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Stories on the Move - A Slice of Life on the Bike

Last night I attended the inaugural kick-off of Stories on the Move. Sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA), the event was part whimsy, part inspiration and whole lot of fun. Over 50 people packed the house at Township bar on N.California Avenue in Logan Square, many of whom arrived via bike.

A sort of two-wheeled version of NPR's Moth Radio Hour, the event included invited speakers as well as several brave individuals from the audience who shared their personal bike experiences. The stories were amazing and entertaining. You couldn't make up the adventures they shared.

Bike Stories - Tales From the Road

We heard from Adam Clark, founder of Pedal to the People and former bike messenger who shared his experience of riding down LaSalle one day to see money falling from the sky. He and several other passersby engaged in a dash for cash with Adam netting $546 before it was all over. Even more amazing however was that he gave away most of the money on his deliveries during the rest of the day. Adam described how he surprised people in office elevators and through-out the Merchandise Mart. Can you imagine the reactions?

From Rebecca Resman, of Chicago Kidical Mass we heard a harrowing story of how she was doored by a passenger getting out of a car stuck in traffic. She was hit from the left-hand side and  5-months pregnant with her first child when this happened. A cycling advocate, Rebecca wanted to know, while on the stretcher, why the policeman did not ticket the car. He stated that if anyone was getting a ticked it was her since she was at fault for passing on the right. This absurd reasoning was based on a law intended for motorcycle riders and not cyclists. After recovering, Rebecca used her experience to help get the law changed. This was from a woman who earlier in her life had established the Crash Support Hotline at ATA. Way to make lemonade out of lemons.

Randy Neufeld with SRAM Cycling Fund reminded us of what is was like to ride a bicycle in Chicago in the 80's - no bike lanes, no bike racks, no advocacy. He retold the story of how the bike path on the lakefront was a series of disconnected lakefront bicycle paths until Schwinn helped to raise awareness on connecting them. And he explained the coming of age for bicycle advocacy in Chicago when the city found the money to remove a set of steps to widen a dangerous pinch-point on path near Lake Point Tower. All while burnishing a piece of the steps in his hand. I kept thinking about the dangerous section of path he mentioned. The city is now in the process replacing it with a $60 million bicycle flyover - a slightly larger investment than removing old steps. Things have indeed come a long way.

Courtney O'Neill, XXX Racing Women cautioned us that clipping out of pedals on the road is not the same as clipping out in spin class. On her first road foray, she fell down and broke a bone in her hand. Additionally, she shared her experiences on a cross-country bike trip with the non-profit, Bike & Build (pedaling for affordable housing). Apparently one of the rituals during the trip is to bike one mile naked. All was well with this refreshing, au natural section of the ride until the police spotted the group and demanded an explanation. How do you tell a cop that you're on a charity ride but decided not to wear your clothes?

Another storyteller Hunter, shared his story of riding from town to town in Guatemala while suffering from illness and relying on the kindness of strangers to get by. He was on a journey to see his girlfriend in the Peace Corps - what we do for love!

Among others, John Greenfield, Streetsblog Chicago told the story of the very first Critical Mass ride in Chicago. It happened around Christmas in 1997 near Wicker Park. During the ride, he dropped back to talk with the police and was promptly arrested and spent the night in jail. He was charged with disorderly conduct and impersonating a police officer due to the Chicago police patch sewn on his messenger bag. Today, Critical Mass is a monthly event that draws hundreds of riders! John assured us that the relationship with the police has improved significantly.

And finally, Olatunji Oboi Reed, founder of Slow Roll Chicago told a moving personal story of how biking helped him to overcome depression by reconnecting with nature and people. He later founded Slow Roll Chicago with a mission of utilizing bicycles to connect a diverse group of people, transform lives, and improve the condition of communities by organizing community bicycle rides and other bicycling-related programs. Olatunji closed by reminding us that bikes can help us to connect. Amen to that notion!

ATA is planning another version of this inspiring forum later this year. ​Check back for more information. And if you have a biking story to share let me know. 

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