Tell Us Your “Commuter Idyll” Story Today, Be a Tour de Fat VIP

Bike Pit
Try out a wacky bicycle in the rodeo. Photo: Josh Koonce

Today’s the last day of our Commuter Idyll contest. That means it’s your last chance to tell us how you switched from a stressful car commute to a relaxing transit ride or stress-relieving walk to work — and win one of several prizes!

Last year’s contest was run by Streetsblog USA, and the winner was Jake Williams from Chicago, who switched from a 26-mile drive to Lincolnshire to a 12-minute walking commute to a new job.

We’ve got cool prizes this year thanks to a generous sponsorship from New Belgium Brewing, the employee-owned company from Fort Collins, Colorado who’s bringing Tour de Fat back to Palmer Square Park this coming Saturday.

What’s your commuting story? Did you give up on the cost and headaches of constant car breakdowns, then switched to listening to Talking Headways on Metra? Were you so sick of stop-and-go traffic on the Kennedy or Eisenhower that you instead chose to park the car and hop aboard the Blue Line instead?

Even if you don’t yet have an Idyllic story yet, but want to give it a try, New Belgium is also looking for someone to give up their car at the fest and get a new bike in return. You’ll have to apply online beforehand.

The Tour brings “bikes, beer, and bemusement” to every stop, including numerous live bands and a wacky bicycle rodeo, and also raises funds for local bicycle nonprofits. For Chicago, 100 percent of beer proceeds will be donated to West Town Bikes, a bike kitchen in Humboldt Park which teaches high school students how to repair bikes and manage a store.

John will be holding down the fort at the Streetsblog Chicago table, while I’ll be pouring $5 drafts of Snapshot and Fat Tire for West Town Bikes until 2:30 p.m.

Last year’s fest drew 8,000 attendees and raised more than $40,000 for after school programs at West Town Bikes. The fest starts with a bicycle parade (and cargo bike roll call) around Logan Square. Costumes are encouraged, so look for 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colón in his Zorro outfit.

New Belgium Beer  Tour De Fat
All beer proceeds will be donated to West Town Bikes. Photo: Drew Baker

Tell us your story by midnight tonight in the comments section below or email it to us. 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 an ankle strap to keep your pants clean. Three runners-up will get VIP passes. Additionally, Morgan Whitcomb and Vig Krishnamurthy of Sam Schwartz Engineering (where Williams started work) will design an infographic to show your before-and-after commutes.

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 our 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

  • Matt

    I moved from the suburbs to the city in May 2008, though I worked in Crystal Lake. I scoped out digs that were close to Metra stations, since my job was relatively close to a couple stops along the UPNW line and there was absolutely no way I was driving to/from work while living in the city. Lo and behold I found a decent place 6 blocks from the Clybourn stop. The commute included about an hour and ten minutes on a train, and fifteen minutes on a bike, for a total time just under an hour and a half (each way). This went on for four years, though I had people telling me I wouldn’t last one. Sure, my commute took 3 hours out of my day, but I was able to nap, read, make friends, and even drink beer on my way home (legally!). It was well worth it, and each time I decided to drive for any reason, I ended up wishing I was on the train instead.

    Flash forward to the spring of 2012 when I received an offer for a new job just a stone’s throw outside the city limits, in Franklin Park. I started out driving, with the intent on figuring out how to make it work via public transportation. Everyone I told about the new job commented about how nice it must be to work so much closer to home. However, even though I was traveling 1/4 the distance, I was only saving 1/2 the time (40 minutes in the morning, and about 45-50 in the evening). They couldn’t be more wrong… The commute was absolutely miserable. Every day I’d trek home along Belmont or Fullerton, yearning for the days I could sit on the train and not have to worry about the insanity that was Chicago traffic. I missed everything about my last commute, even though it took twice as much time out of my day. I meant to figure out how to get back to those days, but the monotony got to me and habits formed, and before I knew it a year had passed and nothing changed.

    I really don’t know what set the ball in motion, but pretty much just one day I decided to get rid of my car and force my own hand. I was able to take the bus to the blue line, and have someone pick me up there on their drive in to work. It wasn’t out of their way at all and they were more than happy to do it, but I don’t like being “that guy” that has to rely on someone to get where he needs to be. I made it a point to figure out how to get to work using only public transportation and my bike (again!). The best compromise I came up with was to ride to the Belmont bus and throw my bike on and take it to the Cumberland terminal, and then ride the rest of the way (about another mile or so). This ended up being about an hour in the morning, but frustratingly longer in the evening. I eventually started to just ride home instead of taking the bus, and found that I could make it home in about 50 minutes. That’s going 11+ miles on a bike in the SAME amount of time it used to take me to drive the same route. As time went on, I’d just ride to work in the morning as well. I just bring a change of clothes each day, and I always have the option of taking the bus, or even getting a ride to/from the blue line if needed. Options are great.

    So now here I am. Over a year without a car, and so much happier for it. The mornings are pretty relaxed, and I’ve come to look forward to the ride home to clear my head and just enjoy the commute as opposed to dreading it. I ride my bike over 22 miles almost every day, and love it. There’s an undeniable amount of satisfaction I get when I am traveling faster on a bicycle than the line of traffic full of cars, trucks and buses.

    PS – If I knew about the car-for-bike challenge last year, I would have jumped all over it.

  • Mishellie

    Not sure if it got noticed on the other post:

    Mine’s not from switching from a car to a bike, but switching from pub trans with an inconvenient transfer to a bike.

    I live in Logan Square and work at Lurie Children’s Hospital. I was taking the fastest commute I could. (Not the Chicago Ave bus, that’s FAR too slow. I was taking the Blue Line South ALLLL the way to Washington then transferring to the Red Line and heading north for two stops to get off at Chicago/State.) It was taking me OVER an hour to go a 5.5 mile distance (and that’s the Google Maps estimate, so that’s by driveable street, not as the crow flies,) once I counted my transfer. I was angry, I was getting “pedestrian rage” on escalators and train platforms. I was running so fast to catch the next train I thought I might trip down the stairs. Once or twice a week a delay would have me late and apologizing to my manager on the phone. It was terrible.

    Then I bought a bike.

    It was a Diamondback Hybrid, nothing fancy at all. I started riding it around the city for fun, but then thought “what if… I got a backpack… and rode to work?”

    Magic. It took 36 minutes.

    I’m on my 3rd bike now (and DONE buying them – settled for a beautiful baby blue steel road bike. It’s my love. I never want to be separated.) And I’ve almost gotten all the accesories that I “need” ( jk, they’re just bells and whistles – awesome seatpost bag, wireless bike computer, one well-ventilated helmet for the summer and one more insulating helmet for spring/fall/winter, gloves, etc…)

    I really only meant to commute. But now? I’m going ride a century in the fall, and I do a training ride on some weekends with a local team. It’s become my hobby.

    And now when I think “I’ll just take the train today,” and it does happen, I get to work and wish I had just sucked it up and pedaled in. It’s just so much more pleasant. No more being at the perfect height to be sniffing armpits among the other sardines.

    I end up getting to work more energized, am happier and more productive while there, and get a lot more exercise. There are days where I have run ins with cars and get upset, but they’re few and far between compared to the days I used to be late and running and upset.

    And my coworkers seem to think I’m some kind of crazy athletic person, which is amusing because I’m really not :)

  • Got it, thanks!

  • We got it, thanks!



Tell Us About Your “Commuter Idyll”

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