Palatine Bike Club promotes cycling, safety, education
"To make Palatine a bike-friendly community."
That single idea has been the key focus of the nonprofit Bike Palatine Club since its beginning.
Launched in 2009 as a volunteer task force with Mayor Rita Mullins's blessing and support from the Palatine Park District, the club has been a driving force in bicycle safety programs and infrastructure improvements in the village.
Safety, education and promoting cycling have been the three ways the club has stayed focused. Initially, club members promoted cycling by helping to develop the village's comprehensive bike plan and suggesting infrastructure additions throughout the village: striped bike lanes, bicycle road "sharrows," directional signage and, most recently, bike maintenance stations along the park district trails.
Working closely with the village and park district, the club, with its links to the cycling community, has continued to recommend various improvements. The village secured a $147,000 grant from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program in 2013 to implement some of these recommendations.
A more recent $400,000 grant through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program of the Federal Highway Administration made possible the bike path along the western side of Harper College campus, which is nearing completion.
The club also fosters cycling through various programs for riders of all ages. For the past five years, the club led the way to promote national Bike to School Day in early May, enlisting the help of Palatine Township Elementary District 15, local school PTAs and the Palatine Park District.
Each participating PTA provides $40 to purchase safety gear to raffle at each school, an amount matched by the club. In addition, Mikes Bike Shop contributes another $80 for the bike gear raffle in each school.
In 2018, 13 schools participated, with 1,480 students riding to school. In 2019, with about 1,300 students riding due to cooler weather, the club's efforts were impressive enough to be featured on the blog of the Active Transportation Alliance, the Chicago metro advocacy group for biking and walking. This year's event has been canceled due to the pandemic.
From mid-May to mid-September, the club leads 30, eight- to 10-mile evening casual rides, free to all comers. At 6:30 p.m., riders -- from school-age to retirees -- roll out for an hour of cycling on Tuesdays from the Birchwood Recreation Center and Thursdays from Mikes Bike Shop. These rides, however, are on hold for 2020 due to the pandemic.
The club also leads longer organized rides during Palatine's StreetFest celebration in late August. For its CycleFest ride, the club recruits ride leaders and lays out three to four courses of varying lengths and difficulty. Rookies can follow a local nine-to 10-mile route, while those seeking a challenge can cycle out to the hills of Barrington and back.
As the club's biggest fundraiser, CycleFest is slated for Saturday, Aug. 29, this year.
Information about all the club's events and rides are available at www.bikepalatine.com.
Last July, the club also hosted its first Community Bike Ride, which saw 70 civic leaders, elected officials and members of the riding public rolling through the village, followed by ice cream treats and fellowship. This year's Community Ride is planned for Saturday, July 25.
Early March, before social distancing took effect, the club sponsored its "Chilly Chili" ride for the second year in a row. Twenty-four early season cyclists came out to support the Palatine Fire Department's annual chili cook-off fundraiser at Durty Nellie's.
Safety and education are key drivers
Besides promoting cycling in general, the Bike Palatine Club sponsors safety talks, both formal and informal.
For 4- to 10-year-olds, the club has held bike safety rodeos in past years. On what looks to be an obstacle course, young riders learn skills needed for tight turns, figure eights, hazard avoidance and other techniques that adult riders take for granted.
Most common error with this age group? "Fred Flintstone braking," using feet instead of bike brakes.
Last June the club co-hosted an "ABC" clinic with Partners For Our Communities for disadvantaged families served by that agency.
Club volunteers showed young riders basic bike safety how-to techniques: checking air pressure in tires, checking and tightening brakes and cleaning and lubricating chains. Club-donated bike helmets were raffled and appreciated by both youngsters and parents.
At this year's clinic, scheduled for late May, the club will donate helmets and other safety gear for the raffle.
Besides formal safety training, and insisting on helmets, club ride leaders always begin every ride with a short reminder of basic safety tips. The acronym "CLAP" helps people remember to dress Conspicuously, ride Legally, stay Aware of hazards and be Predictable to other cyclists and drivers.
During outings, ride leaders also drop hints about braking as a group, calling out hazards and downshifting before coming to a complete stop. The club prides itself on its safety record: casual rides alone over the last two seasons have accumulated 5,000-plus rider miles without a single cycling injury.
Club members are primarily casual, recreational riders who cycle for pleasure.
Whether you have been informally riding for years or just recently hauled your dusty bike off the garage hooks, the club offers many outings to match your riding level.
As ride leader and club treasurer Tom Lucas likes to say, "No one gets dropped from our rides." "Friendly knowledgeable group" and "Great group of enthusiastic bikers!" are typical Facebook comments about the club.
Club membership has varied over the years from 50 to 70 households. New members are always welcome. The $15 annual dues cover everyone in the same household, giving them access to club newsletters, as well as discounts at several local bike shops: Mikes Bike Shop (Palatine), SamCycle Electric Bikes (Palatine) and Crank Revolution (Hoffman Estates).
For less confident riders unsure about expanding from trail to street riding, club membership helps them feel a part of a larger community of cyclists who freely share safety tips and bike knowledge.
In addition, members can boast about the many practical, concrete ways that the Bike Palatine Club gives back to the community. Last September, at St. Joseph Home for the Elderly in Palatine, the club installed its fifth free bike rack as part of the club's bike rack program. In previous years, two racks were installed at a women's shelter in the Northwest suburbs and two others at Durty Nellie's in Palatine. For information about the club's bike rack program, contact Wayne Mikes at (847) 358-0948.
While solo vs. group riding is recommended now during the social distancing restrictions, the club is excited about its lineup of events as the riding season warms up. But like so many other groups, some events have already been canceled. To join the club, sign up for its newsletter and stay up-to-date with Bike Palatine Club events, visit www.bikepalatine.com.