Move It! A Guide to Getting Around Big Cities by Bike


Biking in downtown Denver.

[This article was commissioned by SRAM Corporation, a bike components manufacture headquartered in Chicago, for their Urban Products catalogue.]

This is an amazing time to be an urban bicycle commuter in the United States. According to the American Community Survey, over the last decade the percentage of citizens who frequently pedal to work rose 63% in the 70 largest cities. Sure, even U.S. cycling Meccas like Portland, Oregon, only have a fraction of the mode share of Northern European towns like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. But stateside cycling is definitely on a roll, and we seem to be approaching critical mass.

There are lots of reasons for this bike boom. In gridlocked cities, bicycling is often the fastest, most efficient way to get around. It’s a great way to add physical activity to your routine without having to spend extra time and money at a gym. In a sluggish economy with rising gas prices, not having to spend cash at the pump or on parking is definitely a plus. Cycling instead of driving is an easy way to help out the environment. And, last but not least, navigating a metropolis by bike can be incredibly fun.

But not everybody feels comfortable cycling in a big city. That’s why towns from cost to coast are investing in new infrastructure to make riding safer, more convenient and more enjoyable, from off-street paths and on-street bike lanes, to parking racks and commuter stations that provide secure places to stash your ride at the end of the trip.

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Thoughts on August’s Critical Mass by Oboi Reed and Eboni Senai Hawkins


Oboi Redd and Eboni Senai Hawkins at Daley Plaza. Photo by Vincent Carter.

Last month I collaborated with Oboi Reed, founder of The Pioneers Bicycle Club, and Eboni Senai Hawkins, founder of the local chapter of Red Bike and Green (RBG) to create a Critical Mass map highlighting African-American landmarks on the Near South Side. Since the majority of Massers live on the North Side, the ride tends to gravitate in that direction, so Oboi, just back from a study abroad trip in Brazil focusing on health and social justice issues, proposed ending the ride south of Madison for a change.

I thought the ride was a great success, with a huge turnout, beautiful weather and a very positive vibe from participants and bystanders. I think many of the riders appreciated visiting communities like Bronzeville, Douglas and Oakland where they may not have spent much, or any, time before. It would definitely be great to see more Critical Mass rides travel to the South and West sides, and to see more involvement from folks who live in these areas. Oboi and Eboni share their impressions of the ride below.

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Black Power Riding: Oboi Reed reports from Brazil


Oboi Reed in Quilombo do Remanso, Brazil. All photos courtesy of Oboi.

[This piece was contributed by Oboi Reed, founder of The Pioneers, a bike club that promotes cycling on Chicago’s South Side, and co-leader of the Southeast Side community advisory group for the city’s Streets for Cycling 2020 plan.]

In February, I embarked on a journey to live and study in Brazil for six months. With the tremendous support of many family and friends, I travelled to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil to study public health in the African-Brazilian community in Salvador and elsewhere in northeast Brazil. Throughout this nearly four month program, Brazil: Public Health, Race, & Human Rights organized by The School for International Training, colleagues and I were blessed to have unparalleled access to the people, families, organizations, institutions, and systems that make up the fabric of Brazil’s healthcare delivery system. We experienced firsthand, in sight and in sound, the contemporary successes and challenges of the public healthcare system for African-Brazilian people and all Brazilians. We engaged patients, community health agents, nurses, doctors, administrators, activists, educators, and more. We directly participated in the Candomblé spiritual tradition. We explored Candomblé traditional healing as a critically important and culturally relevant system of healthcare – in fact a viable & effective complement to the Brazilian government’s system of healthcare delivery.

We traveled throughout northeast Brazil, visiting a diverse set of communities: Itapuã, Cachoeira, Alecrim, Ilha de Maré, Feira de Santana, Santo Antonio de Jesus, Lençóis, and Luna. The exposure to different geographies, lifestyles, cultures, people, income levels, struggles, and successes was an incredibly eye-opening experience. The opportunity to achieve all of this in such a short timeframe was a divine blessing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It served as an important chance for me to grow personally, academically, and professionally by embracing my global citizenship. My life has changed forever.

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“One Pioneer, a Thousand Riders” by Oboi Reed


Oboi Reed at the new wooden velodrome at 8615 S. Burley – photo courtesy of Reed

In September John interviewed Oluntunji Oboi (“O-bye-ee”) Reed about his efforts to launch The Pioneers Bicycle Club as a way to get more South Siders and African Americans involved with cycling. Last month, Oboi did his first Chicago Critical Mass ride. We invited him to submit the following write-up of his experience for Grid Chicago:

In the words of The Notorious B.I.G., “It was all a dream.”
I dreamed of cycling as a form of healing.
I dreamed of cycling consistently with family and friends.
I dreamed of forming The Pioneers Bicycle Club.
Dreams came true, then I kept dreaming.
I dreamed of riding in Chicago Critical Mass.
I dreamed of riding in Chicago Critical Mass through some parts of the South Side.
The dream of riding in the mass came to life on Friday, October 28th, 2011.
The dream of riding through parts of the South Side, well, that dream is a bit more complicated.

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Oboi Reed from The Pioneers Bicycle Club wants more South Siders cycling


The Pioneers’ inaugural ride: Khari Reed, Keith Bevans, Oboi Reed, Larry. Photo by Neeketta Dotson.

Recently Steven and I received an e-mail from a Chatham resident named Olatunji Oboi (“O-bye-ee”) Reed with the cheerful greeting, “Trusting y’all are both well and this note finds you in great health!” Bicycling has become part of Reed’s own strategy to maintain good physical and mental health, and this summer he launched The Pioneers Bicycle Club in hopes of spreading the gospel to his family, friends and community. I caught up with Reed last month at the Valois Cafeteria in Hyde Park to talk about the importance of cycling in his life, the history of the club, and his ideas for getting more South Siders and African Americans on bicycles.

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