By Lisa Browdy
A gorgeous fall weekend is coming up, and what better way to get out and enjoy the warm breezes and colorful foliage than on your bicycle. Pedaling around is perfect for doing small errands, getting to the gym (duh!) and anywhere else that you don't need to be dressed up and schlep a lot of stuff around for. You can even use bicycles for your daily commute.
The more I learn about nutrition and health, the more I'm reinforced in my belief that what is good for us (eating local and organic, cutting down on meat, and using our feet rather than cars for transportation) will also benefit the environment. Talk about a win/win! Biking is a great workout, and can easily be adapted to your fitness level by the speed you choose to ride.
If you don't own a bicycle, don't count yourself out. Greenline Wheels at 105 Marion Street in Oak Park has a plethora of pedals for you to push for a reasonable hourly or daily fee. You may seek a traditional hybrid road bike, a tandem (for two riders), or electric assist (which adds power to your push). "Our most popular bikes are the cruisers," said Abby Miller, Greenline's Director of Programs. "People love that it seats them in an upright posture and has coaster (foot) brakes. They are always asking if we will sell it to them." Greenline also has a wonderful "purple bike," a tandem designed for an adult to ride on with a special needs child who may not be able to pedal or steer. It is "rented" for free to anyone who needs it.
Located near the Carleton Hotel, Greenline's customers are half tourists and half local residents. "We have a lot of visitors from all over Europe, and even some from Asia," Abby said, "but the locals like to rent our tandems, and we are a great resource for when a family has visitors and they need extra bikes for the guests." Most bikes rent for $8 an hour, or $30 per day, and all come with free helmets, locks and maps.
Bicycle safety is a big part of Greenline Wheels' mission -- through its Youth and Family Cycling initiative, Greenline promotes its bike and driver safety with kids in District 97 and adult groups too. There are flashing messages on big screens in the shop that remind renters to walk bikes across streets, keep helmets on, and other safety tips.
Where you go once you're on your bike depends on your time, stamina and equipment. I'm partial to the Salt Creek Trail, a 15-mile round trip on a paved path that starts on 31st Street in Brookfield, just west of the Zoo. But if you don't have a carrier to get your bike to the trail, fret not. You can access the Prairie Path with just a little bit of effort. You just have to ride to the trailhead on Maybrook Drive and First Ave. in Maywood.
Columbus Park just across Austin Boulevard at Madison St. is a lovely short ride. I usually go with a friend and take two loops around. You can find many more local rides at Greenline's "Adventure About Town" section. If you're looking for a group to ride with, the Oak Park Cycle club arranges group events that leave from Scoville Park.
Where are your favorite places to ride?