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Orange Bike Marketing Effort Creates Buzz in Wicker Park, Both Good and Bad

By Alisa Hauser | January 26, 2015 9:57am | Updated on January 26, 2015 10:11am
 Bikes that are spray-painted orange have been locked to several bike racks for several days now.
Orange Bikes in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — Bikes painted bright orange have been locked to racks throughout Wicker Park for two weeks as part of a marketing effort by Orangetheory Fitness, a franchise that is using the bikes to "create buzz," a spokeswoman confirmed.

However, not all the buzz is of the positive kind: some are complaining the bikes are taking up bike parking and resent the company using public space in its marketing efforts.

One of the bikes, parked in front of a Walgreen's at 1601 N. Milwaukee Ave., features a child's seat in the back which has served as a trash receptacle, with an empty pack of cigarettes in the basket as well as other debris and snow.

Other bikes are chained to racks near the Big Star taco bar on Damen Ave., in front of Francesca's Forno on Milwaukee Avenue, elsewhere along Damen Avenue and in front of a bank in Bucktown.

Jessica Wobbekind, a program manager for Wicker Park's Special Service Area No. 33, which installed branded "WPB" orange bike racks throughout the neighborhood in 2011, said Friday, "We would never condone taking up bike parking like that."

Pete Scales, a CDOT spokesman, was not immediately available for a comment on whether the bikes have a permit to be on city sidewalks and locked to city bike racks.

A Orangetheory corporate spokeswoman said the bikes were placed on the sidewalks about two weeks ago to publicize the opening a location at 1634 W. North Ave.

"Every Orange Theory Fitness is owned by a franchisee. They use the bikes to create buzz. It's a buzz marketing campaign to celebrate the new opening," the spokeswoman said.

On Thursday, the city issued a permit for a $150,000 interior construction at 1634 W. North Ave. Orangetheory's new location is inside of a nearly 4,000-square-foot storefront that has been vacant since ABC Daycare shuttered last January.

John Schrieffer, the owner of the new franchise on North Avenue, said he is shooting for an April opening.

"I chose bikes with as much character as I could find that would represent and resonate with the locals in the Wicker Park Bucktown area," he said in an e-mail. He said he had received only one complaint and immediately removed that bike.

Schrieffer said he took into consideration the bike parking situation in the neighborhood and, considering it is winter, felt there was enough room for the marketing campaign, which involved ten bikes. He said he plans to keep the bikes parked though Orangetheory's opening.

Curbed.com's Vancouver website wrote about a similar influx of orange bikes, chained to trees and street signs, that appeared in April as part of new Orangetheory outposts there.

Based in Ft. Lauderdale-Fla., Orangetheory Fitness is a franchise that was started in 2009 and has nearly 130 studios, with over 350 in development, according to an online tour for prospective franchisees.

In July, a "master franchisee" for the chain's Chicago outposts, told Crain's  that Orangetheory plans to open 35 fitness studios in the Chicago area over the next few years.

Orangetheory offers monitored group fitness interval training that claims to burn between 500 and 1,000 calories per hour, according to a flier.

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