They do sell a congestion relief medication ;)

    • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

      OK, this is a tangent, but here’s what the company has to say about their new pain reliever / decongestant Advil Congestion Relief: “Though mucus can contribute to the stuffed up feeling, nasal congestion
      is the swelling of the tissues in the nose and sinuses caused by
      inflammation. Advil Congestion Relief re-opens your airways by constricting the blood vessels in your nose and sinuses.” Makes sense to me.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a bit sad I didn’t hear about this till the RSVP period had passed. Could have used a folding bike for my Metra commute. 

    On that front I’m excitedly waiting the bike share next year!

  • Anonymous

    I’m a bit sad I didn’t hear about this till the RSVP period had passed. Could have used a folding bike for my Metra commute. 

    On that front I’m excitedly waiting the bike share next year!

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      Keep your eye on Craigslist for “Citizen folding bike”. They might pop up soon ;)

  • Jame

    I think it was yesterday that I yelled at a postal service truck in the bike lane on Jackson.  She must’ve missed the ribbon cutting. And all the lane markings…

    • Jin Nam

      Last night I yelled at a taxi to stop DRIVING in the protected bike lane on Kinzie . He told me to “eat $h!t and die”. I thanked him for his humanity and kind words as he lingered outside of Gilt in the bike lane waiting to pick up passengers. Super! =/

      • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

        If you know the taxicab number, call 311 to report their behavior of parking in the bike lane. 

        • Jin Nam

          He dropped off the passengers IN the bike lane at the corner of Kinzie & Wells. He then proceeded to drive IN the bike lane to Franklin where he sat there idly…reported to Yellow Cab instead.