Share Your “Commuter Idyll” Story and Win Tour de Fat VIP Passes

The band plays

Mucca Pazza performs at the Tour de Fat. Photo: Steven Vance

Every year at the Chicago stop on Tour de Fat, the fantabulous bicycle and beer festival hosted by New Belgium Brewing, a gutsy “roll model” steps on stage to make the Car-for-Bike Swap. At the end of the fest, Saturday, July 12, in Palmer Square, a contestant will hand over his or her car keys, and pledge to live automobile-free, in exchange for a stipend to buy a new commuter bike. If you’ve been meaning to make the lifestyle switch yourself, can apply here to be this year’s swapper.

For the first time this year, New Belgium is also generously sponsoring Streetsblog Chicago’s Commuter Idyll contest. In last year’s contest, put on by Streetsblog USA, readers were asked to share their stories of how they changed their daily work trip from a hellish car commute to a relaxing stroll, pedal, or transit ride.

Since our city has some of the worst conditions for driving in the country — which is one reason this is a good city for walking, biking and public transportation — it was no surprise that the national winner was a Chicagoan. Engineer Jake Williams told the inspiring tale of how he ditched his nightmarish 26-mile drive to a job in Lincolnshire and started a new gig in the city, which he could walk to in 12 minutes, greatly improving his health and happiness.

Jake’s girlfriend and her co-worker at Sam Schwartz Engineering were so excited that he won Streetsblog’s “Commuter Idyll” challenge that they created this “infographic” of his commutes.

Did you make the change from a similarly soul-numbing auto slog to a fun, energizing bike commute? Did you switch to riding CTA or Metra so you could up on emails, reading, or sleep on your way to work? Did you move closer to your job, or take a new position closer to your home, so that you could spend less time commuting and more time doing the things you love?

Tell us your story in the comments section. The grand prize winner will get a VIP pass to the Tour de Fat, including two complimentary beer tokens, free food and access to the VIP area, plus a goodie bag with a t-shirt, bottle opener and pants strap for cycling. Three runners-up will get VIP passes.

If you’ve never been to the Chicago Tour de Fat, you’ve been missing out on a heck of a bike party, for a great cause. The free, family-friendly event includes a costumed bike parade around the neighborhood, live entertainment, a corral full of Frankenbikes you can test ride, tasty chow and, of course, plenty of delicious craft beer. Best of all, the proceeds go to West Town Bikes, a bicycle education center in nearby Humboldt Park. Last year’s Chicago fest drew 8,000 attendees, raising more than $40,000 for West Town.

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Howard Wu and Reymel Matos at the Tour de Fat. Photo: John Greenfield

This year, highlights of the Tour de Fat will include a fashion show of the best costumes, a brewing education center, and a “Thousand Person Dance Contest” – the winner will get a 2014 New Belgium Cruiser Bike. Stages will feature everything from yo-yo performers to a vaudeville act, and the music will includes the local circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza, and the groovy Venezuelan acid jazz group Los Amigos Invisibles, who’ll be in from Caracas to rock us.

The Commuter Idyll grand prize winner will get a shout-out during the bike parade and during the performances. While you’re at the festival, be sure to drop by the Streetsblog Chicago table to say hello and pick up some free schwag, including our coveted “I love bus rapid transit” buttons. Here’s the full schedule for the fest.

Revival Stage
11 a.m. — Bike Parade Launch
12 p.m. — Fashion! Best costumes of the Tour de Fat
1:10 p.m. — The Slow Ride Race
2:30 p.m. — Car for Bike Trade
3:55 p.m. — 1,000 Person Dance Contest (winner receives a New Belgium cruiser bike)
4:20 p.m. — Los Amigos Invisibles
5:05 p.m. — Finale

Variety Stage
1:35 p.m. — The Handsome Little Devils
3:00 p.m. — Yo-Yo People
3:40 p.m. — Mucca Pazza