Open Streets Activity – Wicker Park / Bucktown

Summary

PortaPocket Business Card

Some days a toodle has a theme. Today is was several. Everybody that we passed or came upon had some notion of how much fun our recumbent bikes must be.

Children are usually the ones who have the most to say. But today was much different. It was adults who in the main were the most fascinated. And I noticed as many men as women who were eagerly eyeing the bikes. That is a bit of a turn around since we most often find that females have the most questions to ask or give the most thumbs up for these bikes. And for some reason black females are in the majority in every respect. Today it was a nearly 50-50 split between males and females.

The next theme was doggies. Every shape and kind and size was outside today enjoying the wonderful weather and as always just being alive. At the Native Foods Cafe just off Milwaukee Avenue we sat next to a couple whose five year old female was a delight. She was a bit skittish where skateboards and rolling carts were concerned but aside from that she was wonderful. Most of the best dogs in my experience have come from shelters. I suppose it could be reasoned that they are the most grateful. But whatever I find them quite varied in looks and temperament and full of vitality.

Odd-ball scenes were the norm for the day. We saw all sorts of wild outfits today and yesterday. But the one that caught my eye and simply begged that I approach was a lady wearing a nearly four foot tall leg strapped to a backpack frame as she walked along Milwaukee Avenue with the rest of the folks enjoying the Open Streets Activities.

It turns out that she owns a business called PortaPocket™ and the leg is her form of advertisement. Her name is Kendra Kroll and she is the Principal of the business. They make tiny carrying cases that you can strap to your thigh, waist, arm or calf. Her company website URL is www.portapocket.com and she can be reached at Kendra@portapocket.com. She was kind enough to pose and show me an assortment of the cases she makes. You really have to marvel at the business ideas that people generate. I wish her well.

After we had managed to travel the full length of the Open Street area we settled into a luncheon at Native Foods Cafe. It was a great day to be out on a bicycle.

Musings On Open Streets

Open Streets is a concept that seems reminiscent of what I knew as a child, the Block Party. That paradigm was far more intimate than an Open Streets format. Milwaukee Avenue seems far better suited for the format than was State Street in the Chicago Loop.

Because the Active Transportation Alliance has requested a given number of blocks for their operation it turns out that things look a bit sparse in places where nothing actually seems to be happening. And in others the traffic pattern in the street was forced off to one side with little room to walk or bike safely. Seems a bit ironic given the constantly blather about the need to bring organization to the streets of the city and the organization that puts on this event can’t quite bring it off without bottlenecks. Go figure!

What was nice were the ever present EMTs who were there in the event that something untoward occurred. Even better was the fact that we were able to sit outdoors and dine while watching a bit of the action on the street a few yards from our table. Having this activity occur in actual neighborhoods is much better than using a superwide street like State Street.

Perhaps bringing this to Hyde Park would be the next step? I know that African-American women are chomping at the bit for a chance to try out recumbent bicycles. If someone who specializes in recumbents (e.g. Rapid Transit in Bucktown) could cart their bikes southward for test rides that might just be the ticket to opening up a floodgate of new interest among women of color. When Connie and I ride past we always get positive comments for middle-aged black females. It is so pronounced that we began to talk about this with one another. Somebody needs to tap that market!

Do I think the City of Chicago should fund this? Let me answer in Executive Director fashion. I am not opposed to the idea, but frankly events like this seem best suited for neighborhoods. Even Milwaukee is a bit too vast for the venue. Make it more compact and narrow and I would like it better. But someone has to figure out the placement of the activities and the traffic patterns around them.

Why not have local vendors who sell ice cream and cold drinks service the population at these events. If you have numerous ones in separate blocks going on simultaneously you could convince cyclists to visit more than a few by having ride leaders shepherding them along from block to block (not necessarily contiguous blocks). Just a thought.

Cyclometer Info

Distance: 11.6 miles
Time: 1h 38m 23s