If You Build It They Will Come
|Parker took this Elgin glam shot for Arabica Cafe's Facebook page. I'm looking forward to watching the newly renovated tower fill up with folks who are ready to "live in a landmark" and enjoy the wealth and health of this city.|
To be sure some parts of Elgin feel suburban. We've got strip malls and cul de sacs. But we've also got a re-emerging downtown and lovely city parks all built around an old city grid with slow moving traffic and manageably small blocks which makes at least the area of town I bike the most feel at least as bike-friendly as the neighborhoods of Chicago I've toured on two wheels (Except for the 606. I would eat my bike lights to ride on the 606 to work every day).
The advocate said well, maybe Elgin is a more bike-friendly place than other "suburbs." I said "maybe." I couldn't imagine myself, for example, bike commuting as happily down Golf Road to the Woodfield Mall every day. I don't know how far away most homes are from most grocery stores in Hoffman Estates. All I know is I can get to my office/my church, my doctor, my kids' doctor, my dentist, my grocery store, my favorite coffee shop, my hairdresser, my local art studio, my library, my pool (both indoor and outdoor), my police station, my yoga studio, my city hall, my closest local friends' houses, my veterinarian, and now even my acupuncturist on two wheels from my house.
|credit: Brandon Wong via unsplash.com|
It's true too that I don't know as much about what's out on Randall Road beyond my trek to Sherman Hospital and back (though I have found a back route to the hospital, Nick's Pizza, Portillo's, etc. that will serve should I need it and the buses not run there that day). That makes my Elgin experience different than some but I'm loving my experience.
Today we visited Evanston to redeem some store credit at Everyday Cycle and Motion and to take our Mazda on what might be one of the last long trips in it. Downtown Evanston, particularly closer to Northwestern University, has some legit bike culture with "kermit," separated and protected bike lanes, lots of clear signage about bikes and pedestrians, and multiple bike shops geared to commuters. The first time we visited was when we bought our Yuba Mundo eighteen months ago, and I remember having to pick my jaw up off the sidewalk after witnessing multiple tweens biking on the city streets by themselves like it was just normal. I have never once caught the young guys who roll through my neighborhood on their way to Channing Park riding out on Chicago or Channing Street. I'm guessing they just wouldn't feel safe, and I don't blame them.
The thing is I think we could do that here. We could do a lot of it even without costing anyone any parking or an unreasonable amount of money. We could do a lot with paint. We could do a lot with relatively cheap concrete curb. We could do a lot with signage (Imagine "Public Library 1.25 miles this way by bike," "Arabica Cafe .5 miles--->," "<----.75 miles by bike to Lord's Park" ).
|cred: Hector Martinez via unsplash.com|
It's a conversation I have heard more than once. "I'd love to bike to work... I used to bike my kids to school when we lived [somewhere else]... But I don't now because you'd never catch me on those roads. I would't feel safe."
|cred: David via unsplash.com|
I feel emotionally connected to my Mazda I realized today riding to Evanston thinking about selling it. I have a lot of memories, particularly from Iowa, of riding in it with my guys. I will mourn its loss if (and I feel increasingly when) we finalize our decision to sell it. But what I won't mourn is a loss of mobility since I find myself perfectly placed in a "suburban" city with great bones for getting around by bike and the potential for so much more to come.