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  1. #1
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    Bike the "Something" in Chicago

    I read an article with interest in the Chicago Tribune:


    Cyclists dream of open road in the big city

    Published June 18, 2003

    Let's make every summer Sunday morning a Bike the Something Sunday.

    Other busy cities manage to routinely shut down important roads to make way for bikes, so why not Chicago?

    On Sunday 17,000 people rolled their bicycles onto Lake Shore Drive and breezed up and down the car-free road.

    There were Spandex-sleek riders with helmets more high-tech than spaceships and bikes as fancy as some cars. There were kids and grandpas on rickety old one-speeds. There were city types and suburbanites, and everybody came for the liberating thrill of biking without cars barking up their tails.

    But if you happened to sleep late or had something else to do that morning, you blew your chance. Bike the Drive is as rare as Christmas.

    It doesn't have to be.

    Chicago likes to think of itself as the best bicycling big city in America, and maybe it is. But for the average pedaler with merely ordinary courage, bicycling is too often a contest with belching buses and killer cars and potholes that could swallow a Trek 820 whole. I say this as a bicycling advocate and someone who has biked the city streets for years--always aware that my bones and brains are a sorry match for the forces of steel and concrete.

    We're lucky in Chicago to have miles of bike path along our famous lakefront, but on summer weekends, when most people are free to bicycle, long stretches of the path are as snarled as the Kennedy at rush hour. Even when the path is passable, most of it runs right next to the drive, so there's little escape from the nerve-racking roar of motors whizzing past.

    "But you can't kick cars off the roads regularly," say the naysayers.

    Really? San Francisco has managed to close a major road through Golden Gate Park on Sundays. A few years ago I lived in Cambridge, Mass., where Memorial Drive, a busy highway along the Charles River, closed on Sundays from spring through fall to make way for motor-free mobility.

    I confess that on those Sundays when I was in my car, I cursed the lollygagging pleasure seekers: If God wanted cyclists to own the roads, he wouldn't have invented Henry Ford, etc.

    But I also believed that whatever inconvenience the blockades caused was for the higher cause of communal exercise, relaxation and camaraderie in the great outdoors. In other words, for the cause of civilization in the city.

    "But Lake Shore Drive isn't like those other roads," say the naysayers. Among other problems, the drive runs past museums and beaches and connects to a highway. Those are reasonable concerns, which is why Randy Neufeld's idea is particularly appealing.

    Neufeld runs the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. He's inspired by Bogota, a traffic-jammed city of 7 million that every Sunday closes a 93-mile network of streets to cars for its "Ciclovia." One key to the Ciclovia's 25-year success is that stoplight intersections stay open, and bikes as well as cars obey the lights.

    "The density of cyclists is similar to Bike the Drive," Neufeld says, "but even more than Bike the Drive, it's absolutely everyone. The funniest are the pot-bellied 50-year-old guys in full racing gear meandering up and down the streets."

    Chicago wouldn't have to start as big as Bogota, he says. Some suburban roads could close for bikes or maybe some West Side streets between Garfield Park and Humboldt Park.

    There are loads of reasons that a weekly car-free ride on the roads would be difficult to arrange. As Brian Steele at City Hall puts it diplomatically: "A concept like this would have pros and cons. We'd have to assess all of those."

    So let's assess. Sunday's turnout at Bike the Drive is a measure of how many people here want to bike something--the drive, the boulevards, the streets--in freedom, if only once a week. And all radical ideas seem impossible at first.

    A public hearing on the city's Bike 2010 Plan will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Chicago Cultural Center. Call 312-427-3325, ext. 35, or go to www.biketraffic.org/2010.

  2. #2
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    Here's my problem- I don't feel like paying $35 for the right to bike something that 1) We should be allowed to ride anyway and 2) Shouldn't have to cost us anything to ride, as cars don't pay a dime to ride the same roads.

