“Momentum Wild” honors local cycling

[flickr]photo:6010825826[/flickr]Artist Brian Morgan with “Major Taylor”

Three friends cruise around the Humboldt Park lagoon on Schwinns, hauling freshly caught trout and a sixer of beer. Muscular messengers on fixies sprint down the street with jaws set in fierce resolve. Members of the Windy City Scorchers, an old-time racing team, zoom around a wooden track. An elderly tamale vendor pedals a box bike with ape hanger bars under a blazing sun.


These are some of the icons of Chicago bicycling that artist Brian Morgan celebrates in his show Momentum Wild: The Art of Urban Cycling currently at Jackson Junge Gallery, 1389 N. Milwaukee. Many of the painting in the show were inspired by real people Morgan witnessed on the streets of our city. The artist says he wanted to capture a sense of desperation, but also determination, on the cyclists’ faces as they cope with the challenges of riding in the sometimes-hostile urban environment.

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The Chicago Cruisers, a Puerto Rican bike club, celebrates the Schwinn


[This article also ran in Kickstand magazine.]

Salsa music blasts from a sound system trailer with a big Puerto Rican flag attached, pulled by a guy in a traditional straw hat on a classic yellow Schwinn cruiser. Behind him ride a hundred men, women and kids wearing matching red t-shirts, blue shorts and white sneakers, the colors of the flag.

Most of them are rocking vintage Schwinns with gleaming chrome fenders, white-wall balloon tires, gas tanks, and springer forks. Many are decked out with rear-view mirrors, air horns, fox tails and small U.S., Puerto Rican and Chicago flags. It’s the Chicago Cruisers bicycle club, pedaling downtown to the Puerto Rican Day Parade on a hot summer morning.

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Impressions of Chicago from the head of the Boston Cyclists Union

[flickr]photo:5983814572[/flickr]Pete Stidman with a rental from Bike and Roll Chicago

Pete Stidman, Executive Director of the Boston Cyclists Union, came to Chicago last week for a meet-up of the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and crashed on my futon while he was in town. The cyclists union is a young organization with only a few hundred members, but it’s already having an impact on getting more bicycle lanes, bike parking and a cycle track built in Boston, a city which has been notoriously bike-unfriendly in the past. One of the union’s most exciting programs is Bike to Market, with volunteers repairing over 600 bikes for free at farmers markets in underserved neighborhoods. Stidman told me more about his organization and gave me his impressions of bicycling in Chicago.

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An interview with CDOT’s Gabe Klein


[This piece also runs in Time Out Chicago.]

Traditionally the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has focused on making it easier to drive in the city, but new commissioner Gabe Klein has a different philosophy. Klein, a former executive with national retailer Bikes U.S.A., as well as Zipcar car sharing, came to town fresh from a stint as transportation director for Washington, D.C. There he launched a streetcar system, installed about 100 leading pedestrian interval traffic signals, introduced a circulator bus route and built the nation’s largest bike-sharing system.

Klein and Mayor Emanuel are promising big improvements to walking, biking and transit here, including building the Bloomingdale Trail elevated greenway, creating 100 miles of car-protected bike lanes, and rolling out a robust bike sharing system. They’re also working on creating bus rapid transit corridors and considering novel approaches to improve conditions for walking, including “pedestrian scramble” intersections.

I recently met with Klein, 40, in his CDOT offices, where he’d parked the bike he rode in on, a single-speed Masi cruiser with a beer-carrying crate. He discussed possible locations for ped scrambles and bus rapid transit corridors, the feasibility of the Bloomingdale and bike lane projects, the possibility of reopening the Queen’s Landing crosswalk, and whether he’d ever consider riding in Critical Mass.

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A run-in with a neo-Nazi on the Lakefront Trail


Many years ago I was riding my bicycle on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, rolling south past Oak Street Beach, near the Hancock Tower. It was a beautiful summer day and the path was really crowded with people walking, jogging and cycling. I was working as a bike messenger at the time.

As I was riding I saw this guy heading towards me. He was this tall, brawny skinhead on Rollerblades, skating north. He was wearing wraparound sunglasses and a t-shirt that said “WHITE POWER” with a big swastika on it. I myself had a shaved head and I was wearing wraparound shades at the time, but I’m a short, skinny Jew.

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