This past Saturday, the team at Chicago Public Radio Presents..., with collaborators from the Hyde Park Arts Center, Illinois Humanities Council, Active Transit Alliance, and Go Picnic hosted the first ever HUBS & SPOKES WBEZ biking event. It was awesome. The day started with roughly 120 riders meeting at five seperate locations in the city and biking between 4 and 10 miles to the Hyde Park Arts Center.‚ Each tour was lead by a volunteer from ATA and included bike maps and a quick tutorial on how to ride bikes in city traffic.‚ Jerome McDonnell and Alison Cuddy got suited up and rode with some our listeners out of Wicker Park. Bike Racks?‚ Whatchu Need With Bike Racks? In preparation for the event, our Executive Producer Breeze Richardson decided it would be prudent to make sure all of our riders had a place to lock their bikes up once they arrived at the HPAC.‚ We arranged to have the parking lot cleared and I spent three weeks trying to get the City to deliver racks.‚ I filled out paperwork (which turned out to be wholly unnecessary,) went to the courthouse (waste of time,) and finally found a 'regular guy' at the warehouse that explained that the HPAC rather than WBEZ had to request the racks. By then, the City couldn't accomodate us but thanks to some quick thinking on Crystal Pernell's part (she is the Marketing person at the Arts Center) we managed to rent bike racks for our riders. Never Judge the Book by the Cover Once we all arrived and all had settled in to have their Go Picnic lunches and prepare for the panel discussion, I noticed a large African American woman wearing workboots hanging out.‚ She didn't quite fit the stereotype of a bike activist (a point driven home later in the panel discussion) but she was enjoying her lunch and waiting for the program. "Hello.‚ My name is Don Hall and I am the Events Coordinator for WBEZ.‚ We have one more event for our 2008/2009 Chicago Public Radio Presents... Series and are planning our next ten, so if you have suggestions, please contact us at..." "I have a suggestion," she said. "Huh? Well, we're about to get started..." "My name is Karen.‚ I have a mobile phone that can't get the station's webcasts.‚ Why not help some poor folks out and make that easier?" The crowd got a little tense.‚ Given it was an outdoor event, crowd control was pretty much non-existent.‚ I smiled my customer service smile. "I tell you what.‚ We're getting started here, but I'll give you my card and you can call me next week and we'll take care it for you.‚ I'll make my personal mission.‚ Yes?‚ Cool." I introduced Ryan Lewis who, in turn, introduced Zach Furness, author of One Less Car: Bike Culture and the Politics of Cycling, and the rest of our panel (Adolfo Hernandez, Director of Advocacy, Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago Bicycle Activist Kathy Schubert, and Alex Wilson, founder of West Town Bikes and Ciclo Urbano) and the talk was on. Following an in depth back and forth about biking laws, the bike culture, and why biking is economically and politically healthy for the city, the panel took questions from the crowd. Karen stands up - this is imposing because she has to be 6' 4".‚ She slowly approaches the panelists.‚ Ryan looks at me to see if I'm going to "handle things."‚ Breeze looks at me.‚ And then Karen gets the floor. It turns out that Karen is, in fact, a genuine bike activist who has been riding her bike exclusively for years - even in the winter.‚ She makes a bold and thoughtful case about biking laws and then, as if it were she who was the keynote speaker, thanks us all for a great event and bids us all farewell. It made my day. All in all, it was a phenomenal event and it has reinforced my desire to replace my stolen bike and get back on that ride.