    I like that they really work to bring more exposure to cycling, but I just don't see this as the way to go. For one, how does that increase my visibility on the streets I ride every day? Now instead of being able to ride the streets freely, drivers are going to harrass me and tell me I already have my day- they'll say "you've got the roads between 31st Street and Devon on Ashland every Sunday, so get off the street!".

    I also don't like that the city (or rather, the Bike Federation) will turn this into a money machine, where they are slowly squeezing the money out of us for whatever agenda they have in the works- they made over a quarter million dollars from the Bike the Drive this past Sunday, and I wonder where the majority of it goes, after they paid for the police and other paid workers (the majority of the people working were volunteers). The city of Chicago is well-known for lining the pockets of people who see an opportunity to take advantage of something good and use it for their own agendas. I don't think the CBF is any different from these other greedy individuals.

    What I really want is for them to advocate more laws dealing with our safety on roads, and for access on any public roads- and I don't see that happening, which alarms me. I took Mannheim Road to go to the airport a few weeks ago, and the audacity of drivers honking at me just for being on that road (I- 190) got me pretty P.O.'d. It would be nice if the CBF could address that kind of stuff and put their efforts into educating the driving public about increasing awareness of bikes on the road. Also, I would really like to see bike awareness pushed big time in all Drivers Ed schools, classes, and at the DMV. I don't see any of that stuff.

    <sigh> Ok, I'm done ranting.

    Koffee

  3. #3
    Senior Member shaharidan's Avatar
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    i think in general most of these things really only work for the casual weekend cyclist. which isnt a bad thing, but doesnt really do much for the serious cyclist.
    No matter how fast I'm going, I'm in no hurry.
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  4. #4
    suitcase of courage VegasCyclist's Avatar
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    bike the drive (I think) I watched the small story on WGN (we get that on cable) about it looks like it is a nice route in general....

    My uncle rode in it and he said that it was a chaotic start because there were people who rarely ride in it, wobbling and weaving in the pack. but at least some organized ride is better than none?
    -VegasCyclist
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  5. #5
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    Actually, I think no organized ride is better- I think they should spend more time on bike awareness with respect to riding on the streets. What do I need some organized ride for where I'll pay $35 bucks so I can ride with kids, rollerbladers (yes, I saw some rollerbladers in the crowd), newbies, recreational riders, etc. It's too much of a mess. I can't stand riding in crowds- they are too disorganized even in their attempts to be organized. Too many different skill levels for me to deal with.

  6. #6
    suitcase of courage VegasCyclist's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Koffee Brown
    Actually, I think no organized ride is better- I think they should spend more time on bike awareness with respect to riding on the streets. What do I need some organized ride for where I'll pay $35 bucks so I can ride with kids, rollerbladers (yes, I saw some rollerbladers in the crowd), newbies, recreational riders, etc. It's too much of a mess. I can't stand riding in crowds- they are too disorganized even in their attempts to be organized. Too many different skill levels for me to deal with.
    indeed, of course I wasn't there so I can't say how bad it was, but in general organized rides are ok (at least the 4 centuries I have been in) as long as the cyclists follow rules.....
    -VegasCyclist
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  7. #7
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    Yeah, but your centuries probably had more seasoned cyclists participating.

    Here in our organized rides, you get young, old, kids, babies, inexperienced, experienced, etc. There are no rules except to ride and start on time. That's about it.

    The ride I participated in when I was in Montreal was similar- just a bunch of people riding along, and sometimes a struggle to ensure that you didn't hit people, as you get sudden stops and starts and kids and stuff suddenly in front of you. I was just glad I had good company, or I wouldn't have done the ride.

    No organized rides for me unless it's a small group of more experienced folks.

    Ask Spire what happened to him when he did the organized ride in Montreal.

  8. #8
    KISSSSSSS MEEEE!! GNARR! dumpstervegan's Avatar
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    I agree with Koff.

    I don't like riding slow, I don't like being run into or side-swiped by inexperienced bikers, I don't like feeling confined by other riders (I'm very protective of my space when I'm on a bike), I don't like paying $35 to ride somewhere that I already pay to maintain (and which is generally destroyed not by me but by cars), and most of all, I don't like organization!

