[This piece ran in Checkerboard City, John’s transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]
I kind of hate the phrase “bike season.” Thousands of Chicagoans get around on two wheels all year ‘round. Even in January, there’s still something of a bike rush hour on the Lakefront Trail and Milwaukee Avenue. And all you really need to keep cycling through the Chicago winter is a bike with fenders and lights, and more-or-less the same clothing you’d wear to stay warm while waiting for the bus.
That said, it’s been fun to observe how, following another cold, gray, snowy winter, how the recent sunshine and relatively balmy temperatures have inspired countless people to drag their dusty steeds out of basements. Like rivers swelling from the vernal thaw, the city’s bike lanes have filled up with riders once again.
As part of this spring awakening, a dozen different higher learning institutions will be challenging their students, faculty, and staff to try bicycling to school. The second annual Bike2Campus Week takes next week from Monday to Friday, highlighting cycling as a green, cheap, healthy and fun way to get around.
Participating institutions include City Colleges of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, Dominican University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, Roosevelt University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Triton College, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago.
The concept is similar to the Active Transportation Alliance’s Bike Commuter Challenge, in which different companies and organizations compete with each other to record the most cycling trips and win prizes and bragging rights. There are a number of ways Bike2Campus participants can get credit toward earning schwag. They can log their bike trips for the week at Bike2Campus.com, pass the League of Illinois Bicyclists’ online safety quiz, share photos from their commute on social media via the hashtag #chibike2campus, or participate in cycling events on their campus.
“We had ten schools participating last year, and the Art Institute of Chicago was the top dog,” says John Wawrzaszek, sustainability manager at Columbia (and a Newcity contributor), who’s helping to organize the program as part of the Chicagoland Bike 2 Campus Coalition. Divvy provided the trophy, made from a front basket from a decommissioned bike-share vehicle affixed to a wooden pedestal. “We’re trying to do a Stanley Cup thing this year, where the winner will move the trophy around the city,” Wawrzaszek says.