Community members come out for annual Bike the Ridge ride in Evanston
While Mother Nature dazzled us with her fall palette, Chicago area biking boasted its own collage of recent activity with community rides, trail development and an e-bike tax credit proposal.
Ridgeville Park District and the city of Evanston demonstrate annually that, like Chicago, closing a major roadway for biking is very popular.
While Chicago's DuSable Lake Shore Drive welcomed over 16,000 cyclists recently, approximately 1,000 riders gloried in vehicle-free Ridge Avenue on Evanston's Bike the Ridge on Sept. 25, per event chair Michael Miro.
The 2008 brainchild of then 8th Ward Alderman Ann Rainey, the 15th annual ride hasn't missed a pedal stroke, even during the shutdown. Like Rainey, who served from 1983-2021, except for four years, it has staying power.
Longtime event chair Cook County circuit court Judge Anjana Hansen explains its origin. In 2008, resurfacing Ridge required partial lane closures for a couple months so, "Rainey wanted to celebrate its reopening in a family-friendly way."
She invited Hansen, then Evanston's 9th Ward alderman, to help organize since the nearly three-mile route crossed both their wards.
Sponsored by Evanston Parks and Recreation, city of Evanston, and Ridgeville Park District, the ride has always been popular, free and "kicked off by the mayor from Howard Street," says Hansen, this year by Mayor Daniel Biss.
There was no need to register; riders could bike in either direction between Howard and Church streets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Riders were able to enjoy food trucks, vendors and local booths, plus coffee and doughnuts offered along the way.
For Ridge Avenue residents the calm of no vehicular traffic is a blessing, per Hansen.
As for popularity, Rainey pronounces it "South Evanston's Fourth of July. People from all over the city, other suburbs and Chicago join in for this wonderful, noncompetitive family event."
As Ridgeville Park District program director, Miro began volunteering in 2010 alongside Hansen in this "beloved community tradition, a truly diverse, multigenerational event. People come up to me saying, 'This is my favorite event in Evanston.'"
"Ridge isn't my favorite street to drive on -- too narrow," Miro adds. "But when you bike it, it's beautiful -- the homes, architecture. I think the reason the ride is beloved is consistency -- same time of year, same street, even during the pandemic."
'Deep, long-standing partnership'
With those words, Cook County Board and Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle highlighted the collaboration between FPCC and CAMBr, the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers, at the Oct. 19 opening of 13.3 miles of single-track in the Paul Douglas Preserve in Hoffman Estates.
FPCC General Superintendent Arnold Randall echoed the cooperative relationship, emphasizing the "unique partnership" with CAMBr for 20 years in the Palos Preserve, finding "the best route that balances the riding experience with protecting against erosion, and minimizing impact on the local ecology."
Key to this cooperation are CAMBr's hard working volunteer crew, laboring more than 3,900 hours building the trail, and its approximately $75,000 investment, to date. CAMBr members, fundraising campaigns, and corporate donors provided the financing.
The result so far -- a multiple-loop trail system among woodlands, grasslands and wetlands along Paul Douglas's western edge and its southeast. Currently, CAMBr volunteers building another 3.8 miles in the northeast hope to finish prior to the ground freezing.
CAMBr Executive Director Mike Angus estimates 600 more volunteer hours to finish that section. When completed, roughly 18 miles of multiuse, public trails will beckon a broad spectrum of visitors. CAMBr expects to have all Paul Douglas trails completed in 2023.
Open to mountain bikers, hikers and runners, the trails "will appeal to a variety of outdoor enthusiasts," including a broad range of riders.
Angus notes, "Southeast corner is very tame, very easy for a kid on a strider or a beginner."
Other sections appeal more to advanced riders.
"It's truly amazing what's been accomplished in just 18 months," Angus said. "CAMBr has a dedicated and talented group of volunteer trail builders, and we've got a strong mountain bike community that has graciously supported us financially. That combination, and a great team at FPCC, has resulted in a trail system that will appeal to a variety of outdoor enthusiasts."
Paul Douglas Preserve is open sunrise to sunset, with parking located on Central Avenue, east of Huntington Boulevard/Freeman Road, in Hoffman Estates.
E-bike tax credit
On Oct. 7, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten (D-6th) was Illinois' first suburban congressman to co-sponsor HR2019, the "Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment Act," aka E-BIKE Act.
It provides a 30% tax credit, $1,500 maximum, for buying an e-bike; $3,000 for joint filers purchasing two e-bikes. Pricing is the major sales barrier, according to Ryan Birkicht, People for Bikes speaker at the recent Ride Illinois Summit.
E-bikes are the largest growing category of bikes in the U.S., per Birkicht, with 2021 sales hitting one million, 55% higher than 2020. Recognizing their popularity, almost all "analog" bike manufacturers now offer e-bikes.
"E-bikes offer the same great advantages as traditional bikes, including improved well-being and providing a zero-emission alternative to cars, while expanding a rider's range and efficiency," Casten said. "I'm pleased to support the E-BIKE Act to make these benefits available to more Americans, as we must consider all possible climate mitigation tools."
Technically, an Internal Revenue Code amendment, HR2019 was first introduced by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) in February 2021. Illinois co-sponsors include Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-4th), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5th) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th).
• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at firstname.lastname@example.org.