    I like chaos, clouds of exhaust, and the green-light sprint with SUVs squeezing in on either side of me. I like dodging mirrors and riding the yellow line, garbage trucks hurtling toward me in the oncoming lane, floating through the yellow-turning-red light, and the sight of hundreds of paired and glaring-red brake-lights angrily staring me down as I slip effortlessly between them.

    I love riding in the city.

    I like the country too though...

    It's green.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Neil G.'s Avatar
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    Ok, I actually did Bike the Drive, and I enjoyed it. Did it last year too. Is it some sort of "serious cycling event" with highly skilled riders? No, definitely not. It's a spectacle; a unique, non-serious gathering of 17,000 people who happen to be on bicycles.

    I'm not crazy about organized rides either; in fact, the two Bike the Drives are the only organized rides I've ever done. I generally feel better when I'm using my bike to get from one place to another rather than just riding for the sake of riding, which is basically what you're doing on an organized ride. So I just had to adopt a different frame of mind for BTD (especially since I had just done a two-day ride up to Madison to attend a family gathering). Once you accept the event for what it is, and nothing more, it's a pretty good time.

    And overall, the riding conditions were actually pretty good. I didn't see any crazy swerving, never had to brake hard, and only occasionally had someone in front blocking the way (and we were going faster than 95% of the people we saw). It was actually less crowded than last year, even though there were more people; I don't know whether this was because we started a little earlier, or because of changes to the routing (you could start either northbound or southbound this year).

    As for the article, I don't know if I really understood it. If they're talking about making streets car-free just for the sake of recreationally riding bikes on streets to nowhere in particular, then I don't really see the need for that. If they're talking about closing off areas to cars simply to force people to use other forms of transportation, then that's a more interesting idea. For me personally, I've never been angrily honked at (in over 4000 miles of vehicular cycling over the last few years), so I don't really have a fear of the "you don't belong on the road" sentiment getting worse either way.

    About the CBF, perhaps I'm just naive, but I don't really understand your supsicions (paranoia?) towards them. Do you know that they AREN'T trying to do the things you'd like them to do? Admittedly, all I really know about the organization comes from their mouths, but it seems like they're pretty dedicated to helping the cause of vehicular cyclists, including "advocating more laws dealing with our safety on roads". Just because the Chicagoland area isn't yet completely perfect as far as bicycling is concerned, doesn't mean they aren't trying to get it to that point. I was assuming that BTD functions as a fundraising/awareness event for them, and if they harvest a ton of money from the population in general, and then funnel it towards making vehicular cycling better, then I think that's great. Now, if they're LOSING money on BTD, and using my membership fees to pay for it, then that would suck. But I don't think that's happening. Assuming that the CBF isn't spending my money well, is there some other more worthy organization doing a better job?

    So yeah, Bike the Drive is cool, if you don't expect it to be anything more than what it is. If it's not your thing, that's totally understandable, but I really don't see its existence doing anything to hurt vehicular cycling. It's actually quite amazing to me that there are 17,000 people who would want to do such a thing, and thus, it's quite a sight to see. I saw an entire family of 5 on a single "bike"! It's also a good reminder that Bike Forums memebers make up a tiny percentage of the much larger and much more diverse group of people who simply ride bicycles.

    Neil

  10. #10
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    About the CBF, perhaps I'm just naive, but I don't really understand your supsicions (paranoia?) towards them
    What makes me suspicious/paranoid about them is that why charge so much for BTD in the first place? Where does the money go? How do they account for the spending? Every year, they print out the budget for the city in the paper, and if we wanted, we could see where the tax dollars go. If they want to bleed the money from us to do an activity that I already pay for as a taxpayer who lives in Chicago, and for something that cars do every day, then I want an accounting of where the money goes. You can talk a good game, but if I don't see the end result, I can be a bit suspicious about this organization.

