MORGAN PARK — Chicago's bike-friendly attitude has caught on at the park district.
As part of a pilot program, the Chicago Park District has bought 20 bicycles over the last two years. Employees are encouraged to use the bikes to inspect park grounds and commute between meetings.
"The idea was to save time, save money and reduce our carbon footprint," said Mike Dimitroff, manager of art initiatives for the parks.
Howard Ludwig says the new bike program is going well, and could potentially grow:
Dimitroff launched the program in 2011. He believes bringing bikes to the parks has already proven successful and will continue to grow in popularity as employees further embrace the idea.
The numbers seem to support Dimitroff's theory. In May, park district staff logged 93 hours on the bikes. Last month, workers more than doubled their time on two wheels, recording 200 hours, he said.
"You are closer to the action with a bike," Dimitroff said.
The park district acquired the first 10 bikes through its partnership with Bike and Roll. The vendor offers guided tours and bike rentals on park property and offered its landlord the used bikes at a deep discount, Dimitroff said.
Six of the initial bikes were placed at the park district's headquarters at 541 N. Fairbanks Court in Streeterville. An Internet sharing page was set up. Employees were encouraged to "check out" a bike online and use it to commute to City Hall and other nearby meetings.
Two of the other initial 10 bikes were sent to Northerly Island to be used by security personnel. Individual bikes were also sent to the Lincoln Park Cultural Center and the Diversey Driving Range, both in Lincoln Park.
The second wave of bikes arrived in May. These 10 bikes are more industrial, with three-speed gears and heavy park district branding. The latest bikes were distributed among a select group of park supervisors — mostly those with large grounds that include ballfields, beaches and other large stretches of open space.
Four such bikes were sent to the lakefront to be used by lifeguards as they move between beaches, Dimitroff said.
"The bikes can accommodate their [lifeguard] gear in the basket," he said.
Jennifer Cronin, supervisor at Kennedy Park on the Southwest Side, said she frequently uses the park district bike to check on baseball and softball games.
"I always kept my own bike here at the park for the same purpose," said Cronin, who lives near the field house at 11320 S. Western Ave.
She said prefers riding the official park district bicycle over her own bike or walking.
Dimitroff said the further rollout of the bike program is undetermined. If nothing else, Cronin is keeping her fingers crossed that the bike currently stationed at Kennedy Park stays there.
"I hope I get it back next year," Cronin said.
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