Bike to Work Week smackdown: Jerome McDonnell lays down the gauntlet

Bike to Work Week smackdown: Jerome McDonnell lays down the gauntlet

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WBEZ, the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Center for Neighborhood Technology are three of the organizations participating in the annual Chicago Bike Commuter Challenge. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Editor’s Note: Bike to Work Week starts this Saturday June 8. The week-long cycling celebration offers city-wide programming and culminates in the Bike to Work Rally, a high octane gathering of thousands of bike enthusiasts in the heart of downtown Chicago at Daley Plaza. WBEZ team leader Jerome McDonnell blogs about the competition all week and starts by laying down the gauntlet:

Bike to Work Week starts Saturday, and once again WBEZ will join the Chicago Bike Commuter Challenge. The CNT won our division last time. But now I wonder.

Last year, WBEZ waged an on-air battle against our nemesis, The Old Town School of Folk Music. ‘BEZ triumphed in 2009, and as team leader, I believed we were a shoe-in to repeat in 2010. But Old Town swooped in out of nowhere and beat us that year. So last year, we devoted ourselves to crushing the “Sweet Folkies,” led by team leader Sarah Dandelles.

After a confrontation on Eight Forty-Eight last year, it became apparent Dandelles was a better team leader than I. She got loaner bikes, put on a raffle and was basically a whole lot nicer about it. My main contribution was guerrilla comics I put up in our bathroom stalls that looked something like this:

WBEZ calls its employees to battlestations for ‘Bike to Work Week.’ (Photo by Jerome McDonnell)

So Raul Gonzales from Working Bikes was kind enough to help us out with a fleet of loaner bikes. I put together a raffle package in a furious effort to be as good as Dandelles. The group with the highest percentage of employer riders wins, and we stomped on Old Town’s throats.

Last year we got 39 percent of our employees to ride; they got 32 percent. The loaner bikes made a big difference for us. The problem is The Center for Neighborhood Technology snuck into our division.

They claimed 92 percent of their employees rode. Where are their infirmed? Where are their sedentary? I’ve seen the pictures of their leadership online. I’m not sure they all ride. I consider Jackie Grimshaw a friend. She’s very nice, and a force for good, but I don’t see her riding to work. Was she one of the only seven people there who didn’t ride? Or is the pride of these greenie do-gooders so great that they hide her? Hmmmm…

Has anybody checked the trunk of their I-Go cars? I mean really…92 percent…really? They’re hiding people somewhere.

Actually, WBEZ and the Old Town have nothing to be ashamed of. According to the Active Transportation Alliance (they run Bike to Work Week) just over 1 percent of people commute to work by bike in the Chicago area. Who does better? The best biking town in the U.S. is Minneapolis. They have over 4 percent, with weather that actually worse than ours. We’ve got some work to do.

The whole point of Bike to Work Week is to get people to imagine their commutes with a bike involved. Along the way, some people might just find biking to work is just plain fun.

This year, WBEZ has instituted a “ride with the scared” escort service for people who would like to ride, but are a little afraid doing it. It’s the effort of Vocalo producer Sarah Lu, an extreme bike commuter.

I don’t know if all of this will us to 93 percent, but at least we care about our fellow employees.

Lu and I will cook up another option in our efforts to retake our division. We plan to get The Center for Neighborhood Technology thrown out of our division on a technicality. We’ll confront them today on our on air “smackdown.” It will be a rumble!