    As for the article, I don't know if I really understood it. If they're talking about making streets car-free just for the sake of recreationally riding bikes on streets to nowhere in particular, then I don't really see the need for that. If they're talking about closing off areas to cars simply to force people to use other forms of transportation, then that's a more interesting idea.
    What the article was saying is that we should have one day a month where they close down a major section of streets just like they did with BTD and let the cyclists ride up and down the streets. Which I find ridiculous because I really think they should concentrate more on making our streets safer by doing more educational stuff for drivers so they are more aware of cyclists on the road, not give us some bone to chew on once a month so we can have that hippy, feel-good, we-are-the-world feeling as we squish ourselves on a restricted path for 4 hours. I don't call that empowerment, I call it entrapment!

    it seems like they're pretty dedicated to helping the cause of vehicular cyclists, including "advocating more laws dealing with our safety on roads".
    It always "seems" one way, but we don't know. I think if Daley was just dead-set against doing anything, that would really be one thing, but Daley is gung ho for increasing bike awareness. I don't know if they get a budget from the city, but I believe they do, plus I think they get a budget from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Having said that, how much money do they really need to do the things they do? And what do they really do? That lip service I quoted that you said they do is about all we know, and when MY money is involved with such an organization, I think I deserve to know where the funding is going, what they're doing, and how the money is being spent. So far, we know nothing. I'm concerned about advocating cycling- give me an event like that, knowing I'll clear about $180,000 (or so) after everything is said and done, and I'll make sure you all have lots of fun too, especially if I know I don't have to account for the money. How about it?

    I don't think they have to be perfect, but I certainly want to see what it is they do. I've been to their offices a few times, and I haven't seen very much being done. It's a rather unimpressive place to be. Folks seem to sit around doing very little when I've been there, so if that's all they're paid to do, sign me up! And I know we should have some organization that does something for cyclists, but I just want to see what it is they do! Cause I don't see any changes. Even the new CBF map doesn't have much more on it than last year- a few new street markings and the bike shops (which is nice), and the bike map from the Bank One is better, cause it also gives the bank branches on it too! I could have updated that map (didn't that map take 2 years to update anyway? Not sure) with the same markings in 2 weeks.

    So yeah, Bike the Drive is cool, if you don't expect it to be anything more than what it is.
    I guess if I set my expectations low and don't ask for much, sure... it's probably a great, feel-good event for the masses. But I am still not hell-bent on getting stuck in a crowd of mainly inexperienced cyclists, and I'm not willing to pay money for something that as a Chicagoan, I already pay money to maintain (LSD). And sure, it doesn't hurt vehicular cycling, but how does it really help? Can I now get my bike and ride on LSD, happy to know that all of those cars are aware of me because we closed down LSD one day a year for 4 hours? Can I now more easily get to my destination by taking LSD or any of the highways because the CBF is a big advocate of bike riding and has done its job (assuming that this is their job because I don't know what they do really except advocate) to educate the drivers of Chicago that I have the right to be on the road as much as them? I don't see that happening anytime soon, and I doubt that CBF is the savior that us cyclists are looking towards for addressing our concerns and solving the problems we have as cyclists trying to share the road with cars.

  11. #11
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    P.S. And I am NOT going to pay money for no once a month, goal-less ride, either!

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    suitcase of courage VegasCyclist's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Neil G.
    Ok, I actually did Bike the Drive, and I enjoyed it. Did it last year too. Is it some sort of "serious cycling event" with highly skilled riders? No, definitely not. It's a spectacle; a unique, non-serious gathering of 17,000 people who happen to be on bicycles
    kinda like critical mass no? as I understand it that is basically a bunch of nuts on bikes trying to make a point that cars pollute?



    ... in reponse to Koffee, the first organized ride I ever did (40 miles) happened to be the Wizard ride organized by the Elmhurst bicycle club... different start times for the shorter rides, and at the time I was a very inexperienced cyclist, but it was fun.
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  13. #13
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    My first big organised ride was the 1993 L.A.T.E. Ride. I still have the t-shirt from that ride although it's rather torn and tattered.
    1999 K2 OzM 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte OCP Club Member
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    I will probably never do the LATE ride- it's as bad as Bike the Drive, but at night. My friends went and said it was so crowded you're riding at a crawl for the majority of the ride. That doesn't sound like much fun.

