WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Bicycle Power on the Streets of Macomb

Sep 28, 2017

Communities around the globe hold Critical Mass bicycle rides.  Some of the events draw thousands of riders in large cities, while smaller communities such as Macomb sometimes attract just a handful.

“I would love for this to get to be a really big thing,” said Will Terrill about the ride in Macomb. “Ideally we would have 50 to 100 people each month.  Just as a way to meet more cyclists and meet more people who are interested in riding bikes around this area.”

Terrill, of Colchester, said he’s been participating in the Macomb rides for around a year. He said they serve as a reminder to motorists that bicyclists are allowed to use the streets.

“We deserve to be on the road and we deserve to be respected.  But we also ride to have fun, to meet other cyclists of Macomb, and to occupy the streets together,” he said.

Many communities hold their Critical Mass rides on the final Friday of each month, and that’s the case in Macomb, with the next one scheduled for September 29, 2017.   Riders in Macomb are asked to gather at the Chandler Park fountain at around 5:30 p.m.

There is no formal structure for the rides.  “Nobody organizes it and that’s the point,” said Terrill prior to the ride in August, which included half a dozen riders.

During that ride, the group took a lap around the courthouse square and then wove through streets and neighborhoods, mostly on the southeast side of town, before returning to the downtown area for what they called a “victory lap” around the square. The ride finished where it began -- at the Chandler Park fountain.  Their route was not set ahead of time – bicyclists took turns calling out directions during the roughly 30 minute ride.

Critical Mass is not a race or a competition.  It’s a leisurely paced event open to families and to bike riders of all skill levels.

“I don’t ride my bike long distances.  I only ride it on errands around town. And I can still do critical mass very comfortably,” said Janet Furman of Macomb.

Another of the riders, Connor Shields of Colchester, said he enjoys riding the hilly road that winds its way through Argyle Lake State Park.

“That’s one of my favorite routes. Our record is four laps around. It’s like a rollercoaster in the woods,” said Shields.

Terrill has joined Shields on some of those rides.  But Terrill said most of his riding is done between his home in Colchester and his job in Macomb.

“What I like about biking so much is that I can fit it into my life.  My commute is somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes each day.  And that’s a perfect amount of time to be on my bike to clear my head and to get a little bit of exercise. So that’s the kind of biking that I do,” Terrill said.

New Bicycle Law Coming to Illinois

A law that will go into effect in January, 2018 will make it legal to bicycle on road shoulders.  The new law will also make it legal for drivers to pass bicyclists in No Passing zones as long as it is safe to do so. 

The law also allows cyclists to use a red, rear tail light at night in place of -- or in addition to -- a rear reflector.

Thanks to Jacklyn Driscoll of NPR Illinois for information about the new bicycling law.