Riding through 2022: A look back at the year in biking
The idea crystallized last January: A year-end biking roundup -- a 2022 glance back.
Synthesizing months of Chicago area biking -- dozens of clubs, scores of shops, thousands of cyclists across multiple counties -- how hard could that be?
What was I thinking?
Admittedly incomplete, my observations still seem reassuring overall -- bike inventory up, numerous rides rolling, bike plans adopted. Hope abounds for new infrastructure, swelling ridership and safer experiences.
For retailers, however, 2022 started ominously. Nationally, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reported smash-and-grab break-ins at shops rose dramatically during the pandemic. They continued, with the Chicago area no exception. Since late 2021, shops were targeted for early morning heists of high value bikes.
News stations and other media reported burglaries in Chicago's Bucktown and Lakeview neighborhoods, plus Evanston, Skokie and Zion. Other suburban shop owners also claimed 2022 losses.
Despite these setbacks, retailers continue serving cyclists and deserve our support. Seems counterintuitive, but cold weather is ideal to take advantage of slack time at local bike shops for tuneups.
Heartening last February was Hal Honeyman of The Bike Rack in St. Charles reviving the Chicago Winter Bike Swap at the Kane County Fairgrounds. Fifty vendors, more than 1,100 visitors and 12 ride/service organizations attended. Last held in 2020, the swap outgrew its space at Palatine's Harper College, per Honeyman.
For the 2023 swap on Feb. 12, Trek will be title sponsor and will introduce an e-bike demo track.
Speaking of e-bikes, despite higher price points, they continue as the U.S. fastest growing bicycle category, even pre-pandemic, according to Ryan Birkicht, director of Enterprise Partnerships for PeopleForBikes.
Independent bike shop inventory has recovered from the 2020 sales boom with its dearth of bikes/parts, magnified later by supply chain problems. Research by the PeopleForBikes data/analytics team confirms this overall impression of mine.
Birkicht notes, however, "nuance in category detail. Simple bikes, like kids, BMX, and cruisers, have been in great supply for 18-24 months and are now oversupplied.
"In 2022, we've seen more complex categories, like full suspension mountain bikes, finally replenished at retail," Birkicht said. "E-bikes avoided shortages seen in other categories because that category was growing pre-pandemic. Supply chain issues weren't as constraining. Road bikes are holdouts. That supply chain is much more narrow, and it's been slow to recover.
"It's the best time to buy a bike," Birkicht continued. "Inventory is up and there's never been more investment in infrastructure projects providing more places to ride."
Hopefully, November 2021 passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will funnel more biking infrastructure funds to local/state entities.
Bike friendlier Illinois
Ranked the 15th bike friendly state, Illinois now claims one of only five U.S. community colleges to achieve bronze status as a Bike Friendly University, per League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly America director Amelia Neptune.
City Colleges of Chicago hit that mark in November, and is the first in Illinois to achieve that status. Illinois Institute of Technology renewed at bronze, and Loyola University Chicago renewed at silver among 12 Illinois bicycle friendly universities.
Edwardsville is noteworthy among Illinois Bicycle Friendly Communities, attaining bronze for the first time Dec. 14. Along with Warrenville (bronze renewal), Illinois boasts 18 communities within LAB's Bicycle Friendly America program.
Illinois 25 Bicycle Friendly Businesses welcome newcomers Elgin Community Bikes, gold on the first try, and Milhouse Engineering and Construction, Inc., (new bronze), both named mid-May. Bartlett's Spin Doctor Cyclewerks jumped to gold from silver.
Illinois is even bike friendlier with the adoption of new/updated bicycle/pedestrian plans in Bartlett/Streamwood, McHenry County, Niles and Northbrook. Cook County's first bike plan is nearing completion in early 2023, per Brittany Hill, Cook County Bureau of Administration's public information officer.
On March 17, McHenry County Council of Mayors adopted the McHenry County Connection Pedestrian, Bicycle and Trails Master Plan, whose study area includes all 611 square miles in the county. Superseding the 1996 plan, it will guide the council and partner jurisdictions to develop biking and walking infrastructure over the next several decades.
In April, the village of Northbrook completed a status update to its Master Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, covering program and policy recommendation updates to the original July 2018 plan.
In June, the village of Niles Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan received village board approval. Niles Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Advisory Group collaborated with the village on this 2014 plan update.
Bartlett and Streamwood Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, unanimously approved Nov. 15, spans two adjoining communities in Cook, DuPage and Kane counties. Bike network recommendations include 34 miles of new Bartlett bikeways, 23 miles of new Streamwood bikeways, plus 17 miles of enhanced bikeways across both communities.
Bartlett Trustee Adam Hopkins chairs the Bike and Run Plan Advisory Committee and notes, "public input collected during plan creation demonstrated how important biking and walking is to Bartlett residents. The village will incorporate plan recommendations into the capital budget and future developments."
"The importance of this plan that's going to make walking and biking a safer and better experience for all our residents ... a plan to guide decisions for a better transportation network in the area," Trustee Stephanie Gandsley said.
Hope for fewer bike fatalities?
On Dec. 14, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance increasing penalties for vehicles blocking bike lanes ($250), and allowing ticketing/towing. In June, a truck killed 3-year-old Lily Shambrook who fell from her bike carrier after her mother avoided a vehicle illegally parked in an Uptown bike lane.
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