Brandon Gobel from Chicago Cargo is one of many local cyclists you might recognize in the exhibit. The photo of Brandon is by Steven.
I’m used to seeing Chicago bicycle culture portrayed in the mainstream media in ways that seem a little off, so it’s refreshing when someone gets it right. Bikes! The Green Revolution, a new exhibition opening Saturday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum does a great job of celebrating the many facets of the local bike scene. I got to check out the exhibit at a media preview yesterday. They managed to capture most of my favorite aspects of Chicago biking: history, planning, advocacy, youth education, bike shops, messengers and style.
Steven tells me that the museum got plenty of input from West Town Bikes’ Alex Wilson, who’s been a central figure in promoting cycling here for more than a decade, so that may have something to do with why the exhibit hits all the right notes. The Lycra crowd may find it a bit light on bike racing content, and I noticed a few minor errors on the exhibit signs, like a statement that the Lakefront Trail runs from Rogers Park to 75th Street when it actually runs from Edgewater to 71st. But otherwise I think it’s an excellent show that all local bike enthusiasts will want to check out, especially if they have kids.
A tall bike that visitors can “test ride.” Note the photo of Chicago Critical Mass in the background, one of several images of the ride in the show. Understandably, due to the controversial nature of the Mass, the exhibit never mentions the ride by name.
“There were so many fun aspects to putting this exhibition together,” curator Alvaro Ramos told me. “The exhibit is broken down into three main sections. Bike Town Chicago, where we talk about how Chicago has always been a bike town, beginning with the late 1800s in the era of the White City, the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Daniel Burham, who was a city planner, really understood that as the city was expanding we would need a lot of bike lanes to connect people to nature. This was a time when the only other main form of [land] transportation [besides trains] was the horse.”
Ramos points out a Columbia No. 88 shaft-driven bicycle, circa 1902
“Our second section is The Green Revolution, where we talk about how folks can actually integrate cycling into their lifestyle,” Ramos said. “Is there any more fun way to be green? Especially with gas prices being over $4.50, I’m sure we’re going to see a huge spike in cyclists. That was a really fun section of the exhibit for me as well.”
Kids can practice loading a bike up with groceries
“Our end section, the Wheel People bike shop will be filled with all kinds of fun public programming,” Ramos said. “We’ll have people coming in from Chicago bike shops as well as some of our partner organizations like Active Transportation Alliance, West Town Bikes and other local groups. They’ll teach people how to maintain their bikes as well as talking about safety and how to get the most out of biking in the city.”
The model bike shop highlights the work of local nonprofits like World Bicycle Relief, Working Bikes Cooperative and Project Mobility, which provides adaptive bikes to people with disabilities, and has how-to videos featuring mechanics from West Town, Blue City Cycles and more.
Here are a few other highlights from the show:
A video highlights the history of various regional paths with point-of-view footage that makes me want to go out for a trail ride.
A mini section on messengers gives a respectful summary of the industry, including an interesting POV video featuring Four Star Courier Collective‘s Nico Deportago-Cabrera. I’m not sure why they used this image of a Toronto courier instead of an equally photogenic local one, though.
Sit in this pedicab for a slightly dizzying virtual tour of various Chicago neighborhoods and parks on a mini Omnimax screen.
This vintage Schwinn ad features movie star Dorothy Lamour
This antique cycle has lace-up fenders and chainguard.
A nice use of the “marked shared lane” symbol, AKA the “sharrow,” AKA “Sgt. Bike.”
At the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park, (773)755-5100, naturemuseum.org, through September 9. $9/adult, $6/child, $7 seniors and students.
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011. We switched to writing at Streetsblog Chicago in January 2013.
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