MB Bike the Drive proves to be a huge success and kicks off a bike filled Chicago summer

June 5, 2016

Ami Schwartz

Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/

CHICAGO — Memorial Day weekend is the official kickoff for an eventful summer for many Chicagoans and this year locals were granted warm weather and clear skies. Not only was great weather in the forecast but for the 15th year in a row, Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago based nonprofit for biking, walking, and transit, hosted their annual MB Bike the Drive event on Sunday May 29.

With roughly 20,000 registered riders, Active Transportation Alliance shut down a 30 mile loop of Lake Shore Drive for five hours to allow for a car-free unique biking experience from 5:30 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. This event is open to riders of all ages. Riding on Lake Shore Drive car-free gave riders beautiful skyline views as well as the fantastic backdrop of Lake Michigan for their memorable photographs and fresh air in such an urban atmosphere.

This year had the largest amount of registered riders. Sean Blay, Registration Manager, stated, “In the week leading up to Sunday’s ride we had close to 5,000 people register. We beat last year’s totals by more than 1,500 participants due to the awesome weather forecast given by our very own WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling.”

Riders started at Butler Field in Grant Park on Jackson Drive where they had the option of going North or South on Lake Shore Drive. There were turn around points and rest stops at Bryn Mawr Avenue and the Museum of Science and Industry, where repair stations, snacks, and water were provided for riders. For support and safety, volunteers and staff acted as Course Marshals, Ride Marshals, and SAG (support and gear) Vehicle drives throughout the entire course.

After the rider’s had their fulfillment of car-free street riding, they were able to walk around an after ride festival area where many sponsors had tents set up. The major title sponsor was MB Financial Bank and the media sponsor was Chicago’s very own WGN Channel 9, as well their radio station WGN Radio. Other sponsors included: Whole Foods Market, Divvy, SRAM, Clif, REI, Chipotle, Dark Matter Coffee, Nuun, New Belgium Brewing, Kozy’s Bike Shop, and many others.

Aside from seeing the vendors, getting free giveaways, enjoying pancakes from the Kansas City based pancake truck Chris Cakes, they also got to hear live music from the Chicago cover band No Alternative.

Two media stunts added hype to this year’s MB Bike the Drive. The first was an engagement that a couple won through a sweepstakes posted on social media. They won a ring donated from James and Sons Fine Jewelers, as well as a one night stay at the Fairmont Chicago. The second stunt was for three lucky riders to win a chance to meet Chicago Blackhawks’ goalie Scott Darling.

Whether the participants were riding at the event for the first time or for the 15th year in a row, it is safe to say that all had an amazing time. Hilary Swartz, a very infrequent rider, rode in her first Bike the Drive event this year and had nothing but great things to say about the festival and ride. Swartz said, “For very rarely riding a bike, let alone riding on the street…I would have to say I went completely went out of my comfort zone with this event but with that being said, I would love to come and ride with Active Transportation Alliance for many years to come.” She went on to say how fantastic it was to see so many riders enjoying the weather and the freedom of biking on Lake Shore Drive.

Aside from the amazing participants, volunteers like a high school student named Eric made the event go off without a hitch. As an avid rider himself who has been multiple bike related accidents, he said, “My parents get nervous about me riding after have a couple serious accidents, I felt that volunteering for such a large event would help keep me connected to the bike community. I can truly say after volunteering, I still felt my connection like I had been trying to find and will volunteer in the coming years.”

Though this is a major cycling event in Chicago, there are a couple other organizations and events that can satisfy the crave for city biking and mass rides. Organizations like Slow Roll Chicago and Critical Mass in addition to Active Transportation Alliance, host events and rides throughout the summer months in Chicago. Both of which are groups that host mass rides throughout the city. Slow Roll Chicago has a ride every Wednesday night to promote group riding and conversation through a slow ride.

Not only is Chicago an extraordinary city to bike in but it is home to wonderful events through great organizations that work to build a strong cycling community. For a list of upcoming events with these organizations: see the graphic below.

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