The things you find

From our Footprints Coach, Mike Erickson

I went to Working Bikes Cooperative on Saturday. I figure if I'm telling Footprints people about it I better see what's up with the new location. 15 minutes before it opened (noon on Sat.) there were 19 people in line, 24+ by the time it opened. I saw Sarah Miller, Assistant Director of West Town Bikes there shopping with a girl friend and helping people adjust seats. The friend is a bike racer who was getting a practical bike for around town. She had been doored for the umteenth time and was determined to keep riding in the city, just not on her racing bike.

Phoebe (12 yrs of age) bought a cool BMX-type bike (Haro Bikes, Dave Mirra 540 Air Signature Series). She won't ride the practical bike with fenders and basket she has any more -- "too big and bulky, out of style, everyone else is riding the BMX-type". I got a Sears & Roebuck Greenbriar Free Spirit for $55. Talk about uncool -- I look like a crazed English Country Gentleman! Sarah Miller liked it anyway, and she has the coolest bike I've seen in ages. Ask to see her custom spokes on her front wheel! I'll continue to recommend Working Bikes Cooperative – it is new and improved, and has a great variety of bikes at inexpensive prices.

So I've got this great "new" Sears bike, what next? Let me go test it out on the Old Plank Trail and get some interviews and surveys in the bag for the Footprints program! Next thing I know I'm where the trail crosses Cicero Avenue in Matteson talking to a couple of trail walkers from England. The English couple agree to try walking to their local grocery, a 3-mile round trip. It’s good for their health and the environment…they'd save almost 10.8 pounds of air pollution, most of it CO2. I handed Ed a gallon of water and explained that the weight of 1 imperial gallon (e.g. UK measure) of water weighs 10 pounds by definition, at a specified temperature and pressure. In other words, if you could bottle the air pollution that’s what it would weigh. Impressive comparison, eh Ed? Finally he laughed and said he owns a hybrid...cheeky Americans.

Hey, you don't make every sale, right?! But you learn something from every encounter. What about those two guys by the side of the trail east of Harlem? I stop and chat. Bill and Ken don't drive at all, neither have driver’s license. Both are on pretty good looking bikes. They both reside within a mile of the trail, they both work, and neither guy needs the Footprints program. We talk philosophy. Bill says no one really needs to drive, and Ken says you need a car for certain trips. A lady cyclist stops to ask if we need help. Bill is using his screwdriver to install a Schwinn bell to the handlebar of my "new" Sears bike. No thanks, all is well.

I go on to make another six "sales" for the Footprints program before evening. The trail is a great way to see so many things. I saw a large wet furry mammal run across the trail from a lake to a pond on my way home. Happy trails to you. My suggestion, as a Footprints Coach, is to get a "new" bike, ride it on a trail, and talk to a few people. Life is good.

PS. By the way, does anyone need one more reason to ride a bike or take a walk? How about 120?

You find more money. Riding home at noon last month I found a Ben Franklin sitting on a side street. I hadn't seen the likes of him in a while. I'd have missed him if I was driving a car. Cha ching. And thats not all. Walking across a parking lot two weeks ago I found an Andy Jackson laying in an access lane. I was on vacation and I spent it on Carnival tickets in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Cha ching. You don't save found money -- you do your part for the American economy and spend it. Cha ching.
Moral of the story, keep on biking and walking, and keep your eyes on the road -- scanning for pictures of famous dead Presidents. Yesterday I found a dime, and today a nickel. Cha. What did you find?

Chicago ranks fourth in commuter pain index

Chicago ranks fourth in the country for commuter pain index.


"Nearly 100 percent of the Chicago respondents said roadway traffic is negatively influencing their health. Specifically, 44 percent cited increased stress levels; 25 percent said they easily become angrier; and 12 percent said they are getting less sleep.

In addition, 15 percent said traffic congestion is hurting their performance at work or at school, the survey found."

