Tour of Evanston moved to July 25

Hi everyone,

I have rescheduled the Tour of Evanston for July 25, 2015.  I apologize for any scheduling inconvenience.  The reason for the rescheduled date is my inattentiveness in noticing that the TOUR DE FAT was on the originally scheduled date.

I highly encourage all of you to attend Tour de Fat.  It is a blast of a time and helps to raise money for West Town Bikes.

I hope I will see you all on July 25 at the Tour of Evanston and enjoy Tour de Fat!

The South Loop and the Near South Side

Near South Side Mini-Tour

Near South Side Mini-Tour

There are some Chicago neighborhoods where the neighborhood and community boundaries are absolute.  These are defined by rivers, rail lines, Lake Michigan or other physically obvious borders.  Other neighborhoods are nebulous, varied, arguable, disputed, exaggerated, omitted and lied about.

The South Loop is a neighborhood where everyone agrees on three of the boundaries, and argues about the southern boundary.  Without question, the northern boundary is Congress, the western boundary is the Chicago River and the eastern boundary is Lake Michigan.  As to the southern edge of the South Loop, some will tell you it goes as far south as Roosevelt.  Others argue it ends at 15th Street.  The more logical end would be at 18th Street others argue, or Cermak, say a different contingent.  From Roosevelt to Cermak marks a total difference of a mile.

There is disagreement even between neighborhood associations, historians, local residents and businesses.   The greater Community Area south OF the Loop is known as the Near South Side, . Depending on your point of view, the South Loop barely enters the Near South Side, is partially in the Near South Side, or is almost completely in the Near South Side.

The Near South Side, Community Area #33 contains additional areas including Central Station, the Prairie Avenue Historic District and Motor Row District.  Together, these neighborhoods offer up amongst the greatest collection of buildings for Chicago architecture fans.  The most well known of the buildings are regularly presumed to sit within Chicago’s Loop, though they are all comfortably in the confines of the Near South Side such as Soldier Field and the monumental civic works that are the buildings of the Museum Campus, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planaterium.  It is home to the oldest home in Chicago, the Clarke House, and to surviving reminders of the time when the city’s most famous and wealthy citizens lived along and around Prairie Avenue.  There are remnants of Chicago’s Musical past and the historic Motor Row District on South Michigan.

Free-Mini Tour of the South Loop and the Near South Side

On Monday June 15, I will host and lead a free tour for the City of Chicago’s Bike to Work Week touring the South Loop and the Near South Side.  We’ll get a chance to visit all of these great sites, all for free, after work, on your bike on Monday June 15.  Meet up with us at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

More details on the event are here.

The event is free, but is limited to 150 riders so

you need to register for the event which you can do here.

And, as much as I hate to Internet yell…..ALL RIDERS MUST WEAR A HELMET.  This is a city ride and our ride and we have to insist you wear a helmet on your head.  Please bring and expect to wear a helmet, loaners will NOT be available for this ride.

Night Tour of the Near South Side

Later that week on Friday June 19 at 8PM, we will meet at Buckingham Fountain once again for the Night Tour of the Near South Side.  The night tours allow riders to catch a unique view of the downtown areas with more reasonable amounts of traffic.  In areas of very dense concentrations of significant and impressive architecture, the night acts as a filter to help us focus on ones we can see best at night, offering a great way to experience the city.  Come join us for the Night Tour of the Near South Side.


The Rest of the Summer Tour Schedule

Summer 2015 Bike Tours

Summer 2015 Bike Tours

The summer should prove very fun indeed.  In addition to the two new Near South Side tours, we will also hold two tours for the first time ever for the remaining summer rides.  On Saturday July 11, our much delayed debut of the Tour of Evanston will be held beginning at Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston.  We will also debut our re-scheduled Tour of Dunning and Montclare on Saturday August 8 at Shabbona Park in Chicago.

The new Summer Tour Poster by Ross Felten is featured above and is available in our poster shop, or right here.  As usual, my man has outdone himself.


I  hope to see many of you this summer out and about, or at one of the tours.  Thanks for taking a moment to read.

