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U-pass expires, what next?

When school ends, the luxury of free train rides will end, too. Luckily, summer is prime time for biking throughout the city.

By Heidi Wigdahl
On May 15, 2009

With summer arriving, more and more students are saying "no" to the U-pass and "yes" to bikes. Whether you bike for the environment, efficiency, health, cost or enjoyment, the popularity of biking in Chicago is creating new converts every day.

"Chicago is a great place to ride," said junior Eric Blankinship, co-founder of the DePaul cycling team. "Almost every major street has a bike lane on it and it is relatively safe."

Blankinship recommends Working Bikes for cheap, refurbished bikes. "Make sure you get there early when they are selling because the bikes go fast," he said.

The Working Bikes Web site recommends arriving before 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday or Wednesday to see the best selection.

Once you have selected your bike, avoiding bike theft is a concern. Jack Murphy, a junior secondary education student, has had one bike, three wheels and a light stolen. The first night he had his new bike, Murphy discovered that someone had attempted to steal his bike upon finding chomp marks on his U-lock. "The only way you can guarantee you won't have your bike stolen is if you don't have a bike," Murphy said.

According to ChicagoBikeBlog.com, when choosing what to lock your bike up to, avoid things that could be cut and street signs that can be unbolted. Once a spot is chosen, secure the frame and both wheels. Rear wheels are generally stolen more because many assume they do not need to lock it.

To lock your bike, a U-lock is typically the most common. A quick-release front wheel makes it easy to lock up with the back wheel. Otherwise, a chain and padlock can be strung through the front wheel and attached to the U-lock around the rear wheel.

Murphy's advice includes not spending much on a bike. "The nicer it is, the faster it will be gone," he said. He also recommends finding a bike room or storing your bike inside your apartment. If you must leave it out, avoid dark corners where a person could work on breaking the lock for a long period of time or locking up every single part of your bike.

Along with locking bikes securely, riding safely is an issue in Chicago as well. "Many of my friends have been hit by cars. A couple definitely would be in bad shape if it was not for their helmets," Blankinship said. "Just be aware of the traffic around you because the cars probably are not aware of you and be predictable so the cars that do see you can drive by safely."

Bike Chicago, a five-month celebration that started in May, features bike rides that can help students become more aware of the bike lanes throughout Chicago. The event, "Tour of Neighborhood Bikeways," will help riders feel more confident in choosing good bike routes and will feature a six-mile ride in the Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods. The event will take place May 17 at 2 p.m. Admission is free.

Bike Chicago also features biking maps of Chicago including one of the DePaul University areas. The map can be printed at http://www.chicagobikes.org/pdf/bikemap_depaul2005.pdf.

Premier events for Bike Chicago include "Bike the Drive," "Bike to Work Rally," "LATE Ride," "Chicago Criterium" and the "Boulevard Lakefront Tour." Now in its 19th year, Bike Chicago is run by the Mayor's Office of Special Events and provides information on more than 125 ways to celebrate biking this season. A full calendar of the events can be found at: http://chicagobikes.org/drupal.

Another group ride opportunity is Critical Mass, which takes place the last Friday of every month. Starting at the Daley Plaza at 5:30 p.m., this free event takes riders on a different route every month. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of bikes ride 20 to 30 miles on the streets of Chicago. The roads are shut down for the event. "Everyone is really friendly and happy to be there," Murphy said. "Their slogan is 'Happy Friday' and you hear that about a million times throughout the whole ride."

The DePaul cycling club is another way to get involved with biking at DePaul. The team just finished up the collegiate season. "For people who don't want to race but just have good people to ride with, DePaul cycling has a club and team aspect," Blankinship said.

"The team is a lot of fun, I would invite anyone to come," Blankinship said. "Even if you don't have a bike, we can help you find one."


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