Jana Kinsman of Bike-A-Bee.
Newcity magazine recently invited me to highlight some of my favorite aspects of the local sustainable transportation scene for their Best of Chicago issue. Here’s what I selected:
Best bike-centric Kickstarter campaign
Jana Kinsman’s pedal-powered apiculture service has generated quite a buzz. Last winter Kinsman, a graphic designer and illustrator with the all-female collective Quite Strong, used the “crowdfunding” website to raise $8,646 for beekeeping equipment and packages of bees, plus a bicycle trailer to transport the gear. She now maintains hives at community gardens and urban farms all over town, such as Eden Place, a nature education center at 43rd Place and Shield Avenue in the underserved Fuller Park community. The hives help pollinate nearby plants and serve as educational tools for neighborhood kids. It’s a honey of a project!
Best new bike (and coffee) shop
Owners and staff of Heritage General Store.
Chicago got its own little slice of Portlandia when our first combination bicycle store and cafe opened in Lakeview last January. Michael Salvatore’s beautiful, airy emporium is a headquarters for all things stylish, locally produced and politically correct, and that’s a very good thing. The shop features classy city bikes handmade in Chicago, cycling gear by hometown brands Nonetheless, Winter Session and Po Campo, plus beans from PDX’s Stumptown Coffee and pastries from Southport Grocery. Heritage also hosts weekly bicycle rides, bike-in movies, and visits from food trucks, and the city recently converted parking spaces out front to a “People Spot” mini-park.
2959 North Lincoln
Best new CTA station
Photo by Steven.
Worst station? Easy: the squalid Wilson Red stop, slated for an extreme makeover starting next year with a jaw-dropping $203 million price tag. On the bright side, two attractive stations debuted this year, Yellow Oakton in Skokie and Green/Pink Morgan in the West Loop. The latter features sleek green canopies sheltering customers as they wait for their rides, plus a fully enclosed glass skybridge between the platforms, great for photographing the trains and skyline. Downstairs, sidewalks on both Lake and Morgan Streets have been widened to make room for the station houses and artistic, circular bike racks, the product of a design competition. The whole facility is an architect’s delight, and a relative bargain at only $38 million.
958 West Lake Street
Best use of $100 million
Completing the Chicago Riverwalk
Existing riverwalk by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Photo by Maria J. Aleman.
Sure, City Hall has long paid too much attention to the glittering Loop and too little to struggling neighborhoods. But this proposal, estimated at a $90-100 million build-out, would be bankrolled by federal transportation dollars and private donations, not city money, so it’s a case of apples-to-oranges. Our river has been tragically abused and neglected over the years. And with sections like the Cove, the River Theater and the Swimming Hole, accommodating waterfront cafes, kayak rental, a play fountain, fishing piers, floating gardens and more, the riverwalk should be pretty frickin’ cool. Anyway there’s no point in complaining, because when Rahm sets his mind on a marquee project he usually gets the federal funding.
Best place to see tattoos, piercings, dreads and sweet rides
This summer hundreds of bike couriers from around the globe converged on Chicago, proving that, despite the growth of digital media, their profession is alive and well. It was a long, alcohol-fueled week, including on-street “alleycat” races, a film night, track racing and the Messenger Prom, with cyclists dolled up in slinky dresses and pastel tuxes. The main competition was a checkpoint race in a vast parking lot by Soldier Field, simulating a day of delivery work. With its difficulties, dangers and low pay, why do couriers still love their jobs? “You’re outside, you’re getting exercise, and it’s a rush,” explained Jérôme Demuth from Paris. “Plus it’s good f—ing work.”