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Chicago, Bike Grid Now plans Jamapalooza citywide bicycle meetup for World Car Free Day

A Bike Jam ride on Damen Avenue in Wicker Park-Bucktown. Photo: John Greenfield

In honor of World Car Free Day, this Thursday, September 22, Chicago, Bike Grid Now is organizing the Jamapalooza, with Bike Bus rides from all over the city converging in the Loop at the same time. The rides will assemble at 5:30 p.m. at the following locations, and then up downtown by 6:30.

Hyde Park: Kenwood Park Playground (1341 E. 49th St.)
Bridgeport:  Sintic Park (2835 S Wallace St.)
Pilsen: Dvorak Park (1119 W Cullerton St.)
West Loop: Park #578 (1919 W Maypole Ave.)
Wicker Park: Ehrler Park (2230 W Cortland St.)
Lincoln Park: Jonquil Park (1001 W Wrightwood Ave.)
The Loop: Daley Plaza (50 W Washington St.)

The goal of the event is to demand safe cycling infrastructure, such as a citywide Bike Grid of bicycle-priority side streets, and transit improvements. I caught up with Rony Islam, one of the cofounders of Chicago, Bike Grid Now to learn more about the event.

Flyer for the Jamapalooza organized by Chicago, Bike Grid NowCourtesy: Chicago, Bike Grid Now
Flyer for Jamapalooza organized by Chicago, Bike Grid Now.
Flyer for the Jamapalooza organized by Chicago, Bike Grid Now Courtesy: Chicago, Bike Grid Now

Courtney Cobbs: How did you come up with this Bike Jam assembly?

Rony Islam: We’ve wanted to have multiple bike jams happen at the same time. This isn’t quite that – we’re having six Bike Buses [commuter rides that travel about 10 mph] and a Jam [a slower ride with the intention of delaying motorists] at the same time. By having Bike Jams in different parts of the city, we can only pull in fold who can meet in a particular area. It can be difficult to get folks from multiple parts of the city to converge on a single area.

The second reason we wanted to do this is to signal that people all across Chicago want safe bike infrastructure and better transit. Many bike advocacy events happen on the North Side and we want to show that folks all across the city want to ride safely and have better transit. We’re looking to expand where our actions are taking place.

CC: Can you explain a bit about how the Bike Bus convergence will work?

RI: There’s going to be a Loop Jam at 5:30 with folks riding out at 5:45. Bike Buses will assemble in various neighborhoods and make their way to the Loop.We’re expecting all the bike buses to converge at the Loop between 6 and 6:30pm.

CC: What will folks in the Loop be doing as folks make their way downtown?

RI: We’ll conduct a Bike Jam where we jam up traffic and bring awareness to the need for safe bike infrastructure.

CC: What’s the response you’re hoping for from city officials?

RI: We did our City Council Bike Jam today. We’re not really looking to engage with elected officials [during Jamapalooza.] It’s more about showing our presence and growing the Chicago, Bike Grid Now community.

CC: Will you have any handouts or flyers?

RI: Yeah, we’ll have quarter-sheet flyers that we typically pass out. These flyers define what a Bike Grid is and what our demands are. We’re going to be launching an endorsement platform this week. Candidates for alder or mayor can endorse the Bike Grid and sign on to our platform.

CC: Have you been in conversation with any aldermanic candidates?

RI: Yes, we’ve been in touch with Warren Williams in the 30th ward. Ambria Taylor in the 11th ward – we met with her team to help with her transportation platform. Nick Ward, running for 48th ward alder, has ridden with us. We’ve gotten really good feedback and responses.

We’re hoping with the platform we’re rolling out we can reach all candidates. Our petition can help back us up to show interest throughout Chicago. We’ve had people in Beverly, East Chicago, and South Shore who have asked for events. We’re looking to expand further north, south, and west.

CC: I know in the past Chicago, Bike Grid Now didn’t identify any streets you’d like to see as part of the Bike Grid. Has that changed?

RI: Not really. We’ll be adding a feature to our website soon to gather community input to see where folks want the bike grid streets to be. We’re targeting quieter, lower volume residential streets for further traffic calming. Right now a lot of side streets require local knowledge.

Bike advocates at the start of the Belmont Avenue protest. Photo: Chicago, Bike Grid Now
Bike advocates at the start of the Belmont Avenue protest. Photo: Chicago, Bike Grid Now
Bike advocates at the start of the Belmont Avenue protest. Photo: Chicago, Bike Grid Now

CC: That reminds me of Chicago Department of Transportation’s response to the demands from advocates for [protected bike lanes to be installed on Belmont Avenue in Lakeview as part of a street repaving project] was CDOT directing people to use adjacent side streets. There’s been very little attempt to highlight the route to the side streets.

RI: I used to live on Belmont and it took me a while to figure out what streets are safer. It was a bit of trial and error. It’s a shame that it’s not easy to find your way if you’re biking. Belmont is so misleading because Belmont has the CTA station and Divvy stations so you’d expect people to be able to bike on that street because it’s such a major corridor. Instead people have to have local intel and there’s no signage. We have tons of signs and wayfinding for motorists and very little for people biking, walking, and using transit. It’s clearly not a priority.

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