How Thought You Knew and Grid Chicago match up

This is a continuation of Grid Bits from Thursday, September 2, 2011. 

I talked with founder Alexis Finch about how Grid Chicago and TyK might have similar aims. We compared the Grid Chicago mission statement to that of TyK and the results surprised me.

Our mission statement starts out with, “Grid Chicago is an outlet for news, commentary, and photography about sustainable transportation-related events, projects, and ideas.” How does Thought You Knew relate to that definition?

TyK is a photography project depicting local Chicago women. TyK will be hosting monthly events to bring more women into cycling with our Monthly Cycles hosting ladies at bike shops to teach them flat fixes and meet their local mechanics.

The next line talks about Grid Chicago being a platform for sustainable transportation. 

Since women have been found to be the primary agents of change in communities, the main source of “word of mouth” communication and the dominant users/writers on the internet, TyK’s target of bringing more women to the cycling conversation, who have otherwise felt disincluded, uninvited or intimidated fits well with your goal of being a platform.

Then our mission statement talks about the culture around sustainable transportation.

I’d say that TyK has become a part of Chicago’s culture already, and stands to be more so soon.


Miss September 2012. Photo by Kimberley Capriotti. 

Okay, enough about us, tell me more about TyK. How will TyK expand its own mission?

TyK has shifted over to being offered to shops on wholesale. This turns us into an incredibly appealing Christmas item, particularly for bike shops trying to get folks in during the slow season. More sales means more pinups on more walls, spreading the good word. We’re also selling internationally now, which means the “powerful pinup” will be able to become a part of the global vernacular. Tokyo and Shanghai already love us and are really excited at the strong and sassy example we’re providing for the ladies out there. We’ll just hint vaguely at what that means in the next few years.

Will TyK launch in other cities?

There aren’t any plans for the calendar to be a “city by city” calendar. However, there are some plots afoot for next year giving some ladies in the rest of the United States the chance to be nominated to strut their stuff.

In the meantime, we’ll be working to expand The Monthly Cycle [a women-only bike repair class] to cities across the USA. It’s not just shops in Chicago who need more female customers, and who need their customers to feel comfortable. This is an issue everywhere. So, we’ll be working to make sure women everywhere get the chance to learn a bit about their bikes and get welcomed into the cycling world one local shop at a time.

Aside from the calendar and The Monthly Cycle, what else is happening this year?

TyK will be rolling through Interbike (September 14-16 in Las Vegas) filming another section of our documentary. Depicting how women are represented in the industry is an important facet of our mission. We’ll also be participating in the Chrome/Momentum Fashion Show!

This will also be one of our main times to do our wholesaling to shops outside Chicago. Since everyone is already in Vegas, it’s a great time to get the word out and get some orders in. Oh, and we’ll have stickers. Possibly spoke cards too…

A chat with Phyllis Harmon, the grande dame of Chicago bicycling

[flickr]photo:6078852200[/flickr]Phyllis Harmon’s return to bicycling at the age of 94 – photos courtesy of Phyllis Harmon

[This piece also runs in Active Transportation Alliance’s Modeshift.]

Phyllis Harmon is the grande dame of American bicycling. She helped create and nurture a number of clubs and advocacy organizations, including the League of American Wheelmen, now called the League of American Bicyclists. During her 66 years with the league, she wore many hats, including editor of the league’s magazine. In 2005, the league identified Harmon as one of the 25 people who changed bicycling in America.

A longtime Chicagoland resident, Harmon also helped found the Evanston Bike Club and the Wheeling Wheelmen. When the Active Transportation Alliance formed in 1985 (then called the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation), Harmon and Schwinn’s Keith Kingbay, another legend in the national bike advocacy community, used their league experience to mentor the fledgling organization. They provided advice on how to structure the new organization, publish a newsletter and get the word out about bicycle laws and safety issues.

The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation inducted Harmon into the CBF Hall of Fame in 2006, and in November 2010 she became the oldest living inductee of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. Now 94, Harmon still leads a very active life. Last year I had the pleasure of chatting with her over the phone on behalf of Active Trans on the eve of the organization’s 25th anniversary.

Continue reading A chat with Phyllis Harmon, the grande dame of Chicago bicycling

Transit riders to gain a louder voice in new campaign

Updated August 24/27, 2011: Active Transportation Alliance launched the Riders for Better Transit campaign today. Read the full agenda, which talks about different funding sources and modernizing Union Station. Take their survey by Sept. 30 and be entered into a raffle to receive a $100 Visa gift card. Ron Burke and Jennifer Henry (see her statement below) write a letter to the editor about the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority’s toll increase. 


The Wilson Red Line CTA station was recently voted the worst station “for the third year in a row” by Chicago RedEye readers. Photo by Jeff Zoline.

In the next couple of days, the Chicago-based (but Chicagoland-focused) advocacy organization, Active Transportation Alliance, will launch a new permanent campaign called Riders For Better Transit. This is the Alliance’s first large-scale endeavor into improving transit since they changed their name and mission in late 2008 from focusing solely on bicycling. Their other transit advocacy includes supporting transit-friendly legislation in Springfield.

I sat down with Lee Crandell, Director of Campaigns, at his office (9 W Hubbard) on August 1, 2011, to learn more about this effort.

Continue reading Transit riders to gain a louder voice in new campaign

Talking transportation with 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr.


Alderman Burnett with John

[This piece also runs on the website Gapers Block.]

This is the first of a series of interviews I hope to conduct with all fifty Chicago aldermen about walking, biking and transit issues in their wards. As “mini mayors,” these City Council representatives have a huge influence on the kinds of projects that are built in their districts.

For example, a handful of aldermen have opted to use menu money discretionary funds to stripe additional bicycle lanes in their wards or to bankroll innovative transportation projects, like the Albany Home Zone traffic-calmed block in Logan Square. On the other hand, they can stand in the way of progress, like when former 50th Ward Alderman Berny Stone vetoed a bike bridge on the North Shore Channel Trail in West Rogers Park. Continue reading Talking transportation with 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr.

Going Dutch: a conversation with LGRAB’s Dottie Brackett


[This piece also runs in Newcity. All photos courtesy of LGRAB, except where noted.]

Dottie Brackett is the Martha Stewart of the Chicago bike scene. Often spotted cruising the streets on her stately black Dutch bike or sprightly robin’s egg blue Rivendell, elegantly dressed in a skirt and heels, she belies the notion that urban cycling is only for sweaty guys in Lycra or skinny jeans. Since early 2009 her blog Let’s Go Ride a Bike (LGRAB) has shown thousands of people in Chicago and beyond how easy it is to use a bicycle for transportation and look good doing it.

The blog, co-written with Brackett’s Nashville-based friend Trisha Ping, who handles web design and ad sales, follows the women’s everyday adventures on two wheels. LGRAB’s breezy prose, splashy photography, reviews of classy commuter bikes and handy how-to tips have attracted an international readership, drawing about 2,500 pageviews and dozens of comments per day.

Continue reading Going Dutch: a conversation with LGRAB’s Dottie Brackett

Meet Brandon, owner and operator of Chicago Cargo


Brandon on Milwaukee Avenue across from Café Mustache, where we met last week.

I briefly introduced Brandon Gobel, a Chicago courier, in Monday’s article about Zipments and how it will change the bike and small-scale messenger industry. I promised we’d talk more about him and his business, Chicago Cargo, today.

Continue reading Meet Brandon, owner and operator of Chicago Cargo