Nooks and crannies in Bridgeport and Armour Square

A column at the entrance of the On Leong Merchants Association Building

A column at the entrance of the On Leong Merchants Association Building

One of the reasons Chicago’s architecture is so fascinating is the quaint little details that escape every day notice.  In the facade of a false-fronted two-flat, you might find a family crest, or a seal or mark of a nationality.  Sometimes in an otherwise normal worker’s cottage you can spy a bit of Flemish brick-work, or a glimpse at the builders country of origin by way of decoration.  Little hints and bits of decoration abound in the residential streets of our city.  Sometimes it is subtle in a building with no particular pedigree and sometimes it is bold and prominent in a noteworthy building like the column at the entrance to the On Leong Merchants Association Building in Chinatown pictured above.  Bridgeport and Armour Square on the city’s near South Side are exceptional communities in the abundance of hat tips to ancestry in the built environment.  With a bit of investigation, one can trace the immigration patterns in the neighborhoods throughout the post-fire era just by examining the native hints left in the indigenous building styles of the time.

Chicago is a masonry town.  The Great Fire forever changed the building code and wiped out all of the previous generations of architecture, leaving few surviving structures standing inside the fire line, each of them, a masonry structure.  Post-fire laws and code changes systemically changed the pattern of what would be built and served as a clean slate of lots to develop after the tragedy leading to multiple generations of sturdy building styles and methods.  The resulting decorative arts for buildings after the resulting changes brought out the most skilled and rare crafts and trades.  Carved stone, poured concrete and terracotta all were utilized across architectural and decorative styles.  Their durable nature has helped them weather the decades of weather extremes and city pollution even when the buildings themselves suffer from neglect, lack of maintenance and poor care.

In Bridgeport and Armour Square, the streets are filled with a wide variety of architectural styles and ages.  The homes are largely worker’s homes, but amidst the residences are grand public buildings, churches, parks and other city treasures.  This Saturday we will glide through the two adjoining communities to take a look at some of the nooks and crannies in the pedigreed and anonymous sites alike.  I hope you will join us.

Tour of Bridgeport and Armour Square
Saturday May 9, 2015 at 11:00 AMat McGuane Park at South Halsted Street & West 29th Street



Postponing the Tour of Dunning and Montclare and the Summer Tour Schedule

The Tour of Dunning and Montclare has been postponed until August.  All prepaid tickets have already been refunded.  Instead, I will be running the event on August 8, allowing me more time to prepare.  This Spring has been particularly brutal schedule-wise and my inability to complete the work necessary to provide a good tour force me to push it back. This will result however, in a summer of four all new-tours to help make up for that.

On Monday June 15, 2015 at 6PM we’ll meet up at Buckingham Fountain for the Mini-Tour of the Near South Side.  This is a free tour to help kick off Chicago’s Bike to Work Week.  More info on the Bike to Work week activities are available here.

That Friday, we’ll use the filter of the night to help select the best night-time sights for the Night Tour of the Near South Side.

July will finally see the running of the Tour of Evanston on Saturday July 11 and on August 8, we will hold the rescheduled Tour of Dunning and Montclare.

I look forward to seeing some of you this Saturday at McGuane Park.  Thanks for taking a moment to read.

Touring Austin

Getting set to tour Austin at Columbus Park

Getting set to tour Austin at Columbus Park

The Austin Community Area is the most populated and one of the largest by area of Chicago’s 77 different Community Areas.  It has a fascinating history integral to Chicago’s own. Austin’s resulting built environment is like testimony about the passing years, and the comings and goings of different groups populating its streets and homes.  Pedaling through the community gives one an opportunity to witness architectural styles of great variance.  Queen Anne, Gothic, Prairie, Arts and Craft, Italianate, Georgian, Art Deco and other revival styles all co-exist.  Time, disinvestment, preservation, decay, grand wealth and startling poverty co-exist as well.  We first toured the area in 2009 with a big group of riders, 150 plus and to date, our largest ride ever. In the intervening years, we’ve come back to the area for three additional tours before this Saturday’s visit back and it remains one of my favorite tours.

One of the goals of the Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tours is to introduce anyone that is interested in the Chicago beyond our immediate horizons.  I’d like to take you to places you haven’t been.  Sometimes that means to new parts of the city and sometimes it means showing you things you’ve never seen in places you’ve been a hundred times.  I want people to experience the  great stories of our city and its suburbs, see the architectural beauty of its past and learn how it passed time, and why things are the way they are.  In Austin, we are given so many different views, so many different time periods and such a varying narrative of the populations, that it becomes one of the most intriguing and important stories of our city.

Join us on Saturday for a bike ride on Chicago’s West Side Community, Austin.

Tour of Austin
Saturday April 25, 2015 @ 11:00 am
Columbus Park @ 500 South Central Avenue in Chicago

Facebook | Chainlink