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October 15, 2010

Biking the Boulevards

Filed under: bicycling,Illinois — Tags: , — Roger @ 11:16 am

Chicago long has been a leader in bicycling, architecture and city planning, and a new special that will air on Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW, documents all three.

In the special “Biking the Boulevards,” Geoffrey Baer explores the boulevards that connect many of the city’s parks. He reveals a rich and fascinating history.

For those of you who are able to watch WTTW, the special will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29, and a 10-minute preview airs at 9:50 tonight. If you’re unable to watch WTTW, you can watch the preview here:

Chicago began planning the parks and boulevards back in the 1860s, when Chicago residents were forced to picnic in cemeteries to get some fresh air. Today, the boulevards are enjoying “a renaissance amidst the growing interest in environmentally friendly urban planning and design,” according to WTTW’s website.

You’ll also learn from “Biking the Boulevards” that Chicago bicyclists helped pave the way for paved streets in the city. You’ll also learn more about some of the characters who guided the development of the boulevards and bicycling facilities.

Mayors Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley get credit for their roles in promoting cycling. Chicago’s Lakefront Trail was built during Richard J. Daley’s long tenure, while his son is striving to make Chicago one of America’s top bicycle-friendly cities.

But perhaps more interesting is that in 1897, Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. billed himself as “‘Not the Champion Cyclist, but the Cyclist’s champion.” During his campaign, he rode from Chicago to Waukegan and back in nine hours.

What what I’ve seen in the preview, Geoffrey does a wonderful job telling the tale, and I hope WTTW someday makes the special available on DVD.

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