Jane Healy, Mike Healy and Jason Berry.
[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Wednesday evenings.]
Jane Healy is a diehard booster of the blue-collar south suburb of Blue Island, and she’s the ultimate biker mama. [I borrowed this phrase from J. Harry Wray’s book Pedal Power, which also profiles Jane, since I couldn’t think of a better term to describe her.] Along with her husband Mike and kids Will, Katie and Genevieve, she usually pedals to get around this scruffy railroad town of some 22,500 people, located just south of Chicago and straddling the Calumet-Sag Channel. Jane is board president of the Active Transportation Alliance advocacy group, and she’s been spearheading Blue Island’s current bike boom, helping get hundreds of local kids jazzed about cycling.
Continue reading Island delights: a bike tour of Blue Island with Active Trans’ Jane Healy
Photo of this year’s Frozen Snot Century trip by Adam Wonak
Back in 2005 when Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was second-in-command under Blago, he did cyclists a huge favor by bullying Metra into allowing bikes on board. This opened up a whole new world of options for affordable, car-free road trips because, even after the commuter rail system hiked its fares last year, a weekend pass is a mere seven bucks.
You can hop the Union Pacific North Line all the way up to Kenosha, Wisconsin, then pedal 35 miles to downtown Milwaukee – it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than Amtrak, whose Hiawatha service to Cream City costs $46 roundtrip and doesn’t allow unboxed bicycles. Or bike 30 miles south from the Loop via trails to Munster, Indiana, for gourmet burgers and craft beers at Three Floyds, a heavy metal-loving brewpub, then spin ten miles west to Flossmoor Station Brewery, where you can catch a lift home at the adjacent Metra stop.
Continue reading The Frozen (Molten?) Snot Century: Mission to Madison
[This piece also runs on the environmental news website Grist.org.]
“It’s not that we don’t like straight people,” explains Jeff Rogers, president of the Windy City Cycling Club (WCCC), Chicago’s oldest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender bicycle group. “On the contrary: The biking community at large tends to be made up of very nice people who are very accepting of diversity in general. But gay and lesbian people have a comfort level with each other that’s different than with straight people.”
That sense of belonging is easy to see as we hang out at T’s bar, a buzzing lesbian, gay, and straight pub in Chicago’s LGBT-friendly Andersonville neighborhood, on a sunny February afternoon. A dozen or so club members, mostly women plus a handful of men, are gathered at an off-season social for Dykes Pedaling Bikes, the club’s monthly women’s ride. Ranging in age from late 20s to late 50s, they kibbitz over $5 hamburgers and tall glasses of hefeweizen with lemon slices as Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” blasts on the sound system. A couple of them wear the club’s jersey, featuring a bicycle wheel, the Sears Tower, the Chicago flag, and a rainbow banner.
Continue reading Out spokin’: The Windy City Cycling Club rides with pride
The Chicago Cycling Club’s Bagel Ride – photo courtesy of Kathy Schubert
[This piece also runs in Newcity magazine.]
Christmas is a great time to be in Chicago, even if you’re not a Christian. As a mostly nonobservant Jewish person, I usually 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, and pedal the nearly traffic-free streets, but there’s no pressure to gather with relatives (Thanksgiving is when we do that) or exchange gifts. For me Christmas is a chance to spend quality time with members of my family of choice, my longtime friends from the local bicycling community.
Continue reading A secular Chicago cycling Christmas
Roadside Halloween display in Colchester, IL
On Halloween weekend I took a train-bike-train excursion to western Illinois and northeast Missouri and, fittingly, death was a recurring theme on this fun little trip. My childhood pal Greg recently took a gig teaching political science at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL. Judy, another old friend from the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, moved to Kirksville, MO, last summer to study osteopathic medicine. Since both towns are near Amtrak lines, I decided to link the two visits with a grueling 120-mile day of bicycling. Here’s a map of my bike route.
Friday morning I caught the Carl Sandburg line from Chicago’s Union Station. Like most Amtrak lines that run entirely within Illinois, it allows “roll-on” bicycle service for an additional fee, so I’m able to hoist my unboxed bicycle onboard and simply lean it against the wall of the train car. It’s a relaxing 3.5-hour cruise southwest across the prairie to Macomb, where Greg meets me at the combined train and bus station for this quaint college town of 19,748. In high school we played in a psychedelic rockabilly band called the Glorious Disciples of Freedom, so we greet each other with the band’s secret handshake, grasping each other’s bicep and saying in unison, “Disciples of Freedom.”
Continue reading Western Illinois Death March
Camping in Illinois Beach State Park.
[This piece also ran in Newcity magazine.]
There’s a bunch of state parks near Chicago accessible by commuter rail and/or bicycle including Indiana Dunes, Chain O’ Lakes and Kettle Moraine. But the easiest, oddest camping trip you can take without a car is a weekend excursion to Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, hometown of the band Local H, near the northeast corner of the state. Continue reading A car-free exodus to Zion