Look, if you are one of these commuters, I will tell you the same thing I tell my friends in bad relationships: It's not worth it! You are better than this! End it right now. And then give me (us!) a call.

I love my commute. This morning I read a book. Yesterday I caught up with a friend I spotted on the sidewalk. In fact, I would go as far to say that my commute positively influences my mental and physical health.

I have an idea:. Sept. 22 is Chicagoland Car-Free Day. Take the pledge and make your plan to leave your health-reducing car at home.

Calumet-Sag Trail: If dancin' and drinkin' will get it built, we'll do what we have to do

Pilgrim, mosey on over to this link here and belly up to the biggest hoedown since Roy & Dale’s reception - the Happy Trails Jamboree on October 2, a boot stompin’ benefit at Lake Katherine in Palos Heights for this here Calumet-Sag Trail.

That feller in the ten gallon white hat, Sen. Dick Durbin, has brought in the mother lode of trail funding - but there’s what we old cowhands call a hitch: our Cal-Sag communities has got to match 20% of that to get any of it. It’s like breakin’ a horse - a horse is either broke, or he ain’t. You’re either ridin’ or laid out in the dirt, mister, there ain’t no in between.

Well, us Friends aim to sit tall in the saddle as we blaze this trail, and I reckon we’ve got a place in our posse for you. We aim to make the remaining match in one night of hoopin’ & hollerin’, and general grownup orneriness the likes that’d put legs on a snake and call it a dog.

Bernie Glim and Country Roads is our entertainment for the evening, as well as - rumor is - a cow milking contest, a Live Auction showdown, and dualing Miss Kitty’s serving shots of whiskey. This ain’t no pony ride, Ma & Pa - though we will have an indoor kid’s corral (away from the grownups) should grandma have gone out steppin’ again.

So tie your pony up to the Jamboree page and take a moment to reflect— are you just buyin’ tickets, or is your hat tall enough to step up as an auction contributor, or maybe, pilgrim, a major donor?

Better pull the trigger soon - there are only 225 tickets.
Giddy up!

—Steve “My Biscuits is Burnin’” Buchtel
Board Member, Friends of the Calumet-Sag Trail


Updating regional bike map

Katie Tully and I are happy to announce that the Tawani Foundation gave The Active Transportation Alliance a grant to update the Chicagoland regional Bike Map. This will give us an opportunity to update the look of the map and include many new bike facilities that exist in Chicago and in the suburbs. We will be publishing the updated map in April, 2010 and are looking to the community to help us with some of the updating tasks.

We seek volunteers to help with the following:

  • Identify new routes
  • Field check routes and trails
  • Proof the updated map

We will be having a kickoff party on Tuesday, September 15 from 6pm-7pm at 9 W. Hubbard. Please email me at if you would like to attend or if you would like to be on the bike map committee.

Chicago Cross Cup Events posted to Calendar

The 2009 Chicago Cross Cup (cyclocross) events have been posted to the Active Trans events calendar, with links to registration.

Check it out!

Racing lessons: the road race

What is a Road Race?

Since American amatuer cyclists spend most of their time within the tight, gladitorial confines of the criterium, they cherish the opportunity to partake in what their European counterparts often take for granted:  the Road Race.

There are two types of Road Races in the United States: true point-to-point road races  and "circuit" events.

Point-to-point races are exceedingly rare, due to the high cost of maintaining the 30 to 150 miles of race course, and are usually only seen at the pro level.  Circuits, raced in laps of 1.5 to 10 miles, are more common, but are still much less prevelent than the closed course criterium. 

While circuits may resemble a criterium, they utilize road-racing rules, and there are a few differences:

Road races are generally on open roads, raced within a "rolling enclosure."  The field stays between a pace car and a chase car.  The pace car keeps the road ahead clear, and the chase vehicle, usually a motorcycle which enforces the "yellow-line rule" or communicates any important course information to the field.  The yellow line rule is enforced on rolling enclosure courses - riders must stay to the right of the yellow line and crossing it is grounds for disqualification.

