See Elgin by the Inch

cred: Kieran White via 

In 1893, the Ferris Wheel was unveiled at the Chicago World's Fair, by inventor George Washington Ferris. He was looking for something to compete with the recently built Eiffel Tower in terms of a marvel of modern engineering. It is said that he got the idea while sitting at a coffee shop and was struck by a vision of a giant bicycle wheel in the sky that would give riders a new view of their city.

At first, no one believed he could do it. He had to shop the idea to multiple investors to raise the $400,000 to build it. But  it eventually opened to a very warm reception. One million people clamored to ride "The Chicago Wheel" in the first twenty weeks as investors nearly doubled their money. Other wheels began to pop up all over the country and the world, following Ferris' success. 

I too want to give people a different view of my city. I'm not looking for a million riders. But I am looking for increased ridership. I don't have a specific dollar amount in mind, but I would like to see a piece of the pie go to moving people more safely on two wheels. I know it may seem far-fetched to imagine Elgin with Amsterdam-like bikeways and pedestrian-friendly accommodations but so did building that first, now amusement park ubiquitous, Ferris Wheel. 

I wish I could share with all of you my view of this city not on one giant wheel in the sky but on two rolling wheels at 8 mph. On my bicycle I explore my city by the inch. I pass buildings, yards, and people one brick, one flower, one smile at a time. And as I do the city seems to grow both larger and smaller, rich with possibilities and thick with social connection. From the sawing sounds of the tower construction to the soaring sights of the Bald Eagles, on two wheels I have front row seat to the story of this city that keeps me riveted to find out what will happen next and leaves me wondering even in the midst of winter where else I would rather be. 

Maybe someday you can catch this vision I see too--the way two-wheeled transit grants tickets to the miracle in the mundane and like a ride to the top of a Ferris Wheel lights up a smile with the simple pleasure of feeling alive.


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