    I don't think the Bike the Drive is like Critical Mass- CM seems to serve the purpose of creating havoc and disrupting traffic by riding in the traffic to prove their point. This is more of an organized ride where they just shut everything down and give it up to the cyclists to ride at their leisure. It just doesn't have much appeal to me, unless they let me do it for free, and I got to leave as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Otherwise, it's just another organized ride that doesn't impress me much.

  15. #15
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    Originally posted by Koffee Brown
    I will probably never do the LATE ride- it's as bad as Bike the Drive, but at night. My friends went and said it was so crowded you're riding at a crawl for the majority of the ride. That doesn't sound like much fun.
    It's a lot of fun if you treat it like a big party. However, you can get some good speed going. I was riding near the front. Some idiot in a Mustang ignored all the road blocks and warnings and ended on the route. The driver started yelling at the riders and took off. A bunch of us accelerated off the front and chased him down until he was stopped by police. Then we just pointed and laughed.

    Originally posted by Koffee Brown

    I don't think the Bike the Drive is like Critical Mass- CM seems to serve the purpose of creating havoc and disrupting traffic by riding in the traffic to prove their point.
    In my mind, there's a subtle but big difference between organised rides and CM. CM is not sanctioned by the municipality and rides like Bike the Drive and the L.A.T.E. Ride have cooperation of the city.
    1999 K2 OzM 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte OCP Club Member
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  16. #16
    Don't Believe the Hype RiPHRaPH's Avatar
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    i ride organized events all the time. and its never crowded. i get up, organize all my gear and ride off. no signing up in advance. no fee.
    do people do these mass events as a social thing? for the t-shirt? the only mass rides i do is for charity (lung association, etc)
    I have enough words to get me into trouble, but not enough to get me out of trouble.

  17. #17
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    I don't think the author meant it as an organized ride that you had to pay for. In DC a section of Rock Creek Park (Beach Drive) is closed to motor vehicle traffic every Saturday and Sunday without cost. The section of road is used not only by cyclists, but walkers and skaters. In the 6 years I have been going up there I have never seen an accident. There is plenty of road for all to share.

    Sure the motorists don't like it, especially now that there is talk of extending the plan. I believe this is what the author had in mind, and if cyclists in the area can pull it off it should be something you should consider taking advantage of.
    There can be only one.

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    I don't think the author meant it as an organized ride that you had to pay for.
    And hence, one of my problems. Why did we have to pay to ride the Drive ($35), but this monthly event, which would be a replica of Bike the Drive, is FREE? That just makes me wonder why we would have to pay to ride LSD as opposed to these events, and either we're being bled dry for the right to ride LSD (which again, I pay taxes for anyway as a Chicago resident), or there WILL be a fee associated with these monthly events, as they would be big deals also- that's a chunk of city streets to be closing down for thousands to be riding freely for 4- 5 hours. Either way, something doesn't set right with me.

    I guess if I saw where the money goes and how it was being used (translation-accounting for the money), I could understand why we're being charged so much, but as there is no accounting done, I don't feel like I should in essence, pay for, when I'm already paying for it anyway!

    Even if they could account for it, large groups just aren't normally my scene for riding anyway- I would have to be with some pretty cool people to do the ride and not mind the occasional idiot that didn't have a clue how to ride in larger groups.

    I cannot see myself taking advantage of something that offers me very little advantage. I can easily get the same experience riding up north on the more deserted roads without paying a cent.