In road-races and circuits, racers must chase to return to the field in the event of a crash or mechanical; there is no free lap as allowed in the criterium.

Tactically, the techniques employed by racers are the same in every race: you will still see the attack, the chase, and the block.  The longer nature of the race and the much more varied terrain affects how these tactics are used stragically, however. published a fantastic tutorial this year on the anatomy of race: click here for Act I and Act II.

For more information, visit and pezcyclingnewscom for great coverage on the local, domestic, international cycling scene.

Utah drops the hammer on texting drivers

The New York Times reported on the recently passed Utah legislation which makes texting behind the wheel a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail should it result in a fatal crash. From the article:

"The new law, which took effect in May, penalizes a texting driver who causes a fatality as harshly as a drunken driver who kills someone. In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel. Instead, such a crash would now be considered inherently reckless.'It’s a willful act,' said Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a big supporter of the new measure. 'If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you’re assuming the same risk.'"

Read the full article here.

The law was enacted after a crash caused by a texting teen killed two noted rocket scientists. In the end the teen pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 200 hours of community service and required to read "Les Miserables".

The University of Utah also happens to be the source of a 2006 study that showed how and why drivers who are talking on a cell phone are as impaired as those with a .08 blood alcohol level, a finding that is becoming more and more recognized, accepted and cited. Keep up the good work beehive state!

It seems as though a cultural shift in our national attitude towards the use of multitasking technologies while driving is inevitable as the undeniable scientific evidence from the lab continues to stack up on top of the anecdotal evidence in the form of roadway carnage. Transportation director Ray LaHood’s upcoming September summit between senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics is just one more tangible reason to hope for a national shift in perspective about the issues and dangers associated with distracted driving.

In much the same way that we once lived in a clouded state of cognitive dissonance about the dangers of drinking and driving, but were finally shaken out of that somnambulistic state, we can hope to one day soon come out of the dream (or nightmare) we're living in now about the true dangers of the use of distracting technologies while driving.

September remains hot

While the road season is winding down, there are still several events vying for the attention of Chicago cycling enthusiasts.

La Vuelta d'Espana began on Saturday - with Fabian Cancellara taking the prologue time trial and still in possession of a 6 second lead.  While Christian Vandevelde's Garmin Slipstream team is racing in Spain, the Lemont native is gearing up for next week's...

...Tour of Missouri opener in St. Louis on Labor Day.  Expect a lot of heavy hitters -including Dave Zabriski and David Millar riding for Christian - as well as European superstars Heinrich Haussler, Mark Cavendish, and Franco Pellizotti to bring a continental atmosphere to this promising stage race.

And on September 12th, the Illinois State Championship Road Race will take place in Willow Springs, practically Vandevelde's back yard.  Registration is open

You'd look hotter in a helmet

You really would look hotter in a helmet. Check out the NYTimes Bill Cunningham's "On the Street" fashion show all about helmets.

Complete Streets Resolution Passed in Highland Park

Great news to report from the North Suburbs – on August 26, the Highland Park Traffic Commission passed a resolution to develop a Complete Streets policy. While the resolution will still require approval by the Highland Park City Council, this is a great step forward to towards infrastructure improvements that will make roadways safer and more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.

Congratulations to the hard working residents of Highland Park who propelled this effort and worked in partnership with Doug Gerleman from the Northbrook Bike Task Force to raise awareness of the benefits and need to prioritize a Complete Streets policy that will bring further continuity to the North Suburbs by providing alternate transportation options.

If you are a Highland Park resident, let your City Council members hear your voice so that a Complete Streets policy can be officially adopted!

If you are interested in initiating or participating in a bike task force in your community to bring awareness and priority to policies that support pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, please contact me so we can help you get started. This win in Highland Park shows that interested residents can indeed make a real difference in the community!

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