to Work Week Commuter Challenge yet.In it’s 22nd year, the commuter challenge is the Active Transportation Alliance’s attempt to spread the word about the benefits of cycling. They had more participants than ever before.“Biking is healthy, saves money and is great for the environment,” said Active Alliance Coordinator Brian Morrissey. “We’re hoping to show people how easy biking to work is.”
This rally was the final of a series of pit stops provided for the commuters June 11-15. Bikers could get free protein bars, coffee and complimentary bike safety checks throughout the city and suburbs of Chicago each of those mornings last week.
The Alliance teamed up with Goose Island Beer Company to create an ad that appeared in local media to drum up participants and provide incentives for the challenge. They also added an online aspect.
“This is the first year you can track your own trips and use social media to talk about it,” Morrissey said. He thinks this helped with the turnout, which surpassed all previous years with about 5,000 participants.
“We really want to get in their face,” said Marketing Specialist Nicole Berry of the Chicago Park District. “Because at the end of the day they’re saving money and gaining health.”
Kathy Schubert, one of thousands of cyclists who participated would like to see more bikers on the street.
“I bike wherever I go.” she said, “It’s really not that hard.”
Her easily stored fold-up bicycle held a crate where her dog Suzy sat, complete with helmet and biking jersey that matched Schubert’s.
Friday, as the week of events was wrapping up, Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein addressed the crowd saying, “This is the most beautiful Bike to Work Week we’ve ever had.”
He praised Mayor Emanuel for helping Chicago jump to number five from number 10 in Bicycling Magazine’s list of the United States’ top biking cities in one year. “We’re on our way to really being the bike friendliest city in America,” Klein said.
Morrissey said the biking alliance’s goal is not only to raise awareness about the benefits of biking but to show new bikers how accommodating the city can be.
Premiering in the fall, the Active Transportation Alliance will release a new website. This will allow the organization to schedule commuter challenges throughout the year instead of just one week. Morrissey hopes that these steps will add more bikers to the 14,500 or so that bike in the city daily, which he hopes will make the city more productive. The new website will encourage commuters to bike every day by motivating them with prizes and other incentives.
Morrissey has noticed that offering free stuff is usually the best way to get people to participate. This year, the rally offered free T-shirts, food and bike inspections.
Department of Cultural Affairs Spokeswoman Mary May said the commuter challenge has added to the city’s number of bikers.
“The bike culture is exploding,” she said.