    Koffee

  19. #19
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    I was a volunteer for Bike the Drive. Casual / recreational / fair-weather riders enjoyed themselves a lot. As someone who cycles for transportation, I used to have a snobbish attitude towards these sort of riders, but I've come to recognize that this sort of snobbishness just doesn't work very well. As someone who sometimes makes 30 mile round trips on my bicycle just to buy groceries, I know that a 30 mile organized route seems to be for inexperienced cyclists... and yet, there is no fault to being an inexperienced cyclist. Such special events can capture the imagination of inexperienced cyclists and possibly get them to explore cycling more.......
    The Easter Island people were clever, but their civilization collapsed after they chopped down the last tree on their island. You can't be 'resourceful' if you've used up all of your resources.

  20. #20
    Senior Member danr's Avatar
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    Great to see that Chi-town is catching on to bicycles.

    Yeah, those people get me. It is ok for cars to cause a traffic jam, but it is not ok for bikes to cause one. What is the difference?
    Does the perfect bike really exist?

  21. #21
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    First, let me state that I bike for transportation, fitness, and for vacation also- rarely do I take a bus or train, except 2 times in the last year, when it was too cold in the evening to ride back this past winter! I am not the experienced cyclist, whizzing at 25+ miles per hour, looking down upon those who cannot keep up faster cadences.

    I personally don't care what the level is of the riders- that's not as big of a concern for me. I just don't want to be caught up in the cacaphony of folks on bikes as they stop/start their way up and down LSD. It's not just the inexperienced riders, it's the fast ones, the slow ones, the young ones, the kids, the parents riding alongside the kids, the people who have no idea how to ride in big groups, and the faster ones, and the fastest racers.... I don't like it. There's just too many people, and as I stated earlier (and in past threads), I don't usually enjoy big groups of people, which is why I usually shy away from such events. Different strokes for different folks. There are certainly A LOT of people that like these organized rides- more power to them, but for me, this is just one type of event I tend to avoid.

    I also listed a crapload of other reasons why I am not into these types of rides. As a taxpayer who sometimes rents a car to drive down LSD, I already pay plenty enough to maintain LSD. So I don't want to pay even more for the "privelige" of cycling down LSD. I listed a bunch of reasons for that too.

    Again, if the cycling mass wants to BTD, more power to them. But I see some inherent problems with this, and with the LATE ride, and should they copy the Bogota rides and block off groups of streets once a month, I see problems with this too. It is not a snob issue- for one, if it were free, I would cheer on the cyclists as they flew down the streets and I would not question the money issue. BUT I see a money problem, and I think cyclists get bled dry. Not only that, BTD costs too much money for the average poor person to participate in, and that is more snobby and elitist than someone who just doesn't feel like riding with the inexperienced cyclist.

    I hope more folks will use their bikes more and their cars less as an alternative form of transportation, but as I stated before, this stuff just looks like a paid, organized Critical Mass, where some people seem to benefit monetary-wise at the expense of the enthusiasm of a lot of people who want to pay for something that we should already have the right to do- bike the Drive at any time we want!


    Koffee

  22. #22
    Don't Believe the Hype RiPHRaPH's Avatar
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    did the maya do any of these rides?
    maya daley like biking. and since he had to lower the speed limit on the drive in the winter to limit the damage to the trees he planted in the median, maybe a winter drive tie-in to that fact would be good.
    I have enough words to get me into trouble, but not enough to get me out of trouble.

  23. #23
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    I don't know if the mayor did the rides- I know he shows up at these events, but as far as participating? I haven't seen him do it, but I haven't seen him NOT do it either, you know what I mean?

    I do know I've NEVER seen him riding- and I ride everyplace, and he lives in my neighborhood, and sincerely and truly, I've never seen him on his bike (if he really has one). Not once. Once I saw him in the paper standing next to a bike, saying he was an avid cyclist, but I've never seen anything other than lip service from him.

    He goes to my friend's gym and works out there- I think he takes spinning classes.

    I wouldn't mind a winter BTD, but I won't pay for it. I don't think very many people would attend, and that would be cool. They can take it out of my taxes- that should suffice.

    I am still trying to work out an angle on how I can get an invitation directly to him inviting him on a bike ride at his convenience. I will probably stop by the gym he works out at and talk to my friends and see if they can give me a heads up as to when he normally works out and try to slip him a letter that way.

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