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Bike Tour Through Bronzeville Kicks Off This Weekend

By Wendell Hutson | July 11, 2013 6:34am
 Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (l.) and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) look both ways as they take a bike tour through Chicago. 
Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (l.) and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) look both ways as they take a bike tour through Chicago.  
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DNAinfo/Quinn Ford

BRONZEVILLE — For the second time in two months, a South Side alderman will lead her constituents on a bike tour through her ward.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), whose ward includes Bronzeville, will kick off her first bike tour at 10 a.m. Saturday at Anderson Park, 3748 S. Prairie Ave. There is no age restriction to take part. Dowell recommends riders wear a helmet.

"In addition to bringing your own bike, I am asking everyone to wear a helmet for safety reasons," Dowell said. " ... I hope to make this an annual, summer event."

After the tour, which Dowell estimates will take about two hours, a raffle will be held to give away a free bike and helmet. Lunch will also be served after the tour, which includes a workshop on performing basic bike repairs.

The Active Transportation Alliance is a sponsor for the bike tour, according to Cynthia Bell, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit advocacy organization.

In June, Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th) led her constituents on a bike tour through Englewood. Other aldermen who have also hosted bike tours through their wards include Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) and Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th).

The City Council's Black Caucus "talked about all of us doing a bike tour at some point. For me, this is more so a celebration of the bike lanes that were installed [in Bronzeville] earlier this year than a historical one," Dowell said. "I'm sure we will ride past some historical spots but we will not stop to discuss them."

Foulkes said she organized a bike tour to dispel negative myths about Englewood.

"With so much negative stuff said about Englewood, I want to show people the good places that get overlooked," Foulkes said. "Everything about Englewood is not bad. There are plenty of good things happening in my ward."

Dowell, a regular bike rider, has always enjoyed the activity. Last summer, she sponsored a free, four-day bike camp for youth in her ward. Dowell said she got the idea to start a bike camp after visiting Copenhagen, Denmark, to study urban bicycling.

“It is important to teach children the skills they need to ride their bikes safely and confidently, so they have a lifetime of enjoyment on a bicycle," Dowell said. “I want to start helping youth discover the beauty of bike riding and then hopefully we can encourage more adults to ride along.”

A police escort will also be part of the tour to help monitor traffic, according to Dowell.

Besides the bike tour being new to her constituents, it is also "a new thing for the African-American community," Dowell said.

"It's good to let people see that black folks do ride bikes. We do not always drive to where we need to go or take public transportation for that matter," said Dowell, who plans to ride a bike in the Bud Billiken Parade in August.

Harold Lucas, president and CEO of the nonprofit Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council, plans to join Dowell on the bike tour.

"Showcasing Bronzeville by riding through the community on bikes is a great idea. Bronzeville is one of the most diversified black communities left on the South Side after the demise of public housing. People need to know the history that exists here," said Lucas, a 70-year-old community activist and Bronzeville resident. "History has been made and preserved [in Bronzeville] by blacks and it is our responsibility to make sure the entire city knows this."