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